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First International Symposium on Primitivism

Primer Simposio Internacional sobre Primitivismo

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Published on Thursday, June 06, 2013


The First International Symposium on Primitivism aims to shed new light on a debate that has been given little attention in the field of Humanities, and which focuses on the relationship between Art and the Primitive. The disciplinary foundation of these studies is in History and Art Theory. However, it is also necessarily interdisciplinary, to the extent that we are interested in understanding the aesthetic phenomena that constitute Western art, not only from the perspective of an artistic history, but also – and especially – from its imbrications with aesthetics, culture, society, and politics.



The Research Centre for Primitivism and Primitive Art (CIAP, http://www.upf.edu/ciap/en/) organizes the First International Symposium on Primitivism, which aims to shed new light on a debate that has been given little attention in the field of Humanities, and which focuses on the relationship between Art and the Primitive. This concept has been loaded with ideological content within Western Art History and Theory, and is at the heart of the study of this encounter. To what extent has the Primitive influenced Western art, and how have indigenous cultures, from different parts of the world, modified their aesthetic language and cultural traits since their contact with Western aesthetic values?

There are diferent areas of interest in this study: We highlight the appropriation of the Primitive by Western culture since the first collections of Primitive Art, which were created on Colonial expeditions, as well as the acquired interest of avant-garde artists in the aesthetic forms of Primitive cultures. An important line of enquiry is how different cultural practices have been assumed, modified or rejected, according to the historical and cultural contexts, and to what extent these cultural constructions have endured an interesting – and unequal – aestheticizing process in the Western world. These considerations confer particular significance on the reception of the Primitive at exhibitions and other means of dissemination throughout Modern history. The re-elaboration of the Primitive in contemporary Art is one of the foundations of Western artistic modernity.

We are also interested in the various mechanisms of absorption of Western culture by Primitive societies coming into contact with the Western world, and how far the intrusion of Western cultural traits has affected their traditional material and symbolical culture. The processes of desecration of the world and the culture, as well as the transformations of the circuits of commerce are fundamental for an understanding of the aesthetification of the Primitive Arts.

The disciplinary foundation of these studies is in History of Art and Art Theory. However, it is necessarily interdisciplinary, to the extent that we are interested in understanding its imbrications with aesthetics, culture, society,and politics.


The First International Symposium on Primitivism will take place on November 18th and 19th, 2013. The lectures will be held in the Mercé Rodoreda Auditorium, on the Ciutadella Campus at Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona.

The program will be divided in four main subject areas (see bellow), which will consist of a main lecture by an invited speaker, followed by the submitted presentations, and a final discussion. We are happy to announce that we count with the confirmed assistance of Dr. Jonathan King (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Cambridge, UK),  Dr. Gill Perry (Open University, UK), Dr. Georges Petitjean (Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht), and the artist and writer, César Paternosto.

  • TABLE 1 Primitive Art at the Present: Change  and continuity

Chair : Roser Bosch/ Alessandra  Caputo

Speaker : Georges Petitjean

  • TABLE 2 The Reception of Primitive Art

Chair : Marina Muñoz

Speaker : Jonathan King

  • TABLE 3 Primitivism in Modern Art: from 1900 to 1945

Chair : Marta Anton

Speaker : César Paternosto

  • TABLE 4 Primitivism in Contemporary Art:  from 1945 to the present

Chair : Alejandro del Valle

Speaker : Gill Perry

Symposium sections

SECTION 1. Primitive Art at the Present: Change and Continuity

The main aim of this section is to study the state of Primitive Art at the present time, in which major questions arise. How is it produced? And in what forms, which spaces, which materials, with which artistic and extra-artistic goals, which results, and which links to the past? Furthermore, how is it received? How does it enter the commercial circuits of Western art, by which museums is it being acquired, how is it commercialized, under which names is it known, what categories does it acquire, what gives it value, etc. These questions cannot be answered without considering the colonial past and consequently the cultural dialogue that this encounter entailed, since contemporary art forms, and their means of consumption and reception, are derived from this confrontation.

We are interested in the relationship of change and continuity within non-Western cultural phenomena and its contact with Western culture. In particular, we stress the extent to which changes in various paradigms – cultural, religious, economic, etc. – have influenced the indigenous cultures that have endured a colonizing process or have come into contact with the Western world. We therefore highlight a process of transformation from a symbolic production, related to the Sacred, to a progressive desecration of material culture, as well as the shift from some aesthetic forms to others, which have taken place during this contact.

  • Hybrid art, tourist art, contemporary primitive art: characteristics, styles and their problems.
  • The role of art in contemporary indigenous communities: Indigenous communities with Art centres, new models of production and of living?
  • Theoretical problems in the study of contemporary Indigenous Art
  • Change and Continuity in Art and Cultural Practices

SECTION 2. The Reception of the Primitive

This section includes various contributions on the reception of the Primitive, especially at exhibitions that were organized within major public events, such as Universal Expositions, Colonial exhibitions, the first anthropological museums, fairs, etc., and which exhibited both objects (art pieces and artifacts from indigenous material culture from the colonies), and people (human exhibitions of indigenous peoples from colonized countries). All these events were channels for the reception of Primitive objects, and led to the establishment of what became the first collections of Primitive Art. This focus does not need to be directed exclusively on exhibitions, but also on various media and fields, such as dance, music, etc., embodying the notion of the Primitive.

  • Early Anthropological/ ethnographic collections of Primitive Art.
  • From the exhibition of the “Other” in Universal Exhibitions to the exhibition of the Primitive (in all of its possible manifestations: objects, performances, dance, music, etc.)
  • Exhibition and Art collections vs. Artifacts (material culture). New museums and Exhibition spaces.

SECTION 3. Primitivism in Modern and Contemporary Art

3.1. Primitivism in Modern Art: from 1900 to 1945

3.2. Primitivism in Contemporary Art: from 1945 to the present

The use and reinvention of Primitive Art (African art, Oceanic art and Indigenous American art) by modern Western artists, as well as the re-elaboration and recreation of the ethnocentric idea of the Primitive has been an extremely recurrent aesthetic and artistic resource in modern art. Since the end of the 19th Century, the reference to the Primitive has been one of the core elements in the stylistic definition of modern art, as well as a criticism of the European tradition, classical-naturalistic theories and the idea of progress led by Western societies. Given the importance of these practices in modern art, in this section we aim to identify and examine various re-elaborations of the Primitive by modern and contemporary artists since the end of the 19th Century, and during the 20th Century avant-garde movements in particular. Some (but not all) of the questions that we aim to consider are:

  • Identifying various aspects of European art and visual culture that are related to non-Western aesthetics, taking into consideration theoretical questions and problems of interpretation.
  • Questioning the historical research and methodology, as well as the category of Art, in order to enable different proposals and methods of representation in the current historical-artistic debate on Primitivism and Modern Art.
  •  Establishing similarities and differences between different “Primitivistic” practices throughout Modern and Contemporary Art.
  • Providing a definition of “Modern Artistic Primitivism” – apart from the formal affinities between Modern Western art and “Primitive” objects – which focuses on the concept of interpretation, by analyzing artistic, political, and cultural conditions.

Submission guidelines

  • Please send your proposals in maximum 500 words, with an adjunct brief research BIO (100 words)
  • Papers will be accepted in English, Spanish, or Catalan.
  • Submission deadline is

July 31th 2013

  • papers have to be sent to the following http://eventum.upf.edu/event_detail/788/upload/
  • Please include name of author(s), affiliation, email address, title of presentation and body of proposal. We acknowledge receipt of all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should resend.
  • An email will be sent to you to confirm if the paper was accepted by September 15th.
  • The symposium tuition fee will be of 50 Euros per proposal 

Please note that the presentation of papers in the Symposium must be of no longer than 20 minutes. Papers should not exceed 3000 words. 

All papers accepted for the Symposium on Primitivism will also be eligible for consideration for publication in a monographic issue on the Symposium.

Organising chairs

  • Estela Ocampo Siquier
  • Marta Antón
  • Roser Bosch Darné
  • Alejandro del Valle
  • Marina Muñoz
  • Alessandra Caputo Jaffe


  • Research Centre in Primitivism and Primitive Art
  • University Institute of Culture
  • Pompeu Fabra University


  • Auditori de Mercè Rodoreda 23.S05 (edifici Mercè Rodoreda) - Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
    Barcelona, Kingdom of Spain


  • Wednesday, July 31, 2013


  • Primitivism, Primitive Art, Anthropology, Art History, primitivismo, arte, debate


  • Primitivismo Simposio
    courriel : simposio [dot] primitivismo [at] upf [dot] edu

Information source

  • Alejandro del Valle Aladeva
    courriel : aladeva [at] hotmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« First International Symposium on Primitivism », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, June 06, 2013, https://doi.org/10.58079/nsy

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