Exploring the Intersections between Transcultural, (Post)migrant and Feminist Perspectives on Contemporary Art

Since the 1990s, the globalization of the art world and the field of art history has raised the awareness of the geopolitical landscapes and circuits through which art and other cultural forms travel. This development has been accompanied by a wealth of critical debates on issues such as border-crossing, spaces-in-between, discursive and economic exchange, dominance and subjection, cultural mixing, and the complex entanglements and dependencies resulting from such processes.

Confronted with a new, or transformed, set of issues, scholars in the field have been challenged to introduce new frameworks for the study of art and culture, and to try out new avenues when grappling with the conundrum of combining an interest in a specific – local or national ‒ context with a consideration of its connections with other – translocal, transnational or global – contexts, or vice versa. One way of meeting this challenge has been interdisciplinary bridge-building between art history and anthropology (Bublatzky 2019, Belting 2000). In this regard, the so-called world art studies have been an important forum for reinvigorating the long-standing exchange between artistic practices, art history and anthropology (Marcus and Myers 1996, Foster 1996, Zijlmans and van Damme 2008). Moreover, the wide dissemination of feminist and de-/postcolonial critiques has led to a general acknowledgement of the fact that cultural exchange and circulation never take place in a level playing field in terms of equal opportunities for marginalized and underprivileged individuals and groups. As Monica Juneja (2014) has observed, ‘Contact, interaction and entanglement make the transcultural a field constituted relationally, so that asymmetry, as one attribute of relationships (together with categories such as difference, non-equivalence, dissonance), is an element that makes up this field.’

Some of the most promising answers to these epistemological and methodological challenges have been developed by turning to de-/postcolonial theories, to feminist and queer theories, and, more recently, to theories of transculturality and (post-)migration. The objective of this seminar is to enable a focused discussion of feminist, transcultural and (post-)migrant approaches to contemporary art. The seminar will shed light on the importance of the visual arts to transnational feminist thought and activism, and as well as the critical significance of ‘ec/centric’ and ‘transversal’ feminist politics to the visual arts (Meskimmon 2020, Meskimmon and Rowe 2013). It will also consider transcultural approaches that go beyond the notion of globalisation as flows to focus on the processes through which forms emerge in local contexts often through far-reaching circuits of exchange (Juneja 2019, 2015). Furthermore, it will address the (post-)migratory dynamics of the contemporary art world that have transform the conditions of creating art and exhibitions and prompted scholars to critically reconsider the meaning of locality, culture and ‘origin’ as key elements in the artistic and exhibitionary politics of representation. Lastly, but importantly, the concluding discussion will provide speakers and audience with an opportunity to discuss the synergies between the three avenues of exploration.

All are welcome. Please sign up for the seminar no later than 1 November 2020. Mail to: skn@hum.ku.dk.



Marsha Meskimmon

Institute of Advanced Studies at Loughborough University

Knowing, Imagining and Inhabiting, Earthwide and Otherwise: Thoughts on Transnational Feminisms and the Arts

Transnational feminist thought and activism challenges us to know differently so to imagine otherwise. The implications of this are profoundly connective and decidedly creative. In this presentation, I will consider some of the ways that recent and contemporary art has been able to contribute to the multidimensional, decolonial ecologies of transnational feminisms, arguing that knowing differently and imagining otherwise underpin more just and generous ways of inhabiting and flourishing in a rich and diverse world. The question I hope to consider by means of this brief foray is how feminist arts scholars might creatively engage with, and encourage, these directions in their work.

Monica Juneja

Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg

Inside/Out – Performing the Transcultural Subject. Feminist Photo-performance in Contemporary South Asian Art 

My paperinvestigatesthe spirited, collaborative, photo-performative re-enactments by the artists Pushpamala N. and Claire Arni (and their team) of exemplary figures that stand for the life of the nation. By choosing a Benjaminian mode to situate herself/themselves “inside the image” through a performative act, the artists travel a further step to create a new genre of photographic image that fixes the body as image-memory. Such images not only register memory but are also capable of becoming a substitute for it, especially when they move into the public arena and recast a plenitude of stories that have been told within the larger narrative of the nation. Such a doubly performative act, I argue, by disrupting the nexus between imaginings of the nation and an understanding of culture, enables the constitution of the artist as a transcultural subject. I will focus here more closely on the re-scripting of national histories as well as on allegorically rendered notions such as liberty that stands for a concept to be grafted on to the nation, and yet signals beyond it to claim the domain of the universal. In what ways does the act of impersonating an icon, of becoming its double, open it up to a new context of actions and relations to bring forth a form of excess that destabilizes canonical meanings? Can our visual imagination of liberty ever be the same after its recent embodiment? What does this performative transaction entail, what are the future paths it points to in the lives of nations? Finally, I look at a particular mode of collaboration led by feminist artists in generating a shared subjectivity whose critical edge is sustained by a transcultural perspective.

Cathrine Bublatzky

Department of Visual and Media Anthropology at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies

Indian Highway

The contemporary art world is built on contested yet shared politics and spaces of representation that require a transcultural approach in order to investigate the (dis)translation and (dis)interpretation of encounters mediated by art. With a focus on the exhibition Indian Highway and its exhibitionary and artistic practices from Europe and India and as they stay in close interrelation with network politics and institutional strategies of creating ‘arty’ and creative hubs in urban contexts, this ethnographic talk draws attention to practices that go beyond the construction of Indianness as a cultural value. Along a selection of ethnographic vignettes, this talk will engage with the strategies to exhibit art from India that were sought to underline “cultural difference” and originality while simultaneously avoiding a homogenized picture. As this turned out to be a truly conflictual and deeply transcultural endeavour, the exhibition Indian Highway provides a promising entry point from which to study the turbulent dissonances of mutual repulsion and attraction and the processes of translation inscribed in the global establishment of relations between the “self” and the “other”. Looking beyond hegemonic Western universalizing curatorial tropes, this talk will provide insights into the transcultural fabric of culture which entails a grappling with the pluralistic social spaces and symbolic discourses that are deeply embedded in the international contemporary art system.



The research project Togetherness in Difference: Reimagining Identities, Histories and Communities through Art as well as the symposium is supported by Novo Nordisk Foundation grant NNF19OC0053992