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4A Laboratory: Art Histories, Archaeologies, Anthropologies, Aesthetics (2019–2023)

A cooperation of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Further partnerships: Humboldt University of Berlin and Forum Transregionale Studien

4A Lab is a research and fellowship program designed in cooperation with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (Institute for Art History in Florence) as a research institute of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (Max Planck Society) and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) including the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and its four main research institutions. Further partners are the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Forum Transregionale Studien. It aims to create a space for dialog between – oftentimes separately operating – institutions and disciplines. In particular, 4A Lab attempts to create a dialog between art history, archaeology, anthropology/ethnology, and aesthetic practices (4A), as well as other disciplines concerned with objects, practices, ecologies, and narratives (OPEN). Central to 4A Lab is a fellowship program which will bring excelling doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from countries of Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and Europe to Berlin for a time period of 9 months, in the case of the doctoral fellowships up to a possible maximum of 2 years.

The program has an interinstitutional, interdisciplinary and transregional approach and explores transcultural dynamics with regards to aesthetic practices and material cultures, as well as social practices and representations in museums and elsewhere. The while, it takes up current object research issues testing new liaisons between social sciences, aesthetic practices and the disciplines of art history, archeology, and anthropology/ethnology. This dialog exceeds geographical and chronological boundaries, nevertheless it will be held in relation to the collections and object constellations of the museums and institutions of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. This takes place in cooperation with researchers of the museums and expert representatives of Forum Transregionale Studien, Humboldt-Universität, and other institutions. The dialog of the annually reconstituted group of researchers will be structured by an annual theme which will be presented and discussed publicly in scientific conferences, workshops, and seminars.

4A Lab takes an active part in transdisciplinary discourses concerning a new understanding of provenance and the post-postcolonial responsibilities of museums and collections. It therefore investigates historical itineraries, complex topographies, and biographies of objects from transregional perspectives. The emphasis is not on the single object "in context" but on historically constituted and constantly shifting environments of objects in conflict with stability and mobility, as well as in their social, religious, political or aesthetical fields. This includes publics and actors. The museum reestablishes itself in intermediate forms of temporary exhibition, permanent display and exhibition, as well as storage in depots and archives, constellations of museum architecture and design, in relation to visitors of various constitutions and backgrounds, and finally in addition to digital environments. An ecological approach appears sensible to address these aspects; hence, the program will use this as a starting point. Dichotomies and classifications, serving the domestication of objects primarily in European cultures and languages, were critically revised in the last decades. Distinctions between nature/culture and art/craftsmanship or material culture, which have dominated the great museum structures or were supported by them, are now, at best, the framework for narratives to expose or nullify the former. 4A Lab demands new and open structures under these premises, which will be a focal point of discussion in relation to the opening of the Humboldt Forum. 4A Lab invites outstanding international doctoral and postdoctoral scholars to help shape these premises and lead an intercultural dialog across disciplines as a group.

4A Lab exceeds the museum research program in the narrow sense. It sees itself as an experimental space for dialog between the four mentioned disciplines, which will be realized in exchange with different institutions, in particular with the research institutions of museums, other research institutions, as well as academic research and teaching. The program strives to win over the expert representatives of the 4A and their neighboring disciplines to participate in this dialog and to create a close contact as well as new and creative forms of cooperation between the fellows and the universities.

4A Lab is a fusion, progression, and restructuring of the two research and fellowship programs Connecting Art Histories in the Museum (2009–2019) and Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices (2013–2019). It is based on the experience of past collaborations with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (State Museums of Berlin) and numerous other German and international research institutions.

4A Lab Annual theme 2019/20: “PLANTS”

In the academic year 2019/20 fellows of the research and fellowship program 4A LAB will start to work on the first annual theme "Plants".

  1. Artzi, Bat-ami (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Mutual Growth: The Agency of Plants as reflected in Inca and Chimú Visual Culture
  2. Castellani, Carlotta (Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy), “Plants as Inventors”: the impact of Raoul Heinrich Francé theories on El Lissitzky in the context of the International Constructivist Movement
  3. Chatterjee, Sria (Princeton U, NJ, USA), Nature & Nation: art, design and political ecologies in the twentieth century
  4. Hannouch, Hanin (IMT Lucca, School for Advanced Studies), Colonial Landscapes and Organic Vision Robert Lohmeyer's Dreifarbenphotographie of Africa,
  5. Keogh, Luke (National Wool Museum, Geelong, Australia), The Wardian Case: Artefact of the Anthropocene
  6. Vanhevel, Lucas (Leiden U, Belgium), Fungi in the Early Modern Low Countries: Image-forming, ethnomycology and beyond