Postcolonial Palimpsests: Historicizing Biennales And Large-Scale Exhibitions In A Global Age

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This dissertation Postcolonial Palimpsests: Historicizing Biennales and Large-Scale Exhibitions in a Global Age presents the history of the art world as one that is multilayered, overlapped in order to contradict the grand narrative of Western modernity. It challenges the proposition of a singular notion of modernity contemplating Andreas Huyssen's words for an "expanded notion of the geographies of modernism" as a way to "understand [the process of] globalization [taking place] in our time."1 The dissertation undertakes the same by examining how the non-Western "other" has come to be viewed through the examination to two significant exhibitions: Magiciens de la Terre, 1989, and Documenta 11, 2002 in Kassel Germany curated by Jean Martin, and Okwui Enwezor, respectively in order to examine the emergence of the postcolonial discourse in the context of contemporary art practices. Magiciens, as the first global exhibition that included the work of 100 artists from different parts of the world, which was critiqued for the totalizing worldview that lacked a critical distinction between the art/craft, primitive/modern and traditional/contemporary arts. On the other hand, Documenta 11 emphasized the absence of the non-Western canon within the mainstream discourse of the arts through its unique curation of the "postcolonial 1 Andreas Huyssen, "The Geographies of Modernity," New German Critique 2007 34(1 100): 189-207; DOI:10.1215/0094033X-2006-023. constellation," that comprised an exhibition and four education platforms. This dissertation undertakes the 13 year journey using these two exhibitions as pivotal markers to also examine the biennales and large-scale exhibitions that have taken place during this period to understand the globalization of art that has taken place. In defining the Postcolonial as a Palimpsest this dissertation borrows curator Similly Shepard Steiner's definition that views modernity as an "uneven palimpsests that textures the world full of very unequal modernities" that overlap or in their leaving gaps make visible the inequalities and silences by virtue of the hegemonic power of cultural dominants.2 Therefore the world viewed as a palimpsest makes noticeable the several layers of complexities and the "multiple modernities" evident in postcolonial history.3 The focus of the dissertation is to present a proposition for a "new modernity," one which extends outside the singular modern domain of the West, allowing for a new understanding to view the world and humanity through the realm of contemporary art. 2 Similly Shepard Steiner, "Biennial Cultures/Perennial Worries," Art, City and Politics in an Expanding World: Writings from the 9th International Istanbul Biennial, Deniz Unsal, Istanbul: Foundation for Culture and Arts, 2005, 152-168. 3 By cultural theorist Stuart suggestion, the notion of " multiple modernity" has always existed in the world. For him the artist no longer needs to view modernism as a secure possession of the West, but rather as an open language that can be transformed to write history as a series of "cultural translations" rather than a single "universal moment" in a given space and time. See Stuart Hall, Sarat Maharaj, Sarah Campbell, and Gilane Tawadros, Modernity and Difference, Annotations, Vol. 6. London: Institute of International Visual Arts, 2001, 18. For detailed discussion please view chapter 3 "Unsettling Constellations? Or the Biennialization of Contemporary Art."

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Biennales; Postcolonial; large-scale; exhibitions; documenta; globalization; Magiciens de la Terre; Museums


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Hassan, Salah

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McGowan, Kaja Maria
Fernandez, Maria

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History of Art and Archaeology

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Ph. D., History of Art and Archaeology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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