Discussing canonical formations means considering the negotiations and conflicts they involve, and bringing into discussion apparently stable categories, like the modern, the contemporary and the global. Considering that a canonical formation relies on a corpus of texts, exhibitions or events, agents and platforms, in order to be able to understand and study them appropriately, it is necessary to broaden the debate by including contextual aspects, since the construction of the canon occurs in a complex cultural, social, economic, political and institutional matrix that organizes and produces hierarchies, according to specific criteria of value.
In the framework of our research project, it was important to discuss this subject; in fact, although the modern canon in art historiography has been mostly analyzed and questioned since the 1980s – making possible the shift from a universalist, essentialist and linear vision, to a plural and contingent one in which multiple canons, produced in different times and geographies, through distinct agencies, can cohabitate -, the logic underpinning the hegemonic modern canon still has an important impact in the history and teaching of actual art.
Through the examination of different cases, we developed a collective reflection on the processes of construction (and deconstruction) of a biased account of art history, and opened a debate about the battles for the visibilization of alternative models, in relation to influential social and political movements during the Cold War. The seminar paid special attention to speeches, poetics, policies and practices that took place not only in dissident spaces and circles, claiming their space for enunciation, but also in institutions that hegemonically determined the formation of the canon and as such, absorbing and weakening the richness of their speeches.
In her paper, Miriam Basilio retrieved the traces of a complex reading of modern art produced – and quickly forgotten – by the MoMA in New York, while it was open to Latin American languages and poetics; the latest had, until very recently, disappeared from the museum. The following interventions contemplated the relationship between gender, violence and sexual politics and their role in shaping normative models that support canonical constructions, as well as social, political and sexual relations: Clare Carolyn with the analysis of the work of British artist Linda Kitson during the Falklands War and Laura Mercader with a dialogue with the proposals of Griselda Pollock. These three first papers proposed a reflection based on different models of resistance (from historiographical construction, but also from the position taken by the researchers themselves), emphasizing also the importance of archives (such as the MoMA and the Imperial Museum of War archives) and their accessibility, not only for the analysis of the canon’s configuration, but also for the implementation of processes of critical questioning.
The morning session ended with a dialogue between Anna Maria Guasch and Laia Manonelles about taxonomies, configurations of value and ruptures produced in the era of globalization.
Afternoon lectures were dedicated to the configuration of the modern canon in the Spanish state: a geopolitical space that configures particular canonical structures, crossed by political, economic and identity forces. The lectures focused on a troubled and thorny moment in history: the seventies (between the impasse of the dictatorship and the Transition), relying on two cases of study that addressed the processes of self-construction of historical accounts and the renewal of the modern canon through painting (Julián Díaz Sánchez) and the new processes of legitimization and construction of current artistic narratives, based on conceptual practices (Juan Albarrán).