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Alice Ming Wai Jim

This chapter examines world-making practices by racialised artists who engage with ethnic futurisms, that is, speculative cultures theorised and produced by diverse racial and ethnic groups, who imagine their descendants as having a future created for and by people of colour. Arguing that such artworks play an important reparative function in both the current political landscapes and in how we think of history, the chapter focuses on ethnic futurisms that engage speculative future worlds, where white supremacy, racism, and colonial oppression and violence have no place. While charting the political orbit of the better-known cultural phenomenon of Afrofuturism, the chapter also presents case studies from Indigenous futurism and Asian futurism, and introduces the distinction between culturally based and regionally based ethnic futurisms. These are contextualised within broader ethnocultural narratives of futurity, which have their own historically and culturally specific relationships to Blackness and Indigeneity, ethnic identity, diaspora, technology, science fiction, and the settler colonial present. By centring Indigenous and so-called non-Western worldviews and epistemologies, this study suggests at least two departures for thinking about how ethnic futurisms relate to various fields of knowledge: first, as interventions into the Eurocentricity of history as a discipline and the whiteness of race knowledge; and second, as creative acts of resistance in current social-justice movements and political struggles for representation and recognition.

in Art and knowledge after 1900
Tomasz Grusiecki

Tracing clothing’s dissemination across the region, Chapter 2 explores processes of transculturation, highlighting how sustained contact with other traditions changed the way recipient communities defined their own cultural milieus. While indebted to previous studies, this chapter shows how new questions continue to emerge about stylistic Ottomanization of costume in Poland Lithuania: How are we to understand the seeming paradox of adapting Islamic fashions for the needs of a predominantly Christian noble society? How could the exotic be identified as native without raising the eyebrows of this early modern nobility? The adaptation of Ottoman fashion was more than simply a projection of Ottoman sartorial style onto the material culture of Poland Lithuania. Highlighting the popularity of Ottomanesque material forms in the Commonwealth, this chapter points beyond the dichotomy of Orient and Occident, revealing the process of inventing a self-avowedly Occidental sartorial tradition that was deeply embedded in ‘Oriental’ models, however inappropriately termed.

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Naked ambition
Lauren Jimerson

This book sheds light on three pioneering artists who have heretofore been marginalized within the history of modernism. Vassilieff, a Russian émigré, was directly involved with avant-garde circles in Paris. After training with Matisse, she founded her own vanguard art academy in 1912 and a canteen in 1914 to feed starving artists during the war. In her Cubist nudes, Vassilieff captured the body in accordance with a dynamic experience of time and space. Unlike her male peers, she subverted gender binaries and re-presented gender and race as shifting and ambiguous. Charmy launched her career immersed in the Fauve movement, but by 1912 she branched out on her own and remained untethered from major art movements. Critics referred to Charmy as the “Colette of Painting,” a reference to the prominent novelist. Charmy reshaped visual representations of female sexuality in accordance with her own subjective perspective as a woman. Valadon entered the art world as a model, then made the rare transition from model to artist and gained prominence within the bohemian society of Montmartre. Of lower-class background, Valadon treated subject matter that was off-limits for bourgeois female painters, and she exposed, authenticated and bore witness to the conditions of the working class in her representations of bathers and nudes. In certain instances, she painted the nude from the dual vantage point of seer and seen and captured the figure as lived and embodied.

in Painting her pleasure
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Between worlds
Tomasz Grusiecki

The introduction sets up the context for the book by exploring the tensions and intersections between localism and globalism, nativism and exoticism, parochialism and cosmopolitanism. While outlining the diversity of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth and its location in between worlds, the introductory chapter advocates a transcultural approach to the study of Polish Lithuanian material and visual culture, against the conventional framing of Poland Lithuania’s cultural history along nationalist lines. This new approach zeroes in on the people and artefacts on the move, giving rise to unexpected convergences, reorientations, and interconnections.

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James Fox
and
Vid Simoniti

One of the defining features of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century artistic avant-gardes is the incursion into, and interaction with, diverse fields of knowledge. Early pioneers of abstraction such as Kandinsky and Mondrian responded to new modes of spirituality, while Constructivists and Surrealists drew inspiration from evolving scientific discourses, including the theory of relativity and psychoanalysis. By the middle of the twentieth century, conceptual artists were regularly incorporating philosophy, economics, sociology, and cybernetics into their work; and at the century’s end, artists increasingly saw themselves as ‘researchers’. In recent years, artists have worked in biotechnological laboratories, collaborated with environmentalists and ecologists, and formed various ‘evidence-based’ art collectives, such as Forensic Architecture. The thirteen chapters gathered in this book investigate the many points at which art intersected with these varied fields of knowledge. Setting the scene, this Introduction offers several entry points into the narrative. First, we survey different philosophical tendencies for understanding the term ‘knowledge’, and how art has related to these. Second, we offer a broad overview of the institutional reasons for art’s intersection with academic disciplines of knowledge, including the expansion of academic writing for popular markets, ‘deskilling’ in arts education, and the rise of interdisciplinarity. Finally, we narrate the rise of artist-researchers on the biennale scene since the 1990s, which has uniquely positioned the role of exhibition-based art as an investigatory enterprise.

in Art and knowledge after 1900
Julian Stallabrass

This chapter analyses three models of documentary knowledge on colour photography in the work of Luigi Ghirri, Raghubir Singh, and Susan Meiselas, who represent respectively analytic, synthetic, and experimental modes. Bound by humanism and colour, each surveys very different states of nationhood: for Ghirri, Italy at a time of deep political turmoil and then consumer quietism between the 1970s and 1990s; for Singh, a vision of synthesis amid one of the most diverse nations on Earth, recently freed from colonialism; for Meiselas, a collapsing dictatorship and the uncertain establishing of a new polity. Their different photographic solutions are set against the long denigration of colour with relation to knowledge, and to the thinking of Adrian Stokes about ‘surface colour’, a colour which for him yielded depth and knowledge and was associated with humanist painting.

in Art and knowledge after 1900
Contemporary art and the problem of arthistorical periodisation
Peter Osborne

This chapter proposes a new way of thinking about and periodising Western art after 1900 that concentrates on neither aesthetics nor knowledge, but rather upon art as an ontologically distinctive but nonetheless historically developing form of truth. The first section provides a critical outline of the periodising schema of twentieth-century art produced by the mainstream aesthetic tradition and its ‘postformalist’ and ‘postmodernist’ successors. The second sketches some basic philosophical differences between this ‘aesthetic’ approach and its ‘historical-ontological’ alternative. The third section offers a periodising schema for the non-aesthetic lineage of contemporary art, based on the primacy of conceptual art as an emblematic rejection of the aesthetic conception of art and upon the heteronomy of the avant-gardes. From this standpoint, it is argued, contemporary art appears as a distinctively postconceptual art, the developmental unity of which is fundamentally problematised by the conflictual processes of globalisation of which it is a part.

in Art and knowledge after 1900
Lucy Kent

A new wave of spirituality swept Europe and the United States during the early twentieth century, manifesting in a wide variety of movements such as Theosophy, Christian Science, Spiritualism and the Baha’i faith. As a central premise, these philosophies shared a mystical belief in the spiritual interconnectedness of all existence. This well-documented Western ‘mystical revival’ had a profound impact on the modernist avant-garde. This chapter examines the techniques developed by several modern artists as a means of conveying the spiritual ‘oneness’ that they believed underpinned the visible world. Inspired by their spiritual convictions, they were confident that making a sense of transcendental unity palpable to others was the true and higher purpose of art. The communication of this hidden knowledge through their work, they felt sure, would further the enlightenment of humankind and change society for the better.

in Art and knowledge after 1900
Marie Vassilieff ’s androgyny
Lauren Jimerson

Through dress, comportment and lifestyle, Vassilieff divorced herself from expectations of middle-class femininity and asserted agency. This chapter explores androgyny as it permeates Vassilieff’s oeuvre. Before World War One, Vassilieff painted female as well as rare male Cubist nudes based on studies of black and white models at her academy. She merged and conflated their features into aberrantly androgynous bodies. These works engage with Henri Bergson’s theory of duration, but reject his misogynist gender concept of élan vital which influenced her Cubist peers. Moreover, unlike Picasso’s female nudes which are vectors of raw, sexual energy for male consumption, while also doubling as spaces of violent hostility, Vassilieff’s epicene bodies contest the binary notions of male/female endorsed in Cubist works and expose sex in flux. After the war, Vassilieff incarnated herself as a nude doll, a mixed-media sculpture of ambiguous sex. Wresting the doll from its associations with girlhood and femininity, she exploited it as a device to disrupt gender roles. Through her self-portraits, she presented a self-image that was mutable, subversive and modern.

in Painting her pleasure
Three women artists and the nude in avant-garde Paris
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While sexuality and the nude were prime subjects for male artists in the early twentieth century, for female artists, revealing sexual desire on canvas was deemed unacceptable. Art historical scholarship argues that women did not represent physical pleasure or criticize masculine conventions of the nude. This was an audacious move that risked a woman’s career and reputation. Yet, Marie Vassilieff (1884–1957), Émilie Charmy (1878–1974) and Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938) probed sexuality in a forthright manner and questioned gender identity in their representations of the human form. They depicted the nude in a sexually dissident way, while ushering in new subject matter for female artists – the male nude, the Black body, the pregnant nude and nude self-portrait. Treating these subjects was an act that defied the very foundations of the nude practice and the tradition of art itself. As a result of their unorthodox practices, each artist encountered censorship. While art historians have long scrutinized issues of gender and sexuality in the early twentieth century through the lens of male artists and their work, attention to Vassilieff, Charmy and Valadon offers rare female insights regarding these topics at a time when most women’s voices were stifled. Examining their work sheds light on the myriad and complex ways in which women responded to the evolution of gender roles and sexual mores that informed and shaped our modern society. These sexually conscious and rebellious women painters contravened social decorum, challenged traditional and avant-garde artistic practices and partook in the making of the modern nude.