In The Making: Traversing the project exhibition In the Desert of Modernity: Colonial Planning and After

Marion von Osten

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (artistic)

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The principal aim of my PhD research is to think through practices involved in the making of In the Desert of Modernity. Colonial Planning and After (Berlin 2008, Casablanca 2009), that constituted as well as traversed the exhibitions and went beyond. The project developed through a transnational constellation of culture producers, scholars, and activists from Berlin, Zurich, Paris, Delft and Casablanca. In the process of its experimental study mode the finding was made that European ideas on architecture and urbanism were projected onto postwar French North African colonies, where they underwent change, modification, and testing before being re-projected back onto architecture and urban planning in France and Switzerland in the late 1950s. Through the creation of a transnational network, including architects, activists and local inhabitants from Casablanca, it became evident that the construction sites of the architectural cases under investigation became sites of anticolonial revolt in 1952 in Morocco. These findings revised existing assumptions by Western scholars and called for the decolonializing of the European episteme on modernist housing and urbanism.

Completing the PhD research made me see the project exhibitions of In the Desert of Modernity in Berlin and Casablanca not as endpoints. Instead, this thesis addresses practices as in continuation, rather than completed through events and curatorial methods. The need to establish a mode of thinking that allows constant revision created temporalities and socialites that revealed exhibitions as a too-limited frame for analysis and for a decolonializing practice. Instead practices that transcend the “show” are discussed in six chapters focussing each on a specific site, a document, conceptual thinking or conversational dialog. I conclude that the PhD research allowed me to think through my parainstitutional practice that aims to take long durational, dialogical and material approaches and local agencies into account. From the perspective of “in the making,” I imagine a new understanding of culture production that also asks for supplements of our existing institutional infrastructures.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lund University
  • Maharaj, Sarat, Supervisor
  • Sandquist, Gertrud, Assistant supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationMalmö
ISBN (Print)978-91-7753-703-8
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-7753-704-5
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 25

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2018-05-31
Time: 10:00
Place: Lecture room, Malmö Art Academy, Bergsg.29, Malmö
External reviewer(s)
Name: Cotter, Lucy
Title: Doctor
Affiliation: Freelance


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Visual Arts

Artistic work

  • Exhibition/event
  • Text
  • Digital or Visual Product
  • Web publication/site

Free keywords

  • Colonial planning
  • Anti-colonial resistance
  • Decoloniality
  • Parainstitutional practice
  • Art and politics


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