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Masterclass: Apartheid Art History Room

Apartheid Art History Room
masterclass by Nico Dockx & Thomas Crombez

‘Apartheid Art History Room’ is an ongoing research project initiated by art historian, curator and thinker Sarat Maharaj. The project starts from his classroom back in the 1960s in Durban in South Africa, where he studied Art History at a university restricted by the apartheid regime to ‘Blacks of Indian origin’.

At the time, this room developed as a hybrid environment, privately exhibiting an ‘evolutionary ladder’ of artifacts, artworks and cultures, thus undermining the insistence on a clear distinction between cultural groups as applied by the apartheid government. The central intention of the research is to ‘revive’ the Art History Room in new and very different contexts leading to new readings and versions of this classroom set-up, as happened in previous iterations in Malmö, Lisbon, and Amsterdam.

In October 2020 the Academy will host a new version of the Art History Room. The objective of the original Art History Room was to underline a Eurocentric vision of things. But what counter-views and readings did the display also open up – perhaps quite unwittingly? What light could this throw on today’s world of the migratory mix of peoples and cultural elements — on prickly issues of ‘multiculturalism, its limits and shortcomings’, on questions of learning to live with ‘diversity and multiplicity’, on much-thumbed notions of ‘hospitality’ and tolerance, on ceaseless everyday cultural translation and cosmopolitanising forces – all in a setting of apparent ‘racisme sans race’?

Collaboration being a key component in developing new readings of the image of the room and in furnishing new works for it, a group of artists, teachers, researchers and students has started a collaborative dialogue in a preparatory process, exploring these and other research questions. The group is currently working towards a critical display of the Art History Room at the Academy which will be accessible during the Articulate Research Days and supported by a (semi) public program of lectures, walks and other gatherings.

During the masterclass accompanying the project, the ongoing group collaboration is expanded to the participants of the masterclass. We will explore echoes of these questions together with master students: What kind of objects could be added to the Art History Room? What would you personally add to it?
We also invite external guests into our research to contribute from their own perspective and expertise and to expand our interactions on the subject.

Participation in this masterclass may require a (mandatory) preparatory meeting at the beginning of October, aimed at introducing participants to the context and establishing possible roles the participants can take in the research process for involving your own work into the project.

>> This masterclass is part of the RESEARCH WEEK October 2020 and ARTICULATE | BAUHAUS 1 0 1.