2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress (Istanbul)

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2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress

On Horizons: Art and Political Imagination
4–6 November 2010

Istanbul Technical University
Istanbul, Turkey


On Horizons: Art and Political Imagination, the second in the series of FORMER WEST Research Congresses, takes place on 4–6 November 2010 at Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul. The Congress revolves around the theoretical notion of the “horizon” and its place within artistic production and political imagination today.

If, as it is commonly assumed, the global political and cultural changes of 1989 left the world bereft of a sense of politics as striving towards a future—a horizon as it were—then we are left with the perpetual caretaking of the existing state of things. Given this apparent endgame of liberal democracy, how can we insist that it is possible to imagine and to realize another world, to posit the horizon anew?

In this context, the project FORMER WEST is a proposition for speculating—in the field of contemporary art—about a possible horizon. For, can it not be argued that art works, exhibitions, and their discourses inherently set up a horizon, offering a proposal of what can and cannot be imagined? This horizon links aesthetics with politics, creates an image of possible futures, yet also marks a limit that cannot be surpassed as it recedes with each move toward it, offering a sense of both possibility and that which remains out of reach.

In the 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress, a group of remarkable artists, curators, and scholars gather in Istanbul to engage in a conversation about these issues. On the first day, 4 November, lectures and dialogues by Julie Ault (artist and writer, New York), Boris Buden (cultural critic and writer, Berlin), Peter Osborne (philosopher and writer, London), Caglar Keyder (sociologist, Istanbul/Binghamton), and Simon Sheikh (curator and critic, Berlin) explore the notion of the horizon in art and critical theory, examine concrete artistic and discursive practices, and consider the particular context of the hosting city (Positing the Horizon in Art, Philosophy, and Political Theory).

Under the title Horizontality Enacted, contributors to the second day, 5 NovemberBeatriz Colomina (architecture historian and theorist, New York), Jodi Dean (political theorist and writer, Geneva, NY), Bülent Diken (social theorist, Lancaster), Vasif Kortun (curator and writer, director of Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul), Lisette Lagnado (curator and writer, São Paulo), Vivian Rehberg (art historian and critic, FORMER WEST research curator, Paris/Utrecht), and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (artist and writer, member of Raqs Media Collective, Delhi) deliberate on practices related to architecture, urban design, experimental geography, and spatial production in the framework of horizontality.

On 6 November, the concluding day of the Congress, entitled Reclaiming a Horizon—Art as Political Imagination, the question as to how the horizon is imagined, speculated upon, visualized, and materialized through contemporary art will be unpacked by TJ Demos (art historian and critic, London), Ernesto Laclau (political theorist, Buenos Aires/London), Gerald Raunig (philosopher and art theorist, Zürich), Robert Sember (artist and activist, member of Ultra-red, New York), Hito Steyerl (filmmaker and writer, Berlin), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist and activist, member of Chto Delat/What is to be done?, St. Petersburg).

The 2nd FORMER WEST Congress is part of a series of public forums aimed at rendering visible and furthering the artistic, curatorial, and academic research in which the project FORMER WEST is grounded. The Congress is developed by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and SKOR, Foundation Art and Public Space, Amsterdam and co-curated by FORMER WEST research fellow Simon Sheikh. It is realized in collaboration with IKSV Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts Istanbul and hosted by Istanbul Technical University.

The language of the Congress is English; simultaneous translation into Turkish is provided. Admission to the Congress is free, however registration is required due to limited seating. A Registration Form is available online at: www.formerwest.org. Please submit the completed form no later than 3 October 2010 to info@formerwest.org. Program updates can be found on our website. Congress proceedings can be followed via live stream, and will be archived on the FORMER WEST digital platform.

FORMER WEST is a contemporary art research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2013) aimed at a critical reinterpretation of our recent post-1989 histories and at speculating about our global future by casting new light on contemporary art in relation to developments in society and politics. It is realized with a dense international network of researchers and institutional partners and curated by Charles Esche (curator and writer, director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Maria Hlavajova (curator and writer, artistic director BAK and FORMER WEST), and Kathrin Rhomberg (independent curator, Vienna).

The 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress has been made possible by support from the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; ERSTE Stiftung, Vienna; and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Istanbul.

Image above:
Design by Mevis & Van Deursen.

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