ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS AND DESIGN / ALUO (Ljubljana, Slovenia) 

INSTITUTE OF ART HISTORY (Zagreb, Croatia)

Collaborative research project (2020 - 2023)

This research on the models and practices of global cultural exchange from the beginning of the 1960s, when the Non-aligned Movement was first established, to the end of the 1980s when it faced a serious crisis, follows two parallel axes of investigation. 


The first hypothesizes that processes of decolonization framed by the articulation of cultural needs and cultural policies of African, Asian, and Latin American countries resulted, in period observed at this project, with new visual regimes, and new models of cultural exchange, the effects of which can be described in terms of a radical interventions in the dynamics of global Cold War artistic and visual culture. 


The second hypothesis, focused on exploring the internal dynamics of NAM, seeks to address the economic, social and political framework of such interventions, providing the context for an explanation of their socio-cultural consequences.
The notion of cultural exchange encompasses the entire field of cultural production and a wide array of cultural activities. In order to gain an accurate insight into its models and mechanisms, well-grounded in the available archival sources, the scope of the research has been narrowed down to exchange programs in visual arts, design, architecture and urban planning, where the latter assumes project integral to UN (UNESCO) programs of technical aid to Africa and Asia, and led by networks of UN experts. Serving - already from the mid-1950s - as an international, and transcontinental platform for articulating the most urgent challenges of developing countries, the workings of these networks are 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 consequences of their encounters in the realm of visual arts have been described in terms of global Cold War artistic culture. The basic questions posed by this project are: What was the position of NAM member countries within that culture? How, and under what terms and conditions did African, Asian and Latin American artists reach the international art scene in the Cold War period? What about those segments of non-European visual arts which did not comply to the notions of modernity emerging from the interplay of the Western and Eastern Blocs’ visual orders? Where was such art produced, for whom, in which social and institutional framework, and whose interests it was (re)presenting? Why were the models of exchange and circulation generated by such "invisible" art production disruptive of the cultural dynamics of the global art scene, how they were related to liberation and emancipatory social movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and what we can learn about the postcolonial visual regimes by following multiple, interlocking, and simultaneous spatio-temporal trajectories of images, people and ideas circulating within NAM's geopolitical space during 1960s and afterwards? 


The intention of this project is to provide answers to these and number of other 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-fertilization 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 development of an experimental, innovative digital interface for dynamic representations of spatio-temporal data correlations, as well as an interface for multidimensional network visualizations, are very important project tasks. Both interfaces are planned as integral to the already developed, modular CAN_IS database, and along with new insights in the primary object of this project, it is our intention also to examine whether and how the experience of conducting analytic data operations in an immersive, virtual, environment affects both the way we use data, and our understanding of its cognitive value.

contact info: acuric@ipu.hr

Magazine Zenit, 1921-26

Cover of the Avant-garde magazine Zenit published in Zagreb 1921-1924; ed. Ljubomir Micić /ARTNET/ artist networks