Abstraction Unframed: Fourth Annual Conference of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Turkey and Iran (AMCA) | AMCA | Association for Modern + Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran + Turkey

Abstraction Unframed: Fourth Annual Conference of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Turkey and Iran (AMCA)

Open to the Public

Date: May 22, 2016 – May 24, 2016
Time: 09:00am – 05:00pm
Location: NYUAD Campus, Conference Center View map

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Our art historical account of modernism has long been rooted in an idea of dissatisfaction with representation, in a twentieth-century impatience with perceived distance from ‘real’ material, emotion, or knowledge. While Western scholarship privileges one network of European artists with the invention of abstraction in 1910, this dissatisfaction with representation permeated other disciplines as well. Modern architects ceased concerning themselves with historical styles as a métier, instead designing machines for living, and for knowing. By mid century, the methods of postwar sociology and planning shifted in the direction of producing data sets which, offering ways to manipulate experience apart from the singularity of good taste or the frame of the individual, became material to the art object (and its deconstruction) as well. At stake in these multiple abstractions was the dream of true being, as might exist outside the specificity of language or culture.

There is no monopoly on this dream. Nomenclature to describe the transcendence of the singularity of appearances in fact proliferates in translation – the Arabic word tajreed, the Persian entaze’e or the Turkish word soyutlama, and other names – to denote formal states beyond natural likeness such as a lasting structure or eternal concept. And yet, still tethered to the very word abstraction—as it is used in the narrow disciplinary frame of artistic modernism—is a concept of representation that has been formed within the particular historical context of the European tradition of illusionistic painting. Abstraction acquired its sense in reference to a lack, a pulling away from visual representation, an absence of the figure. If this is our disciplinary inheritance, what can be made of work with traditions that never placed emphasis on the icon, or never submitted to the representational limits of the painterly frame? How can we attend to the multiplicity of other artistic problems, or modes of creation, found in modernism writ large? To the many strands of Eastern mysticism and vitalist philosophy that provided an impetus to abstraction, on all shores? What history can we write for the artists who made their own mobility a ground for new abstractions, moving from discipline to discipline, and circulating around various cities and countries?

The fourth AMCA conference seeks to open the concept of abstraction up to inquiry across multiple disciplinary formulations, so as to probe both the frame of modern abstraction and its promise to unframe. Papers might engage a range of subjects, including and not limited to (1) critical accounts of the concept of abstraction; (2) case studies of artistic practice; (3) critical analyses of interactions between artists and architects, or art and calculation; (4) reinterpretations of global conditions for abstract art in the twentieth century. As a whole, the conference is intended to highlight transformations of abstraction in the non-West, including the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey, and the history of aniconic ornament in their spiritual landscapes. Equally it aims to take other impetuses into account: the abstract calculations of colonialism, economics, and planning that produced the modern condition, as well as ethical issues surrounding the abdication of the figure or the non-figure (such as sincerity of practice or lack thereof).

The conference will take place at two institutions: NYU-Abu Dhabi and the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah. By convening the conference in conjunction with a collection of art assembled outside national boundaries, and within a new institution of higher learning located between the Middle East and Asia, in which Europe is de-centered, we anticipate that our discussions in the United Arab Emirates will enable us to un-frame abstraction as an artistic process, goal, and critique. To that end, the conference will conclude with a day of “unconference”, when the questions raised in the conference may be applied to the collection of art in the Barjeel Art Foundation. This collection includes work by Etel Adnan, Mohammed Melehi, Mona Saudi, Hugette Caland, Shakir Hassan Al Said, Omar El Nagdi, and others may be viewed at  https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/u/0/collection/barjeel-art-foundation.

All proposals to be submitted by Oct 31st 2015
to: info@amcainternational.org. Responses will be emailed on December 1st, 2015.

Conference participation of presenters will be fully subsidized by the generous sponsorship of Barjeel Art Foundation and NYUAD


Saleem Al-Bahloly (EUME Fellow 2014-2016, Forum Transregionale Studien)
Jessica Gerschultz (University of Kansas)
Anneka Lenssen (UC Berkeley)
Salwa Mikdadi (NYUAD)
Nada Shabout (University of North Texas)

In Collaboration with

Barjeel Art Foundation



Register for this Event here

Sunday, May 22: Day 1

9:00 – 9:30 AM Registration
Institute Conference Center
Meeting Room Foyer
9:30 – 9:45 AM Welcome Remarks & Introduction
Robert J.C. Young, Dean of Arts & Humanities,NYUAD
Salwa Mikdadi, NYUAD
Nada Shabout, AMCA
Sultan Al Qassemi, BAF
9:45 – 11:00 AM Panel I: Painting: Questions of the Liminal Space
Beyond Figuration: Exploring the space between the abstract and the figurative in Marwan’s painting
Charlotte Bank, University of Geneva
Sam Francis’s Polycentric Abstraction
Elizabeth Buhe, NYU
Anneka Lenssen, UC Berkeley
11:00 – 11:30 AM
Break & Refreshments
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM Panel II: Violence of Abstraction
 Clandestine Aesthetics: Abstracted Photography in Wartime Algeria
 Tina Barouti, Boston University
Part Flesh, Part Data: Permutations of Black Square
Sandra Skurvida, FIT-SUNY
Saleem Al-Bahloly, Forum Transregionale Studien
2:00 – 3:30 PM   PANEL III: Anonymous Modalities
Understanding abstraction in artistic expressions in contemporary media of the Arabian Gulf 
 Maha Al-Saati, University of Dammam, Saudi Arabia
 Speculation and Spectacle: Oil and Modernization in Kuwait
 Michael Kubo, MIT
 Jessica Gerschultz, University of Kansas
3:20 – 4:00 PM   Break & Refreshments
4:00 – 5:00 PM  Curatorial Tour: Diana al Hadid Exhibition
 Maya Allison,  NYUAD Chief Curator & Director
5:00 – 6:30 PM  Break & Refreshments
6:30 – 8:00 PM  PUBLIC PROGRAM 
NYUAD Conference Center (A6)
Middle Eastern Films Before Thy Gaze Returns to Thee—in Less than 1/24 of a Second
Jalal Toufic,  Director of the School of Visual Arts at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA)
Immediately followed by a public reception

Monday, May 23 | Day 2

9:00 – 9:30 AM  Registration
 Institute Conference Center
 Lecture Hall Foyer
9:30 – 11:00 AM  PANEL IV: Painting: Choosing Abstraction
 Fahrelnissa Zeid Unbound: Inner Necessity and the Articulation of Abstraction with Representation
 Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, Independent Scholar
   Abstraction in Saudi Art:  one solution, various situations
 Eiman Elgibreen, The Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabi
 Nada Shabout, University of North Texas

Tuesday, May 24: DAY 3

Barjeel Art Foundation

Hosted by Barjeel Art Foundation
Al Qasba Theater, Sharjah

9:30:00 AM   Welcome
 Sultan Al Qassemi, BAF
 Nada Shabout, AMCA
10:00  –  11:30 AM  PANEL V: National Narration: Abstraction in Place 
 Architecture-Art-Architecture: Constructing Baghdad’s Modernism
 Amin Alsaden, Harvard University
 Abstraction, ‘Iranian Modernism,’ and the Question of Global-Local Art
 Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam, Art University in Tehran
    Abstraction: Modernization Challenged, Representation Dismantled
 Ilhan Ozan, Research and Programs at SALT, Istanbul
 Salwa Mikdadi, NYUAD
   Q & A 
11:30 – 11:50 AM   Break & Refreshments
 Al Qasabah Theater, Sharjah
11:50 – 1:00 PM   PANEL VI: Abstraction in Performance
   Dialogical Abstraction in Halim El-Dabh’s Expression of Zaar (1944)
 Delinda Collier, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
 Generative abstraction in the media artworks of Mounir Fatmi and Arthur Jafa
 Laura Marks, Simon Fraser University
Anneka Lenssen, UC Berkeley
 Q & A
6:30-7:45 PM   Unconference: Abstraction Unframed 
 Sharjah Art Museum

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