06.12.2018 - 07.12.2018

Exhibiting (and) History


Concept and organization

Maria Bremer (Bibliotheca Hertziana)


Louisa Avgita (University of Ioannina), Raffaele Bedarida (Cooper Union, New York), Ana Bilbao (Afterall Research Centre, London), Beatrice von Bismarck (Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig), Ana Bogdanović (University of Belgrade), Nanne Buurman (Kunsthochschule Kassel), Eleonora Charans (IUAV University, Venice), Davor Ereš (University of Belgrade), Flavio Fergonzi (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa), Anthony Gardner (University of Oxford), Jonida Gashi (Academy of Albanian Studies, Tirana), Kristian Handberg (University of Copenhagen), Sharon Hecker (Independent), Britta Hochkirchen (Bielefeld University), Catalina Imizcoz (Central Saint Martins, London), Vincent Normand (ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne), Vanessa Parent (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Clarissa Ricci (IUAV University, Venice), Simon Sheikh (Goldsmiths College, London)

Provisional program

The aim of this workshop, organized in the context of the research initiative “Rome Contemporary,” is to develop novel perspectives on the relationship between exhibition practice and history from 1960 to the present. Striving for an expanded notion of exhibiting as entangled in and impacting the historical conditions of its time, we seek to re-examine the ways in which art historical research can contribute to the broader field of exhibition studies. Especially since the 1960s, as the understanding of art has been expanded to include artistic practices beyond singular artworks, exhibitions too experienced significant transformations. Hitherto mainly object-based, they diversified into a range of discursive, contextual, and performative formats grounded in modes of acting rather than just modes of showing. These processual and activating formats engage more firmly with a broader social nexus, weaving themselves into the processes and contingencies involved in the making of history. Thereby, they draw our attention to the capacity of exhibitions to both mediate and impact their historical time, to spatialize or enact historical concepts, and, in so doing, to potentially offer new models for historiographical work. 

Thursday, December 6, 9:30-18:30

The encounter intends to address the relationship between exhibition practice and history by focusing on postwar and contemporary examples worldwide, proposing both a historical and a methodological reflection (Bremer). Beginning with the attempt to locate the exhibition historically, we will discuss its roots in western modernity (Normand), retracing, in a second step, its currently decreasing specificity and unsettled future (Bilbao). After situating our object of inquiry, our aim will be to concentrate on the ways in which – since the postwar time – exhibition practice has mediated events of contemporary history. By modulating or adjusting their structure, function, format, as well as the form and canon of their individual exhibits, exhibitions have responded or reacted to episodes of their time, such as the protests of 1968 (Ricci) or Cold War politics (Handberg; Hochkirchen). Moving beyond the mediating relationship of exhibitions to history, what will be at stake, then, is their increasing agency in constructing the present, by establishing or disseminating categories of relevance (Bogdanović/Ereš; Fergonzi). Delving deeper into curatorial poetics, we will further highlight the aptitude of exhibitions to translate preexisting concepts of history, from universalizing to genealogic and nostalgic models, into the expository realm (Buurman). Conversely, a philosophy of the present as ‘the contemporary’ has recently been founded at a global scale through a specific, constellational and trans-historical exhibition practice (Avgida). 

Friday, December 7, 9:30-18:30

Elucidating how the philosophy of ‘the contemporary’ has rendered linear and teleological patterns obsolete will then lead us to focus on the current state of scholarly historiographical work. At once attempting to anticipate future trajectories, we will ask whether expository practices could possibly offer new models for historiographical methods. Since their early feminist (Parent) and postcolonial (Imizcoz) declinations, exhibitions have called into question conventional, hegemonic historiographies. Their participation in the rewriting of history can be further examined by looking at a widespread phenomenon, the reconstruction of exhibitions. We will discuss how such techniques of repetition, enacted in the exhibition medium, resonate with assumptions of curatorial evidence production (Von Bismarck), to then dwell on the various effects of expository re-stagings (Charans). In this context, it appears that privately funded reenactments of fascist exhibitions (Bedarida/Hecker), or state-driven, public presentations of political archives (Gashi) urge us to refine our investigation of exhibition practice. In our concluding session we will thus proceed to discuss viable ways of revisiting the “undisciplined” (Gardner) realm of exhibition history. By disentangling its categories; reassessing the impact of documentary records (and the lack thereof) (Gardner); or acquiring instruments from conceptual and social history (Sheikh), the discipline can progress beyond the ongoing canonization of ‘curator-authors’ and ‘masterpieces.’

The workshop will be held in English. All participants will give short presentations; the format is discussion-oriented and open to the public. No registration required. 

Veranstaltungsort /Address/Indirizzo

Villino Stroganoff
Via Gregoriana 22
00187 Rom

Anna Paulinyi
+39 0669 993-227


6. – 7. Dezember 2018