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Basis voor Actuele Kunst - BAK

Public Institution
2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress
  On Horizons: Art and Political Imagination
4-6 november/November 2010

Istanbul Technical University, Istanboel/Istanbul

Developed by:
BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht
Foundation Art and Public Space, Amsterdam

Realized in collaboration with:
IKSV Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Istanboel/Istanbul

The 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress is part of the research trajectory of FORMER WEST, a project that investigates, in the field of contemporary art, the (not-yet-fully acknowledged) impact of the seismic shifts brought about by the events of 1989 in the so-called West and beyond, and engages in imagining a possible future of "one world," beyond the inequalities which continue to define our current condition. The 2nd Congress aims at rendering visible FORMER WEST's artistic, curatorial, and academic research to date in order to negotiate its most urgent questions with the public and within the concrete artistic, social, and political conditions of Istanbul and Turkey. While the 1st Congress (Utrecht, 2009) mapped and analyzed artistic, theoretical, historical, and political developments of the last twenty years with respect to the problematic of the West's "formerness," the 2nd Congress is oriented towards future perspectives, and speculates about how to move beyond the notion of a "loss of horizon," which has come to characterize our contemporary world.

After the 1989 (default) victory of capitalist democracy over the only functioning competing ideological system, Communism, it seems that the world has been bereft of a horizon of opposition, a position from which to challenge its own internal ideological premises. The common project of globalized capitalism has reduced the notion of striving for a better world to the production of wealth for its own sake.
It has failed to engage with speculative visions of other possibilities, even though at this very moment, following the rapidly changing external conditions from economic recession to climate change to environmental crises, the totalizing horizon of economic growth in the former West is being reassessed. Yet no matter the circumstances, could it not be said that art works and art exhibitions do set up a horizon, offering a proposal of what can and cannot be imagined? That what we so unproblematically call the "artistic imaginary" is in fact an indication of the presence of (new) possibilities that society seems to have resigned from seeking? Isn't the (contested) term of the horizon, besides being suggestive of political aims or utopias, in fact the very frame of any aesthetic and political project?

The 2nd Congress explores the horizon as an artistic, philosophical, and political concept; how horizontality may be enacted in theory and artistic practice; contemporary art as a site where artistic and political imaginaries intersect; and the (political) possibilities for art in light of the hegemonic consensus of today.

Speakers include, among others: Beatriz Colomina (architecture historian and theorist, Princeton), Blent Diken (sociologist, Lancaster), Caglar Keyder (sociologist, Binghamton and Istanbul), Vasif Kortun (curator and writer, Istanbul), Ernesto Laclau (philosopher, Paris), Lisette Lagnado (curator, So Paulo), Peter Osborne (philosopher, London), Ultra-red (artist collective, New York), Shuddhabrata Sengupta (artist, Delhi), Simon Sheikh (curator, Berlin), Hito Steyerl (artist, Berlin), Gerald Raunig (philosopher, Vienna), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist, St. Petersburg).

The 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress takes place at Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul. The language of the Congress is English; simultaneous translation into Turkish is provided. Admission to the Congress is free; however registration is required due to limited seating. A Registration Form is available online at: Please submit the completed form no later than 10 September 2010 to
Program updates can be found on our website.

FORMER WEST is a contemporary art research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008-2013), initiated and organized by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst. It is curated by Charles Esche (curator, author, and director, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Maria Hlavajova (artistic director, BAK), and Kathrin Rhomberg (curator, Berlin Biennial 6, 2010) and developed with a dense network of researchers and institutional partners. The 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress is co-curated by Simon Sheikh. For more information or to explore the research archive, please visit the digital platform:

The 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress is generously supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; ERSTE Stiftung, Vienna; and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Istanbul.

FORMER WEST is supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; and the EU Culture Programme, Brussels.
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