September 3, 2009 - Former West - 1st Former West Congress organized by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst
September 3, 2009

1st Former West Congress organized by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst

Heimo Zobernig, Proposal for visual idenity of Former West, 2009.

1st Former West Congress
5 – 7 November 2009

Organized by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst

Venue: Ottone
Kromme Nieuwegracht 62
Utrecht, the Netherlands

In the days leading up to the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 2009, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht hosts the 1st Former West Congress, which gathers some of the most influential curators, artists, theorists, and thinkers of the past two decades from the field of art. This is the first major public program of the long-term, multifaceted international research, education, publishing, and exhibition project Former West (2008–2013).

Former West aims at articulating the processes of the West “becoming former” that, however unacknowledged by the West itself, began with the demise of the Cold War construct of a bipolar world in 1989. The project is an attempt to rethink the West and its art out of their hegemonic self-narration and to propose another, speculative view of the history of western art after 1989, one evolving around significant social and political changes and in active dialogue with post-communist and postcolonial thought.

Through dynamic and critical exchange with contributors and participants, this inaugural Congress begins mapping the artistic and theoretical developments surrounding the problematic of the “formerness” of the West, and charts the practices in art through which we can identify and engage with the post-1989 landscape and its impact on cultural production. Each day of the Congress is framed under a general thematic field and is comprised of different formats, including keynote lectures and a series of conversations.

5 November 2009
The first day commences with a position paper delivered by the Former West curators: Charles Esche (director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Maria Hlavajova (artistic director BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht), and Kathrin Rhomberg (curator, Berlin Biennial 6, Berlin), followed by a response from Rosi Braidotti (director Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht). This is followed by a second session entitled Histories and Narratives: Between the Post-communist and the Postcolonial (1989–2009), which includes keynotes delivered by Sarat Maharaj (art historian, Lund), Renata Salecl (philosopher, Ljubljana/London), Boris Groys (theorist, New York), and Paul Gilroy (sociologist, London).

6 November 2009
The second day’s session, Art, its Discourses, and the World at Large (1989–2001–2008), is openend by Cosmin Costinas (curator BAK, Utrecht) and Georg Schöllhammer (theorist, Vienna) who jointly deliver the keynote. The rest of the day is structured around a series of conversations with David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Jalal Toufic (artist, Istanbul), Pablo Lafuente (managing editor Afterall, London), Catherine David (curator, Paris), Kerstin Stakemeier (curator, Berlin), Marion von Osten (artist, Berlin/Vienna), Stefan Heidenreich (writer, Berlin), Christian Hoeller (editor, Vienna), and Helmuth Draxler (curator, Stuttgart/Vienna), and concludes with a plenary session.

7 November 2009
The concluding day of the Congress, entitled Representations of Art in the Former West: Exhibitions, Art Institutions, Art Market (1989—2009) is opened by a keynote from Simon Sheikh (curator, Berlin). Further contributions on this day are organized as conversations between two interlocutors: Claire Bishop (art critic, London/New York) and Douglas Gordon (artist, Berlin); Mihnea Mircan (curator, Bucharest) and Piotr Piotrowski (art historian, Poznan/Warsaw); Thomas Boutoux (curator, Paris) and Okwui Enwezor (curator, New York/San Francisco); Nuria Enguita-Mayo (curator, Valencia) and Ana Longoni (art historian, Buenos Aires); Sven Lütticken (art critic, Utrecht) and Tom Holert (art historian, Berlin/Vienna). The day ends with a plenary session and the concluding remarks of the Former West curators.

The Congress continues with a series of closed sessions on Sunday 8 November 2009, dedicated to in-depth discussion on the issues and themes raised during the public days.

Practical Information:
The 1st Former West Congress takes place at Ottone, Kromme Nieuwegracht 62 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. All sessions of the conference are held in English. Further information about the Congress, including participation, registration, etc. is available at and Due to limited seating registration for the Congress is required, and is open until Wednesday 30 September 2009. To register, please send an e-mail with contact information to

Former West is initiated by Maria Hlavajova, curated by Charles Esche, Maria Hlavajova, and Kathrin Rhomberg, and coordinated and produced by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. It is developed together with a team of research advisors: Claire Bishop, Boris Groys, Marion von Osten, Piotr Piotrowski, Simon Sheikh, and Georg Schöllhammer; and a network of institutional partners: Afterall Journal and Books, London (; BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht (; Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht (; International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA), Amsterdam (; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (; and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (

The 1st Former West Congress is realized in partnership with the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University.

For more information please visit

Former West
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