Undefined Territories: Perspectives on colonial legacies

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, Spain
17 May 2019 - 20 Oct 2019

Kapwani Kiwanga,

Kapwani Kiwanga, "Flowers for Africa", 2017. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Tanja Wagner.

Undefined Territories is a reflection on the notion of territory in an expanded sense of the term. It goes beyond the mere geographical to encompass questions of identity, culture, history and time, within the framework of colonial legacy.

Through works by artists from varied geographies and diasporas, the exhibition articulates the enduring imprint of the colonial repression and disenfranchisement of native populations. Colonisation was not only territorial and economic, but also cultural through the imposition of structures of knowledge and modes of representation. The evocation of memory and revision of historical narratives attest to how structures that were imposed centuries ago established the paradigms by which we continue to abide today.

Artists include: Maria Thereza AlvesLothar BaumgartenBlack Audio Film CollectiveAlán CarrascoMariana Castillo DeballSandra GamarraJeffrey GibsonMaryam JafriKapwani KiwangaNaeem MohaiemenDaniela Ortiz and Xose QuirogaThe Otolith GroupPala PothupitiyeSuperflexMunem Wasif and Dana Whabira.

The works in the exhibition look further back from this historic moment to address the imprint of colonial repression and dispossession, as well as the ways in which imperial powers have exerted control through epistemic structures, such as political mapping and language. The exhibition also points to the challenges of independence and the postcolonial condition. As the first President of Indonesia, Ahmed Sukarno (1901–1970) warned in his opening speech to the attendees of the Bandung Conference: ‘Colonialism has also its modern dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control…. It is a skilful and determined enemy, and it appears in many guises.’

A centrepiece of the exhibition is Naeem Mohaiemen’s (b.1969) acclaimed film Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017), which meticulously weaves together both archival footage and new shots with the narration of historian Vijay Prashad (b. 1967), to articulate the momentum and solidarity of the NAM’s leftist ideologies and unravel the complexities behind its unfortunate failure.

Naeem Mohaiemen, “Two Meetings and a Funeral” film still, 2017, documenta 14. Photo credits Michael Nast.

In April 1955, representatives of 29 newly, and struggling-to-be, independent countries from Asia and Africa gathered for a conference in Bandung, Indonesia, to champion common interests of national sovereignty, decolonisation, anti-imperialism and economic development. The international meeting of new geopolitical alliances represented 54% of the world population at the time and signalled a pivotal moment for postcolonial political order. From this encounter emerged the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) formed by nations that embraced the above and shunned the polarities of the Cold War – the “Third World”.

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