by Simone Wille, University of Innsbruck
On the occasion of Monica’s symbolic birthday I would like to reflect on how I met Monica in Salzburg in 2011 and how, since then, she has become an invaluable person to me, encouraging me to write my first monograph and consequently undertake and pursue my long-term research on South Asia and Central Europe.
In 2011, I had just completed my PhD on modern art in Pakistan at the University of Vienna under the supervision of Ebba Koch when I was invited to partake in an initiative that was spearheaded by Sabine B. Vogel and Hildegund Amanshauser. This was the Global Art conference at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts. The project was later reorganized and renamed the Global Academy and then the Planetary Academy. Monica was invited to open this international conference as a speaker together with Hans Belting. Her paper reflected on traditional art-historical methodology and its insufficiency in resolving geographical hierarchies and conditions of visibilities. Her proposal for a transcultural art history that offers an analytical framework on many levels rather than simply opposing the global and the local has led me to engage with these methodological inquiries and possibilities more closely.
At the time, I had already been in contact with Routledge. I had sent a proposal for my book project, which was passed on to Monica. As the series editor of Visual and Media Histories with Routledge, she encouraged me to write the book. It was not long after my encounter with Monica in Salzburg that I began working on Modern Art in Pakistan: History, Tradition, Place. Revisiting the conversations that I have had with Monica throughout the process of writing a book-length manuscript, I am reminded of how elegantly she navigated me through the process, never putting too much pressure on me yet always keeping the book’s completion in mind. While my conceptual approach was closely connected with place, tradition, and artistic form, Monica encouraged me to view the local as a discursive and productive space from which aesthetic practice was enacted. From the local, she has further led me to analytically inquire about the making of the region. Here, her suggestion to investigate the dynamic and contingent formation of the regional context beyond geopolitical formations has helped me to connect unexpected geographies and units of analysis.
In my current work, I am constantly revisiting these early conversations that I had with Monica, viewing art practice as animated through myriad paths—physical and imaginary—and asking to what extent this is reflected in an artist’s work. Modern Art in Pakistan has therefore been an effort in understanding aesthetics through artistic form and the specificity of place or locality, and it owes a lot to Monica’s engagement with my work. But perhaps more importantly, her formative critique, her insightful suggestion about how to read artistic formation in connection with archival material, and above all, her overall generosity has helped me to constructively and productively continue to engage with sites and material between unusual geographies.
The reason I truly enjoy doing what I do as an art historian is due to personalities like Monica Juneja. I am honored to have been invited to celebrate this occasion. Here’s to fellow travelers like Monica!
Monica, I wish you all the best for this symbolic birthday!
Simone Wille studied art history in Vienna, Innsbruck, Rome, and London. Since 2016, she has been project leader of the FWF-funded research project “Patterns of trans-regional trails. The materiality of art works and their place in the modern era. Bombay, Paris, Prague. Lahore, ca. 1920s to early 1950s” (project number P 29536-G26). She is co-organizer of the conferences “Routes of Modernism: Artistic Mobility, Protagonists, Platforms, Networks” together with Christian Kravagna at the Academy of Fine Arts and at mumok, Vienna, November 2018, and “Correlating Cultural and Ideological Positions: André Lhote, Paris, and His Former International Students” together with Zeynep Kuban at Istanbul Technical University, December 2017. Among her recent publications are her monograph Modern Art in Pakistan. History, Tradition, Place (New Delhi and London: Routledge, 2015) and André Lhote and His International Students (Innsbruck: innsbruck university press, 2020), co-edited with Zeynep Kuban.