Abstract Humanity began its journey about 50,000 years ago by making images in the caves, and then image‐making became central to the communities organised around agriculture, from which emerged great civilisations. The image‐making continued from Mesopotamia, India, China, Egypt and then to Greece, which laid the foundation of art in the West. And although this trajectory of image‐making is seen as the movement of ideas through history, then becoming the basis of art history, this image‐making was challenged by the emergence of Islam in the seventh century, offering an alternative way of looking at and representing the world. This shift from seeing the world through images in nature, particularly of living beings, to an abstract level of thinking and imaging, for which geometry became fundamental, is still not considered to be a shift within the trajectory of history. The aim of this article is therefore to look at this shift historically, in the context of ideas of the present in both art and science, particularly in relation to the Arab/Islamic world which, by adopting Western ways of thinking, has lost its connection with its own history.
Abstract This article deals with the transfer of Arab visual theory to the West. It is little known that visual theory in the West was based on The Book of Optics by Ibn al Haithan, also known as Alhazen, and was translated into Latin as Perspectiva. The article therefore speaks of a double perspective, one of visual theory (Arab optics), and the other of pictorial theory (Renaissance perspective in art). The main argument identifies the importance of Arab optics that led to realism in Renaissance art. However, the concept of geometry in Arab optics must be distinguished from its representational function in Western visual culture.
Abstract This text is a mythopoeic meditation on the broom. The broom has swept across the earth for millennia in its constant everyday battle against entropy. It speaks paradoxically of human endeavour and desolation, of peaceful routine and catastrophic waste, of our fragile connection and chronic threat to the world. This homeliest of objects is a reminder to us of our being unhomely, of our uncertain dwelling in the total lifeworld, like the text journeys from Martin Heidegger's elemental Fourfold, Robert Smithson's mindful land art, Friedrich Hölderlin's estrangement, Giacomo Leopardi's broom flower on the spine of Vesuvius, Paul Celan's Holocaust poems of dust, ashes and residua, to the rice‐growers clinging tenaciously to Indonesia's volcanic Ring of Fire. The broom, like art itself, confronts the resistance of matter. The sweeper, like the artist, must patiently endure the uncertainty of the space cleared for tomorrow. Yet their tasks would make no sense without an invested persistence of hope in the future.
Abstract Research into the (re)construction of the professional and private lifeworlds as well as additional categories of the ‘political’, technological and performative has opened up the field of video as a space of organisation of forms for resistance to the dominant discourse in contemporary arts. This article examines the examples of video installation works from new EU territories of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) that attend to both ambiguous constructions of self and the difficulty of political identifications with realities of post‐Socialist transformation in the context of expanded cities, as reflected in the works of Marina Grzinič and Aina Šmid (Slovenia), Julita Wójcik (Poland) and Ene‐Liis Semper (Estonia). Artistic strategies enveloped in feminist politics discussed here can offer a productive perspective to reflect on the complexity of identity representation in Europe. The author will examine paradoxes of identity construction in the expanded cities of expanded Europe represented in the selected video/installation works, and their inconsistencies in terms of the conjunction between memory, self, and (un)conscious reflection.
Abstract The televised parliamentary leaders' debate of 2008 provided an indication of what cultural policies are imaginable at the level of Canadian federal politics. Now that governments and business are interested in the commercial potential of art and culture, artists find themselves in a curious position. This essay argues that what is required for a critical articulation of culture is not only a progressive approach to the links between culture, technology and the global economy, but a critique of the political economy of neoliberal cultural production that is able to politicise culture rather than culturalise politics. In the Canadian context, the near absence of any serious discussion of the creative industries is partly due to the emphasis on cultural identity and cultural nationalism. Identity, however, figures as part of a transnational process of symbolic production in which it has become seemingly impossible for the designers of cultural policy to construct a meaningful view of art's social function.
Abstract The relative neglect that art from the communist period of former Eastern Bloc countries suffers now has much to do with the dominant ideologies of the present and the consequent preconceptions and framings that have been retrospectively imposed. This article argues the need for critical analysis of such preconceptions and framings themselves, and of their ideological underpinnings. Three sections take up different modes of retrospective disposal of art from the communist Eastern Bloc: the first discusses divisions between the ‘official’ and the ‘unofficial’ made for such art; the second focuses on the overdetermination of the schism between pre‐1989 and post‐1989, or loosely the before and after of the 1980s; and the third analyses influential accounts of ‘totalitarian art’ which developed primarily in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The latter, it is argued, are not merely accounts of totalitarianism but are also totalistic themselves.
Abstract In the field of contemporary art, few exhibition sites have become more associated with globalisation than biennials, art fairs and related venues. However, as biennials have spread around the world their critical investments and political potential have come under increasing scrutiny. Working in biennials and related contexts in locations ranging from Bogotá and Istanbul to London, Doris Salcedo (b 1958) has produced a series of recent artworks (2001–2008) that use site‐specificity to interrogate the status and meanings of global contexts. In particular, Salcedo deploys site‐specificity in ways that challenge official histories of various locations, exhibition venues and art institutions, constituting a radical resistant artistic practice that targets the dichotomies of ‘first’ and ‘third’ world, or centre and periphery, that continue to inform discourses on globalisation.
Abstract This article examines the ethics of observation in Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions, and particularly how the fantasy of ‘the most miserable place on earth’ acts to frame a transnational politics of representation. At stake here are critical ethical questions about how subjects are encountered, what historical, social and political conditions frame image‐making, and what shape witnessing relations take through the mediation of visual technologies. It argues that the film's epic quest – one shaped by the phobic characterisation of the red light district in Mumbai – highlights the director's struggles with directorial modesty, a modesty that is deeply coded by scientific and ethnographic models of witnessing. Further, such modesty also replays and revisits a set of historically structured racialised and gendered threats. It concludes that witnessing relations need to acknowledge how transnational social relations are reproduced in artistic processes, and how films might trace the path of those political, aesthetic and affective relations.
Abstract In an era when the value of art has been replaced by the art of value, the Artes Mundi Prize attempts to redefine priorities regarding prevailing notions of contemporary art's nature by advocating art for social change. The first part of this article reviews the latest Artes Mundi exhibition while the second part, with Artes Mundi as a guide, explores the art prize culture in the UK as it relates to current practices and developments in contemporary art, focusing on the Turner Prize and the Max Mara Prize for women. In what manner and degree has competitive individualism endorsed by the prizes affected developments in contemporary art practice? How does the art prize's aesthetic content relate to the prize's popularity and how does that affect art's value?
Third Text is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.