Table Topics: “Decolonizing Knowledge – Decolonizing Aesthetics”

With our table hosts PD Dr. Paola Ivanov (Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Wendy Shaw (Freie Universität Berlin) you are going to debate about issues concerning Decolonizing Knowledge – Decolonizing Aesthetics.

Paola Ivanov will concentrate on the two experimental exhibitions “Provincializing Europe – The Afrocentric Gaze” and “Enchantment / Beauty Parlour” that she curated for the Humboldt Lab Dahlem and which she will show to the guests before the discussion. On the one side, “Provincializing Europe” tries to apply Dipesh Chakrabarty’s meanwhile more than ten years old requirement to art history and its presentation in museums, arguing that so-called “traditional” artistic production from Africa is just as part of a decentered global art history as its contemporary North Atlantic counterpart. On the other side, with “Enchantment / Beauty Parlour” she centers on the question of how multisensory aesthetic models that counter modern North Atlantic visualism can be transferred in museum presentations, as their technology bases on exactly that idea of “distant (pseudo-objective) observation” that a decolonized aesthetic theory should overcome. The olfactory “object” that Paola Ivanov will bring for the table guests is oudh – agarwood incense – from Oman.

The discussion with Wendy Shaw will focus on a cloud-banded prayer carpet from Anatolia. Although currently categorised as “art” through its inclusion at the Berlin Islamic Museum, the carpet collection was originally collected with reference to Renaissance art and categorised for the Kunstgewerbe Museum. Rather than focusing on the aesthetic appeal emphasised in the current practice of displaying carpets on the wall as though they were paintings in their own right, Shaw’s presentation will suggest how we can invest them with trans-historical meanings rarely explored in museum settings. Rather than remaining stuck in the paradigm of the image as “absent” in Islam, the discussion will point out that an object like carpet can engage meaningful apprehension through the gaze of the viewer, and that this gaze produces the effect we understand as “art.”

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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