The pathos of international solidarity was a key component for many a modernist movement, including Dadaism, Futurism, Fluxus, the Situationist International etc. Despite their aesthetic and practical divergences, they all accentuate the fact that we live on a common planet, where the political boundaries of nation-states do not play any role in defining the processes of the personality’s creative development. Regardless of this internationalist tradition, the system of contemporary art is far from fulfilling the proclaimed ideals of internationalism and solidarity. Many artists and art-professionals have been corrupted by “big events”, international success and trans-national competition. This dictatorial market neutralizes any and all progressive tendencies.
How important is it today to stop the conveyor of big events, opting for internationalist work on location instead?
Psychoanalyst, curator, critic//Petersburg
It is impossible to “stop the conveyor” since art is not isolated from life’s other registers. And by the way, this utopian isolation would hardly lead to anything. But I agree that it is necessary to “work on location”. Regardless of what they say about globalization, we all work in specific cultural contexts. Once again, it is necessary to render the meaning of this work from the context that it affects.
I think the problem is that regional artists already don’t want any kind of local integration, that their audience has changed decisively. Their success is made or unmade somewhere else, on the international biennales or at exhibitions in the “First World”, for an example. It is impossible to retain (gain) an identity without tapping into the transnational flow. This is actually quite problematical, since it takes place through adaptation in the broader sense of translation. What is actually becoming a part of the network? Under which circumstances is it being hooked up? Your ethnography, your post-colonial (or simply your colonial) burden, the fact that you’re an eccentric? Does the predefined placement of regional artists into special places reserved for them in the international art world represent a full-fledged integration into the real global context, constantly expanding? A context, one might add, whose distribution of power is obvious, where politics play their usual role, corrected slightly to meet the changed international power balance. I think that the current tension consists in the fact that too much is being constructed in advance, following predefined lines and routes. The artist is not free to choose which path to take. How is it possible to find one’s place, evading these templates or at least exchanging them, bringing confusion to the hordes of professional art dealers? This, to me, is an open question.
Place a moratorium on all biennials for a period of at least four years.
Also, no more books and shows purporting to round up “the best” of this and that.
Artist, curator, critic//Kaliningrad
I wouldn’t talk about the possibility of stopping the conveyor of global event if I were you – it reeks of leftwing rhetoric of most worn and infantile-romantic sort. Stopping the conveyor is the same as stopping the actual broadcast of a TV channel while sitting in front of a television. While you can turn the television off, the broadcast itself will continue…Among other things, a century of pragmatism sets us apart from the revolutionaries and their troubled times. Since then, it seems that people have learned a lesson taught by history, namely not to act through head-on confrontations. Today, one needs to act in more round-about, mediated, tactical, indirect ways, as technology teaches us. We need to be more subtle…In this sense, tactical media make no difference between global and local events. Under the conditions of the “global-localization” effect, which has already been described, this or that project inevitably focuses the meta-linguistic interlinks themselves, organizing significance. Thus, your question of whether one should reaccentuate one’s activities from the global to a local field means almost nothing to me.
The real meaning of international events can only be recognized through their immersion in local situations.
John Peter Nilson
Big art events are sometimes like a circus coming to town, leaving few traces in the local community, departing for the next town tomorrow. However, the big event can also be something that breaks everyday routines. The big event can open local eyes to the world, stimulating a dialogue between the local and the global, that is – if the event has an intellectual and artistic edge and not only becomes an event for its own sake. Authentic integration in a local situation is something else. I do not want to construct a conflict between these two different approaches; I rather see them as complimentary. The risk with “integration” is always that it demonizes the local. Nevertheless, as with big events, this is a question of content rather than form.
Unfortunately, the peripheries are deprived of many things including art, including philosophy. To make the world more just is a wonderful intention but that is too complex an issue. What does one do with big events? Should one ban them? Should one boycott them? I don’t have anything against big events. They have their positive function. International work on location – which location? If you bring Russian and American artists together in some center, all the problems of the division between rich and poor will manifest themselves instantly. On the other hand, bringing projects to peripheries is like having people with empty stomachs watch MTV. Is this so nice? I don’t think so. The real problems lie beyond these two forms of activities.
To me, a reaccentuation of internationalist work on location seems both senseless and irresponsible. Nobody “on location” actually needs this kind of art.
Personally, I am quite skeptical of global events in the art world because they often fail, resulting in nothing more than overt representation. However, I like to think of my skepticism as a negative means to a positive end. After all, big events reveal new tendencies in art; sometimes, it is even possible to realize ideas that are very interesting there. However, global events need to be real (not representative) materializations of international cultural communication. Moreover, this field is always open for experimentation; the only thing that we really need is the political will of its organizers.
Media activist, critic//Moscow
The technologies of resistance need to be adequate to their local situations, but if globalization, by definition, is bringing the same values, orders, techniques of coercion to many different countries, activists from all of these different places have good reason to trade notes of how to resist them. While the European Left is always the first to discover and set “trends” – new technologies, for an example – in order to develop its method of resistance, Third World countries tend to receive these methodologies, reworking them to fit their own situation, enriching them with their non-Western experience and returning them in an altered form. This is even more interesting in a situation where there are suddenly many “centers” and many peripheries, when the exchange becomes more and more interesting and the root rises exponentially, to three or five…
This is what actually happened with the conception of “tactical media”. It developed in Amsterdam, and then, it was used successfully in India, Brazil and Italy.
Barth de Baer
I feel events to be one of the main possibilities of these times. Most often, they are horribly empty, but they may be full, like Paulo Herkenhoff’s Sao Paulo Biennial or the last Kwangu biennial. Those were the richest moments I encountered the last years. I feel they should not be opposed but entered, reassessed and critically validated as a possibility of intensity and transformation.