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ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS AND DESIGN / ALUO (Ljubljana, Slovenia), INSTITUTE OF ART HISTORY (Zagreb, Croatia), Collaborative research project (2020 - 2023)

The research project focusing on the models and practices of global cultural exchange from the beginning of the 1960s, to the end of 1980s', that is, from the nascent of Non-aligned Movement, in 1961, to the culmination of NAM's most serious crisis, in 1989. 

Project investigations are conducted along two parallel axes, one focusing on cultural policies and new visual regimes of decolonized African, Asian, and Latin American countries, and on the resulting, new models of cultural exchange and collaboration, while the other line of research, engaged with the internal dynamics of NAM, seeks to address the economic, social and political framework of these, new forms of cultural exchange and collaboration, and to provide the context for an explanation of their socio-cultural consequences.

As the notion of cultural exchange implies a wide range of activities and circulation of a multitude of diverse cultural products, the scope of the research has been narrowed down to exchange programs in visual arts, extended towards fields of architecture, and urban planning or - more precise - towards UN / UNESCO programs of technical aid to Africa, Asia, and latin America. Those were led by the international networks of UN experts, which served - already from the mid-1950s - as an international, and transcontinental platforms for articulating the most urgent challenges of developing countries. The workings of UN / UNESCO networks are also taken as exemplary of the complex inter-relations between three very different forms of post-war globalization projects: one linked to the United States and the capitalist West; one to the Soviet Union and other forms of statist socialism; and the third linked to the growth of the Non-Aligned Movement. 

The encounter of these different globalization projects in the field of art,  termed "global Cold War artistic culture", assumes a particular type of the interplay between Western and Eastern Blocs’ visual orders, posing the question on the relations of visual arts produced in the NAM-countries towards that culture? How, and where they were articulated? By whom? In which social, political, and institutional context? Is it possible to talk about the NAM artistic and visual culture, as a unique entity transgressing, and bypassing Cold War binaries? Which were the models of cultural exchange and collaboration specific for the Non-aligned geo-political space? What we can learn about the decolonial visual regimes by following multiple, interlocking, and simultaneous spatio-temporal trajectories of images, people and ideas circulating within NAM's geopolitical space in the 1960s and afterwards? What was their relation to liberation and emancipatory social movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America? The intention of this project is to seek answers to these questions by cutting across the range of current theoretical explanations, and focusing on the political, aesthetic, and linguistic features on NAM member countries visual cultures. Concerning the complexity of the object of the research, the methodological approach of art history will strongly benefit from cross-pollination with cultural studies, sociology, human geography, political science, economics, and history. The involvement of social sciences does not seek, in any deterministic way, to "read off" cultural and artistic production from the political economy of NAM, but a failure to link the cultural dynamics of artistic field to prevailing social, political and economic tendencies, would be to attribute a false notion of the complete autonomy of art and culture. 

Given that the focus of the research is on the transnational, global circulation of objects, persons and ideas, the trajectories of their movements through different cultural spaces and pertaining temporalities will be represented by the application of custom-made digital tools - digital interfaces for dynamic representations of spatio-temporal data correlations, and multidimensional network visualizations. Apart from gaining new insights in the objects of our immediate interest, the objective of using XR technologies in the developments of said interfaces is also to allow researchers to examine whether, and how the experience of conducting analytic operations in an immersive, virtual environment affects the way we use data, and understand its cognitive value.

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