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Conference: Identity Complex

Identity representation within global exhibition-making

This one-day symposium focuses on identity representation in the context of international, large-scale, survey exhibitions of contemporary art.

Book your free ticket here

  • Free to attend
  • Lunch, coffee breaks, and drinks at the end of the study day provided
  • Detailed agenda will be shared soon

Identity Complex aims to provide new insights into the challenges involved in the staging of these exhibitions. The symposium seeks to bring together renowned artists, curators, academics, and researchers across the Midlands and beyond to contribute to a growing body of research and curatorial practice relating to the relationship between identity, contemporary art, and globalisation.

When it comes to the representation of nations and cultures beyond the Western canon, exhibitions have played a key role in the promotion of contemporary art in a global context. While mega-exhibitions such as biennials, triennials and the quinquennial documenta are rooted in the celebration of ethno-geographic diversity, many exhibitions, museums, and collections have also attempted to capture the essence of national identity, addressing the complexities behind the definition and reaffirmation of identity, as well as advocating for singular, nationalist conceptions of contemporary art.

Influenced by postcolonial theory and decolonisation processes, exhibitions have sought to reverse Western hierarchies of visual qualities and categories, shifting the attention to contemporary art practices of previously colonised and marginalised nations.

However, as argued by art historian David Joselit, ‘despite their undoubtedly good intentions, such exhibitions sever artists from their heritage in a superficial form of multicultural representation – or tokenism – that fails to do justice to their art’s histories’ (Joselit, 2020). Nevertheless, the question of identity remains relevant within global curatorial narratives, so much so that the title of the 2024 Venice Biennale is ‘Foreigners Everywhere’, alluding to the multiple ways artists can be considered foreigners.

How can we understand identity representation in a globalised world? Is it still sustainable to think about exhibitions grounded on a nation-based framework? How do we approach different epistemologies within global exhibition-making?

Drawing on these enquiries, the symposium aims to explore various perspectives on the subject while fostering debate among artists, curators, academics, and researchers.

Confirmed Line-up

Co-convenors: Caroline Fucci (University of Leicester) & Claudia Di Tosto (University of Warwick)

This event is supported by AHRC Midlands4Cities and hosted by Bonington Gallery.