Video recordings from the Contemporary Art and Globalisation Study Day which explores the changing history of modern western art’s relationship to the rest of the world; theories of globalisation; the status of photography in relation to globalisation.
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An introduction to the Contemporary Art and Globalisation Study Day
One of the most important factors to affect contemporary art has been cultural and economic globalisation. Increasingly, international art exhibitions draw their contents from all over the world, and artists address a wide range of subjects relating to this developing situation.
Globalisation and Art: A Brief History
Speaker: Paul Wood, Senior Lecturer, Department of Art History, The Open University
Paul Wood considers some historical precedents for the relation of western art to the art of the rest of the world. In particular, he talks about the early 20th century avant-gardist notion of ‘the primitive’ and the break-up of this idea in the later 20th century. He then considers some of the different types of challenge posed to received ideas of art by the increasingly globalised practice of the present day, and in particular problems posed by the absorption of certain non-western cultural practices and products into the international market.
The Evolution of ‘Globalization’
Speaker: Suman Gupta, Senior Lecturer, Literature Department, The Open University
Suman Gupta‘s presentation gives a brief history of the evolving connotations of the term ‘globalization’ from the late 1970s onwards. It ponders some of the early uses of the term, as it emerged to replace ‘internationalization’ from three linked directions: alluding to extensions of American sociology; denoting a programme of instituting uniformities within and across nation states; and, most importantly, connoting the character of advanced capitalism. The manner in which the term gradually acquired, in the course of the 1980s and 1990s, an abstract normative character, representing inevitable change on a global scale, is also considered. Associations of the term with cultural and economic neo-imperialism spawned, particularly in the course of the 1990s, an ‘anti-globalization’ movement – or more precisely, some sort of alignment of various interest groups against the globalizing establishment. This is often characterized as advocating ‘globalization from below’. Gupta observes that some political theorists now understand ‘globalization’ as incorporating the ideas and activities of both those who champion changes from above and those who struggle for changes from below.
Glocal: somewhere between the local and the global
Speaker: Sonia Boyce, artist
Many contemporary artists reject the idea of their work as ‘political’, as if such a label prohibits it from also being poetic. Sonia Boyce rejects this distinction and discusses how circumstances have conspired to ensure her politicisation. She reflects on why she increasingly falls back on the old feminist adage ‘the personal is political’ to consider the question of the local in relation to the global, and how these two states intertwine. The paper includes discussion of the concepts of diaspora (often understood as communities traumatically dispersed, in transit, or worse still, subsumed and invisible), and nationhood (apparently opposite to the transitory, requiring stability and locational allegiance), and what happens when local and global get mixed up.
Photography and Social Space
Speaker: Steve Edwards, Research Lecturer, Department of Art History, The Open University
In an era of increasingly global capitalist production, photographers have become more and more preoccupied with documenting social spaces. Steve Edwards’ talk considers the work that has emerged from both the documentary tradition and the legacy of conceptual art. He argues that the kinds of places represented in this work represent a substantial challenge to one of the central myths of globalisation theory - namely, that the world is increasingly becoming the same.
Travels in a New World
Speaker: Mohini Chandra, artist
In exploring the nature of diaspora and visual culture, through installation based art work, texts and other publications, Chandra’s practice involves a multiplicity of cross-cultural dialogues with disciplines such as history, anthropology and geography, suggesting new ways of mapping cultural experience through personal memory. In this paper Chandra discusses the way in which post-colonial Indian communities in the Pacific have incorporated photography into visual and historical processes, which map the fluidity of their own, increasingly diasporic, cultural identity. She then considers her own role as interpreter, interlocutor and member of global and local cultures as she traverses geographic and temporal distance via internalised ‘diasporic’ maps of family and personal remembrances.
The Rise and Rise of the Biennial
Speaker: Marcus Verhagen, art historian and critic
Over the last 20 years a number of new biennials have been established and the older biennials have, by all accounts, played an increasingly important role in sanctioning tendencies, entrenching reputations and directing debate in the art world. This trend has not always been well received. Some criticise the biennials on curatorial grounds, maintaining that they are too large and multivalent to offer a coherent experience, while others argue that they are a force for homogenisation – that they pay lip-service to site-specificity and inclusiveness while showing broadly the same band of well-travelled artists. In his presentation, Verhagen suggests that the biennial is now crucial to the functioning of various other art world institutions, such as the museum and art fair, and that the diversity of its exhibits is a reflection not of a willed and consistent embrace of different practices but of the diversity of demand in a market system.
Final panel discussion