is a long-term, transnational research, education, publishing, and exhibition project in the field of contemporary art and theory. The project grapples with the repercussions of the political, cultural, and economic events of 1989 for the contemporary condition. It does so in the search for ways of formerizing
the persistently hegemonic conjuncture that is “the West”; to be able instead to simply refer to “the west,” and with it, suggest the possibility of producing new constellations, another world, other worldings.
Through the propositional imaginary “former West,” the project brings forth a means by which to assess the contemporary at the intersection of two temporal constructions of “the West”: one equated with the “first world” of a post-WWII, tripartite Cold War arrangement; the other, synonymous with the notion of Western ultra
If the “former East” emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War in 1989, its western geo-political counterpart—blinded by the (seemingly default) victory of neoliberal capitalism—has widely failed to recognize the impact of these massive changes upon itself. The so-called West has continued to think and act, symbolically and realistically, as “first” among what were supposed to have become equal if heterogeneous provinces of one world. One wonders precisely why
then, when there is a “former East,” there is no “former West”?
Yet, not in spite of their differences, the Cold War ideological rivalry of communism and capitalism could also be viewed as a competition between two variants of grand modernity, with both invested—under the guise of developmentalism—in constructing economic, technological, political, and epistemological infrastructure of power, and forcing such agendas upon others through domination and exploitation. Here, in this second temporal construction, the proposition “former West” confronts such a colonial, imperialist ultra
modernity, seeking ways of undoing the resilient universalization of Western narratives.
As a research undertaking, FORMER WEST
included a series of educational activities, individual research projects, research seminars and symposia, research exhibitions, and major public Research Congress events. The constantly evolving process of this research trajectory has been registered and made publicly accessible through the online platform formerwest.org.
At present the project is in its culminating phase (2014–2016), leading to the major publication FORMER WEST: Art and the Contemporary after 1989
, edited by Maria Hlavajova
and Simon Sheikh
(forthcoming, 2016). This process evolves through a series of Public Editorial Meetings held in various geographical and discursive contexts, including Berlin (2013), Utrecht (2014), London, Budapest, and Warsaw (2015), and is realized by means of a collaborative effort between the project’s densely-knit web of individual and institutional partners from around the world.