These essays and artworks indicate the complexity of issues that any cursory consideration of globalization’s relation to contemporary art entails. What is globalization itself?
Winchester School of Art – University of Southampton
These essays and artworks indicate the complexity of issues that any cursory consideration of globalization’s relation to contemporary art entails. What is globalization itself? Is its cultural character merely a subset or derivative of the ‘real’ substance lodged in economic and societal interactions, in migration and communications, in a worldwide division of labour and a highly volatile global system of commodity production and consumption? What history does globalization exhibit? Is globalization a process that has begun relatively recently (in the twentieth century) or do its determinants lie in centuries-old, even millennia-old, relations of trade and diplomacy? Setting aside these enormous questions, understanding the situation of contemporary art in a globalized world – of art as a global phenomenon – requires some analytic limiting in order to make any kind of intellectual progress potentially possible. What, then, are the empirical art practices of such a contemporary art? Who are its producers? What discourses are germane to an understanding or propagation of its phenomenal and semantic contents? What system of circulation of artworks – and what system of agents and institutions – makes contemporary, global art possible, or even impossible?
It is at this point that it becomes clear that attempting to separate out these two sets of questions – globalization from contemporary art in a global world – is finally a specious process, even when it is done for the best of analytic reasons. For our assumptions – about world capitalism, about familiarity and exoticism in the objects around us, about expression and feeling in art, about the legacies of ‘critical modernism’ – always, already attend upon us even, and especially, when we seek to start from new principles and perspectives, from ‘the work of art itself’. The socio-political activism which is a characteristic inheritance of the modernist tradition can be seen here in the essays and artworks by Julia Ramírez Blanco and Bill Balaskas, who show that crises in world capitalism and in the nature of the art object (its meaning, purpose, appearance, value, description) are fully interpenetrated, part of a (now stranded?) tradition that can be traced back to Dada and the years before World War I.
The short contributions here by Anna Maria Guasch, Menene Gras and Paula Barreiro López merely hint at the complexity, mentioned in my first sentence, of any serious and sustained inquiry. I would refer you to their other publications to see how these issues have been treated at length, in sophisticated and considered analyses of art and culture in the twentieth century in Europe and Asia, when many of the same forces and interests now active in the world were operating, though before the concept of globalization became as pressing as it is now. Globalization’s link to and difference from internationalization, westernization, modernization, colonization adds further levels of historical and empirical complexity to those already identified. These contributions make a start, however, and offer fruitful potential directions of travel.
© Published Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 3.0