Cold Atlantic Doctoral Seminar


Doctoral Seminar/Workshop:Cold Atlantic. Cultural War, Dissident Artistic Practices, Networks and Contact Zones at the Time of the Iron Curtain.

University of Barcelona, Spain. 8-9 September 2016

The University of Barcelona, Saint Louis University (Madrid) and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid organize a doctoral seminar/workshop at the University of Barcelona (8-9 September).

This academic event has been planned to coincide with an international conference at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid (5-7 September) ( Both seminar and conference are part of an international project entitled Cold Atlantic. Cultural War, Dissident Artistic Practices, Networks and Contact Zones at the Time of the Iron Curtain which has been generously funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

The seminar/workshop is aimed at doctoral students working on topics related to the conference and its four thematic axes. Based on the current research of the selected participants, the seminar-workshop will serve as a platform to discuss the transatlantic exchanges between North America, Europe, Africa and Latin America bringing into the fore other hubs of artistic exchange and influence, aiming not just to de-center the (still predominant) Paris-New York axis, but also to foster a discussion that gives a voice to cultural expressions that were generated outside the official power structures. Parting from the destabilization of the status quo, with the Bandung conference in 1955 and Hungarian revolution in 1956, we aim to emphasize forms of mediation, dissidence and resistance that offered alternative responses to the ideological and aesthetic schism that dominated social, political, artistic and curatorial practices after WWII.

The seminar will be structured around the four thematic axes of the conference giving particular emphasis to methodological and theoretical questions.

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Networks and ‘contact zones’ for a non-aligned geopolitical order

From the 1955 conference of Bandung, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) offered an alternative to the bipolar division of the world imposed by the two superpowers. The choice to look for another configuration of the world did not just create a league of peripheral nation-states but inspired as well cultural and artistic formations. This priority axis of Cold Atlantic aims to encourage transnational studies seeking to expose the networks of collaboration and contact zones developed by artists, critics, curators or institutions in dialogue with or inspired by the NAM. Thus, we hope to reveal the way in which these alternative constellations contributed to the development of a transatlantic (and transcontinental) culture and to show in how far those entanglements helped to subvert the bipolar geographies of the Cold War.

Resistance, dissidence and utopia(s)

In a world where imperialist and neo-colonial politics were imposed on both sides of the iron curtain, artistic practices provided ways to resists, subvert and combat them. This priority axis of Cold Atlantic aims to study vanguard and experimental artistic practices analyzing their aesthetic, political and social bases (and contexts), and their role as models for resistance against the normative culture(s) of the Cold War. Thus we seek to highlight the role of artistic production and cultural agents, operating in both, hegemonic and subaltern centers, as subversive tools in countercultural movements within the transatlantic axis, and to show their potential for imagining alternative forms of society.

Competing hegemonies

The Cold War, with its primary opposition between two superpowers (the USA and the USSR), provided the bilateral framework for the aspirations of governments and oppositional elites to be “modern”. Negotiations between different notions of modernity and the terms and conditions of the local contexts resulted in a wide range of often contradictory aesthetic discourses and artistic practices. Claims for autonomy, sovereignty and progress coincided with a need to be recognized as members of the new geopolitical order. This priority axis of Cold Atlantic aims to discuss, from a pluralistic angle, the exchanges, negotiations and confrontations that the battle for cultural hegemony entailed, giving rise to the emergence of various geopolitical powers in the increasingly globalizing arena of the Cold War.

Global order: Cold War and beyond

In 1967 the French philosopher Guy Debord understood the bipolar division of the world between capitalism and communism as an interdependent and global system of a total spectacle. He quickly felt that the complex geopolitical entanglements that the political, economic and cultural spheres entailed, accelerating with the radical development of market -communication- and media networks, were evolving into a single totality; the latter, in fact, becoming greatly responsible for shaping today’s globalized world. This priority axis of Cold Atlantic considers the entanglements and dialogues between artistic and cultural spheres during the Cold War, and their persistence in the contemporary world. It seeks to show in how far transatlantic configurations, in the transition from modernity to post-modernity, inform today’s global order.

The seminar will be arranged as a series of workshops and round tables that will allow PhD students to discuss their work with established academics who have been invited to participate in both events (conference and seminar). With this it hopes to create a space for intellectual exchange where doctoral students will share their work and provide feedback, ideas and suggestions to their peers. Participants will be divided into small working groups to facilitate discussion, but there will be joint activities such as roundtables, guest talks, and a guided visit of an exhibition in Barcelona.
Confirmed invited scholars: Andrea Giunta, Serge Guilbaut, Michael Wellen, and Jonathan Harris.

The Call for applications is closed.
Results will be announced by April 2016.

Organizing Committee:

Paula Barreiro López (Universidad de Barcelona), Fabiola Martínez Rodríguez (Universidad de Saint Louis, Madrid), Olga Fernández López (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Juan Albarrán (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Chema González (Museo Reina Sofía) and Carlos Pietro del Campo (Museo Reina Sofía)

This conference has been generously funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, and it is linked to the research project: Decentralized Modernities: art, politics and counterculture in the transatlantic axis during the Cold War (HAR2014-53834-P).
Related activities: International Conference at the Museum Reina Sofia (5-7 September 2016)