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Decentering: Some Reflections on MoMA's C-MAP Research Project

Ana Longoni delivered these reflections as a response during the yearly C-MAP Seminar that took place at The Museum of Modern Art in April 2013. Entitled “Global Networks,” this two-day-long meeting of members of the three geographically oriented C-MAP research groups and guests focused on self-critically addressing C-MAP’s mission to build a more global program for MoMA’s exhibitions, publications, education programs, and collection—a program that would engage with the multiplicity of modernities and histories of contemporary and modern art. Participants in the seminar discussed methodologies of researching region-specific networks in relation to art created in the mid-to-late 20th century, as well as the contemporary networks of scholars, institutions, and artists whose joint efforts result in the production and dissemination of knowledge.

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Ana Longoni

Professor University of Buenos Aires Ana Longoni is a writer and researcher specialized in the articulations between art and politics in Latin America. She received a BA in Literature and a PhD in Arts from... Read more »
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Decentering: Some Reflections on MoMA's C-MAP Research Project

Ana Longoni delivered these reflections as a response during the yearly C-MAP Seminar that took place at The Museum of Modern Art in April 2013. Entitled “Global Networks,” this two-day-long meeting of members of the three geographically oriented C-MAP research groups and guests focused on self-critically addressing C-MAP’s mission to build a more global program for MoMA’s exhibitions, publications, education programs, and collection—a program that would engage with the multiplicity of modernities and histories of contemporary and modern art. Participants in the seminar discussed methodologies of researching region-specific networks in relation to art created in the mid-to-late 20th century, as well as the contemporary networks of scholars, institutions, and artists whose joint efforts result in the production and dissemination of knowledge.

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Ana Longoni delivered these reflections as a response during the yearly C-MAP Seminar that took place at The Museum of Modern Art in April 2013. Entitled “Global Networks,” this two-day-long meeting of members of the three geographically oriented C-MAP research groups and guests focused on self-critically addressing C-MAP’s mission to build a more global program for MoMA’s exhibitions, publications, education programs, and collection—a program that would engage with the multiplicity of modernities and histories of contemporary and modern art. Participants in the seminar discussed methodologies of researching region-specific networks in relation to art created in the mid-to-late 20th century, as well as the contemporary networks of scholars, institutions, and artists whose joint efforts result in the production and dissemination of knowledge.

Analongoni
Ana Longoni at the 2013 C-MAP Seminar

From within an institution such as MoMA, which to a great extent and for decades has been defining the Western canon of modern art, is it possible to generate a guiding logic that is not only different from but even contrary to the established one? What are the implications of taking a different standpoint from within MoMA toward the inside of the institution, but also toward the outside?

We faced a similar dilemma and asked ourselves the same questions in the Southern Conceptualisms Network, regarding the complicity and ties of collaboration we have with the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. Can we go beyond the museum’s bureaucratic regulations, its symbolic weight, its acquisition policies, and its production of large exhibitions, as well as its construction of a single narrative of legitimization?

From this viewpoint, the use of the verb “expand” as it appears in the C-MAP Information Packet can be called into question for discussion and reconsideration.1 What does “expand” mean in terms of renewal and transformation? Is the goal of the project to expand the institutional logic, the criteria for the incorporation of new works and documents—the canon itself—so as to absorb experiences of the so-called peripheries “for future acquisitions, exhibitions, and interpretative programs,” as stated in the C-MAP project outline? Or is the goal to confront that logic and consider the possibility of different and simultaneous ways of making and thinking about art and its connections with its historical contexts?

I am convinced we all agree that what is at stake here is not the expansion of the canon in order to absorb what until now had been excluded or ignored into a narrative that keeps its old patterns in full force, but to recognize the existence of other forces that challenge the stability of the center.

The other concept that might be worth reconsidering is the idea of a “global art,” inasmuch as it implies a homogenization that obliterates the specific dynamics and inequalities present in today’s world order.

At this point, I think the term “decentered” can help us define a new position that eludes the unidirectionality of a canonical model that is traditionally trained to find in the periphery just the radiations of the center, in terms of derivation or diffusion. And with the term “decentered” I allude to a shift from an established center to a position off a central axis that allows not the establishment of a new center but the ability to consider multiple aspects of a given situation.

This precarious but privileged position of instability does not provide us with firm ground on which to reinforce the legitimization of focal hierarchies by administering its discourses. Rather, it steers us away from the easy hunt for the eccentric and exotic in peripheral art, forcing us instead to radically and critically revise the very notion of a center. It achieves this by disrupting gravitational certainties with its instability and precariousness.

1.

“C-MAP is a global research initiative at MoMA that is driven by a desire to deepen the Museum’s expertise and to expand the criteria by which quality in works of art and artistic movements is defined. . . . The primary incentive for the C-MAP initiative is an institution-wide goal to expand the ways in which MoMA’s collection, exhibitions, publications, and education programs tell the story of modernism as well as sustain its influence into the 21st century.” C-MAP information packet, 2013, p. 3.

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Decentering: Some Reflections on MoMA's C-MAP Research Project

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Arte ou cultura? O que é arte, o que é cultura?

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Meus olhos não são seus olhos, a minha janela da alma (os olhos) enxergam uma cor que não é a sua.

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Arte ou cultura? O que é arte, o que é cultura?

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