Curatorial Research in
Exhibition Studies – Module 3
Guest: Bojana Piškur

Southern Constellations: Arts and culture within the Non-aligned movement and what to do with this legacy today 

Between 1 and 6 September 1961 the representatives (all men with the exception of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka) from twenty-five politically diverse states gathered in Belgrade; it was the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It was a grand event, a meeting of mostly former colonies from the global South and Yugoslavia. The conference was also an attempt to create an alternative transnational political alliance, a third way between the two blocs, aiming to change the existing global structures and to create a more just, equal and peaceful world order. The movement very early on declared itself as anti-imperialist, anti-colonial and anti-racist, following principles such as peaceful co-existence, respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-interference in domestic affairs, equality and mutual benefit. Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana pointed out what seemed like the movement’s essence: “We face neither East nor West; we face forward.”
After the initial years the NAM transformed itself from being distinctly political to a movement with a strong economic and cultural agenda. In regard to the last it was mainly concerned with cultural imperialism, restitution and cultural exchanges. Interpreted from today’s point of view this quest also envisioned rewriting historical narratives; the emphasis was put on altering epistemic colonialism and cultural dependency. Consequently art and culture were primarily about politics and history, and an attempt to pluralize the experiences of modernity in the non-western parts of the world. It seems the movement was aware of that fact that only this way it could enter the world’s (cultural) space on equal footing. The motto was to make the global South a place from which to speak.
The presentation will focus on the exhibition Southern Constellations: The Poetics of the Non-Aligned that was shown in Moderna galerija, Ljubljana in 2019 and Asia Culture Center Gwangju, South Korea in 2020. The exhibition was a result of long term research on the NAM, more specifically on its cultural politics and the role art and culture played within the movement. The exhibition emphasized the ideas, ideals and principles of the non-aligned movement particularly in close connection with its cultural policies and place them in a contemporary context with the question: Could there be a non-aligned contemporaneity? The focus was on the way the “southern constellations” envisioned forms of politics that took as their starting point the life of peoples and societies that had been forcibly relegated to the margins of the global economic, political and cultural system.

Bojana Piškur
 graduated in art history from the University of Ljubljana and received her Ph.D. at the Institute for Art History at the Charles University in Prague, the Czech Republic. She works as a curator in the Moderna galerija / Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana. Her focus of professional interest is on political issues as they relate to or are manifested in the field of art, with special emphasis on the region of (former) Yugoslavia. Her most recent exhibition that dealt with the topic of the non-alignment was Southern Constellations: The Poetics of the Non-Aligned, Moderna galerija Ljubljana, 2019; Asia Culture Center, Gwangju, South Korea, 2020; and upcoming in Drugo more, Rijeka, Croatia, 2021. She has been also working on a research project and exhibition Realize! Resist! React! Performance and Politics in the 1990s in the Post-Yugoslav Context. Lately her interest has been on more-than-human life.

Decolonizing curatorial practices
Cristina Moraru in collaboration with Bojana Piškur

The NAM has seen a revival of sorts in recent years; of course I am not talking about the political movement itself which still exists and has more members than ever before (120) but about the “idea” of the NAM, a kind of alternative mondialisation the movement propagated from the beginning, a desire to create a more just, equal and peaceful world order. However, the movement today is basically an anachronism, its influential networks pretty much collapsed in the late 1980s, when the global geopolitics changed significantly. The NAM has not provided any alternative plans for the current geopolitical and economic situation either and that has probably been its greatest weakness in recent years if not even decades. 

But the questions that I would propose to discuss int he workshop are: why actually this fascination with the non-aligned movement? How to move the attention beyond the research, based solely on the NAM’s historical role, beyond the aspect of solidarity as once was to today’s situation and to propose a more radical cultural agenda? 

Cristina MORARU
is teaching at “George Enescu” National University of the Arts, Iaşi (Romania). She has a PhD in Philosophy and Social-Political Sciences at “Al. I. Cuza” University, Iaşi, and she is the editor of a series of volumes published by the Research Center in Aesthetics and Artistic Research (UNAGE) and (co)editor of the academic journal Studies in Visual Arts and Communication. She is a founding member of The Centre for Contemporary Photography (C_F_C) and she participated in international conferences, workshops, and study programs at NEC Institute for Advanced Studies (Bucharest), NCCR University of Basel, CRC “Affective Societies” Freie Universität Berlin, Aarhus University, University of Vienna, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver), Valand Academy for Art and Design (University of Gothenburg), University of Copenhagen, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Universität Hamburg, Loughborough University, Birmingham City University, Pedagogical University of Krakow, European University At St. Petersburg, Danube University Krems, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Salzburg International SAFA, MTFA Academy Chișinau, EEPAP Lublin, LCCA Latvia, CCA Prishtina, Cvito Fiskovic Centre (Split), Institute of Contemporary Art (Zagreb), Fondazione Arthur Cravan (Milan), and other independent institutions.