Nicolas Bourriaud on ‘Exiles’

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About Exiles

Postmodernism displayed the tendency to mythologise the ‘origin’, often reading the meaning of a work of art as being dependent on the social background to its production. But in 2002, according to the United Nations’ International Migration Report, 175 million people were living in a country they were not born in. With an increase in both enforced and voluntary geographical exile or nomadism and globalisation of goods, artists are interrogating what cultural identity is, questioning these traditional ideas of origin and immigration. Rather than setting one fixed root against another, the ‘origin’ against an integrating and homogenising ‘soil’, artists explore the processes of mutation. ‘What better characterises this period than the mythification of origins? The meaning of a work of art, for this second-stage postmodernism, depends essentially on the social background to its production. “Where do you come from?” appears to be its most pressing question, and essentialism its critical paradigm. Identification with genre, ethnicity, a sexual orientation or a nation sets in motion a powerful machinery: multiculturalism, now a critical methodology, has virtually become a system of allotting meanings and assigning individuals their position in the hierarchy of social demands, reducing their whole being to their identity and stripping all their significance back to their origins. Thus postmodernism has moved on from the depression of the Cold War to a neurotic preoccupation with origins typical of the era of globalisation. It is this thought-model that today finds itself in crisis, this multiculturalist version of cultural diversity that must be called into question, not in favour of a “universalism” of principles or a new modernist esperanto, but within the framework of a new modern movement based on heterochrony, a common interpretation, and freedom to explore.’ Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p20).