10 February 2023

Spiritual Affects against a Secularist Grid: Rethinking modernism and Islam/ic art

Date and location: 10 February 2023 | 10.30 am CET, Tropenmuseum, SubTropen Conference Room. 

Organisers: Organised by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational and the Research Center for Material Culture at the National Museum of World Cultures


Referencing the title of Wendy K. M. Shaw's essay 'Islamic Geometries: Spiritual Affects Against a Secularist Grid', this seminar engages with the field and notion of 'Islamic art' in the context of the 20th and 21st centuries to address key issues facing us today, including secularism, decolonisation and approaches to diversity. It foregrounds the museum as a public site in which these issues play out and examines the meanings of the 'Islamic' in a contemporary context. By exploring the entangled legacies of orientalism and nationalism in art history, the event also raises questions around the secularity of the museum space. The seminar critically considers whether new approaches and new kinds of literacy and visuality are needed in the museum space. The discussions take a transnational approach to look at the way 'the Islamic' and 'Islamic art' as a subfield have been framed and evoked in contexts ranging from Western Europe, West Asia, Central Asia and North Africa. The seminar brings together a diverse range of practitioners and thinkers, including artists, academics and curators, to share their different frameworks, strategies and experiences.

Speakers include: Leeza Ahmady, Alexandra Dika Seggerman, Saodat Ismailova, Mirjam Shatanawi, Mollie Arbuthnot, Nur Sobers Khan, and Slavs and Tatars.  


Image credit line: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Something Old Something New , 1974. © Estate of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Photo: Tate


Day 1: Friday 10th February 2023


10:30-11:00  Entrance


11:00-11:10  Welcome remarks


11:10-11:40 Leeza Ahmady (Foundation for Spirituality and the Arts)

Revelation in Tongues: Learning to Speak Spirituality & Religion in Contemporary Art                      


11:40-12:00 Q & A moderated by Sarah Johnson (National Museum of World Cultures)


Panel 1

12:00-12:20 Nur Sobers Khan (Independent Researcher)

Transregional Muslim Subjectivities: Visual and Haptic Devotional Practices from the 19th-century Ottoman Empire to South Asia


12:20-12:40 Alex Dika Seggerman (Rutgers University-Newark)

Formerly Mutually Exclusive: Modernism and Islam in Art History


12:40-13.15 Discussion moderated by Nabila Abdel Nabi (Tate)


13.15-14.20 BREAK


Panel 2

14.20-14.40 Mirjam Shatanawi (Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam University of the Arts)

All the way from Mecca: The Place of Indonesia in the Field of Islamic Art


14.40-15.00 Mollie Arbuthnot (University of Cambridge)

The Soviet Lives of Sacred Things: Restitution, Religion, and Museums in Soviet Central Asia


15.00-15.35 Discussion moderated by Dina Akhmadeeva (Tate)


15.35-16.00 Break


16.00-16.30 Slavs & Tatars

Al-Isnad or Chains We Can Believe In


16.30-17.00 Q&A




12:30 - 14:00 Artist Talk with Saodat Ismailova at Eye Filmmuseum

In Conversation with Saodat Ismailova | Research Center for Material Culture