Cold Atlantic

Cultural War, Dissident Artistic Practices, Networks and Contact Zones at the Time of the Iron Curtain

September 5 - 7, 2016
Equipo Crónica. El realismo socialista y el Pop Art en el campo de batalla (Socialist Realism and Pop Art in the Battle Field), 1969. Painting, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía collection. Long-term loan of Manuel Valdés, 2010
Equipo Crónica. El realismo socialista y el Pop Art en el campo de batalla (Socialist Realism and Pop Art in the Battle Field), 1969. Painting, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía collection. Long-term loan of Manuel Valdés, 2010
Scientific Committee

Paula Barreiro López, Fabiola Martínez Rodríguez, Chema González, Carlos Prieto del Campo, Olga Fernández López, Juan Albarrán, Julia Bailey, Andrea Giunta, Serge Guilbaut, Jonathan Harris and Jesús Carrillo

Within the framework of the research project:

Decentralised Modernities: Art, Politics and Counterculture in the Transatlantic Axis during the Cold War (HAR2014-53834-P)

Associated activities:

predoctoral workshop at the University of Barcelona, 8 and 9 September 2016


Foro Cultural de Austria en Madrid, L'Internationale

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía, Saint Louis University, Universidad de Barcelona and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
In collaboration with
Terra Foundation for American Art

The international conference Cold Atlantic will examine the artistic, cultural and aesthetic exchanges produced between the USA, Europe, Africa and Latin America during the Cold War. The aim is to highlight the axes of alignment and artistic exchange between the geopolitically minor actors that were trapped inside the huge theatrical strategy from this period. The conference, which will be conducted through round-table discussions, lectures and dialogue, organised through an open international process, looks to recover relatively unstudied nodes of cultural influence and dissemination in its aim to decentralise the Paris-New York axis that still dominates and is ubiquitous in studies on the Cold War and its artistic incarnations, thus fostering discussion that grants a voice to the forms of cultural expression that materialised outside official power structures.

These dialogues and interactions will be analysed within a Cold War context, whilst also proceeding from the destabilisation of the status quo brought about by the Bandung Conference (1955) and the Hungarian Revolution (1956). Consequently, it underscores the forms of mediation, dissent and resistance that sought to offer alternative answers to the ideological and aesthetic split that defined the cultural and social climate after World War Two. The conference will call into question canonical narratives of artistic modernity by exploring transatlantic artistic networks, with a view to eliciting the plurality of the responses to the ideological positioning this war held on a cultural level. Therefore, from this perspective Cold Atlantic will chart a new cartography of artistic practices and institutional relations, both subjective and political.

The re-evaluation of crossroads and friction in artistic production, material culture and political resistance will help to reconsider different accounts of modern art’s struggle, displaying alternatives to the prevailing Western vision, whilst also calling attention to the links that would bring dissident responses to life in the geopolitical order of the Cold War, a key period in the configuration of today’s global world. Spain’s own “peripheral” position with regard to the UK, France and the United States opens up a space that fosters a reconsideration of the role of modern art, questioning accounts based on the concept of progress that have predominated the study of artistic modernity.

Organized by:

This project has been made possible through the contribution of the Terra Foundation for American Art:


Actividad pasada September 5, 2016
Table 1. Networks, nodes and contact zones for a non-aligned geopolitical order

After the Bandung Conference in 1955, the Non-aligned Movement offered an alternative to the bipolar division of the world imposed by the two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. The attempt to search for another configuration of the world forged a union of peripheral nation states and inspired new cultural and artistic formations. Cold Atlantic will present transnational studies that grant visibility to collaboration networks initiated by artists, critics, curators and institutions, either in dialogue with the Non-Aligned Movement or inspired by it. The aim is to shed light on the internationalist culture that these alternative constellations helped consolidate, and the subversion of Cold War geographies that entailed such crossroads and entanglements.

Actividad pasada September 5, 2016
Table 2. Competing hegemonies

The collision between both superpowers brought a bilateral framework of aspirations and expectations to governments and opposing blocs that strived to be “modern”. A wide array of artistic practices and aesthetic discourses, often contradictory, stemmed from the negotiations between different notions of modernity, and circumstances and conditions in diverse local contexts. These states’ search for autonomy, sovereignty and progress was concurrent with the need for acknowledgement as members of a new geopolitical order. This session centres on a debate regarding the exchanges and confrontations that were entrenched in the struggle for cultural hegemony, under circumstances demarcated by the emergence of new geopolitical powers in the growing global context of the Cold War.

Actividad pasada September 6, 2016
Table 3. Resistance, dissidence and utopia(s)

In a world where imperialist and neo-colonial politics were imposed on both sides of the iron curtain, artistic practices provided ways to resists, subvert and combat them. This priority axis of Cold Atlantic aims to study vanguard and experimental artistic practices analyzing their aesthetic, political and social bases (and contexts), and their role as models for resistance against the normative culture(s) of the Cold War. Thus we seek to highlight the role of artistic production and cultural agents, operating in both, hegemonic and subaltern centers, as subversive tools in countercultural movements within the transatlantic axis, and to show their potential for imagining alternative forms of society.

Actividad pasada September 6, 2016
Table 4. Global order: Cold War and beyond

In 1967 the French philosopher Guy Debord interpreted the bipolar division of the world, Capitalism opposite Communism, as a global and interdependent system of total spectacle. Debord believed that complex geopolitical entanglements, and the repercussions in political, social and cultural spheres, hastened by the rapid development of media and economic networks, were evolving towards a unique totality which, by and large, has determined and given shape to the current global world. This session will analyse the dialogues and entanglements between artistic and cultural spheres during the Cold War and how they still endure in the present day. Therefore, it will look to analyse the impact of transatlantic configurations on the current global order, and on the transition of modernity to contemporaneity.

Actividad pasada September 7, 2016
Round table with the participants

Participants: Walter Mignolo, Andrea Giunta, Sarah Wilson and Jonathan Harris

Moderator: Serge Guilbaut 
5:00-7:00 p.m.