Anselm Franke

17 November 2020

(Situatedness of art in modern-colonial structures)

In the current moment we are experiencing the rapid downfall of the liberal postwar order, and in the the cracks thus opening up, we gaze into the abyss of 500 years of colonial-modern history. For the sake of orientation on common grounds and as a means to resist the modern-colonial logic of identitarian division,  it is urgent to think through this downfall and the terms of this order. In the context of culture, this inevitably implies distancing from its institutional catgeories and value-forms. In this seminar, we will be looking at four historical dates: 1545, 1789, 1893 and 1945. Like flashlights towards a dialectical montage, they will help us unearth the situatedness of art in modern-colonial structures. We will be looking at the “Bildprogramme” (Image-programs) of the so-called Renaissance and their relation to the political history of the colonial exterior, and at the imaginary of the French and English revolutionary movements including their class politics. We will be looking at the pivot of imperial expansion in the late 19th century, and the ensuing “foundational crisis” of European reason as the context in which the modernist avant-gardes emerged. And lastly, we look at what has become of both “Western modernity” and said “foundational crisis” in the postwar order, once “modernism” had turned into a beacon for the restitution of Western civilisation and became “classical”.  

Required Reading:

Saree Makdisi, William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790’s, Introduction p.1-15

Anselm Franke is a curator and writer. He is Head of the Department of Visual Arts and Film at HKW Berlin, where he co-curated the multi-year program “The Anthropocene Project” (2013-2014) and “Kanon-Fragen (2016-2019), and conceived numerous exhibitions such as recently “Neolithic Childhood. Art in a False Present ca. 1930” (together with Tom Holert) and “Parapolitics. Cultural Freedom and the Cold War” (with Paz Guevara, Nida Ghouse and Antonia Majaca). Publications include “2 or 3 Tigers” (2017, with Hyunjin Kim), “Forensis” (2015, with Eyal Weizman et. al.) and “Animism” (2010). Franke received his doctorate from Goldsmiths College, London.