The Evolving Technology of Internationalism

A look at the 8th edition of the Carnegie International, in 1904, and the most recent show, in 2018, shows some of the more easily visible changes the exhibit has undergone over its 125-year history.
 

The Evolving Technology of Internationalism

Bella Hanley, Museum Studies Intern for the 58th Carnegie International – Fall 2021 

Now in the planning stages of its 58th iteration, the Carnegie International was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, shortly after its parent institution, the Carnegie Museum of Art, making it the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America. Though the show has aimed to display art from around the world (with the exceptions of three exhibits in the 40s centered on American painting), earlier curators and directors were limited in their interaction with artists outside of North America and Europe, both as a result of cultural norms and expectations of their times and technological and developmental constraints. In the past twenty years, the International has more truly embraced its name, enabled by an increasingly globalized world, inside and outside of art, to include in greater numbers artists from across Asia, South America, and Africa, along with those from historically marginalized backgrounds in the United States and abroad.  

As a curatorial intern working alongside the team developing the upcoming show, which will open in September 2022, I have seen firsthand how the show relates to the concept of “international”, especially in times that make it both technologically easier and, with pandemic-related travel restrictions, more difficult. One of my tasks to assist the curatorial team, comprised of curator Sohrab Mohebbi, associate curator Ryan Inouye, and my advisor, curatorial assistant Talia Heiman, consisted of compiling information on artists from across five continents to share with the show’s curatorial council. The council members hail from Eastern Asia, Central America, East Africa, and North America, providing what Mohebbi describes as a “polyphony” of outlooks to ensure the show’s internationalism is genuine and respectful. Modern technology and the adaptations made in the past two years to make meeting with people you cannot physically be with have allowed for constant communication with this international team.  

For other projects, such as compiling artists’ countries of origin in order to apply for relevant grants, or organizing projects suggested by international advisors to represent the artwork of specific regions, online file-sharing served as a major resource for the curatorial team. Unlike the early organizers of the International, I am able to access high-quality images of artworks through shared drives and servers, find artist information, bios, and CVs on their websites, and read proposals from curators thousands of miles away by opening my email. The ambitious scale of the Carnegie International (both in a geographic sense and in terms of the size of the exhibition) would surely be impossible without such digital tools. As an aspiring curator, having access to such a wealth of information and materials to work with has been a rich experience. As a student of art and history, seeing the International evolve as the world and the technology available to us inspires faith in a more globally inclusive and connected museum culture in the decades ahead. 

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