Conference Description

Troubled Contemporary Art Practices in the Middle East:  Post-colonial conflicts, Pedagogies of art history, and Precarious artistic mobilization

3-4  June  2016

Birkbeck University of London | University of Nicosia

The conference will be held at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus

The contemporary art historical and cultural practices circulating in Cyprus, the Middle East and on a wider global scale can often seem imported from a Western art historical tradition. As the influence of Western European patterns of exhibition making and art historical models is becoming increasingly addressed across the global art market, the professional shifts that are being adopted in the research and practice of art history in Cyprus and the Middle East are also becoming obvious. The past, the present and the future of how art history is practiced, studied and developed comes into question, particularly where such narratives have only recently been developed.

In areas of conflict, of ethno-national division and of long term patterns of segregation, the narratives of art history have often taken the role of reinforcing cultural and ethnic identity, and at other instances of bringing conflicted communities together in processes of creative dialogue. This conference is itself a dialogue between two institutions, one in the UK and one in Cyprus; countries which were connected through their past colonial relationship and which are still connected through their post-colonial condition.

Current art historical debates which include issues relating to social engagement, conflict, virtual life, networks and how we connect to our past, allow the influence of Marxist, post-colonial and post-modern narratives to be discerned. Working life, artists mobilisation, organisation, thinking of the role that culture can be called upon so as to assist in instances of cultural segregation relate to issues explored in the context of contemporary arts practices.

The role of how the pedagogy of art histories and practices operate and the shifts it has been experiencing in an increasingly corporate university educational system has been generating debates on shifts within how and what is being taught within an art historical context.

By focusing on how art histories seem to have been imported in regions such as the conflicted Middle East, which up until recently were interpreted as the periphery and the colonial other, this conference presents papers that address the following issues:

Post-colonial Conflicts and art | Pedagogies of art history | Precarious artistic mobilisation | Shifts of centre and periphery | Development of art histories in contexts of conflict | Shifts to curatorial practices- changing field of ‘art history’ in the university context | Socially engaged art turns | Issues of labour and organization in contemporary art practices  | Practice-based research  | Art History and education in the Middle East- relationship to western Europe

Confirmed Keynote speakers

Prof. Wendy Shaw, Frei Universität Berlin and Catherine David, Pompidou Centre



Academic Committee

Dr Sophie Hope, Birkbeck University of London |

Dr Gabriel Koureas, Birkbeck University of London|

Dr Evanthia Tselika, University of Nicosia |


Administrative Assistance

Mr Ioannis Hadjipanayis, Art and Design Technical Officer, University of Nicosia |

The cost for presenting and participating at the conference is

40 Euros (full conference fee)

30 Euros (for part time and full time students, unemployed)