Exhibition-Made History. Revisiting Epochal Shifts from the Modern to the Contemporary
Maria Bremer, Ph.D.
Under what circumstances, and through what agencies does a new historical period come into place? Over the past decades, the term of 'the contemporary' was introduced in historical and art historical scholarship to define a new historical condition in its own right, which – in the light of global perspectives – is mainly seen as shaped by the premise of globalization, neoliberalism, and digitization. Countering such a totalizing logic of the contemporary, this project proposes to focus on the late postwar art scene in Rome, which has long been neglected in Anglophone and German scholarship alike, to unravel an alternate definition of the contemporary deeply informed by place and history.
Such a situated definition of the contemporary was brought forward in the framework of exhibitions – most ostensibly, on the occasion of the show 'Contemporanea. 1973-1959', held at the Villa Borghese underground parking lot in 1973. To reconstruct what the contemporary meant in Rome, the project thus proposes to turn to exhibitions, arguing that the invention of periodizing concepts is not a prerogative of historical scholarship exclusively. As situational spaces and discursive apparatuses, exhibitions intervene both on history understood as 'event' and on history understood as 'narrative' – they make and write history. What will be at stake in the project, therefore, is to study the consolidation of a new historical period shifting the vantage point from artworks to exhibitions. By treating the question of how the present morphed into a distinct period through the lens of exhibitions, early historiographies of the contemporary will be brought to the fore.