Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) at the University of the Arts London

Submitting Institution

University of the Arts London

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Work undertaken by the Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) at the University of the Arts London (UAL) focuses on the role of identity and nation in the production and consumption of artwork and artefacts. This has resulted in an increased awareness and critical understanding of transnational art and design, to the benefit of the Museums and Galleries sector, arts organisations, and the artistic community.

Underpinning research

Researchers working within the Centre undertake historical, theoretical and practice-based research into the impact of identity and nation on the production and consumption of artworks and artefacts in a global context. Research outlined below is indicative of the Centre's overall output and was all undertaken at UAL between 1997 and 2012 by Dr Michael Asbury (Reader), Professor Oriana Baddeley, Professor Deborah Cherry, Dr David Dibosa (Research Fellow), Dr Yuko Kikuchi (Reader), Professor Carol Tulloch, Professor Toshio Watanabe (TrAIN Director) and Dr Isobel Whitelegg (Research Fellow, left UAL in 2011). Key TrAIN methodologies and theoretical approaches that underpin the impact are given below.

When Baddeley and Watanabe (collaborative researchers since 1992) established TrAIN in 2004, they adopted the term `transnational' to describe the particular territories of their field of research. Today the term is in common usage across a range of disciplines, but at the time it was an underused definition within art historical debates. It was understood by the research group, formally brought together by the creation of TrAIN (Asbury, Cherry, Dibosa, Kikuchi, Tulloch and Whitelegg), as a definition of cultural interaction that does not automatically presuppose unequal power relationships. Traditional theories, such as Edward Said's Orientalism (1978), often focussed on an East/West dichotomy. This was a new approach with transnational providing a model which was more flexible than national or international, and where borders are both porous and complex. Examples include the AHRB funded project (2001-2004) Modernity and National Identity in Art: India, Japan and Mexico, 1860s-1940s, (Asbury, Baddeley, Kikuchi and Watanabe in collaboration with Professor Partha Mitter, University of Sussex); the exhibition Other Modernities (2000) co-curated by Baddeley and Asbury to coincide with the CIHA 2000 conference and exhibiting works by Milton Machado, Cildo Meireles, and a specially commissioned work by Yinka Shonibare; and the AHRC project (2008-2011) Meeting Margins: Transnational Art in Latin America and Europe 1950-1978, (Asbury and Whitelegg with Professor Valerie Fraser, University of Essex).

Many TrAIN projects question the traditional narrative of modernism as a story of the West. The Modernity and National Identity project did not to prioritize the origin, i.e., The West, as the creator of Modernism, but examined the modern art of India, Japan and Mexico all of which were grappling with their own conditions of modernity. Another aspect of Modernity and National Identity was the exploration of multilateral national relationships, reflected in the international collaboration with Brazilian partners Transnational Correspondence (Asbury, Baddeley, Cherry, Watanabe and Whitelegg) that examined issues relating to the transnational and the construction of the idea of the authentic.

The exhibition Black British Style, Tulloch (with Shaun Cole) at the V&A in 2004 is an example of a TrAIN researcher focusing on a single national culture and dissected its transnational characteristics. The exhibition focused on dress practices amongst black people in Britain from the late 1940s to 2004, and was extensively based on oral history of the owners of the objects displayed. This followed the 1997 exhibition, Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for Art, Art for Life (Watanabe and Kikuchi), which had raised awareness of transnational issues not only in art but also in socialist Christian movements and beyond in Japan. Refracted Modernity: Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan (2007) edited by Kikuchi (with a chapter by Watanabe) examined the unique position of Taiwan within the context of postcolonial studies due to its experience of colonization by a non-western country, Japan. Cherry's (co-author Janice Helland) Local/Global: Women Artists in the Nineteenth Century (2006) was the first book to investigate women artists working in disparate parts of the world, addressing issues at the heart of feminist and post-colonial studies: the nature of difference, discrepant modernities and cross-cultural encounters.

Combining many of the above methodologies, Tate Encounters: Britishness and Visual Culture (2007-2010) investigated questions of migration, culture and identity as they relate to the heritage sector, with Dibosa as co-Investigator (PI Professor Andrew Dewdney, London South Bank University and in collaboration with Tate researcher Victoria Walsh). Dibosa's contribution outlined ways in which visual cultures could provide a basis for moving beyond existing institutional critiques within museology. The project's findings argued that a view of contemporary British culture emphasizing the trans-cultural rather than multi-cultural provides a more useful way of considering cultural heritage and role of the art museum.

References to the research

Key outputs indicative of the overall body of research and related awards are listed below:

1. Asbury, M. et al eds. (2007) Transnational Correspondence. Arte & Ensaios [Special issue of journal] Rio de Janeiro: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. UAL on request.

2. Cherry, D. & Helland J (2006) Local/Global: Women Artists in the Nineteenth Century [Authored book], London: Ashgate. UAL on request.


3. Dibosa, D. Walsh, V. & Dewdney, A. (2012) Post-critical museology: theory and practice in the art museum [Authored book]. London: Routledge. Tate Encounters shortlisted Times Higher Research Project of the Year (2008). Listed in REF2.

4. Kikuchi, Y. ed. & contributor (2007) Refracted Modernity: Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan [Edited book plus contributor]. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. UAL on request.


5. Tulloch, C. (2004) Black Style [Authored book]. London: V&A. UAL on request.

6. Tulloch, C. and Cole, S. (2004) [Exhibition] Black British Style, V&A. UAL on request.

7. Watanabe, T. & Kikuchi, Y. eds. (1997) Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for Art, Art for Life. [Exhibition catalogue]. Cogito: Tokyo. The catalogue won the Japan Festival Prize and Gold Award of the Gesner Prize. UAL on request.

• UAL, PI: Watanabe, T. CoI: Baddeley, O. Modernity and National Identity in Art: India, Japan and Mexico (1860s-1930s), (10/2001-09/2004) £317,270. AHRB.

• UAL, PI: Watanabe, T. CoI: Kikuchi, Y. Salter, R. Stair, J. Forgotten Japonisme, (10/2007-10/2010), £496,403. AHRC.

• Essex (PI: Fraser)/UAL, CoI: Asbury, M. Meeting Margins: Transnational Art in Latin America & Europe 1950-78, (10/2008-09/2011), £479,616. AHRC.

• UAL, PI: Kikuchi, Y. Translating and Writing Modern Design Histories in East Asia for the Global World. (07/2012-06/2014), £32,712. AHRC.

• LSBU (PI: Dewdney) /UAL/Tate, CoI: Dibosa, D. Tate Encounters: Britishness and Visual Culture (11/2006-03/2010), £495,197. AHRC.

• UAL, PI: Tulloch, C. Dress and the African Diaspora Network (01/2006-12/2007). AHRC. £19,974.

Details of the impact

TrAIN disseminates its findings through curatorial activity, talks, publications, and engagement with the Museums and Galleries sector. Collective outputs have widened knowledge of the transnational, informed approaches to commissioning, collecting and display, and have played a role in raising awareness and adding a new dimension to the critical reception of the work of artists. Reach and significance is demonstrated by relationships and partnerships developed with a range of prestigious museums and galleries and other cultural organisations including: Tate, V&A, Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), Autograph ABP, Gasworks, and Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral. Since 2008, the Centre's core members have given lectures and participated in panel discussions and events at cultural institutions across six continents including the British Museum, Camden Arts Centre, the Serpentine Gallery, Tate, V&A, Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Mori Museum of Art, Tokyo, Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre, and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. The methodological approaches above are reflected in the following concrete examples:

Challenging the simplicity of a `Europe and its Others' rhetoric is evidenced by engagement with contemporary Brazilian art. Notable examples are Asbury's curation of Cildo Meireles's installation Occasion (2008) with Tate Modern in conjunction with the artist's retrospective exhibition, and the co-curation (with Camden Arts Centre) of Anna Maria Maiolino: Continuous (2010). These ideas were also explored in the symposium The Bienal de São Paulo between the National and the International, for the 28th Bienal de São Paulo (Asbury, Baddeley and Whitelegg).

The questioning of the traditional narrative of modernism as a story of the West informed the ground-breaking exhibition Japanese Crossing Borders: Asia as Dreamed by Craftspeople, 1910s-1945 (2012), for which Kikuchi worked closely with curators at the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo. Here Kikuchi's research on the creation of a transnational framework for design history informed the first post-colonial design exhibition in Japan, tracing Japanese craftsmen's artistic relationships with China, Taiwan and Korea, bringing the politically sensitive subjects of Japanese colonialism and imperialism into the public domain. These issues were examined in the panel discussion East meets West: Fashion Crosses Continents (2010) at the Barbican (Watanabe).

The exploration of multilateral national relationships formed part of two museum-based symposia: Exhibitions and the World at Large (2009) organised by Afterall and TrAIN in collaboration with Tate Britain (Baddeley, Esche); and Global Exhibitions -Contemporary Art and the African Diaspora (2010) related to the major exhibition Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic at Tate Liverpool (Asbury, Dibosa, Tulloch). Tulloch curated International Fashion Showcase: Botswana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone (2012) for the British Council in collaboration with the British Fashion Council. Short-listed for the International Fashion Showcase Award, it received praise from the Botswana High Commission for raising `the profile of Botswana in the United Kingdom'. Focus on a single national culture and dissecting its transnational characteristics was evident in Tulloch's curation of Handmade Tales: Women and Domestic Crafts (2010/11) at the Women's Library, London, which became the venue's most successful exhibition, attracting 10,000 visitors. In 2013 Tulloch gave a keynote speech at Yinka Shonibare MBE: Material Positions Conference which explored Yinka Shonibare's work in African diasporic context as part of the Yinka Shonibare MBE: Fabric-ation retrospective exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Tate Encounters: Britishness and visual culture represented an intensive engagement with the Museum and Gallery sector, reaching a wide cross section of influential bodies and groups. Dibosa presented to the Tate for All working group (2008), the cross-departmental seminar Tate Think (2009), Tate National (which brings together Directors and Chief Curators from across Tate), and participated in a series of working seminars to inform Tate's Audience Development Strategy, 2012-15. A month long public programme of screening, talks and discussions (2009) gathered 72 contributors to consider the projects findings, followed by a policy forum at Tate Britain attended by Munira Mirza (now Deputy Mayor of London for Education and Culture); Sandy Nairne (Director, National Portrait Gallery); and Baroness Young of Hornsey. Reference to the project is made in the 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 Tate Reports. During Black History Month (2008), the team presented their findings at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to over 50 representatives from the DCMS, the Museums and Libraries Association, museums and galleries, and other related organisations. An indication of the significance of this work is given by Tate Encounters invitation to discuss their findings in a closed seminar sponsored by the Arts Council of England (ACE) organised by the journal Third Text. This was followed by ACE commissioning a Third Text report Beyond Cultural Diversity: The Case for Creativity, which included input from the Tate Encounters team. Dibosa's participation led to his involvement in a discussion on cultural diversity on BBC Radio 3's flagship Night Waves programme (2011).

Extension of the understanding of the transnational often takes the form of interaction with practising artists seeking to influence critical reception of their work within the Museums and Galleries sector. Since 2006 the Centre has collaborated with the Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral on an artist-in-residence exchange programme. A key consideration in the selection process is how an artist's work relates to the transnational production and reception of artistic practices and their histories. Since 2007 they have collaborated with Gasworks on artists' residences open to non-UK based artists, aiming to raise questions for individual artists in relation to the negotiation of local and international contexts in practice. Cinthia Marcelle (2009) residency exhibition was later included in the 29th Bienal de São Paulo after Moacir dos Anjos (TrAIN Visiting Fellow 2008/9) was appointed chief curator of the event, and won the Pinchuk Art Centre Future Generation Art Prize. In addition to the formal residencies, artists approach TrAIN with projects such as Ricardo Basbaum's Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? in 2008, following his participation at Documenta 12. Asbury has collaborated with artists on the production of books (Anna Maria Maiolino and Julio Villani), and articles and essays (Shirley Paes Leme, Abraham Palatnik, Angelo Venosa, Maria Nepomuceno, Ernesto Neto, Daniel Senise) widening awareness of contemporary Brazilian art.

The degree to which the comprehensive body of expertise within the Centre is utilised by museums and galleries is an indicator of significance. TrAIN researchers have a `strong continuing relationship' with the work of Tate Modern (Chris Dercon, Director Tate Modern) with activity including collaboration on the organisation of the Mira Schendel Conference (2012). Tulloch is TrAIN/V&A Senior Research Fellow, member of the V&A's Africa Curators Group, member of the V&A Contemporary Caribbean Art and Design Group, and on the acquisitions sub-committee of the Black Cultural Archives. Watanabe advised the National Museum, Krakow on their Japanese collection (amounting to 7,000 pieces), resulting in an agreement between the Museum and the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to digitize the collection. Expertise have been utilised by Iniva for events such as Performing Localities and State of Exchange, 2009 (Baddeley), Global Visions, 2010 (Cherry) and Social Fabric, 2012 (Tulloch), and contributions to Kimathi Donkor: Queens of the Undead exhibition, 2012 (Tulloch, Dibosa). Projects underway with Autograph ABP include Maud Sulter: Artist, Writer, Curator (Cherry) and Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism (Tulloch).

Sources to corroborate the impact

Increased awareness and understanding of transnational art and design via:

Interaction with the Museum and Gallery sector

  1. Statement from Director, Tate Modern (in relation to work with Tate Modern on Brazilian contemporary art). UAL on request.
  2. Statement from Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. UAL on request.
  4. Tate Encounters website:

Work with practising artists

  1. Cinthia Marcelle residency:
  2. Marcelle at the 29th Bienal de São Paulo:

Utilisation of expertise

  1. Statement from Director, Autograph ABP. UAL on request.
  2. Statement from Deputy Director, V&A. UAL on request.
  3. Examples of work with Invia include: and