tradition and modernity
The challenge of seeing contemporary art from historical perspectives, while at the same time revisiting the art of the past with an eye to the contemporaneities present within it, is a paradox that seems to promise an enriched approach to the entire history of art. If we understand “contemporary” as a concept that points to a multiplicity of ways of being in time––in particular, to awareness of what is it to be in the present while being alert to the “presence” of other kinds of time––it is immediately obvious that this is not just a modern but an ancient concept. Contemporaneity itself has many histories within the histories of art, registered in symbolic languages across time and space from the deserts of Australia and the caves of Europe and Africa up to the art worlds of the present.
In the Spring term of 2013, the graduate students of the Contemporaneity working group met four times to discuss recent critical interventions in the field of contemporary art and social practice. These discussions focused on recent texts by Claire Bishop, Grant Kester, Gao Minglu and Terry Smith. The group benefitted greatly from the presence of Professors Gao and Smith, who presented new work to the group. The thought provoking discussion of these group meetings formed the basis for formal interviews with several of the authors, some of which will be published in the forthcoming edition of the journal Contemporaneity.
The journal Contemporaneity remains a central focus of the working group. Fall 2014 will see the launch of the third edition of the journal, edited by Amy Cymbala. During the Fall term, with the support of the Dean’s Office of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Contemporaneity will be expanding its reach, in order to facilitate a more interdisciplinary approach to the critical questions of historical presence. To this end, the journal is extending an invitation to graduate students and faculty members across the School of Arts and Sciences to become involved in the activities of the group. This is in line with the mission of our constellation, to understand the present in all its historical manifestations.