Issue 5 Sustainable Art Communities: now also in print

SAC book cover

We are pleased to announce that Issue 5 of the Open Arts Journal has recently been developed for publication as a book.

The Caribbean, with its transnational diaspora stretching to all the shores of the Atlantic and beyond, is one of the liveliest cultural landscapes in the world today. It is also one of the most troubled. A major new anthology of material edited by Leon Wainwright (OU) and Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden), published this year by Manchester University Press, presents the contemporary perspectives on the challenges facing Caribbean communities and shows how the arts can play a crucial role in improving sustainability through a shared ground of experience, enjoyment and understanding.

The book promotes the view that visual art in particular has an important contribution to make in enhancing the Caribbean’s networks and reflecting on the nature of its connections. It addresses a topic that spans the scholarly, artistic, curatorial and professional fields of art and heritage, exploring constructive comparisons between key linguistic regions – namely the Anglophone and the Dutch – and identifying new parallels and contrasts in global-local relations, capital, patronage, morality, sustainability and the benefits of knowledge exchange. Ultimately, it makes the case for social justice in the arts within a complex and little-studied global geography.

Sustainable Art Communities is a landmark collaboration between artists, policymakers, arts organisers, art historians and critics, drawing from such diverse settings as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, Suriname, Curaçao, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.

This exciting anthology is the outcome of a recent international project that explored how the understanding and formation of sustainable communities for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas may be supported by art practice, curating and museums — in a partnership between the OU and Leiden University, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). You can read more about this project here.


Issue 3 Disturbing Pasts: now also in print

disturbing past book cover

We are pleased to announce that Issue 3 of the Open Arts Journal has been developed for publication as a book.


Throughout the world, legacies of war, colonialism, genocide and oppression return again and again to dominate contemporary culture. In this major new anthology of material edited by Leon Wainwright, published this year by Manchester University Press, artists, curators and academics come together to explore how such legacies can inspire creative approaches to remembering and challenging the past.

Contributors begin with the idea that any meaningful encounter with the past has to be felt at a personal level, no matter how difficult an event may be to recall and represent. Recollecting stories of this kind is complex and sensitive, and the book demonstrates how the process can benefit from the joint efforts of people from different fields, including professional art practices, art history and visual culture studies, social anthropology, literary studies, history, museology and cultural policy studies.

The result is a detailed global picture that presents a variety of new approaches to confronting dominant historical narratives and shaping alternative interpretations. It gathers voices, histories and images from diverse contexts including South Africa, Germany, Namibia, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Australia.


Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity is the outcome of a Knowledge Transfer and Network Project, funded by the European Science Foundation through a partnership between the OU and the Weltmuseum Wien (Vienna). Read more about the project here.

Cancellation notice due to industrial action — Open Arts Journal research seminar 25 November, 2015

Re. 25th November, Open Arts Journal research seminar with guest speaker Professor Helen Hills (University of York). PLEASE NOTE THAT DUE TO INDUSTRIAL ACTION AT THE OPEN UNIVERSITY, THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED.


The Open University is the publisher of the Open Arts Journal and provides its administrative base. An industrial dispute at the University where our research seminar is normally hosted has resulted in the cancellation of this event on 25th November.


The Open University will be taking strike action over the next three weeks in response to the decision to close seven of their nine regional centres (Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge, London, Oxford, Gateshead and Birmingham) and the threat to over 500 jobs. There will be an all-out strike on the 25th November followed by two weeks of strike action at different centres around the country. The staff will also be undertaking continuous action short of a strike by working to contract.


Further background on the UCU campaign can be found here:


On behalf of the editorial board of the Open Arts Journal, I would like to thank Professor Hills for her kind understanding.


Leon Wainwright, Editor-in-Chief


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Abstract:  Silver & Salvation: Colonial Excess and Baroque Naples.

Helen Hills, Professor of History of Art, University of York


This paper examines the materiality of silver in relation to  trauma, transaction and transformation. It focuses on Naples, under Spanish rule, to explore the effects of colonialism within Europe through art and sculpture. Thus I consider the presentation of ‘the nature of the Neapolitans’ and their practices as ‘excessive’ through the material of silver. Silver was imported into Naples from Spanish territories in the so-called New World. In Naples silver is naturalized through artifice – both rendered to represent ‘nature’ and made into an apparently intrinsic part of ‘Neapolitan culture’. Indeed, the profligate display of silver in Neapolitan churches is remarked upon by foreign visitors as a mark of the very ‘nature’ of Neapolitans’ themselves.



Baroque Naples was tarnished in Protestant Europe with a reputation for excess – particularly an excess of silver in its churches and chapels, part of the mortmain of the Spanish church, a prodigious resource that was gathering dust rather than fighting wars or generating interest. Silver was the material par excellence for chalices, pyx and plate, for carte di gloria and sacred and liturgical objects of many kinds, including the spectacular solid silver reliquaries in the Treasury Chapel of San Gennaro in Naples, unsurpassed amongst European treasuries. Silver was particularly implicated in discourses of the sacred, yet silver was implicated, too, in the violence of Spanish colonialism.  Silver seemed to offer the imperial Spanish what they most desired – a means to substantialize every relation, even with the divine. And it was in Naples above all, emblem and testing ground of Spanish rule in Europe, that silver was beaten into splendid submission. Scholarship has made much of colonialism and its relationship with culture outside of Europe. But what of colonialism within Europe? Silver offers an opening.



Forthcoming Issue 4: Touch me, touch me not: senses, faith and performativity in early modernity

We are delighted to announce the publication later this month of Issue 4 of the Open Arts Journal. Download the flyer here.

Touch me, touch me not:

senses, faith and performativity in early modernity


Issue 4, Winter 2014–5

Edited by Erin E. Benay and Lisa M. Rafanelli


This fourth issue of the Open Arts Journal brings together an exciting collection of essays that investigate the collaborative roles of the senses in the genesis and experience of renaissance and baroque art.  Examining, in particular, the ways in which the senses were evoked in the realm of the sacred, where questions of the validity of sensory experience were particularly contentious and fluid, the contributors seek to problematise the neoplatonic imperialism of sight and sense hierarchies that traditionally considered touch, along with smell and taste, as base and bodily.  The essays show that instead it was a multiplicity of sensory modalities – touch, sight, hearing and sometimes even taste and smell – that provided access to the divine, and shaped the imaginative, physical and performative experience of works of art. The issue’s project thus brings us closer to achieving the art historian Geraldine Johnson’s eloquent proposal: that by revisioning Michael Baxandall’s famous ‘period eye’, we might, in fact, arrive at a more aptly described, historically specific, period body.