Kylie Gilchrist

Exemplarity and (Un)translatability: Rasheed Araeen’s Transnational Itineraries


  • Luke Skrebowski 
  • Anastasia Valassopoulos

Overview of PhD

In the past decade, Rasheed Araeen has seen a surge of recognition for his work as an artist, curator, theorist, and founding editor of the journal Third Text. Following successive waves of feminist, postcolonial and decolonial critiques of Euro-American art institutions and institutional art history, the Karachi-born, London-based artist is now widely acknowledged as a pivotal figure in artistic developments since the postwar era. Yet his historical significance continues to be framed by the narratives and categories of a predominantly North American art historical canon, indicating challenges to the work of dissembling exclusionary mechanisms within art history.

This thesis approaches Araeen’s career through the lenses of its singularity—as irreducible to generalised categories and narratives—and exemplarity—as a potentially generalisable model. It specifically considers Araeen’s use of the grid—recognised in Anglo-American art discourses as a quintessentially modernist form—as an elemental unit of his artistic vocabulary. Tracing Araeen’s various deployments of the grid across his career, it examines how this form evolved through the mediations of multiple transnational artistic networks. Engaging recent theorisations of translatability and untranslatability in art and architectural history, it considers how Araeen’s exemplarity foregrounds multiple, divergent, and under-recognised pathways within, and internally disruptive of, art history from the standpoint of the post-colonial metropole.


'Object Narrative: Rasheed Araeen's Bismullah'MAVCOR Journal (Special Issue: Material Islam), forthcoming 2021.

'Going East, Again: Rasheed Araeen’s Mapping and Re-Mapping of an Imaginative Geography', in Rasheed Araeen: Going East, Again, London / Hong Kong: Rossi & Rossi, 2020.