basis voor
actuele kunst
Ongoing - FORMER WEST (2008–2014)
International Research, Education, Publishing, and Exhibition Project

FORMER WEST is a long-term international research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2014), which from within the field of contemporary art and theory: (1) formulates a critical, speculative reinterpretation of recent, post-1989 global history as seen from the perspective of artistic practice through the propositional notion “former West”; (2) sheds new light on the role of artistic and cultural practices with respect to the world's changing cultural, political, social, and economic dimensions; and (3) rethinks the position of the so-called West in the world from the perspective of modesty and equality and the notion of “one world.”
The project takes the year 1989—as a critical landmark in our recent history and a catalytic moment in the move away from the three-world partitioning of the Cold War and towards to the “new world order”—as its starting point. The so-called West, blinded by the (default) victory of neoliberal capitalism on a global scale, failed to recognize the impact of the massive shifts put into motion by the events of that year, and has continued to adhere to its own claims of hegemony. The term “former West,” never articulated as a counterpart to the widely used “former East,” thus does not refer to the status quo, but is rather an aspired to, imagined “farewell” to the “bloc” mentality; it is a critical, emancipatory, and aspirational proposal to rethink our global histories and to speculate upon our global futures through artistic and cultural practice.

What does FORMER WEST consist of?
(1) An extensive transnational, transdisciplinary research undertaking including: a series of educational activities, individual research projects, research seminars and symposia, research exhibitions, and major public events in the form of Research Congresses. The constantly evolving process of the research trajectory is registered and made publicly accessible through the digital platform (; (2) a major publication: a critical reader (2013–2014); and (3) two major research exhibitions (2013).

FORMER WEST  is initiated and developed by Maria Hlavajova, artistic director of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. It is curated by Charles Esche (curator, author, and director, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Maria Hlavajova, and Kathrin Rhomberg (curator, Berlin Biennial 6 (2010) and advisor and corresponding member of Secession, Vienna) and developed with a dense network of research advisors and institutional partners. FW is initiated and developed by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht under the artistic directorship of Maria Hlavajova. The project’s multiple facets are realized through various international collaborative partnerships from a large network of artists, thinkers, activists, and art and educational institutions that FW constituted over the course of its existence.
Research advisors to date:
Claire Bishop, art historian and critic, Associate Professor, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), New York; Boris Groys, philosopher, art historian and curator, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University, New York; Tom Holert, art historian, writer, and Professor, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna; Marion von Osten, artist, writer, and curator, Professor at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna; Piotr Piotrowski, Professor and Head of the Institute for Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan; Georg Schöllhammer, editor, author and curator, editor and co-founder of Springerin, Vienna; and Simon Sheikh, art critic, and curator, Berlin.
Institutional Partners to date:
Afterall Journal and Books, London; Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna; BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; College International de Philosophie, Paris; Haus der Kulturen der Welt [House of World Cultures], Berlin; Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), Istanbul; Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesne [Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw], Warsaw; Secession, Vienna; Foundation for Art and Public Domain (SKOR), Amsterdam; tranzit network, Bratislava, Budapest, and Prague; and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.
FORMER WEST  is coordinated and produced by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. Further updates on the project as a whole, as well as announcements of public programs and events related to FORMER WEST research, appear regularly at
FORMER WEST is generously supported by Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam.
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