FORMER WEST is a long-term international research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2016). From within the field of contemporary art and theory it reflects upon the changes introduced to the world (and thus to the so-called West) by the political, cultural, artistic, and economic events of 1989. At the same time, it engages in rethinking the global histories of the last two decades in dialogue with post-communist and postcolonial thought, and speculates about a future that recognizes differences yet evolves through the political imperative of equality and the notion of “one world.”
The project takes the year 1989 as its starting point: a critical landmark in our recent history and a catalytic moment in the move away from the three-world partitioning of the Cold War and towards the “new world order.” The so-called West, blinded by the (default) victory of neoliberal capitalism on a global scale, failed to recognize the impact of the massive shifts put into motion by the events of that year, and continues to adhere to its own claims of hegemony. The term “former West,” never articulated as a counterpart to the widely used “former East,” thus does not refer to the status quo, but is rather an aspired to, imagined “farewell” to the “bloc” mentality. It is a critical, emancipatory, and aspirational proposal to rethink our global histories and to speculate upon our global futures through artistic and cultural practice.
FORMER WEST is an extensive transnational, transdisciplinary research undertaking that includes: a series of educational activities, individual research projects, research seminars and symposia, research exhibitions, and major public events in the form of Research Congresses. The constantly evolving process of the research trajectory is registered and made publicly accessible through this online platform. In its culminating phase (2014–2016) the projects evolves through a series of Public Editorial Meetings held in various geographical and discursive contexts, and realized by means of a collaborative effort between the project’s densely knit web of individual and institutional partners from around the world. This process leads to a major publication, FORMER WEST: Art and the Contemporary after 1989, edited by Maria Hlavajova and Simon Sheikh (2016).
The publication can be purchased via The MIT Press.