POST – MOMA – THOUGHT ON MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART AROUND THE GLOBE – 3 ESSAYS
Luis Camnitzer looks back: thoughts on Global Conceptualism
post asked the artist and critic Luis Camnitzer, one of the project directors of Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s, to respond to some basic questions about the exhibition. In this interview he talks about how the show evolved. He also addresses how the organizers dealt with critical issues such as the differences between “Conceptual Art” and “Conceptualism” and the always-blurry frontier between art and politics.
Thinking Back on Global Conceptualism
Rachel Weiss, curator, writer and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to MoMA to speak about the exhibition Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s, which she co-organized in 1999 with Jane Farver (who also came to talk on the subject), Luis Camnitzer, and an international team of curators: Okwei Enwezor, Reiko Tomii & Chiba Shigeo, Claude Gintz, László Beke, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Peter Wollen, Terry Smith, Margarita Tupitsyn, Sun Wan-Kyung, Gao Minglu and Apinan Poshyananda. Weiss and Farver (whose talk can be accessed here) were asked to reflect on the exhibition—its challenges, failures and successes—fifteen years after it was seen at the Queens Museum in New York.
Global Conceptualism Reconsidered
In the fifteen years since the exhibition Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s was on view at the Queens Museum, the term global has become ever more thoroughly entrenched in the lexicon of contemporary art. Although one might therefore draw a direct line between the 1999 exhibition and the ever-present “global contemporary” of the art world, texts by two of the exhibition’s curators—Jane Farver and Rachel Weiss—which are published here, underscore an understanding of the global that has little in common with the market-driven associations the term has today.
In presenting a pre-1990s regionally defined globalism, Global Conceptualism did not attempt to blur the geographical boundaries despite the fact that a nascent transnationalism was evident in networked art, even in the 1950s. In the last fifteen years, much has changed in the ways that globality is thought about in museums, not least because of rapid changes in communication. As contemporary art traces similar paths to those of transnational financial flows, the emphasis on the global is rendered suspicious because of its deep entanglement with capital. Although neoliberal forces are certainly at play, the impetus for researching art from outside the traditional purview of US institutions must be understood as much more complex, in that it is also an attempt to understand the history of art scenes and movements that are growing ever more connected. Not only an impetus then, but also an imperative.
The term conceptualism has also been contested in recent years. If using the label makes available widely disparate works that respond to very different contexts, it is also guilty of flattening out the unique nature of propositions made by artists around the world. What can be learned today from an exhibition such as Global Conceptualism? How can the incommensurability of artworks created in different places be considered productively? Is the “global” exhibition defunct or do new curatorial practices that cast aside curatorial values such as coherence or chronological linearity (as Weiss suggests in her text) need to be developed? What alternatives might be sought to this model of exhibition?
This Theme, Global Conceptualism Reconsidered, offers an opportunity to think about these questions. It also offers the chance to reposition some of the materials published by post over the last few years. In addition to the two texts by Jane Farver and Rachel Weiss and an interview with Luis Camnitzer, the project directors, we asked the curators of different sections to reflect on their involvement in the exhibition, and republished here some of the reviews and installation shots of the exhibition.
Jane Farver, curator and former Director of Exhibitions at the Queens Museum, was invited to MoMA to speak about the exhibition Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s, which she co-organized in 1999 with Rachel Weiss (who also came to present on the subject), Luis Camnitzer, and an international team of curators: Okwei Enwezor, Reiko Tomii & Chiba Shigeo, Claude Gintz, László Beke, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Peter Wollen, Terry Smith, Margarita Tupitsyn, Sun Wan-Kyung, Gao Minglu and Apinan Poshyananda. Farver and Weiss (whose talk can be accessed here) were invited to reflect on the exhibition—its challenges, failures and successes—fifteen years after it was seen at the Queens Museum in New York.
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Last updated: December 13, 2008 1:38 am
Indian art defies global conceptualism
Jackie Wullschlager By Jackie Wullschlager
Two London exhibitions, the Serpentine Gallery’s Indian Highway and Aicon’s Signs Taken for Wonders, are the UK’s most ambitious attempts yet to distil coherence into the chaotic rush of art emerging from the Indian subcontinent.
The marriage between the conceptually minded Serpentine and Indian art – whose overriding characteristics are narrative drive, flamboyant figuration and sensuous colour – is interesting because it is so unlikely. Recent memorable Indian installations have been sprawling, direct and often rooted in the animal motifs of folklore: Bharti Kher’s “The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own”, a collapsed fibreglass elephant adorned with bindis (female forehead decorations) at Frank Cohen’s Passage to India, or Sudarshan Shetty’s bell-tolling aluminium cast of a pair of cows, now at the Royal Academy’s GSK Contemporary. Nothing like that is in Indian Highway; with conceptual aplomb, the Serpentine turns the accessibility and energy of Indian art into a taut cerebral game.
Graham Sutherland on show
Bright lights, small island
A man of the wold
What Saatchi did next
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The highway of the title refers both to the literal road of migration and movement, and to the information superhighway, which together are propelling India to modernity. Dayanita Singh’s wallpaper-photographs of Mumbai’s central arteries illuminated at night introduce the theme in the first gallery, and a crowd of sober documentary films worthily continue it – but a pair of installations catch the symbolism best. One is Bose Krishnamachari’s celebrated “Ghost/Transmemoir”, a collection of a hundred tiffin boxes – widely used to convey home-cooked lunches to workers across cities – each inset with LCD monitors, DVD players and headphones, through which everyday Mumbaikars regale audiences with their stories, accompanied by soundtracks evoking the high-pitched jangle and screech of Mumbai street life.
The other, towering upwards to the North Gallery’s dome like a beating black heart at the core of the show, is Sheela Gowda’s “Darkroom”, consisting of metal tar-drums stacked or flattened into wrap-around sheets, evoking at once the grandeur of classical colonnades and the ad hoc shacks built by India’s road workers. Inside, the darkness is broken by tiny dots of light through holes punctured in the ceiling like a constellation of stars; yellow-gold paint enhances the lyric undertow in this harsh readymade.
Opposite is N S Harsha’s “Reversed Gaze”, a mural depicting a crowd behind a makeshift barricade who tilt out towards us – making us the spectacles at the exhibition. All Indian life is here in this comic whimsy: farmer, businessman, fundamentalist Hindu, anarchist with firebomb, pamphleteer, aristocrat in Nehruvian dress, south Indian in baggy trousers and vest, tourist clutching a miniature Taj Mahal, and an art collector holding a painting signed R Mutt – linking the entire parade to the urinal, signed R Mutt, with which Marcel Duchamp invented conceptual art in 1917.
Essential to the meaning of “Reversed Gaze” is that it will be erased when the exhibition closes – a slap in the face for the predatory art market. So will the pink and purple bindi wall painting “The Nemesis of Nations” by Bharti Kher, who recently joined expensive international gallery Hauser and Wirth. And a canvas of drawings greeting visitors as they enter is all that is left of Nikhil Chopra’s performance piece “Yog Raj Chitrakar”, in which the artist this week spent three days assuming the persona of his grandfather, an immaculately dressed gentleman of the Raj, and lived and slept in a tent in Kensington Gardens, entering the gallery only to daub the canvas that stands as an art of aftermath – a memory drawing.
Painting here is a vanishing act. Maqbool Fida Husain (aged 93) has made 13 bright poster-style works – red elephants, a tea ceremony after a tiger shooting, a satirical Last Supper with dapper businessman, umbrella, briefcase, body parts – to surround the exterior of the Serpentine. MF Husain is India’s most respected artist; with these billboards, executed in his standard style of forceful black contours, angular lines and bright palette, he returns to his career origins as a painter of cinema advertisements.
In the catalogue, curator Ranjit Hoskote argues that “transcultural experience is the only certain basis of contemporary practice” and that “the chimera of auto-Orientalism, with its valorisation of a spurious authenticity to be secured as the guarantee of an embattled local against an overwhelming global, has been swept away”.
But Husain, godfather to generations of Indian artists, and indeed every piece in Indian Highway – from feminist painter Nalini Malani’s looping fantasy figures intricately inked on bamboo paper in “Tales of Good and Evil” to Jitish Kallat’s photographic series “Cenotaph (A Deed of Transfer)”, chronicling the demolition of slum dwellings – proves the opposite: however hard a western gallery tries to make Indian art talk a global conceptual language, its local strengths speak louder. Indian art, on this showing, is visually arresting and thoughtful, but nothing here is formally or conceptually innovative, or aesthetically provocative. We thus respond to its distinctive idiom and themes as cultural tourists.
This is the context in which Aicon, London’s leading commercial gallery of Indian art, opened last year. Signs Taken as Wonders is a Christmas selling show but is also intelligently structured around the perennial subject of India’s shifting identities, with misrecognition the trope: out-of-focus photographs of buildings and anonymous steel workers in RAQS Collective’s “Misregistration”; deconstruction of stereotypes in Vivek Vilasini’s “Vernacular Chants” prints; the contrast between questioning pose and expression and monumentality in Riyas Komu’s cropped, close-up “Borivali Boy II”.
This show complements the Serpentine’s by emphasising the painterly, such as the fragmented textures and touches of surrealism in Husain’s veiled “Women of Yemen”. In particular, the swirling abstract patterns and slabs of twisting colour in Krishnamachari’s “Stretched Bodies” – portraits of disintegration and change that deny the possibility of single truths, and the delicate ink-on-silk drawings of his “Mumbiya” depiction of a typical citizen, which seems to fade into elusiveness as you draw near – add layers to the vision of chaotic, vibrant Mumbai in the artist’s “Ghost” installation at the Serpentine. Krishnamachari describes the average Mumbaikar as “an ocean of anxieties that have arisen from the everyday question of acceptance”. Flitting between these shows, you feel most of all that uneasiness, both in the creation of Indian art and in our uncertain response to it.
‘Indian Highway’, Serpentine Gallery, London to February 22 . ‘Signs Taken for Wonders’, Aicon Gallery, London, to January 24
How Do We Know What Latin American Conceptualism Looks Like?
Miguel A. López
‘Tucumán Arde’, 1968, third phase of the campaign: poster calling for the 1st Bienal de Arte de Vanguardia. Image courtesy Archivo Graciela Carnevale
A piece that is essentially the same as a piece made by any of the first Conceptual artists, dated two years earlier than the original and signed by somebody else. – Eduardo Costa1
On 28 April 1999 the exhibition ‘Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s’ opened at New York’s Queens Museum of Art. Organised by Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farver and Rachel Weiss, consisting of eleven geographically defined sections and curated by a large, international group of art historians and researchers, the exhibition formulated one of the riskiest and most controversial interpretations of so-called Conceptual art at an international level. The show was ambitious. Its structure created a geographical spill-over that called into question the lesser or secondary place to which certain critical productions had been consigned. The framework of analysis was the global set of social and political transformations that have taken place since 1950, and the emergence of new forms of political action that formed the backdrop to a renewed repertoire of visual language. Such a scope allowed the curators to gather aesthetic proposals not defined in the exhibition by a Conceptualist ‘aesthetics of immateriality’, but instead by their capacity for intervention.2 This approach, without doubt, shifted the very rules according to which the history of Conceptual art had been written. Those radical changes of the modes of producing and giving value to art exposed by ‘Global Conceptualism’ reveal complex processes in which political subjectivities oppose the consensual organisation of power and its distribution of places and roles, mobilising singular and collective resistances and dissenting energies.
Ten years on, the shockwaves can still be felt, perhaps even more intensely than at the time. In different ways, ‘Global Conceptualism’ updated some of the debates that had been attempting to raise the issue of subjectivity in social practices from a post-colonial perspective, disputing the geographical and temporal orders of a modern or colonial Occidentalism.3 Hence, it was no surprise that the show became one of the most quoted (and most questioned) referents of the revival of 1960s and 70s critical production that has taken place over the past decade in exhibitions, seminars and publications around the world.
While much has been said about the decentralising virtues of ‘Global Conceptualism’, in retrospect its most significant legacy appears not only to be the broadening of the Conceptual art map (a move that had a bearing on several subsequent curatorial projects), but the way in which the exhibition questioned the identity of a Conceptual art with universal aspirations. The curatorial operation of ‘Global Conceptualism’ started from a categorical distinction between ‘Conceptual art’ – understood as a North American and Western European aesthetic development associated with a formalist reduction inherited from abstraction and Minimalism – and ‘Conceptualism’, a term denoting a critical return to an ‘ordering of priorities’ that made visible certain aesthetic processes on a transnational level, allowing for diverse historical, cultural and political narratives to be set in place.4 Conceptualism was presented as a phenomenon that took place in a ‘federation of provinces’, with the ‘traditional hegemonic centre [being] one among many’, drawing a multiplicity of points of origin and questioning the privileged position claimed by Western modernity and its politics of representation.5 The exhibition seemed to work as a performative apparatus determined to re-politicise, reconfigure and rewrite the memory of those decades. As a result Conceptual art, which from the perspective of the United States and Western Europe had until then been an unavoidable prism for reading other critical productions, appeared fractured.
The shrewdness of the ‘Global Conceptualism’ gesture no doubt managed to effectively dominate the critical framework from which one would contemplate and validate those antagonistic practices. But more importantly, and perhaps without intending to, it allowed for the reconsideration of Conceptualism as the effect of a discourse (or multiplicity of discourses) that had itself caused breaks and a major questioning of the fabric of certain local memories – albeit in some cases at the expense of reinforcing lineages and typologies. These are complex manoeuvres, and their political implications must be addressed. What do we achieve today by reflecting on Conceptual art’s radical dimension from the perspective of the ways in which it has been historicised? How should we assess the political impact of such histories, and their effect on possible forms of recognition? Furthermore, how might we assess this effect on the production of certain forms of subjectivisation and sociability?6
The struggle of Latin American historiography to place local episodes within global narratives, in an attempt to counter the dominant geographies of art, has been successful. For some time now, artists such as Hélio Oiticica, León Ferrari, Lygia Clark, Alberto Greco, Luis Camnitzer, Cildo Meireles, Oscar Bony and Artur Barrio, or collective experiences such as ‘Tucumán Arde’ (‘Tucumán Burns’, 1968) and ‘Arte de los medios’ (‘Art of Media’, 1966), have become unavoidable references in virtually all recent accounts that trace the so-called inaugural landmarks of Conceptualism on a transcontinental scale. Today, however, this apparent expansion of discourse seems to demand renewed reflection, as it is no longer a matter of tirelessly continuing to accommodate events in the endless container we believe history to be, but of questioning the ways in which they reappear and the roles they play within it. Such reflection will enable us to examine the anachronisms and discontinuities of historical discourse – its fragments, snippets, shreds – and activate their ability to disrupt once again the logic of the ‘verified facts’.
In the recent essay ‘Cartografías Queer’ (2008),7 the theorist Beatriz Preciado discusses the formation of historiographic models of the so-called sexual difference from the perspective of a queer epistemological critique that could be very useful for us in this task. Considering the political scope of the historical exercise, Preciado avoids the taxonomy of places, situations or individuals and instead proposes, in direct dialogue with Félix Guattari’s ‘schizoanalytic cartographies’, a map that gives an account of the technologies of representation and modes of production of subjectivities.8 This map makes explicit how certain dominant diagrams of representation of sexual minorities come dangerously close to becoming mechanisms of social control and discipline. Can we envision a way of reading and representing that does not result in an illustrative exercise of description, but that instead allows for the perception of variations and displacements that appear as forms of subjectivisation, or even as machines of political transformation that disrupt previously established arrangements?
Preciado brings into play two antagonistic historiographic figures: the conventional model of ‘identity cartography’ (or ‘cartography of the lion’, as she terms it), concerned with seeking, defining and classifying the identities of bodies; and a ‘critical cartography’ (‘queer cartography’ or ‘cartography of the bitch’), which sidesteps writing as a topography of established representations in order instead to ‘sketch out a map of the modes of production of subjectivity’, observing the ‘technologies of representation, information and communication’ as genuine performative machines.9 These two models are divergent not only in their modes of producing visibility, but also in their ways of battling the technologies that mediate the political construction of knowledge. These issues are pervaded by the relationship between power and knowledge, and even to a greater extent by biopolitical modes of production linked to the codes of representation and the allocation of places in social space.10 Such crucial issues must be considered at a time when ‘dematerialised’ logic has begun to strike up an effective dialogue with the dynamics of global capitalism on immaterial goods.11
Following (or perhaps perverting) Preciado’s reflections, it may not be difficult to acknowledge that until recently most historiographies of modern and contemporary art have been ‘cartographies of identities’. Among these, ‘Conceptual art’ surfaced as a sanctionable identity, and the historiographic task resembled that of a detective tracking down the still unfound remains of Conceptualism in order to introduce them into the topography of the visible. It strives to offer a genealogy and geography of that which is totally representable – bringing those experiences into historical account, dispelling the mists that surrounded them, and clarifying a place apparently recovered.12
But let’s try the opposite exercise too. Let’s imagine a cartography not interested in seeking out the fragments of Conceptual art, one that even doubts the existence of such pieces. Let’s imagine a map that instead aims to explore the label itself, observing its uses and noting how it produces identities in different contexts; a map that, before attempting to function as a technique of representation, tries to expose power relations, ‘the architecture, displacement and spatialisation of power as a technology for the production of subjectivity’.13 Here it would no longer be a question of establishing formal resemblances between works, or of dating those that can effectively guide us in recognising the ‘Conceptual’ or ‘Conceptualist’ category (and its regional derivatives such as ‘Argentinean’, ‘Brazilian’ or ‘Latin American’) but, rather, of finding out how those narratives have determined the materiality and forms of visibility of what they hoped to describe, how they have negotiated their place within and without the institution and distributed it after having transformed these critical art forms into received knowledge.
Taking that tension between the cartographic models in their identitarian and queer versions as a starting point, I would like to pose a series of questions concerning some of the recent cartographical representations of Conceptual art: first, by revisiting one of the most influential accounts of so-called Latin American Conceptualism and the re-inscription of the ‘ideological’ as a category from which to consider aesthetic trends in the region; and second, by analysing a recent, almost unnoticed Argentinean exhibition that proposed a strategy for reflecting politically on how it is possible to reassess the ruptures triggered by 1960s avant-garde movements and the ‘Tucumán Arde’ episode. The show, notably, put forward an approach to the archive that refuses to treat this event as a chapter in the history of art and instead reactivates the anachronistic heterogeneity of meanings borne by the documentary remnants.
It was not until the early 1990s that one of the first programmatic essays of Latin American Conceptualism was published, and its ideological reverberations have accompanied many of the considerations on the subject since. Art historian Mari Carmen Ramírez wrote the essay ‘Blueprint Circuits: Conceptual Art and Politics in Latin America’ (1993) for the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century’, curated by Waldo Rasmussen and organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1992.14The exhibition, which was first opened to the public in Seville and produced in the context of the celebrations commemorating the fifth centenary of the ‘discovery of America’ – a controversial exhibition on account of its perceived condescending and stereotyping discourse15 – was one of the culminating stages of the boom of Latin American art that began in the mid-1980s and fostered a depoliticised representation of Latin American culture and history, which was strongly associated with private promotional and funding interests both in the US and Latin America. The political landscape at that time included the re-establishment of democratic governments throughout the subcontinent, the internal crisis of the Left and the introduction of neo-liberal policies following the Washington Consensus.16 For several of the intellectuals who were symbolically mediating the cultural production between North and South America at the time, such as the Cuban art historian and curator Gerardo Mosquera, the Chilean feminist cultural critic Nelly Richard or Ramírez herself, it was clear that what was at stake were the mechanisms of representation of the American continent at the end of the Cold War, and therefore a totally renewed political economy of signs catalysed by a sequence of exhibitions of Latin American art outside of Latin America – exhibitions that effectively were beginning to draw a new exotic, formalist and neo-colonial framework of interpretation.17
The very title of the text – ‘Conceptual Art and Politics in Latin America’ – announced Ramírez’s focus on disruptive aesthetic forms and their socio-cultural conditions, something that was not in Rasmussen’s exhibition. The essay attempted to provide a unitary legibility to radical experiences that had until then been in large part unrelated (some of which not only had remained indifferent to the nomenclature but even rejected it),18 and by doing so it gave the label ‘Latin American Conceptualism’ one of its first major concrete manifestations. Ramírez’s intention was to challenge the then common assumption that Latin American Conceptual art was a poor, late imitation of Conceptual art ‘from the centre’, and hoped to politicise its readings by means of an argument that assigned positive value to an apparent Latin American difference. In opposition to the limited North American and British ‘analytical’ or ‘tautological’ model, the Latin American model was presented as ‘ideological Conceptualism’. Ramírez traced this binary distinction back to 1974, when it was discussed by the Spanish critic Simón Marchán Fiz, but did not go as far as to question it.19
Ramírez believed the dichotomy revealed the prominence of the ideas of a sadly self-referential Kosuth, heir apparent to the positivist legacy of Modernism. ‘In Kosuth’s model the artwork as conceptual proposition is reduced to a tautological or self-reflexive statement. He insisted that art consists of nothing other than the artist’s idea of it, and that art can claim no meaning outside itself,’20Ramírez says, echoing – voluntarily or not – some of the criticism that art historian Benjamin Buchloh had put forward fiercely just four years before, 21 and indirectly playing down the political dimension implicit in the linguistic turn and its break with late-modern formalism. She thereby created an interpretative formula repeated almost to the letter in several of her subsequent essays, opposing, in general terms, a ‘depoliticised’ North American canon with a ‘political’ Latin American Conceptualism that subverts the structure of the former and actively intervenes in social space. The assertion, though somewhat provocative, traces a particularly narrow and dichotomous path of analysis, indebted to essentialist nuances that fail to establish a genuine antagonism.22
However, our intention here is not to denounce an ‘incorrect’ reading of Conceptualism, to dispute labels or to reduce Ramírez’s discourse to the use of such categories (conversely, her work puts forward noteworthy observations on the political use of communication and the ‘recovery’ of the mass-produced object in these processes). Rather, it instead is to note how that ‘difference’ shaped a specific visibility and morphology, making the distinction part of many of the debates surrounding the interpretations of the situation and, surprisingly or not, part of the ‘central’, dominant narratives, where it functions as a mystifying cliché in a process of categorisation and normalisation. Returning to some of Ramírez’s ideas, the philosopher and art theorist Peter Osborne observes:
‘Ideological content’ is the key term of Latin American Conceptual art. In distinction from the more formal ideational concerns of most US and European Conceptual art (the act/event, mathematical series, linguistic propositions or the structures of cultural forms), this was an art for which ‘ideology itself became the fundamental “material identity” of the conceptual proposition.’23
Along similar lines, though without circumscribing the ‘analytical-linguistic’ to North American Conceptualism, Alexander Alberro repeats the argument:
[T]he most extreme alternatives to models of analytic Conceptualism in the late 1960s and early 70s are those that developed in the deteriorating political and economic climate of a number of Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile.24
And in a more recent book, formulated as a Conceptualist ‘census’ of Spain with categories such as ‘poetic’, ‘political’ and ‘peripheral’, the historian Pilar Parcerisas revisits Ramírez’s thesis,25 scorning ‘the premises of the analytical orthodoxy of Conceptual art in English-speaking countries’ by attempting to elaborate on the political character of the ‘periphery’. From a range of perspectives in Latin America, that difference has been repeatedly recovered, with variations, in several recent accounts of the 1960s and 70s.26
Rather than objecting to the use of the term or any of its related epithets, what I am attempting to do is underline the need to deploy it as a diagram of power, to assess which meanings and distinctions, and which processes of normalisation and resistance are concealed in such consensual representations. This reconsideration demands a different articulation to the other concepts used by critics and artists when considering their own positions: minor expressions (to paraphrase Deleuze and Guattari),27 the gradual erosion of which has contributed to the standardisation of radical experiences in order that they may establish an ‘appropriate’ exchange with centralist discourses.
For example, it would be provocative to consider the term ‘dematerialisation’ in the context of Argentina’s experimental art scene in the 1960s as the Argentinean theoretician Oscar Masotta proposed in 1967 – independently from Lucy Lippard – as deriving from El Lissitsky and his plan to integrate artists into the publishing industry of revolutionary Russia of the 1920s.28It also would be challenging to rethink a term such as ‘no-objetualismo‘ (non-object-based art), coined in Mexico by Peruvian critic Juan Acha around 1973, as part of a Marxist approach to counter-cultural protest and collective artistic experiences of the Mexican ‘grupos’ (Proceso Pentagono, Grupo Suma and No-Grupo, among others), but most significantly to indigenous aesthetic processes, such as popular art and design, that question Western art history.29 Or to re-examine concepts that artists employ to reflect on their own practice: Argentinean Ricardo Carreira uses the term ‘deshabituación‘ (‘dishabituation’) to refer to an aesthetic theory based on the political transformation of the environment through estrangement.30 In the early 1960s Alejandro Jodorowsky spoke of ‘efímeros‘ (‘ephemerals’) in reference to his series of improvised and provocative actions confronting conventional theatre, halfway between psychotropic mysticism and fantastic esotericism,31 while Edgardo Antonio Vigo’s ‘revulsive’ aesthetic agenda pledged to destabilise the roles of the artist – on other occasions Vigo defined himself as an ‘un-maker of objects’.32 These are but a few of the entries in the critical repertoire still in the shadow of the hegemonic rhetoric. Such subterranean theoretical constructs pose a latent conflict, a multitude of not-yetarticulated and potential genealogies. Beyond mere naming, these words appear as proof of the fact that there is something irreducible – a discordant crossing of stories that point to divergent ways of living and constructing the contemporary – its capacity to unfold other times.
Forty years after ‘Tucumán Arde’, the exhibition ‘Inventario 1965-1975. Archivo Graciela Carnevale’, organised in 2008 in the Argentinean city of Rosario, offered one of the sharpest readings among the host of curatorial approaches that have explored the episodes of radicalism and rupture in Argentina in 1968.33 That year, several groups of artists, film-makers, journalists and intellectuals organised a series of experiences that connected cultural and artistic production with dissenting forms of political intervention – often with revolutionary claims – in collaboration with militant sectors of the workers’ movement. These collaborations dramatically modified artistic and cultural practices, resulting in progressively radicalised experiences in several contexts. In this context, a group of artists – invited to the exhibition ‘Experiencias ’68’ that was organised by the pre-eminent Instituto Di Tella – broke with the institution, exhibiting in ‘Experiencias’ politically critical artworks. When the police banned one of these – an installation of a public toilet, in which the public wrote slogans critical of the military dictatorship – the artists protested, destroying their works in the streets and distributing a text denouncing the increasing repression in the country. This incident became the trigger for a major rethinking of their commitment to the artistic avant-garde, formulating a new programme of action that comprises the ‘Tucumán Arde’ episode. Once outside of the institution, the artists began a process of documentation and social intervention aimed at generating counter-information about the causes and consequences of the crisis that was affecting the Tucumán province after the closure of several sugar mills, and then mounting two public displays in the labour unions in Rosario and in Buenos Aires, which was closed by the police. The project connected artists with sociologists, journalists, theorists, unions, the workers’ movement and others in a process of dispute and intervention in which aesthetic and political strategies were interchanged.34
The ‘Inventario’ exhibition tried to re-assess the celebrated entry of ‘Tucumán Arde’ into the canonical historiography of international art,35 as well as its recognition as a foundational episode of Latin American, even global, ‘ideological Conceptualism’ (or ‘the mother of all political works’, as artist and sociologist Roberto Jacoby has ironically called it).36 The project introduced itself as a questioning of the process of legitimisation and institutionalisation of ‘political art’ that in recent years had focused on the 1968 events, in particular on ‘Tucumán Arde’, and resulted in a global tour that took it, among other places, to documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007.37 What is won and what is lost in the process of ‘Tucumán Arde’ becoming a legend? How should we approach the complex and heterogeneous weft of political subjectivities inscribed in the rupture of the Argentinean avant-garde of the 1960s? Is ‘Tucumán Arde’, as a landmark, a watershed moment, capable of giving an account of the most intense and radical moments of that process?
The exhibition took the transformation of ‘Tucumán Arde’ into an artwork as its starting point, approached through a selection of photographs and documents from the Carnevale archive in an attempt to visually compose a chronological micro-narrative that would describe the events of 1968. The adoption of this origin not only implied returning to the several narratives in which the Argentinean event had been inscribed over the past decade, but also exploring the documentary framework, the material background from which those reconstructions seemed to appear and disappear. The archive was put forward as capable of disrupting all narrative certainty. The exhibition had four sections, and its focus was on the display of the Carnevale archive, the most comprehensive archive of Argentinean art in the 1960s. The installation made the archive freely available (providing desks and the possibility of consulting and copying documents), enabling the circulation of conflicting accounts coming from other people involved at the time. If the fetishising logic had managed to fix the image of ‘Tucumán Arde’, reducing its complexities to mere forms with seemingly immediate meaning, this exhibition attempted to suggest a totally different cartography based on the analysis of the processes of institutional legibility, their discursive production, exhibition formats, economic transformations and publishing products, uncovering their interrelations and tensions.
‘Inventario’ opened with a long, empty corridor in which beams of light were aimed at the walls and floor. At the end of the tunnel a large number of archival images (many of them photographs taken by the group of artists from Buenos Aires and Rosario in 1968) were projected, accompanied by audio fragments of interviews held in the 1990s with trade unionists, artists and student leaders, protagonists and witnesses of several of the actions.38 The entrance thereby presented an empty architecture that both revealed its own modes of display and suggested the impossibility of establishing a single story, disrupting, implicitly, the idea of the singular official version.
A second corridor presented a substantial part of Carnevale’s archive on walls and tables: photographs, posters, catalogues, writings and manifestos of the various Argentinean avant-garde events, alongside graphic work, pictures and other documents of experiences that connected art and politics in other contexts (from silkscreen prints by Taller 4 Rojo in Colombia to posters of the Brigadas Ramona Parra made before or during Salvador Allende’s socialist government in Chile, and others of the Encuentros de Plástica Latinoamericana in Havana). A panel in a third corridor traced the numerous events and exhibitions in which ‘Tucumán Arde’ had been recovered, quoted, exhibited or referenced, including information about the political and economic protocols in place in each institution, and photographs of how it was installed on each occasion. Materials related to the exhibition venue of ‘Inventario’ and the catalogue of the project (a detailed inventory of all the material in Carnevale’s archive) were displayed on several of the tables, where each publication, catalogue and edition referenced in the gallery was made available. Finally, a space presented the contributions of two recent archives generated by Argentinean activist-artists more recently involved in local experiences, posing questions about the different ways of granting visibility to those practices in an exhibition space.
The show was constructed as a series of interludes that paradoxically reformulated the collisions that had initially configured the history of the archive. The passage between one space and another acted as a distancing effect that rejected any possible teleology of facts. While the first gallery had seemed to point out the impossibility of a narrative through the random polyphony of voices and images, the third gave an account of an ‘excess of narratives’ on ‘Tucumán Arde’ and on its own construction (historiographic, curatorial, institutional, economic and social) through its recognisable trajectories and the multiple ways in which it was activated.39 Conversely, in the second gallery, the archive appeared as a potential story, an exhibited archive in use that offered its own migratory movements, its excesses and absences, its revolutions to come.
Put to use, the archive not only attempted to misplace ‘Tucumán Arde’, but to question its simple narration, re-enacting its original misidentification (its initial refusal to describe its practice as art but also its dissolution as an event driven by urgency), opening and exposing the layers of sedimentation it had accumulated. Unlike some recent interpretations that have tried to make it legible as a work of art either by taking a small number of documents and images accompanied by comments, a system of marks and footnotes for illustration purposes, or else by a total lack of comments or stories (dangerously verging on aestheticisation, as in documenta 12), this mise en scène brought fragments together according to their differences, including everything that was usually excluded from the consensual art-historical configurations that repeated its name. The installation of this exhibition rejected from the start all ‘reasonable’ understanding, showing, as Georges Didi-Huberman would say, not only the direction of its movement but the locus of its agitations.40
By presenting the actual archive, ‘Inventario’ also fell into contradictions: in spite of an attempt to present a multiplicity of times and events, as reflected by the heterogeneous archival material presented in the second tunnel, the inclusion of images of some of the most recognisable actions within ‘Tucumán Arde’ contributed to a repetition of the excessive prominence that ‘Tucumán Arde’ had already been given in written accounts of the late 1960s experiences. The photographs displayed throughout the gallery space, which had been enlarged for previous exhibitions in which they had been shown, provided an imposing presence themselves, at times even offering an unwitting chronology, especially if compared to the assemblage of documents that pointed to the complexity and impossibility of offering full descriptions. And yet, is it possible to escape from this already constructed significance?
In his most recent book, Luis Camnitzer establishes two key events for the reading of Latin American Conceptualism: the Tupamaro guerrilla group of the late 1960s in Uruguay, and the experience of rupture that led to ‘Tucumán Arde’ in 1968.41 What is important for me here is the invocation of the Argentinean experience in relation to politics from the point of view of militants, or even armed conflict. Despite the possible good intentions behind its attempt to politicise historiographic accounts, we should ask ourselves whether the twosome Tupamaros/’Tucumán Arde’ and the idealised image of ‘resistance’ in which it places the Latin American Conceptual art history implies a pre-established consensus that reaffirms a certain stereotype of subversive art. If that is the case, does this point to a dead end for the politicisation of Conceptualism, and for its criticism? To what extent has an experience such as ‘Inventario’ managed to suggest an alternative representation of the usual story, to fracture narrative certainties or to dispute its stereotyped places? Is it possible to establish a topography of that which cannot yet be named, an index that refuses nomenclatures and stands alone, only to become disorder and pure unpredictability?
I have followed two clues in what I consider the cartographic or diagrammatic forms of critical reading that operate in tension with recent processes of historicisation of ‘Latin American Conceptualism’. The first is an open question that speculates on the interpretative categories stabilised and legitimised in a specific order of discourse, and other secondary notions subsumed in that particular configuration of the ‘Latin American’ which presents itself as a uniform fabric – decentred concepts that would otherwise distort the usual flows of meaning and expose us to dissenting testimonies. The second is the gap between the conventional exhibition formats of ‘Tucumán Arde’, between the individuation of a set of documents that present the chronology of what is considered the artistic ‘episode’, and the presentation of the archive that disrupts and dismantles the order of this appearance. Besides its obvious limitations, the return to the archive is also a misidentification of an event countless times named – classified, arranged, defined – and whose name and materiality are repeatedly questioned in an attempt to bring difference to the surface. On display are merely temporary installations that enable us to return to those operations as a potential space from which to redefine relations between spaces, words and bodies.42
Forty years ago the Argentinean artist Eduardo Costa made a piece in which he proposed a counter-history of Latin American Conceptualism, one based on mixing up the dates: A piece that is essentially the same as a piece made by any of the first conceptual artists, dated two years earlier than the original and signed by somebody else. In this short text, written for the exhibition ‘Art in the Mind’, Costa suggested stealing history as a political activation of Conceptual practice, challenging ‘reasonable’ consolidations by historical narrative – a historiographic practice deliberately formulated around error.43 His work seemed to insist on the possibility of thinking that rationalist history has been permanently mistaken – that there is no possible story, but merely a circumstantial sum of paradoxes, trades and sleights of hand, and that an erratic alteration in its diagram of successions simply adds to its most joyous (in)coherence, celebrating its impossibility.
Costa’s work reminds us that history is never neutral, and if there should be any pending task it is precisely to be unfaithful to it, to betray it. This does not mean giving up on historical reflection, but rather corrupting whatever degree of Christian fidelity and Calvinist obedience history still inspires, unravelling its destiny and ultimate causes. Looking back at those events consigned to oblivion should allow us to recover their salutary force, their emancipatory thrill and at the same time to activate a nostalgia for the future. We do not recover the past in order to make it exist as a bundle of skeletons, but to disturb the orders and assurances of the present. The task of reintegrating the subversive component of whatever we happen to be historicising can’t be resolved by communicating as truth what we apparently know. It is neither a question of producing exhibitions or books on a certain theme, nor of drawing up lists, directories or summaries. It is a question of making the event spill over and break down established modes of thinking about the past and the future, and generating ways of allowing for whatever is excluded to eventually challenge the consensus and bring back the parts of an unresolved conflict.
- Eduardo Costa, quoted in Athena T. Spear (ed.), Art in the Mind (exh. cat.), Oberlin, OH: Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1970, n.p.↑
- The term ‘dematerialisation’, introduced by Lucy Lippard and John Chandler in 1968, for a long time was used as the key term to identify Conceptual art in North America and Western Europe. See Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler, ‘The Dematerialization of Art’, Art International, vol.12, no.2, February 1968, pp.31-36 and Lucy R. Lippard (ed.), Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, New York: Praeger, 1973.↑
- In Latin America those discussions happened around the Bienal de La Habana, which, since its creation in 1984, has become an important forum of discussion disengaged from the international art market. Another significant moment at an international scale is the coinciding in 1997 of documenta X, curated by Catherine David, and the second Johannesburg Biennial, curated by Okwui Enwezor.↑
- Luis Camnitzer points out that ‘while “conceptual art” is an anecdotal little label in the history of universal art, “conceptualism” as a strategy created a rupture in the appreciation of all art and in the behaviour of artists, regardless of their location’. Fernando Davis, ‘Entrevista a Luis Camnitzer: “Global Conceptualism fue algo intestinal e incontrolable, al mismo tiempo que presuntuoso y utópico”‘, Ramona, no.86, November 2008, p.29. See also Rachel Weiss, ‘Re-writing Conceptual Art’, Papers d’Art, no.93, 2007, pp.198-202. Translation the author’s.↑
- F. Davis, ‘Entrevista a Luis Camnitzer’, op. cit., p.26.↑
- This last question was put forward by theoretician José Luis Brea in his considerations of the political effects of visuality. See J.L. Brea, ‘Los estudios visuales: por una epistemología política de la visualidad’, in J.L. Brea (ed.), Los estudios visuales: La epistemología de la visualidad en la era de la globalización, Madrid: Akal, 2005, pp.5-14.↑
- Beatriz Preciado, ‘Cartografías Queer: El flâneur perverso, la lesbiana topofóbica y la puta multicartográfica, o cómo hacer una cartografía “zorra” con Annie Sprinkle’, in José Miguel Cortés (ed.), Cartografías disidentes, Madrid: SEACEX, 2008, n.p.↑
- See Félix Guattari, Cartographies schizoanalytiques, Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1989.↑
- B. Preciado, ‘Cartografías Queer‘, op. cit.↑
- As Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt remind us, these biopolitical modes of production do not only involve the production of tangible goods in a purely economic sense, but ‘affect all spheres of social, economic, cultural and political life, at the same time as they produce them’. A. Negri and M. Hardt, ‘Preface’, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2001, p.xi.↑
- Boris Groys has clearly expressed some of the effects of this paradox in art: ‘If life is no longer understood as a natural event, as fate, as Fortuna, but rather as time artificially produced and fashioned, then life is automatically politicised, since the technical and artistic decisions with respect to the shaping of the lifespan are always political decisions as well. The art that is made under these new conditions of biopolitics – under the conditions of an artificially fashioned lifespan – cannot help but take this artificiality as its explicit theme. Now, however, time, duration and thus life too cannot be shown directly but only documented. The dominant medium of modern biopolitics is thus bureaucratic and technological documentation, which includes planning, decrees, fact-finding reports, statistical inquiries and project plans. It is no coincidence that art also uses the same medium of documentation when it wants to refer to itself as life.’ Boris Groys, ‘Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation’, Documenta 11_ Platform 5: Exhibition (exh. cat.), 2002, p.109.↑
- The issue also involves the critical modes of working around the concepts that sustain these historiographic exercises. It is possible to say, for instance, that to a certain extent ‘Global Conceptualism’ adopted the task of the ethnologist, raking up experiences in different geographies and marking its affinities and Conceptualist identities, and yet, paradoxically, its strategy facilitated the mise-en-critique of identity itself. An acritical example of the identity discourse is provided by Álvaro Barrios’s book Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia (1999), which offers a narrative made up of interviews in which several leading figures of the 1960s and 70s guide the story’s main character (Barrios himself), who appears increasingly convinced of his ability to truly recover the unrecognised Conceptualist element. Álvaro Barrios, Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia (1968-1978), Bogotá: Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, 1999.↑
- B. Preciado, ‘Cartografías Queer‘, op. cit.↑
- Mari Carmen Ramírez, ‘Blueprint Circuits: Conceptual Art and Politics in Latin America’, in Waldo Rasmussen, Fatima Bercht and Elizabeth Ferrer (ed.), Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century (exh. cat.), New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1993, pp.156-67.↑
- The exhibition presented Latin American art production as a tame continuation of modern Western aesthetic movements, avoiding any type of political reflection on the colonial history of the subcontinent. Most critics agreed in characterising it as a blatant attempt to ‘maintain a total control of the ideological and aesthetic premises […] and of their interpretation’ from categories projected from the outside. Shifra M. Goldman, ‘Artistas latinoamericanos del siglo XX, MoMA’ (trans. Magdalena Holguín), ArtNexus, no.10, September-December 1993, pp.84-89.↑
- Drawn up in 1989 and promoted by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the US Treasury Department, the Washington Consensus is a list of measures for economic reform that presented itself as the ‘best’ programme to face the crisis and ‘underdevelopment’ of Latin America, among which were liberalisation of trade and investment, deregulation and a general withdrawal of the state from economic matters.↑
- Some of these debates, from a Latin American cultural perspective opposed to European and North American dominance, can be found in Gerardo Mosquera (ed.), Beyond the Fantastic: Contemporary Art Criticism from Latin America, London: The Institute of International Visual Arts, 1995.↑
- Juan Pablo Renzi, a driving force in ‘Tucumán Arde’, was emphatic about this. In a work titled Panfleto no.3. La nueva moda (Pamphlet no.3. The New Fashion, 1971), which he contributed to the ‘Arte de Sistemas’ exhibition organised by the Museo de Arte Moderno/Centro de Arte y Comunicación in Buenos Aires in 1971, he stated: ‘What is in fashion now is Conceptual art […] and it turns out that (at least for some critics like Lucy Lippard and Jorge Glusberg) I am one of those responsible for the onset of this phenomenon (together with my colleagues from the ex-groups of revolutionary artists in Rosario and Buenos Aires from ’67 to ’68). This assertion is mistaken. Just as any intention of linking us to that aesthetic speculation is mistaken.’ And he concludes: ‘REGARDING OUR MESSAGES: 1. We are not interested in them being considered aesthetic. 2. We structure them according to their contents. 3. They are always political and are not always transmitted by official channels like this one. 4. We are not interested in them as works but as a means of denouncing exploitation.’↑
- The same reference to Marchán Fiz’s ‘ideological Conceptualism’ had already been made one year earlier by the North American critic Jacqueline Barnitz in the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Encounters/ Displacements. Luis Camnitzer, Alfredo Jaar, Cildo Meireles’, curated by Ramírez and Beverly Adams. However, Ramírez’s voice was the one that consolidated and furthered the argument most effectively, making it an indispensable reference for many subsequent interpretations. A decisive factor in this consolidation was the repetition of the line of argument in the catalogue of ‘Global Conceptualism’ and later on in two large-scale international surveys of Latin American art she was also in charge of: ‘Heterotopías. Medio siglo sin lugar 1918-1968’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid in 2000; and ‘Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America’ at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2004. Marchán Fiz doesn’t quite completely confine the ‘ideologisation’ to Conceptual art from Latin American nor self-referentiality to European/North American work. See J. Barnitz, ‘Conceptual Art in Latin America: A Natural Alliance’, in M.C. Ramírez and B. Adams (ed.), Encounters/Displacements: Luis Camnitzer, Alfredo Jaar, Cildo Meireles (exh. cat.), Austin: Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas, 1992, pp.35-47; M.C. Ramírez, ‘Tactics for Thriving on Adversity: Conceptualism in Latin America, 1960-1980’, in L. Camnitzer, J. Farver and R. Weiss (ed.), Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s (exh. cat.), op. cit., pp.53-71; Simón Marchán Fiz, Del arte objetual al arte de concepto, Madrid: Alberto Corazón Editor, 1974 .↑
- M.C. Ramírez, ‘Blueprint Circuits’, op. cit., p.156.↑
- Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, ‘From the Aesthetic of Administration to Institutional Critique (Some Aspects of Conceptual Art, 1962-1969)’, in l’art conceptuel, une perspective (exh. cat.), Paris: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989, pp.41-53.↑
- Historian Jaime Vindel has also noted the contradictions in responding to the centre/periphery relationship through an equally binary opposition: ‘By basing their position on an antagonist with no real voice, these discourses run the risk of making their publicity dependent on the centre/periphery logic against which they declare they stand and to which they are still yielding.’ J. Vindel, ‘A propósito [de la memoria] del arte político: Consideraciones en torno a “Tucumán Arde” como emblema del conceptualismo latinoamericano’, lecture given at the 5th International Conference of Theory and History of the Arts – 13th CAIA Symposium, Buenos Aires, October 2009.↑
- Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art, London and New York: Phaidon Press, 2002, p.37.↑
- Alexander Alberro, ‘Reconsidering Conceptual Art, 1966-1977, in A. Alberro and Blake Stimson (ed.), Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 1999, pp.xxv-xxvi.↑
- Pilar Parcerisas, Conceptualismo(s) Poéticos, Políticos, Periféricos: En torno al arte conceptual en España. 1964-1980, Madrid: Akal, 2007, p.27.↑
- In a 1997 text Camnitzer celebrated Ramírez’s argument, which he found enlightening for its understanding of the regional differences of Conceptualism, which emphasised the relationship between Duchamp and the modern tradition of Mexican muralism, starting from its foray into the social sphere with communicative goals. Broadly speaking, however, Camnitzer shares Ramírez’s view of North American Conceptual art, which he brands ‘a quasi-mystical search for the imponderable’. L. Camnitzer, ‘Una genealogía del arte conceptual latino-americano’, Continente Sul Sur, no.6, November 1997, p.187. Other historians who have used the expression ‘ideological Conceptualism’ more or less critically over the past few years include Andrea Giunta, Ana Longoni, María José Herrera, Ivonne Pini, Miguel González, Cristina Freire and Alberto Giudici. Due to problems of space, this text will not compare the conflicting meanings and the implications inscribed in their uses.↑
- ‘A minor literature doesn’t come from a minor language; it is rather that which a minority constructs within a major language. […] The second characteristic of minor literatures is that everything in them is political. Minor literature is completely different; its cramped space forces each individual intrigue to connect immediately to politics. […] We might as well say that minor no longer designates specific literatures but the revolutionary conditions for every literature within the heart of what is called great (or established) literature.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (trans. Dana B. Polan), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, pp.16-18.↑
- See Oscar Masotta, ‘Después del pop, nosotros desmaterializamos’ (1967), in O. Masotta, Revolución en el arte: Pop-art, happenings y arte de los medios en la década del sesenta, Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2004, pp.335-76. For Lucy Lippard’s use of the term, see L.R. Lippard, Six Years, op. cit.↑
- As yet, there is no study dealing with Juan Acha’s critical thinking of the 1960s and 70s, and the political process that led to the emergence of ‘no-objetualismo‘. For a first, partial attempt, see Miguel A. López and Emilio Tarazona, ‘Juan Acha y la Revolución Cultural. La transformación de la vanguardia artística en el Perú a fines de los Sesenta’, in Juan Acha, Nuevas referencias sociológicas de las artes visuales: Mass-media, lenguajes, represiones y grupos , Lima: IIMA – Universidad Ricardo Palma, 2008, pp.1-17.↑
- Ana Longoni, ‘El Deshabituador: Ricardo Carreira in the Beginnings of Conceptualism’, in Viviana Usubiaga and A. Longoni, Arte y literatura en la Argentina del siglo XX, Buenos Aires: Fundación Telefónica, Fundación Espigas and FIAAR, 2006, pp.159-203.↑
- See Cuauhtémoc Medina, ‘Recovering Panic’, in Olivier Debroise (ed.), The Age of Discrepancies: Art and Visual Culture in Mexico, 1968-1997, Mexico DF: UNAM, 2007, pp.97-103.↑
- In October 1968, in a newspaper and on local radio Vigo made the surprising call for his first ‘señalamiento‘ (‘appointment’) titled Manojo de Semáforos (A Handful of Traffic Lights). The proposal called for people to look at an ordinary object for its aesthetic potential to cause ‘revulsion’. See F. Davis, ‘Prácticas “revulsivas”: Edgardo Antonio Vigo en los márgenes del conceptualismo’, in C. Freire and A. Longoni (ed.), Conceitualismos do Sul/Sur, São Paulo: Annablume, USP-MAC and AECID, 2009, pp.283-98.↑
- ‘Inventario 1965-1975. Archivo Graciela Carnevale’, Centro Cultural Parque de España, Rosario (3 October-9 November 2008). The team working on the show was made up of the artist Graciela Carnevale, historians Ana Longoni and Fernando Davis, and Ana Wandzik, an artist from Rosario. This project constituted the first curatorial experiment in political activation by the Red Conceptualismos del Sur group.↑
- For further discussion of the experiences of 1968 in Argentina, see G. Carnevale et al. (ed.), Tucumán Arde. Eine Erfahrung: Aus dem Archiv von Graciela Carnevale, Berlin: b_books, 2004.↑
- While its earliest mentions date back to the late 1960s, its incorporation within the canon since the late 1990s, through a series of essays, exhibitions and publications, quickly multiplied its visibility. International exhibitions include I Bienal de Artes Visuais do Mercosul in Porto Alegre, Brasil in 1997; ‘Global Conceptualism’ in 1999 and ‘Heterotopías’ in 2000; ‘Ambulantes. Cultura Portátil’ curated by Rosa Pera at CAAC, Seville; ‘Inverted Utopias’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2004; and ‘Be what you want but stay where you are’, curated by Ruth Noack and Roger M. Buergel at Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2005.↑
- Roberto Jacoby, ‘Tucucu mama nana arara dede dada’, Ramona, no.55, October 2005, pp.86-91.↑
- Even though the most prevalent reading of ‘Tucumán Arde’ places it within the ‘Conceptual’ genealogy, others have tried to relate it to a history of political intervention, collective production or militant research. Examples of this are the dossier ‘Les fils de Marx et Mondrian: Dossier argentine’, published in Robho magazine (nos.5-6, 1971, pp.16-22) or anthropologist Néstor García Canclini’s discussion of ‘Tucumán Arde’ in the context of the process of integration of artistic avant-gardes with popular organisations. See N. García Canclini, ‘Vanguardias artísticas y cultura popular’, Transformaciones, no.90, 1973, pp.273-75. More recently, Brian Holmes has noted the impact this experience had on several activist groups operating in Europe in the late 1990s. See A. Longoni, Daniela Lucena et al., ‘”Un sentido como el de Tucumán Arde lo encontramos hoy en el zapatismo”: Entrevista colectiva a Brian Holmes’, Ramona, no.55, October 2005, pp.7-22. Similar readings are proposed by exhibitions such as ‘Antagonismes. Casos d’estudi’, curated by Manuel Borja-Villel and José Lebrero at MACBA, Barcelona, 2001; ‘Collective Creativity: Common Ideas for Life and Politics’, curated by What, How and for Whom at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel in 2005 and the project ExArgentina, organised by Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmman.↑
- The interviews were conducted by Mariano Mestman and A. Longoni; some of them were eventually published in their book Del Di Tella a ‘Tucumán Arde’. Vanguardia artística y política en el ’68 argentino, Buenos Aires: El cielo por asalto, 2000.↑
- See F. Davis and A. Longoni, ‘Apuntes para un balance difícil: Historia mínima de “Inventario 1965-1975. Archivo Graciela Carnevale”‘, unpublished text presented at the 2nd Red Conceptualismos del Sur Reunion, Rosario, October 2008.↑
- ‘Politics are only displayed by exposing the conflicts, the paradoxes, the reciprocal clashes that weave history,’ says Didi-Huberman in his considerations of the Brechtian notion of montage. ‘[M]ontage appears as the procedure par excellence in this exposition: its objects are not revealed when taking position but once they have been taken apart, as is said in French to describe the violence of a “unbridled” storm, wave against wave, or as is said of a watch “dismantled”, i.e. analysed, explored and therefore spread by the passion of knowing applied by a philosopher or a Baudelairian child.’ G. Didi-Huberman, Cuando las imágenes toman posición, Madrid: A. Machado Libros, 2008, p.153. Editors’ translation.↑
- See L. Camnitzer, Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007, pp.44-72. Camnitzer, however, points at alternative coordinates, such as the writings of nineteenth-century Venezuelan writer and educator Simón Rodríguez, who taught Simón Bolívar. For Camnitzer, the Tupamaros’s use of ‘aestheticised military operations’ and Rodríguez’s ‘ideological aphorisms’ contribute to what he calls a ‘didactics of liberation’: communication process aimed at generating actual changes in society.↑
- ‘Politics is a specific rupture in the logic of arche. It does not simply presuppose the rupture of the “normal” distribution of positions between the one who exercises power and the one subject to it. It also requires a rupture in the idea that there are dispositions “proper” to such classifications.’ Jacques Rancière, ‘Dix thèses sur la politique’, Aux Bords du Politique, Paris: Gallimard, p.229.↑
- A.T. Spear, Art in the Mind, op. cit. Translated by Josephine Watson.——-
Global Conceptualism and the Conditions of Chinese Contemporary Art Thoughts on the Documenta XI Curators¡¯ China Visit By Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming
Translation by Wang Yiyou
April 2000Globalization has stimulated many critical responses in the West. In order to establish ¡°Global Conceptualism¡± in its true sense and to critique Western modernity, especially all forms of universalism, people begin to re-examine concepts including the particular, the local, and difference.
In the framework of multiculturalism and global conceptualism, people tend to use post-colonial cultural theory to examine contemporary art and culture in China. This misinterpretation is strategically placed.
Chinese art is in a place where unprecedented opportunities and challenges, complexities and paradoxes co-exist. In the world¡¯s rich and diverse cultural landscape, Chinese artists need to be imaginative creators rather than producers of stereotyped and iconic images of the cultural Other.
In late April 2000, at the invitation of the China Art Academy, the artistic director of the Documenta XI Okwui Enwezor visited Hangzhou with six renowned curators and critics. Sponsored by the Liang Jiehua Art Foundation, this visit was their first stop in China. This ¡°star¡± curatorial team¡¯s China visit was highly significant. Since 1955, the Documenta has launched ten exhibitions (once every five years) in succession. The Documenta X was under the curatorship of the French Catherine David, whose explicitly Western-centric approach provoked a great deal of criticism in the international art world. As a strategic response to the previous Documenta, Okwui, a curator with Nigerian descent was selected as the artistic director of the Documenta XI. He became the first curator with African descent in the history of the Documenta, probably even in the history of art exhibitions in the West. His appointment signaled the multicultualistic tendency in the international art world. Okwui expounded his art research theme, ¡°Global Conceptualism¡± in the Queens Museum in 1999, which inspired many non-Western artists.
In their brief visit to Hangzhou, Okwui and other curators had lively discussions and exchanges with artists and students at the China Art Academy. The three-day discussions highlighted several important issues.
The Concept of the ¡°West¡± and ¡°Global Conceptualism¡±
What is the West? What do we mean when we use it so often and so casually? It is exactly the question that Okwui raised when he first arrived in Hangzhou. It is also the question being discussed repeatedly throughout the three-day discussions. In fact, this difficult question is deeply rooted in China¡¯s history in the past century. The beginning of China¡¯s modern history is marked by the unforgettable ¡°contacts¡± between China and the West in 1840. The arrival of the Western powers forced China to awaken and to modernize itself. From then on, every issue in China was considered and dealt with in terms of the China-West relations. The notion of the West is laden with complex meanings and feelings. Over the past century, China¡¯s embracing of things Western always went hand in hand with its resistance to the West. China fought against the West while expecting the recognition from the West. This dual relationship between China and the West found its expressions in art; from the beginning, Western art was a constructed notion, as well as a complex and paradoxical ideal and discourse in China.
Beginning with the 1979 Star Exhibition, the New Wave Art Movement in China quickly experimented with almost every school/ movement in Western art history. Modern art from the West was received as a mix of certain styles, an established artistic model, or a rebellious way of life. Its reception in China had little to do with China¡¯s rich cultural tradition. Western modern art as a complex whole became a symbol of modernity, and the Chinese artists¡¯ use of Western modern art became an important statement of the intellectual liberation movement in China. In the 1980s, the concept of modernity in China differed significantly from its Western counterpart. It is perceived as a slogan for the revitalization of the Chinese nation.
The early 1990s saw paradigm changes in Chinese contemporary art scene, as some critics described, the transitions ¡°from idealism to eclecticism, from ideology to humanistic concerns about individuals and current conditions¡±. This statement might be applied to the field of painting. But in general, this view overlooks an important element in these shifts, that is, the introduction of new media to China. In the 1990s Chinese artists began to discover possibilities of new art forms, such as installation, video, film, and multimedia. On the one hand, contemporary art in China seemed to devote more attention to the current life in China, which often had no direct references to the West. On the other hand, it is important to note that after the 1989 China/Avant-garde Exhibition, Western art institutions and market discovered Chinese contemporary art; Chinese contemporary art was exhibited, collected and studied with growing enthusiasm. This tendency helped the audience to gain more knowledge about Chinese contemporary art, which has emerged as a significant force in the international art community.
It is against this background that Okwui and other curators visited China and on their first day in China the question was raised: what does the West mean?
What does the West actually mean? Does it mean the hateful Western powers that left painful wounds in our national memories in China¡¯s modern history? Does it mean the scientific and rationalistic spirit that inspired the Chinese when the nation was decaying? Does it mean the dominant powers that looked down upon the Chinese, or the evolutionary ideas and values that have infiltrated into our societal life and ways of thinking in this global village. Indeed, We can find in China¡¯s past and present many complicated and heavy answers to this question. This simple question from the curator with African descent from the most important Western contemporary art exhibition reveals something about the West: Western intellectuals are seriously concerned with the issue of globalization.
The notion of globalization has a long history. From the mid-1950s onwards, it became a widely recognized reality, as indicated by the inclusion of the word ¡°globalization¡± by the Webster Dictionary in 1961 and the Oxford dictionary a year later. In the past two to three decades, the advancement of science and technology has resulted in the entry of certain developed nations into the Information and Post-industrial Era. Globalization was further materialized. After the end of the Cold War, transnational have been promoting the idea of establishing a new world order/system. ¡°Globalization¡± became their propagandist catchword. In 1992 the Club of Rome published The First Global Revolution, stating that we are at the initial stage of a new global society.
The initial stage of globalization or post-national globalism impacts us in two ways. First, globalization can be seen as a tendency toward economic integration. In view of the world economic imbalance, globalization often means developed nations¡¯ infiltration into developing nations, or Westernization. According to the evolution theory (or the anti-evolution theory at certain points in history), Westernization has become a process in which differences are to be eradicated. George Soros states in the book The Crisis of Global Capitalism that market fundamentalism today is a threat much greater than any forms of authoritarian ideology. Second, in the process of globalization, the Western discourse has received reactions from a variety of forces, primarily forms of cultural resistance from non-Western nations, including indigenization, nationalism, even fundamentalism. Under the influence of those counterforces, the anti-Western-centric discourse such as post-colonialism, Orientalism, multiculturalism came into being within the West. Since the late 1960s, the anti-Western-centric voices have been growing in the West, as the Others intensified their intervention, for example, the African-American Civil Rights Movement and Feminist movements. The West in fact is becoming a cultural sphere with increasing diversity and complexity (In other words, cultural pluralism has undoubtedly become a reality). There has been a de-centralizing tendency in the West where more and more cultural Others are playing an active role. Okwui is one of them. As a curator with African background, he devotes himself to researching and exhibiting African contemporary art. His idea of ¡°global conceptualism¡±, to a large extent, can be viewed as resistance to the kind of ¡°globalism¡± that privileges integration. Except the female American curators Susanne Ghezt and Lynne Cooke, other members in Okwui¡¯s curatorial team came from places outside of what we usually called developed countries or the first world. For example, Sarat Maharai was born and educated in South Africa. Sebastian Lopez is a native of Argentina, currently a Dutch citizen. Chris Dercon is Belgian and Jessica Bradley, British-born Canadian. It seems that the structure of this curatorial team suggests a different West, a pluralistic, non-Western West.
Roots and the Cultural Concept of Post-Colonialism
Okwui¡¯s notion of ¡°global conceptualism¡± counters the Western-centric discourse of globalization. Global conceptualism has another dimension: non-Western cultures need to be engaged in the dialogues in the global context, as Okwui remarked, ¡°The goal of this Documenta is to build a platform on the foundation of global conceptualism. It is a place where all kinds of cultures can have dialogues, and where we can display a pluralistic scene.¡± For this reason, Okwui placed great emphasis on artists¡¯ identification with their own national cultures as well as the articulation of such identification in their works of art. In his view, this is the way to build a pluralistic scene on this platform. Okwui and his team members were concerned about the Westernizing tendencies in the Chinese art community. After many rounds of discussions on the meaning of the West, Okwui delivered a lecture at the China Art Academy on April 15. He quoted a passage from Alex Harley¡¯s novel Roots, a touching story about the protagonist who traced back his family history back to his ancestor¡¯s African village, where he was treated as an alien.
¡°¡the seventy-odd other villagers gather closely around me, in a kind of horseshoe pattern, three or four deep all around; had I stuck out my arms, my fingers would have touched the nearest ones on either side. They were all staring at me. The eye just raked me. Their foreheads were furrowed with their very intensity of staring. A kind of visceral surging or a churning sensation started up deep inside me, bewildered, I was wondering what on earth was this¡then in a little while it was rather as if some fullgale force of realization rolled in on me: Many times in my life I had been among crowds of people, but never where every one was jet black!
Rocked emotionally, my eyes dropped downward as we tend to do when we¡¯re uncertain, insecure, and my glance fell upon my own hands¡¯ brown complexion. This time more quickly than before, and even harder, another gale-force emotion hit me: I felt myself some variety of a hybrid¡I felt somehow impure among the pure; it was a terribly shaming feeling.¡±
Roots can be viewed as a modern version of Odyssey against the background of the Western-centric discourse and colonial history. After over three hundred years of drifting in modern culture, the main character Alex H. came back to his land of origin, only finding himself in a worse situation than that of Odysseus, who came back in the disguise of a beggar to avoid being recognized. But Alex H. had no such a choice; he had been altered by the modern culture. When the African villagers surrounded him and watched this ¡°American with black skin¡±, Alex has nothing to say but few words in his ancestor¡¯s language¡This scene must have created deep resonance in the African-American Okwui. Can we use this touching story as a metaphor for the conditions of Chinese contemporary art?
Okwui¡¯s use of the story in Roots reflects the cultural identity of the Other in contemporary Western society. When looking at Chinese contemporary art, Okwui, like other Western scholars, easily fell into a common trap, that is, to use post-colonial theories to analyze and interpret the complex contemporary art and culture scene in China.
Chinese contemporary art, especially experimental art, such as new media art, was largely generated in the process of Westernization. But Westernization in China encompasses multilayered, multi-dimensional artistic practices. Whiling adopting new art forms and media in the international art scene, Chinese artists are creating a process of non-Western Westernization, which differs considerably from anti-Western Westernization that one often sees in Africa and Latin America. Anti-Western Westernization is closely related to the tumultuous colonial history in those regions. The central issues in ¡°roots¡± are human rights and racial tension, which have resulted in post-colonialism and indigenization movements. Although China had a difficult semi-colonial history, the inner vitality of the Chinese culture persisted. This vitality is manifested not only in all kinds of anti-modern currents past and present, but also in the fact that from the very beginning, Chinese intellectuals and artists embraced the West with the goal of critiquing and revitalizing Chinese culture. Even the foremost advocators of Westernization like Hu Shi believed that the introduction of Western knowledge to the East will contribute to ¡°China¡¯s Renaissance¡±. Although there have been anti-modern currents such as nationalism and essentialism, China has taken modernization as its major path. Due to the lack of the colonialism-imposed modernization process, China does not embrace resistant-modernity, or fundamentalist ideologies, which are prevalent in many colonized countries.
Modernity in China can be defined as ¡°critical modernity¡± rather than ¡°defensive modernity¡±. The essence of this critical modernity is to critique and re-examine China¡¯s indigenous culture, which gives this modernity an intellectual dimension in China. This is also the essence of China¡¯s contemporary culture. Accordingly, the root of tradition plays two roles in our culture; it is no longer a legendary in the past, and Chinese artists are not the people who are fated to return to their native land after drifting in foreign places.
A Common Epistemological Foundation and a Silent Voice
In the text above, one can detect certain tension at the initial stage of globalization. On the one hand, it creates a tendency towards integration. On the other, it results in pluralism to certain extent. But only when globalization entered into certain stages, would appear the voice of the Other. These conditions reveal the paradoxical and relative nature of globalization. In the West, globalization has stimulated wide interest in creating a real ¡°global conceptualism¡± by rediscovering the particular, the local, and difference, and by critiquing Western modernity, especially various forms of universalism. Western culture is at a special point of transition from Achille Bonito Oliva¡¯s ¡°cultural nomadism¡± in the 1980s, to the much discussed ¡°identity and the Other¡±, and to various kinds of multiculturalism today. Difference, identity and identity politics have been buzzwords in the international art community. Under the spell of these trendy Western ideas, Chinese theorists (or intellectuals in general) use terms such as post-colonialism, indigenization, Orientalism, etc. with growing enthusiasm. Aware that these terms were created in the West with reference to the third world¡¯s painful colonial history, we need to ask: Is it appropriate to use these terms to analyze Chinese culture?
During his stay in Hangzhou, the Indian-British critic, professor of Art History and Theory at Goldsmith College Sarat Maharaj repeatedly raised the critical issue in the international art community: ¡°In the context of globalization, how can we find and establish a common epistemological foundation for the world¡¯s new art in the twenty-first century?¡± This seemingly theoretical question has practical implications. Like the question ¡°What does the West mean?¡± it derives from the notion of ¡°global conceptualism¡±. The answer to Maharaj¡¯s question lies in the story of Roots, as well as in another issue that Maharaj raised, that is, from the perspective of global multiculturalism, the growing exchanges have made it possible to share cultural resources (Small doubt that the shared cultural resources here are exactly what Maharaj described as the epistemological foundation). It is noteworthy that during such exchanges, something must have been repressed. An example is Chinese art in the 1980s, when artists embraced and explored modern art from the West. What is the hidden, silent voice? It is rather clear that the silent voice that Maharaj referred to that of the Chinese indigenous culture, which is often viewed as the Other from the Western perspective.
In fact, this kind of voice can often be heard among critics and artists in China. Classic examples are works by those overseas Chinese artists who ingeniously use Chinese signs and political iconographies. In the essentialist and nationalistic criticism of Westerners¡¯ taste for exoticism, we can detect traces of post-colonialism. The issue of identity is critically important in the extremely complex art arena. At the moment when people in the West start to critique their own culture, and when the post Anglo-Saxonism is gaining currency, the identity of the Other (or the identification oneself with the Other) becomes an important issue.
The questions that Okwui and Sarat raised are well intended. As the Other in the Western cultural system, they hope that Chinese art (as the Other too) can act as an active participant in the scheme of ¡°global conceptualism¡± that they constructed. Their proposals, however, have two pitfalls.
First, if we overemphasize the Other¡¯s differences and its one-sided images, it is possible that global conceptualism and multiculturalism will result in ¡°global cultural imaginaries¡±. The danger is that under such circumstance, pluralism and globalism will not be much different from cultural separatism. This separatism and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin.
Second, with the notion of the Other in mind, a group of non-Western curators have been interpreting Chinese art from certain cultural perspectives for a long time. Before the mid-twentieth century, many Chinese art objects were viewed from anthropological point of view. In today¡¯s world as picture (It is interesting to note that Martin Heidegger¡¯s philosophical expression is translated literally in China as ¡°The whole world as a show¡±.), the world itself becomes a colossal showroom filled with images and meanings. Cultural reading, or reading based on anthropology and epistemology, is inevitable. Due to the lack of adequate knowledge about Chinese history and culture, and more importantly, the lack of Chinese experience, this kind of cultural reading can easily become a symptomatic one, in which one searches only cultural icons or other marks of identification on the surface level. Sometimes, this kind of reading places Chinese art into a preconceived ideological schema. It is unfortunate that this is the way in which many international scholars, critics and curators look at Chinese contemporary art. What they identify is ¡°China¡±. To put it more precisely, what they see is not Chinese art, but various kinds of imaginaries about China (Of course, their imaginaries about China are part of the global cultural imaginaries.)
It is rather unfortunate that the market¡¯s demand-supply rule plays a prominent role in the artistic production in China. The power of the Western discourse derives from art institutions¡¯ deep pockets, which have attracted or forced many Chinese artists to participate in this massive-scale cultural production in a country with a unique political system. Thanks to China¡¯s economic development and its special status in the international community after the Cold War, this artistic production has become an indispensable resource for the operation of the transnational capital. As part of the global system after the Cold War, China¡¯s politics, folklore, and related artistic and cultural products gain immense popularity on the market as manifestations of China¡¯s Otherness.
We must ask: in the system of the global conceptualism, what is the concealed, silent voice in the conception of China?
Apparently, Chineseness is a set role on the stage of the global conceptualism. It wears a distorted mask of the Other. This mask is Westernized, and even anti-West. We may even use the term anti-West Western to define it. Chineseness, however, does not lie in its non-Westernness. The time-honored artistic tradition in China was built by innumerable creative geniuses throughout the ages. This tradition is rich and unique. It is true that its uniqueness cannot be seen unless we compare China with other countries. Over the past hundred years, we have established a notion of Chinese art by using the West as our frame of reference. This fixed concept of Chinese art is concealing; China has been referred to as the East as opposite of the West in modern history. Compared to the progressive, dynamic Western civilizations, Chinese civilization was considered static. In contrast to the representational, rational, analytical, and realistic Western art, Chinese art was often seen as abstract, metaphysical, sensory, intuitive, and idealized. In the Post-Cold War and globalization era when Western culture is transforming itself, China¡¯s non-Westernness conceals its true Chineseness.
Chineseness and Chinese Contemporary Art
In our attempt to discover the hidden voice, we need to be aware that a nation¡¯s culture is not monophonic whether it says yes or no. It has deeper and richer meanings. As a driving force behind the growth of a nation, it fosters communities. More importantly, it shapes the character and intellect of the community member. The past century witnessed China¡¯s struggle to redefine its culture in turbulent times. Although China attracts growing international attention today, there are potential crises. On the one hand, how can we claim that we are an Eastern power in the international cultural arena if we do not have any towering figures who contribute to the world culture, or if we do not have any epoch-making events or creative cultural forces. On the other hand, Western discourse including globalism takes a keen interest in China¡¯s contemporary art; Chinese art was seen as a mirror in which the West can find its own image, or as an exotic appetizer in the dinner table of the global culture. Even for those artists who are brave enough to look critically at the current craze for Chinese art, they might not be able to resist the temptation of fame and profit.
The twentieth century was extremely eventful. China went through upheavals, including the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, numerous struggles against feudal rule and foreign powers. Today China faces issues such as economic integration and globalization. One tendency deserves our attention in this long process: the gradual disintegration of power discourse and the presence of pluralistic discourse. In fact, the characteristics and essence of Chinese art are formed in its struggles against those non-art factors and ideologies imposed on it. An open environment is necessary to encourage exploration, reflection and creativity in China¡¯s cultural circle. This relies on our critique of China¡¯s cultural heritage, as well as our understanding of current cultural conditions and the world¡¯s diverse cultural resources. Under these circumstances, people began to borrow or appropriate artistic vocabulary from other cultures. In my view, a more important question is: how to use those borrowings to deal with Chinese issues and to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese life. This approach requires the above-mentioned epistemological foundation as well as the experience of current cultural life in China. This experience has more to do with the source of artistic production. Culturally speaking, it is the concealed ¡°silent voice¡±.
The interaction between Chinese art and the international community has reached its peak in history. As the recent ¡°China boom¡± in the international art world indicates, the amount of world¡¯s attention to China is unprecedented. Chinese art faces both great opportunities and challenges in an extremely complex and paradoxical cultural environment. We are confronted with a critically important question: how to create a healthy, interactive relationship between Chinese art and the international art world? Before we can deal with this question, we must give serious consideration to another question: in the world¡¯s diverse cultural arena how to make a more imaginative and creative Chinese art instead of a specimen of the stereotyped cultural Other?
For Chinese artists, the issue of identity is of primary importance. One¡¯s identity is self-explanatory. We never really lose our deeply-rooted Chineseness, which can be viewed not only as history¡¯s long shadow, but also as the our life here and now. Chineseness may also be viewed as a future, an aspiration that nourishes our heart and stimulates our creative mind.
1.It refers to the 1840 Opium War, after which China began to have frequent contacts with Western countries.
2.Some of the quotations in this essay are translated literally based on the Chinese text.
3.Alex Haley. Roots; The Saga of an American Family. (New York: Vanguard Press) 2007, pp.873-874.