Agostina Segatori, best known as a model for Vincent Van Gogh, posed in Paris during the Second Empire and Third Republic. This chapter situates her life and representations of her produced in Paris within the context of the history of Italian immigration to France and French perceptions of Italy and immigration. It traces the beginning of encounters between French artists and Italian models to Rome early in the century and follows the models’ emigration from the Italian peninsula to the French hexagon after mid-century. In Paris, Italian models became a focus for complex and conflicting ideas about immigration, cultural difference, and modernity which animated French discourse, both textual and visual. In the popular press Italians were represented as alien intruders, but within the Parisian artistic community, the French aesthetic tradition, which had long valorised Italian artistic production, shaped an alternative and far more positive view. For the immigrants, moving across borders to resettle in a foreign culture offered opportunities. The story of Agostina Segatori’s passage and the representations of her and other Italian models produced by Parisian artists illuminates both the perception of ‘Italianicity’ in the French imagination and immigrants’ negotiation of the transnational experience.
Creations of diasporic aesthetics and migratory imagery in Chinese Australian Art
The inclusion of Chinese contemporary art in the exhibition, collection, and market circles of the global contemporary art world, was brought about by both the global response to the rise of China as an economic and cultural superpower and the increased migration of Chinese mainland artists since the 1980s, which elicited a diasporisation of the Chinese art scene. This particular constellation makes it necessary to rethink global contemporary Chinese art from the transnational perspective of migration and diaspora studies. By focusing on two Chinese overseas artists – Ah Xian and Fan Dong Wang, who share the experience of emigrating from mainland China to Australia in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989 – this chapter analyses the production of diasporic Chineseness in Chinese Australian art with regard to the globalisation of contemporary Chinese art. Drawing on the concept of the ‘migrant image’, it discusses conditions for and elements of diasporic aesthetics and migratory imagery in the cross-cultural work of Chinese overseas art. This case-study analysis explores the impact of migration and the diasporic experience on the creation of art, in particular on the role of transculturation between Chinese and Western art traditions and the significance of image ambiguation for aesthetic transmigration.
Art and migration: revisioning the borders of community is a collective response to current and historic constructs of migration as disruptive of national heritage. This interplay of academic essays and art professionals’ interviews investigates how the visual arts – especially by or about migrants – create points of encounter between individuals, places, and objects. Migration has increasingly taken centre stage in contemporary art, as artists claim migration as a paradigm of artistic creation. The myriad trajectories of transnational artworks and artists’ careers outlined in the volume are reflected in the density and dynamism of fairs and biennales, itinerant museum exhibitions and shifting art centres. It analyses the vested political interests of migration terminology such as the synonymous use of ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’ or the politically constructed use of ‘diaspora’. Political and cultural narratives frame globalisation as a recent shift that reverses centuries of cultural homogeneity. Art historians and migration scholars are engaged in revisioning these narratives, with terms and methodologies shared by both fields. Both disciplines are elaborating an histoire croisée of the circulation of art that denounces the structural power of constructed borders and cultural gatekeeping, and this volume reappraises the historic formation of national identities and aesthetics heritage as constructed under transnational visual influences. This resonates with migrant artists’ own demands for self-determination in a display space that too often favours canonicity over hybridity. Centring migration – often silenced by normative archives or by nationalist attribution practices – is part of the workload of revisioning art history and decolonising museums.
Curator at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago, Dieter Roelstraete reflects on the notions of bordering and borderlessness. He highlights the ineffectiveness of politically constructed borders, sometimes even set in incongruous places. This is perfectly illustrated by Olaf Holzapfel’s installation Trassen, exhibited at the 2017 Documenta 14 in Kassel, co-curated by Roelstraete. He also reflects on the importance of the medium and materials used in artworks as powerful semantic tools. The question of citizenship and national belonging is evoked and challenged by the ultra-mobility of the art world, a phenomenon which is far from new. Roelstraete thus underlines the natural interplay between art and migration. Finally, the intervention of the artistic world in political debates is mentioned, a prickly issue according to Roelstraete.
Aesthetic and intercultural learning and the (re)construction of identity
This chapter examines how Japanese-style gardens can provide places for learning about aesthetics and transculturalism, and for maintaining constructs of cultural identity. It argues that gardens offer sites where visitors can enjoy aesthetically rich somatic experiences while learning about intercultural histories. As lieux de mémoire, sites of memory, gardens can sustain traces of the past that continue to condition appreciations of the present. This project has developed through a triangulation between two initial research interests, in aesthetic learning, and in learning in cultural institutions, and in the poignant contexts of immigration, alienation, and dispossession of Nikkei Japanese American communities during the twentieth century. The study enhances appreciations of how aesthetic experiences in garden settings can offer insights into the conventions and practices of other cultures, and mediate the sensory, socio-cultural, ethical, and cognitive fabric through which communities crystallise some sense of identity. In exploring the narratives of Japanese and Japanese American citizens in Oregon, this research clarifies how gardens can inform processes of re-conceptualising notions of identity and belonging. It finds, in the spatio-temporal experiences of movements and transitions, borders and passages, of these Japanese-style gardens, metaphors for migrations and intercultural encounters, and media informing the reconstruction and repositioning of cultural identities.
Art curator of the World Bank art collection Marina Galvani describes the back stage of curating artistic exhibitions focusing on political issues. She reflects on the structural and institutional constraints on World Bank art programmes, but also how realpolitik and worldwide political events affect the logistics of international art institutions, with artworks necessitating authorisations to be exhibited and artists sometimes being unable to attend exhibitions for political and administrative reasons. Museums and galleries often depend on the support of national and international authorities and are affected by global conflicts. Galvani also explains how the World Bank supports and protects artists worldwide, with a focus on vulnerable artists. Curating Uprooted: The Resilience of Refugees, Displaced People and Host Communities made her realise that artworks travel much more easily than the artists themselves.
Inspired by Les Énervés de Jumièges by Évariste-Vital Luminais, Axel Karlsson Rixon exhibited Mobilité Mémorable / Memorable Mobility at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen (France) in 2018. The exhibition included installations and photographs. In this interview, Axel Karlsson Rixon recalls their experience visiting migration sites in Northern France and the ‘Jungle’ of Calais. They also reflect on the water imagery and ocean theme in their work. Their voyages and discoveries have been sources of inspiration for such projects as Lumières Nordiques. Inspired by the theme of migration, Axel Karlsson Rixon also balances the role of the artist as activist, and the question of the place of artists in political debates is raised. Axel Karlsson Rixon actively engages in voluntary work.
Edith May Fry and Australian expatriate art in the 1920s
During the 1920s, in the minds of many Australians, Britain was still considered ‘Home’, and London the centre of the Empire. Australian artists were not fully accepted in the British art scene and, although they still identified as Australians, were often ostracised by their homeland. Australian cultural custodians at the time considerably marginalised expatriatism in favour of nationalistic and patriarchal narratives, restricting the definition of Australian art as being strictly produced within the geographical borders of Australia. However, as early as the 1920s, a number of individuals sought to assert Australian art as existing beyond the geographical boundaries of Australia, and defended the work of Australian expatriate artists who travelled to Europe. Among them, Edith Fry championed the tradition of Antipodean expatriatism, publishing articles and organising exhibitions to promote the achievements of Australian artists abroad. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate how she stressed the significance of expatriate art in the construction of transnational culture, bringing the role of expatriate artists as agents into the network of commerce, experience, and representation of modernity, and as creating an art that transcends national boundaries.
Associate curator of photographs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Leslie Ureña describes the interdisciplinary manner with which she approaches the theme of migration in the collection. Although the collection focuses on the United States, any resident who has effectively contributed to the history of the Unites States can be represented. She also reflects on the racial discourses that are often represented in photography and warns that the context of production must be informed to understand a photograph. Lewis Hine’s positionality can, for example, be better understood in the context of 1914 migration to the United States. She explains that experiences of migration are singular, individual, personal, and intimate, and that photography only give us access to outside points of view.
Curator of the Prints and Drawings Department at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Robyn Asleson grounds her interview on the exhibition Portraits of the World: Switzerland. She reflects on the very definition of national art and thus shows how politically constructed borders are defied by art and artists, who are mobile beings par excellence. She also challenges the traditional definition of the ‘national’ by explaining that the National Portrait Gallery considers to be American anyone who has lived long enough in the United States to contribute to the society and culture. This cultural definition clearly contradicts nation-centric institutional definitions of community belonging. She also informs us on the logistics and technology to locate the origins and mobility or artworks and artists.