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Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art (UiU) was launched online in February 1997. Since then it has been visited by well over 12 million people (unique visitors). It is one of the oldest still active websites for art, published from the beginning in English, German and Spanish. Art historian and curator Gerhard Haupt and artist and art mediator Pat Binder began developing the project in Berlin in mid-1996, just three years after it became possible to display images within text pages on the World Wide Web.
Due to our origins (Binder from Argentina, Haupt from the GDR) and professional orientation (Haupt on contemporary art from Latin America), we had long been focusing on countries and regions of the world that were largely ignored by the Western art circuit at that time. The new medium offered the opportunity to intensify our previous activities in a completely new way and to develop information offers that could contribute to broaden the perception of the art scene into a more global perspective.
The name Universes in Universe originated as a reaction to Euro-US-centristic positions. It also refers to the much-invoked danger of the progressive homogenization of a "global culture" and rejects claims of the "West" to be the solely valid, universal model of art or modernity. "Universe" means "wholeness of all parts." In this sense, Universes in Universe reminds us that each of these parts (with the individual as the smallest unit) is in turn a "universe" in its own right, comprising diverse cultural and individual elements, whose characteristics must be accepted and respected despite all interconnectedness and mutual influence.
The starting point and first focus of Universes in Universe was contemporary art production in and from Latin America, Africa and Asia in the context of international art processes and cultural exchange. The latter refers to the communication between individuals who, despite all their different cultural localizations and positions, grant each other self-determined and also changing identities and do not derive these as rigid constructs from the mere origin of the other.
When we started UiU in the second half of the 1990s, the little content on the art of the "global South" was very difficult to find on the WWW. To facilitate access to it, we compiled systematic directories of annotated links that were popular, based on thorough research and also our personal contacts. In another section, we communicated current calls for grants, exchange programs, exhibitions, competitions, projects, etc. in the context of "North-South cultural exchange".
Already at the launch of Universes in Universe in February 1997, we set up a section dedicated to biennials and other periodic art exhibitions. This was before the proliferation of biennials and triennials led to the "biennalization" of the art world. Initially, we were particularly concerned with drawing attention to these international events in the "South" and to highlight the very few participants from the "Global South" at documenta and the Venice Biennale.
Right in our first year 1997 we presented the biennials of Havana, Johannesburg, Gwangju, Mercosur, among others. In July 1997 we interviewed Okwui Enwezor about the 2nd Johannesburg Biennial which he directed, and also asked for his opinion about documenta - one and a half years before he was appointed its first non-European director.
Since 2001, we have published extensive specials with informative photo tours of all editions of the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale and, since 2016, of all its Architecture Exhibitions. So far, we have presented one or more editions of about 40 biennials around the world. Among them are all editions of documenta since 1997, of the Sharjah Biennial since 2003, of the Taipei Biennial since 2008, of Yokohama Triennale since 2011, of Manif d'art in Québec since 2012, and the Cuenca Biennial since 2014.
In this section we present major exhibitions of contemporary and historical art, special projects, art and cultural institutions. Some examples are: The Short Century (curated by Okwui Enwezor 2001); Expo Dubai 2020 Public Art Programme; Hassan Sharif (large retrospective); Who Knows Tomorrow (Nationalgalerie Berlin, 2010); the A.M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) and a series of exhibitions; Vodou. Art and Cult from Haiti (2010 in Berlin); the John Cage Organ Project in Halberstadt lasting 639 years.
In addition to the actual UiU Magazine with articles about art in many countries of the world, we published the Nafas Art Magazine from 2003 to 2016. It was a project commissioned by the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), funded by the German Foreign Office. In Nafas, over 1000 articles on contemporary art from the Maghreb to the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia are published, all still available in the archive, most in English, German and Arabic. The basis of this project was a direct cooperation with the protagonists in the art world of the area that the magazine Nafas is focused on, as well as with specialists around the world.
In this section we introduce selected places as "Art Destinations" to our audience interested in art and travel. In these web guides we provide information on where to encounter contemporary art in the respective countries and cities and present art historical and archaeological sites and museums in thoroughly researched introductions and recommendations for tours and walks with numerous photos and detailed information. Larger "Art Destination" Specials published so far are dedicated to Jordan, Argentina, Sharjah, and Venice, with more to come.
Pat Binder & Dr. Gerhard Haupt GbR
Publishers and Directors
of Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art,
online since February 1997
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