Detail from La Vaughn Belle, Chaney (we live in the fragments 003), 2016. Courtesy of the artist

Unfinished Histories: Art, Memory, and the Visual Politics of Coloniality 

International conference 30 November - 1 December 2017.

The year 2017 marks the centennial of Denmark’s sale of the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix to the USA. After more than 200 years under Danish colonial rule, the Danish West Indies became the US Virgin Islands. In Denmark the marking of the centennial has brought an unprecedented level of attention to Danish colonialism, which for too long has been relegated to the margins of collective consciousness. While this year’s commemoration can be said to mark a shift in the Danish acknowledgement of its colonial past and participation in the transatlantic enslavement trade, many of the public debates have provoked traditional responses to colonial histories as being a closed chapter in the nation’s past, where one can look back upon it from the comfortable distance of the present.

This two-day international conference Unfinished Histories: Art, Memory, and the Visual Politics of Coloniality takes as its starting point the view of colonialism as a radically unfinished body of histories, with major ramifications in the present day. Attentive to colonial logics and their durability in contemporary culture, the conference seeks to examine the role art and visual culture have played, and keep playing, in (re)producing colonial histories and attending to the coloniality of the present. While the aftermath of Danish colonialism in the Caribbean is a focal point of departure, the conference invites perspectives that engage with the visual politics of coloniality in a global context, including but not limited to Africa and the North Atlantic.

Artists and curators have long been at the forefront in examining the visual politics of coloniality in Denmark as well as in the US Virgin Islands and beyond. A collaborative exhibition project such as Overdragelse [Transfer] (curated by La Vaughn Belle and Jacob Fabricius, 2008) is an important reference point for the current interest in artistic engagements with Danish colonial history, however exchange and dialogue across borders and perspectives have generally been limited. Therefore, the Unfinished Histories-conference also seeks to facilitate further collaborations, by bringing together artists, curators, scholars, and others who work across different geographies, backgrounds, contexts and fields of study to discuss the relationship between art, memory and coloniality.

The conference will take place at the University of Copenhagen and The Royal Danish Library in conjunction with the visual culture exhibition Blind spots. Images of the Danish West Indies colony, curated by the conference organizers Mathias Danbolt and Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer together with Sarah Giersing. 


Invited speakers

Call for papers (closed for submissions)

We have invited papers on topics including but not limited to:

  • Responses and resistance to colonial histories and coloniality in contemporary art and visual culture
  • Colonial visualities and countervisualities
  • Art historical engagements with colonial aesthetics (e.g. African Diaspora Art History, Decolonial Art History, Postcolonial Art History, Caribbean Art History, Black Art History, Queer Feminist Art History)
  • Museum exhibitions and curatorial initiatives on colonialism and coloniality
  • Performance, dance, and embodied knowledges and repertoires (e.g. bamboula, calypso, queen pageantry, and “moving bodies” in resistance [C. Oliver])
  • Decolonial approaches to art and visual culture in Heritage and Memory Studies
  • “Afropean decolonial aesthetics” (A. Lockward)
  • Artistic engagements with concepts and histories of “transfer” (J. Cook-Rutnik/E. Endress/L. Lee)
  • Artistic engagements with “colonial wounds” and “decolonial healing” (R. Vazquez/ W. Mignolo)
  • “Tropicalization” (K. Thompson), picturesqueness, and the aesthetics of tourism
  • Colonial ruins, colonial ruination and “imperial debris” (A.L. Stoler)
  • “Colonial ignorance” (W. Modest), nostalgia, amnesia, and aphasia
  • Art, affects and critique – from responses to “white innocence” (G. Wekker) to decolonial “aesthesis of outrage” (R. Shilliam)


Registration for the conference Unfinished Histories: Art, Memory, and the Visual Politics of Coloniality is now open.

Participants in the conference will have to cover travel to and from Copenhagen and accommodation on their own expense. We are unfortunately not able to arrange the conference without a contribution from the participants and the members of the audience. We are doing our best to keep the costs as low as possible, and the conference fee is used solely on organizing the conference.  

All who are interested in the conference topic are welcome to registrer and take part in the discussions. The conference fee is differentiated in order to best accommodate the public’s various institutional and economic affiliations, positions and possibilities. The "General Admission" & "Reduced Admission" conference fees cover coffee, tea, and lunch both days, as well as a light conference dinner and a performance by Oceana James (USVI) in the Queen's Hall at the Royal Danish Library on Thursday evening 30/11. "The Super Reduced Admission" merely covers attendance to the conference and the performance by Oceana James, and excludes coffee and food during the conference.

 * General admission and reduced adminision: Closed 

Super reduced admission (without catering)

160 DKK (incl. VAT). Registrer here (closes November 28). 

All interested parties are invited to buy tickets to Oceana James’s performance  For Gowie the Deceitful Fellow at the Queen’s Hall at the Roy Danish Library on Thursday November 30, at 8 pm for 50 DKK.
Get tickets here


The conference takes place at two locations. The first day of the conference, Thursday 30/11, will take place at The Royal Danish Library in the center of Copenhagen. The second day, Friday 1/12, will take place the University of Copenhagen, Southern Campus, on Amager in Copenhagen.

Venue on Thursday November 30:

The Royal Danish Library
Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1, Copenhagen

The conference will take place in the Royal Library’s Queen’s Hall (Dronningesalen) and in the exhibition Blind Spots. Images of the Danish West Indies colony.

Getting there: Nearest metro station is Christianshavn. The metro is accessible throughout the city where both lines, M1 and M2, connects with Christianshavn.

From Christianshavn st. there is a 10-12 min. walk to The Royal Danish Library.
See map.

You can also take bus 66 from the Central Station, and get off at bus stop “Det Kongelige Bibliotek”. The library will appear on your left. Further information.

Venue on Friday December 1:

University of Copenhagen
Njalsgade 120, 2300 Copenhagen S.

The conference will mainly take place in Auditorium 23.0.50, with parallel sessions in conference rooms 27.0.09 and 27.0.17.
See campus map.

Getting there: Nearest Metro station is Islands Brygge. Line M1 takes you to Islands Brygge from which there is a 5-7 min. walk to the University campus. After ascending the stairs, turn right on Njalsgade. Walk for about 7-8 minutes till you reach the campus area with a number of large sand-colored buildings.

After the last plenary panel on December 1, there will be a free post-conference dinner and book launch event organized in collaboration with artist Michelle Eistrup and Anders Juhl at the art space CAMP: Center for Art and Migration Politics. CAMP is located in Trampoline House, Thoravej 7, DK-2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark (
A bus will take all conference participants from the University campus at 18.20 to CAMP. The conference sponsors the dinner, and there is a low-cost cash bar for drinks and an event program as part of the book launch of BAT - Between Art and Text, a 3 volume engaging questions of, among others, Spirituality, Black Identity and Aesthetics, edited by Michelle Eistrup and Annemari B Clausen, produced by Anders Juhl & published in collaboration with The Karen Blixen Museum.

Where to stay

There are many centrally located hotels in Copenhagen. Here is a selection that may be convenient for your visit, within a variety in expenses.

Hotel SP34
SP34 is a modern boutique hotel located in the center of Copenhagen with the Latin Quarter on one side and H.C. Ørsteds park on the other. There is a 5 min. walking distance to Nørreport Metro station (M1, M2) and many restaurant and shops close by. Rates €220-300.

Hotel Ibsen
Ibsen is a modern city hotel located within a walking distance to Nørreport Metro station (M1, M2). It is located in a neighborhood with lots of bars, shops and restaurants. A standard rate incl. breakfast buffet is €160-200.

Wake-Up Copenhagen
Wake-up offers a comfortable stay in convenient locations on a budget.

There are two hotels located in Copenhagen, and we recommend Wake-up Borgergade, a 10 min. walk to Kongens Nytorv Metro station (M1, M2). Rates from €70-120.

Cabinn hotels 
Cabinn Scandinavia is centrally located with a 5 min. walking distance to Forum Metro station (M1, M2). Cabinn Metro is located right outside the inner city but very close to Ørestaden Metro (M1). Rates from €70.

Note: Due to the Christmas season, many hotels are busy, so it might be a good idea to book as early as possible.


For further information, contact:

The conference is organized as part of Mathias Danbolt’s research project Colorblind? Theorizing Race in Danish Art and Visual Culture at the University of Copenhagen, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark and the Sapere Aude: DFF Research Talent Grant.