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Which Histories Matter?

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Abstract:

Politics of memory are absolutely crucial to rethinking the conditions of the contemporary. Returning to specific histories of the 'avant-garde' remains problematic, however, for it still leaves open the questions of which histories or even whose histories serve as the font for 'legitimate' critique, and thus whose 'avant-garde'? Are there other politics of memory to consider beyond these ubiquitous conceptual frames? This article follows the lead of a number of artists who have remobilised different cultural histories as a font for contemporary collective action. These are histories of dissident aesthetics and potentials that do not belong to the 'avant-garde', but instead stem from Indigenous rebellion in colonial Australia (in Tom Nicholson's marches) and critiques developed in late Communist Europe (Lia Perjovschi's workshops). Drawn together, these retracings can advance our knowledge of still-marginalised histories, as was Third Text's original brief back in the 1980s, while opening up prospects for a truly global art history emerging from local collective memories.

Keywords: Australia; Contemporary art; Lia Perjovschi; Romania; Tom Nicholson; art historiography; avant-garde; dissidence in art; global art history; postcolonial aesthetics

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09528820903184864

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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