Anna Maria Guasch
Anna Maria Guasch
Contemporary art production and its critical reception around the world can be readily identified with notions of ‘the global’ and ‘globalization’. One of the most crucial issues in art today is the extraordinary increase in its practice and circulation at the regional as well as international levels through a variety of spaces, events, circuits and markets, and especially through electronic communications. New artistic initiatives are springing up locally all over the world. And many of these practices, in addition to creating active local dynamics, have taken on board an international approach. Artists tend to be well-informed about other contexts and aware of hegemonic art, while they also seek an international audience for their work, moving inside, outside and alongside local, regional and global spaces. In this sense, the ‘and-then-from?’ – which says neither ‘of’, ‘in’ nor ‘here’ – is today key in the articulation of increasingly permeable local-international, contextual-global, central-peripheral, Western-non-Western polarities.1 The challenge here is to keep up with the proliferation of new subjects, scenes and artistic energies, as well as with the information that explodes from all sides and forces us to open our eyes, ears and minds.
As the exhibition ‘The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds after 1989’ (2011) at ZKM (Center for Art and Media) Museum of Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe, Germany, made clear, one of the ‘virtues’ of globalization, as far as its impact on diverse areas of artistic production and reception is concerned, lies in its paradoxical dual alliance with market mechanisms that seek both homogeneity and reciprocal generosity.2 In this respect, not only does the curatorial work that has been carried out over the last decade serve as a seismograph on which some of the paradoxes of globalization meet or reflect the various transnational and translocal exchanges derived from the global economy, but it also modifies the ways in which we imagine, understand and engage with the world and with others. Discursive explanations of various geographical experiences share a similar way of ‘being at home’ that is marked by all kinds of mobility, displacement and multiplicity.
The ideas of Roland Robertson come to mind here. His book Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (1992) theorizes globalization as a process that depends on the local and the global in equal measure.3 As Robertson points out, ‘globalization, as a concept, refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of the world as a whole.’4 Along the same lines, Homi Bhabha, in The Location of Culture (1994),5 explains that the hybrid cultures created by migrant diasporic communities exist because there is a ‘third space of enunciation’, an ‘in-between space’, whose cultural and historic components and meanings can be appropriated, translated and read anew. This is based on the premise that all aesthetic intervention in the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘subject’ provides new bases for rethinking the issues of knowledge, agency and political commitment in a globalized world. The important issue becomes how to deal with the feeling of belonging to a place on the basis of the demand for subjectivity or, more precisely, an ‘affective’ form of subjectivity in which the essential principle of difference is combined with what Marsha Meskimmon calls the ‘cosmopolitan imagination’.6 In this context we understand cosmopolitan to mean ‘relational’ and aimed at a cultural diversity that goes beyond the narrow confines of geopolitical boundaries that link the concept of home with the notions of dwelling and hospitality.7 The theories of Kwame Anthony Appiah take a similar route.8 Through the concept of ‘new cosmopolitanism’ he enquires into how we can connect our response-ability to our responsibility within the world community, having previously acknowledged the importance of the strategic principle of a conversation that suggests opening our ‘self’ to ‘others’ as an imaginative engagement rather than a process undertaken solely for the purpose of assimilation.
These intrinsic connections between conversation, imagination and art currently serve as the focal point for numerous curatorial practices that see globalization as the source of new forms of reflexivity that, following Rob Wilson, provoke an ‘aesthetic of openness toward otherness’.9 For instance, Documenta 11 in Kassel (2002), curated by Okwui Enwezor, saw the consolidation of a type of artist who is both involved in the consequences of globalization and committed to the necessary process of internationalization. Enwezor identified ‘nearness’ as the predominant way to understand the current condition of globalization, even going so far as to state that ‘the post-colonial today is a world of proximities. A world of nearness, not an elsewhere.’10 Following Documenta 11, it appeared that the art world was basically focusing on two major issues: first, the new geographical routes that seemed closely to follow the new concepts instated by Immanuel Wallerstein in his book, Geopolitics and Geoculture and,11 second, questions regarding migration, culture and identity.12
The new geographical turn, anticipated in the art world by theorist Irit Rogoff, was consolidated in the exhibition ‘Geography and the Politics of Mobility’ (2003), in which the artist and curator Ursula Biemann adapted the new concept of ‘geography’ in relation to questions of mobility.1313 Biemann pointed out how during the course of globalization geographic thinking had become the most crucial and decisive analytical tool. The geographic model works as a theoretical platform from which to consider the social in an expanded way, including the concepts of boundaries, connectivity and transgression. Another curatorial project that emerged during this opening up of epistemological boundaries to ‘geography’, ‘How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age’ (2003),14 openly raised the issue of ‘the global vs. the local’ in artistic and cultural debates that questioned the ‘authority of the museum’. This exhibition can be considered a starting point, marking the moment when the curator became an ‘author’ and bringing together the work of a group of artists who were involved in the notion of ‘process’ – the form of multi-form, as oppose to rigid, art – and ‘location-based art’. It is interesting to see how some of the most recent curatorial projects understand this ‘global or vernacular of provincial cosmopolitanism’. ‘Intense Proximity’ (2012), the third edition of the Paris Triennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor, presents our time as both emblematized and traumatized by the collapse of distance. And with this collapse, difference becomes visible. Here, Enwezor points out, we enter the zone of ‘intense proximity’, a form of disturbing nearness that transforms the co-ordinates of national cultural vectors.15
The central issue of how proximity and distance are constituted in the aftermath of colonial modernity connects with Meskimmon’s aforementioned concept of ‘cosmopolitan imagination’, ‘locational identity’ and embodied ethics, seen as a new version of political responsibility in the global age.16 This new form of political responsibility opens up new questions, such as, how can we be, both literally and metaphorically, cosmopolitans in our own place of origin, shunning simplistic myths of origin and authenticity? How do we analyse the various relationships between the global and the local, without it being a mere exercise of one (the global) dominating the other (the local)? Can questions arising from cultural hybridity and diaspora help us to rethink the traditional conventions on cultural identity and interaction?
1 Gerardo Mosquera, ‘Alien-Own/Own-Alien: Globalization and Cultural Difference’, Boundary, vol 2, no 29, fall 2002, p 165
2 ‘The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds after 1989’, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, September 2011 – February 2012
3 Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, Sage, London, 1992
4 Ibid, p 8
5 Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge, London and New York, 1994, p 37
6 Marsha Meskimmon, Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination, Routledge, London and New York, 2011
7 Ulf Hedetoft and Mette Hjort, eds, The Postnational Self: Belonging and Identity, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, 2002. Cited in Meskimmon, op cit, pp 6–7
8 Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, W W Norton, New York and London, 2006, p 85
9 Rob Wilson, ‘A New Cosmopolitanism is in the Air: Some Dialectical Twists and Turns’, in Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins, eds, Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1998, pp 351–361
10 Okwui Enwezor, ‘The Black Box’, in Documenta_11 Platform 5, exhibition catalogue, Hatje Cantz, Kassel, 2002, pp 42–45
11 Immanuel Wallerstein, Geopolítica y geocultura: ensayos sobre el moderno sistema mundial, Kairós, Barcelona, 2011 (published in English as Geopolitics and Geoculture: Essays on the Changing World System, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991)
12 In Iain Chambers, Migrancy, Culture and Identity, Routledge, London, New York, 1994
13 Ursula Biemann, Geography and the Politics of Mobility, exhibition catalogue, Generali Foundation and Walther König, Vienna and Cologne, 2003
14 ‘How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age’, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (February–May 2003), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo per l’Arte, Turin (June–September 2003) and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (July–September 2004)
15 Okwui Enwezor, “Intense proximity: Concerning the disapperance of distance”, in Intense Proximity: An Anthology of the Near and the Far, exhibition catalogue, La Triennale , Palais de Tokio, París, 2012, p 22
16 Meskimmon, op cit, p 5
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Anna Maria Guasch is an art critic and Professor of Art History at the University
of Barcelona. Since 1994 her research has revolved around the study of the creative processes of international art in the second half of the twentieth century. Her publications have included The Manifestos of Postmodern Art: Exhibition Texts 1980–1995 (2000), The Art of the Last Century: From Post-minimalism to the Multicultural 1968–1995 (2000), Visual Autobiographies (2008), Art and Archive 1920–2010 (2011) and The Global Effect (2013).