Report – Critical imaginaries and expanded semantic fields (Robledo de Chavela, July 2018)

Workshop MoDe(s) 2 – Critical imaginaries and expanded semantic fields from the Cold War to contemporaneity
Robledo de Chavela, 16-18 July 2018

by Olga Fernández López


The workshop “Critical imaginaries and expanded semantic fields from the Cold War to contemporaneity” held in Robledo de Chavela (July 16-18, 2018) was aimed at laying the basis of the research project MoDe(s)2 for the next three years. It was, therefore, an internal workshop where we presented the research topics that will be developed in this second phase. We also made a map of the concepts that will constitute our theoretical framework and will lead to the publication of a glossary. Finally, we agreed on a working plan that will take the form of seminars and meetings, case studies visualized through GIS thanks to the project’s database, as well as the updating and improvement of MoDe(s)’ website.

In MoDe(s) 1 project we put special emphasis on the development of a new cartography of the period, in which we highlighted the role played by transnational networks of artistic-political collaboration, beyond the system of blocks, with special attention to the transatlantic axis. This movement of decentralization allowed us to question the canonical historiographical constructions of artistic modernity/modernism and to advance towards a complex idea of modernities interacting in a proto-globalized territory. Throughout this preparatory workshop, we saw how this cartographic dimension of the project settled and becames more complex with the incorporation of the glossary. In the working sessions we elaborated a map of the key words of our research, as well as the concepts we wanted to deal with in depth, looking for coincidences and relationships (see photo). As expected, the map soon became a tangle of arrows as complicated to interpret as the period we studied.

Facing the risk that the map would end up coinciding with the territory, Oscar Cambra‘s intervention was important to introduce us to methodologies that, more than from geography, came from biology. This approach will allow us to think about the project as an organic conceptual space, which relationships not only respond to criteria of origin/location, but also incorporate variables of time and change. This perspective can be related to various aspects of the work in progress: Juan Albarrán (subcultures/countercultures), Fabiola Martínez (panamericanism/humanism), Paula Barreiro López (guerrilla/solidarity), María Ruido and Lee Douglas (revolution/colony), Miriam Basilio (soft power/institution), Olga Fernández López (imaginary/social democracy), Jaime Vindel (entropy/catastrophe), by introducing an empirical approach that allows characterizing transformations, re-semantizations, adaptation to diverse contexts, mutations or propagations.

In addition, and as announced in the workshop’s introductory text, we could see how for MoDe(s) 2 the cartography is acquiring a certain sense of time. This was materialized in a scheme which, among others possible, presents three scenarios for the project that contemplate social imaginaries of the period. The first would be the imaginary of the cultural Cold War associated with the institutions and practices that emerged from the new world order. The researches of Miriam, Olga, Fabiola and Juan are part of this scenario.

The second one would be the decolonizing and third-world imaginary which makes the former colonies emerge as revolutionary agents of transnational character, with some effects on the bloc dynamics and on some of the social movements that are flourishing at this moment. Here we could situate the works of Fabiola, Paula, Juan, María and Lee.

Finally, the third would be outlined as the counter-revolutionary and neoliberal imaginary that emerges after the disintegration of some of these processes of struggles and revolts and the emergence of powerful conservative forces capable of instituting new projections of collective identity. The studies of Jaime, Juan, María and Lee would be based on this field.

Some of these works follow a broad time path and will try to account of the changes that occur/are reflected in artistic representations and practices. The last two scenarios, whose profiles appear increasingly clear in retrospect, seem important to us because of their capacity to influence our present. On the one hand, the analysis of the neoliberal offensive allows us to understand the cultural collapse that took place between the seventies and eighties and its effects today. On the other hand, the approach to the revolutionary years is useful to recover their legacy, but also their potentialities for the present time.

See the workshop’s program