Various artistic movements and geographical hubs being looked at in Changing Gear
Changing Gear is composed of multi-layered methodological and conceptual stages which determine the mode of analysis as well as the framework for this scholarly project.
The first stage of this study is the dialectical vertical-horizontal methodological approach which is used to establish the conceptual infrastructure of the research. The second stage consists in analysing the possibility, or otherwise, of engaging the dominant vertical categories which form the canon of European art history and comparing these with alternative non-European categories. This stage involves the study of the dialectical relationship between canonical categories and the conflicting categories established in non-European geo-political hubs, together with an analysis of the work of the exponents of these categories, namely people such as Ahmed Fahmi and Toni Maraini.
The question of style as an expression of an epoch, whether individual, school, country, or period, is here being tackled. Heinrich Wölfflin himself added race to the study of the genetic structure of style. The next question involves the study of the tectonic-faktura categories to understand how these reflect, or rather sustain, what Michael Baxandall calls the ‘period eye’. Ultimately, both these questions lead to a more substantial aspect, arguably the main functionality of art, that being its relationship with reality: the vertical defining reality as material, and the horizontal as a spiritual vector, together with consideration of the huge grey area in between.
Pavel Florensky and Mikhail Naimy are important for this next stage. To anchor the debate, Wölfflin’s ideas are exploited to question art’s genetic structure: linearity, the painterly, plane, recession, closed and open form, multiplicity-unity, imitation-decoration, and how these were confronted by all art movements. The fascinating part of this stage is to analyse how such categories found different forms of expression within diverse geographical hubs, as juxtaposed by Zakariya al-Hijjawi and Amir Nour. Furthermore, it is vital to identify whether socio-political experience tangibly manifested itself through such aesthetic categories.
To complete the aforementioned stages of analysis, it is important to delve into Wölfflin’s categorisation alongside Alois Riegl’s problems of style, especially when it comes to the evolution of the ornament, fully developed in Maghrebian culture, and the corresponding inner surge towards abstraction as contemplated by Wilhelm Worringer, which was realised in Arabic and pre-Arabic calligraphic art and also in the Byzantine philosophy defining Greek art. Nada Shabout's, Stephen Sheehi's, and Nasser Rabbat’s scholarly works are central here. Erwin Panofsky’s triad approach - primary or natural subject matter, secondary or conventional subject matter, and intrinsic meaning or content – and Baxandall’s definition of an artwork as a deposit of a social relationship demand a thorough comparative study of the political-economic and social history of the region under discussion, enriching the debate on the horizontal methodological approach. This will ultimately lead to the analysis of class and ideology as propagated by Antonio Gramsci, Vera Tamari, John Berger, Anneka Lenssen, Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, Ussama Makdisi, and T.J Clark. All of this would spark a fascinating debate when juxtaposed with North African artistic upheavals.
The regional contexts included in this page form part of the ongoing research process and the list will be updated throughout the duration of the project. The objective is to analyse specific geographical areas and to discover the artistic and cultural characteristics of various regions in the Mediterranean. Attention will also be given to artistic hubs which have evolved independently of national norms and boundaries.
Georges Braque, Bottle and Fishes