Borders In Art: Revisiting ‘Kunstgeographie’ (Proceedings of the Fourth Joint Conference of Polish and English Art Historians, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 1998). Edited by Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius. 272 pp. incl. 142 black and white illustrations. (Institute of Art, Warsaw 2000.) ISBN 83-85938-98-2.
Published by the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy, this book is an outcome of the rapidly expanding dialogue between Polish and British art historians. The volume contains papers given at the conference ‘Borders. Aspects of Geography of Art: Nations, Regions, Centres, Provinces’ which was held at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, in 1998, and the conference was the fourth in the already well established series of Anglo-Polish meetings which had been initiated jointly by the Birkbeck College, University of London and Warsaw University in 1993. The initiative aims at a wide exchange of the latest scholarly methodology and experience between British and Polish art historians, involving the wide cross-section of academic institutions as well as freelance researchers from both countries. The meetings are hosted alternatively by a range of universities and art istitutions of Poland and United Kingdom. The Norwich conference, which provided material for the present volume was organised by Stefan Muthesius, the author of An Introduction to Art, Architecture and Design in Poland (1994), and Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, lecturer at the Birkbeck College, University of London, and formerly Curator of the National Museum in Warsaw.
The present volume, contains thirty one contributions by Polish, British, as well as German art and cultural historians, is a reappraisal of a question of the geography of art, examining the issue of the existence and of the production of the borders in art, both ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’, and their relationship to political, social, and aesthetic boundaries. It is perhaps that very process of globalisation which raises our curiosity about the issue of borders anew, and cultural borders in particular. To what extent did cultures in the recent and distant past insist on their own identities? How can one identify borders of art and culture? Kunstgeographie was a Central European intellectual enquiry of the earlier 20th century which tried a systematic study of art-geographical patterns, and this volume revives and develops further some of the theoretical issues. In this volume scholars from East Central and Central Europe, as well as from the British Isles come together to discuss both the methodology and a great number of cases of a geographical definition of art.
Among the diverse topics some analyse the identities and borders of the numerous regions of European Gothic art; others deal with centres of art, such as Cracow or Budapest and the way they interact with the peripheries of their countries; another group of papers deals with the convulsions around the border between Prussia and Poland in Upper Silesia. The gendered dimension of ‘borders in mind’, as well as the notoriety of the projections of the Iron Curtain divide onto the past in the context of the wider issue of the East/West paradigm, or Self/Other dichotomy, underlay a number of Polish papers focused on 20th century art-geographical divisions, and was a major concern for a number of western researchers. The methodological section brought some new proposals of tackling ‘art-historical borders’, ranging between the approaches of postmodern geography, a new neurological art history, postmodern criticism of western hegemony, as well as revised applications of formalist and social art history. The range of discussed media comprise architecture and town-planning, painting, installations, cartoons and musicals, and finally the ‘bordering procedures’ of art history itself.
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