The project A Cultural Atlas a panorama of the intellectual history of the twentieth century, it reflects artistic, political, ethical, and spiritual processes in the countries of the Global South and how those processes are intricately connected to the culture of the Western world, at times outstripping it or defining its development.
The project reconstructs a complex space of international modernity by tracing a cultural atlas through which knowledge was exchanged across alternative (often non-European) plateaus. This process of global ‘reorientation’ takes us through areconstruction of the gaze - subverting the single ‘reading’ of West to East into amore cyclical model, engaging in cultural, philosophical and political negotiationsfrom East to East, East to West, South to East, South to South - constructing apanoramic exchange of global philosophical and artistic discourse. The interactive and ongoing cultural atlas conjures a fragmented history of the long twentieth century through the ambitions and contradictions of countless utopian universalist episodes and ideals: transcendental internationalisms; radical liberations; emancipating solidarities.
By the middle of the last century, the demise of the old European empires revealed a new horizon of opportunities and encounters for people and cultures across the world. The atlas serves as an evocation of the constantly evolving dreams and possibilities that emerged and dissolved during the period.
Intended as a living object, the cultural atlas mutates with each re-instalment. It remains a deliberately unfixed, unfinished and unstable process, like the ideas and connections it conjures, designed to be animated by the spaces that it arrives in. To that effect, the cultural atlas is a live project. Audience are encouraged to interrupt, intercept, and shape the color and tone of its evolution, and to expand its cosmos by proposing new links and initiating new constellations, unearthing the shifting sites of utopias across the twentieth century based on their local context and experience.
Vali Mahlouji is a London-based curator, founder of Archaeology of the Final Decade, advisor to the British Museum, the Bahman Mohassess Estate and director of Kaveh Golestan Estate. Mahlouji’s recent curatorial work includes exhibitions at Dhaka Art Summit 2018, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Whitechapel Gallery, Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Bergen Triennial, Photo London, Prince Claus Fund, Singapore International Festival of Arts, Art Dubai Modern and Open Eye Gallery. Upcoming exhibitions will be at de la Warr Pavilion; Sursock Museum, SAVVY Contemporary and Asia Art Centre, Gwangju in 2019.
Founded in 2010, Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD) is a non-profit curatorial and forensic platform, which engages with accounts of culture that have remained obscure, banned, endangered or lost through material destruction, acts of censorship, political, economic or human contingencies. AOTFD has also placed artworks in international collections including Tate Modern, British Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). AOTFD created the first room dedicated to an Iranian artist in the permanent collection at Tate Modern – Kaveh Golestan’s Prostitute series alongside Recreating the Citadel documentary materials.
AOTFD’s exhibition A Utopian Stage at Whitechapel Gallery received the Global Fine Arts Awards’ nomination for Best Exhibition (Alternative category) in 2015.
Mahlouji has been published by various institutions, including: Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Asia Society Museum New York and Yale University Press; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; Sharjah Biennial; London Middle East Institute, University of London; City University New York; Photo London and The Abraaj Group Art Prize, Dubai.
Recent talks and lectures by Vali Mahlouji have taken place at Stanford University; Kulturforum, Berlin; Aalto University; Yale University; Goldsmiths University; City & Guilds School of Art; Bergen Assembly; Asia Society, New York; Iran Heritage Foundation; Whitechapel Gallery; British Film Institute; and Art Dubai, among others.
His upcoming titles Prostitute 1975-77 and Perspectives on the Festival of Arts, Shiraz Persepolis are due in 2019.