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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Of Art Worlds - Collecting and Archiving Modern and Contemporary Art on the African Continent


The project takes its inspiration from a perspective on multiplicity that brings art collections and artworks as multi-layered configurations to the forefront. It aims to look at art collections on the African continent, by analytically starting with artworks. The latter appear as material objects in artist’s studios, in museums, in biennales, in auctions, as well as in various analogue or digital media representation. The material object in general comes from a collection and goes back to a collection, especially if we consider the artist’s stock as collection as well. Thus, we chose artworks and collections as our empirical joints, as research on modern and contemporary art in Africa so far mainly focused on history and context rather than on the artwork itself. The project is inspired by new formalist approaches and their renewed attention to form as organizations or arrangements that afford representation and portability across materials and contexts (Levine 2015). Embarking from the collection, grounded in formalist analysis we expect art to shed light on operations of social form as e.g. in art worlds. We understand the collection as a focal space for negotiating and defining art worlds and the respective identities. We want to understand the very characteristics of collections, e.g. by interpreting them as self-reflexive meta-images in Mitchell’s (2008) sense – instead we follow Levine here as well and understand them as ‘form’ well, not the least because we expect the application of the same central concepts on all levels (from art work to art world) as critically reflexive and necessary asset informing fluid IT-ontologies, which we will try to implement and question at the same time though methods like the Icon Lab.


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