Encounters with the 1930s is a symposium that begins with a line of questions about a decade that has haunted historic and contemporary ideas about art and politics, artistic autonomy, and the pressure of context on artistic production. Why look to the 1930s today? The political pressures, economic crises, and social networks that seem to be unique to our current times have anchor points in the 1930s. Of course, it was a decade that marked the rise of totalitarian governments as well as the devastation of the 1929 Crack. But, the 1930s was also a moment in which artists and writers became adept at using and exploiting the media, technology, and creativity that marked the avant-garde's experiments throughout the early twentieth century. Forms of expression and protest that first emerged prior to and immediately after World War I were brought into the mainstream during the 1930s. Instead of being an exception, the use of the camera, publicity, mass media, and transport were common tools among artists and writers. The artistic output of the 1930s is marked at once by bravado and monumentality as well as ambiguity and uncertainty. The strategies that artists and writers used to understand and confront the realities of their times require scholars working today to pay attention, not only to the already established historical record but especially to those works, artists, and positions that may have been hidden, treasured, or overlooked. Of particular interest in the papers presented in this international seminar are the ways in which often moments of authority, closure, and opacity are accompanied by equally powerful instances of slippage, misidentification, and display.
Over the last ten to twenty years there have been several exhibitions dedicated to the 1930s, and many scholarly studies focused on particular artists, national contexts, or movements. Among the most significant exhibitions, curators sought to bring attention to what had been labeled a period of time in the narrative of art history that had been troubled by the relation between art and politics. The problem of how to define the relation between the agency and autonomy of an artist and their potential interest in contributing to a political cause that was at once part of and yet separate from their formal experimentations lead scholars to bring forward categories of interpretation that focused largely on either the force of the state as a patron or broad thematic ideas related to utopian visions of renewal and revolution. Many artists worked to forge images, build environments, and design structures that announced departures from the more intimate, socially bound experiments of the previous years. While making bold and important interpretations about the contribution of artists to the political stakes of their times (and providing a foundation for scholarship undertaken today), one of the over-riding themes that seemed to emerge from this recent exhibitions and studies is the view of the 1930s that cordoned the decade off as an exceptional moment. And yet, as this symposium seeks to explore, the 1930s was at once a decade unto itself as well as one that was inextricably linked to the previous decades as well as fiercely relevant to the problems we face today.
The 1930s: The Subject in/of History
Friday, 10:30 a.m.
Andreas Huyssen. A Posthumous Modernism
Karen Fiss. From Nation Building to Nation Branding
Tyrus Miller. Mimesis of the New Man: the 1930s from Ideology to Anthropolitics
Exhibiting Nation, Art and the World
Friday, 4:30 a.m.
David Quigley. Reconcilable Differences: Politics, Aesthetics and Mythology in Museums of Modern Art
Charlotte Klonk. Alienation and Incorporation: Non-European Artefacts in Art Exhibitions of the 1930s
Romy Golan. The Transmedial Thirties
Aesthetics and Late-Modernisms
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Astradur Eysteinsson. Making it Through the Thirties: Icelandic Struggles with Modernity
Christina Kiaer. Against "Totalitarian Art": An Alternative Account of Socialist Realism
Valeria Coronel. Aesthetics and Decolonization: Disputes against essentialism identities in conflict, and reflections on the role of language in the social revolution of Ecuador in the 30s
Technology, War, and Spectacle
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Jeffrey Schnapp. Architectures of Light (An Archeology of the Searchlight)
Gennifer Weisenfeld. Gas Mask Parade: Japan's Anxious Modernism
Juan José Lahuerta. The Aesthetics of Bombings
Valeria Coronel is Research Professor in the Sociology program of FLACSO, Ecuador. She is a member of the network Conceptualismos del Sur.
Astradur Eysteinsson is Professor of Comparative Literature and, since 2008, Dean of Humanities at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.
Karen Fiss is Professor of Visual Studies, Design, and Architecture at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco.
Romy Golan is Professor of 20th Century Art, Ph.D Program in Art History, at The Graduate Center, and Lehman College, The City University of New York.
Andreas Huyssen is the Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.
Christina Kiaer is Associate Professor at the Department of Art History, Northwestern University.
Charlotte Klonk is Professor at Institute of Art and Visual History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Juan José Lahuerta is Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the Escuela de Arquitectura de Barcelona, Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña.
Jordana Mendelson is Associate professor at the Department of Art History, New York University.
Tyrus Miller is Professor of Literature and Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies at University of California, Santa Cruz.
David Quigley is visiting lecturer at the Institute for Philosophy, University of Vienna, and has been research fellow in Museo Reina Sofía during 2010.
Jeffrey Schnapp is Professor of Cultural History at Harvard University and is the founder-Director of metaLAB(at)Harvard.
Gennifer Weisenfeld is the Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Japanese Art History at the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University.