M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp), Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) and deBuren (the Dutch-Flemish house for culture and debate) are co-convenors of the two-day conference “Considering Monoculture". This two-day interdisciplinary programme will consider current and historical manifestations of monoculture as well as its implications for art, culture and its institutions.
The convenors understand monoculture to be the homogeneous expression of the culture of a single social or ethnic group. The conference does not tie monoculture to a specific set of politics or single ideology, and does not set it against the discourse and rhetoric of multiculturalism, which emerged in the 1990s in Western Europe. It does recognise, however that in recent years, the combination of anti-globalisation sentiment, conflict, terror, mass-migration and the perceived counter-hegemony of identity politics, has created the conditions for new forms of identitarianism to emerge. Across Europe and much of the globe, a drive for national monoculture, in which societies are understood through adhering to homogenous racial, cultural, ideological or religious parameters, has entered the mainstream. For some, this raises the question of where the limits of tolerance for cultural diversity in society should lie.
For the cultural field, often considered as having a secular, elitist, cosmopolitan and socially-liberal basis, it is no longer enough simply to denounce the tendency towards monoculture as an abhorrent form of intolerance. At the same time, how could the recent turn towards indigenous practices within artistic discourse, as well as the common framings of art via race, ethnicity or other distinctions of identity or marginality, also itself be seen as contributing towards new forms of essentialism? And what space does this leave for genuine debate and exchange across different cultures?
How real, it will ask, is the supposed essentialism of monoculture, and what might we identify as the positive qualities of its self-image? What possible alternatives might serve us for the future, given the “failure” of different forms of multicultural projects that has been proclaimed across the political spectrum? Is now the time to consider afresh concepts such as multiculture and diversity? What are the ramifications of the turn towards monoculture for existing forms of democratic politics? Finally, the programme will ask how specific artistic and institutional practices can help us understand and address the consequences for the arts within these debates.
Following an open call for participants, this programme has been developed to explore the concept from multiple perspectives, looking to the fields of art, philosophy, linguistics and politics. Contributors will touch on a diverse set of contexts, from the Bandung conference of 1955, contemporary Flanders, the concept of Eurasia or the monolingualism of the visual arts. Across two days, it will incorporate an interdisciplinary constellation of presentations and ideas, seeking to engage participants and audience in healthy debate on the concept and practice of monoculture.
Nick Aikens (Research Curator, Van Abbemuseum)
Nav Haq (Associate Director, M HKA)
Nora Mahammed (Programmer, deBuren)
Organised in the framework of “Our Many Europes", a four-year EU funded programme organised by the museum confederation L’Internationale. The conference also serves as a great introduction to our summer exhibition Monoculture | A recent history that seeks to approach the notion of monoculture with an open mind, through contemporary art and artefacts from a recent time period.
“Considering Monoculture” will take place in Brussels at deBuren on 27 & 28 February. It will include a lecture by Chantal Mouffe, and a series of papers, activities and artistic presentations.
The conference will be held in English.
Location: deBuren Leopoldstraat 6 1000 Brussel Belgium
Thursday 27 February
18:20 Jonathan Lambaerts: The blind spot in our liberal thoughts on cultural diversity
18:50 Mia Doornaert
19:45 EVENING MEAL and refreshments
20:15 Mi You: Eurasia networks: an ecology of practices in common
20:45 Jyoti Mistry: Negotiating the proposition of monoculture by exploring identity politics and subjectivity
Friday 28 February
9:30 Welcome and coffee
10:15 Olivier Marboeuf: Decolonial Suites
11:15 Coffee break
11:45 Luísa Santos and Ana Fabíola Maurício: Offsetting Sameness: Notes Towards Artistic and Institutional Polysemy and Practices of/on Monocultures and Multicultures
12:15 Marion von Osten: In Search of a Post-Migratory Practice
13:00 LUNCH, plus participatory reading group: Eurasia Underground Library, Belly Button Conference (second floor space)
14:00 Haseeb Ahmed: Constituting the Ummah- أم
14:30 Vera Mey: The darker shades of unity in diversity: testing the limits of regionalist tendencies in modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art
15:00 Philippe Pirotte: Pour me mettre à leur disposition. Assessing inclusiveness with Richard Wright and Jean Genet
15:45 BREAK plus participatory reading group: Eurasia Underground Library, Belly Button Conference (second floor space)
16:15 Phillippe van Parijs, Do thriving democracies need to be monolingual and monocultural?
16:45 Sophie Williamson: From the fraying edges
17:15 Screening and intro: Nicoline van Harskamp: Englishes
18:00 EVENING MEAL, plus participatory reading group: Eurasia Underground Library, Belly Button Conference (second floor space)
19:00 Lecture: Chantal Mouffe
20:00 Q&A moderated by Mick Wilson
20:30 Drinks and music