Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Karlsruhe’de Sanat ve Medya Teknolojisi Merkezi’nde (ZKM) “Sanat Müzelerinin Küresel Sorunu” Konferansı
24–25 Haziran 2006

Almanya sanat ortamının ilerici ve bilimsel etkinlikleriyle öne çıkan kurumlarından olan Karlsruhe Sanat ve Medya Teknolojisi Merkezi’nde düzenlenen küreselleşme sürecinde yerel ve uluslararası ortamlarda kültür kurumlarının, sanat ve kültür etkinliklerinin içerik, biçim ve uygulamalarının sorgulanmasını, değişimlerin saptanmasını amaçlayan sempozyuma katıldım.
Konferansın gündemi, günümüzün küreselleşme koşulları kültür kurumlarını ve yapılarını nasıl bir değişime zorluyor; özellikle kamusal işlev taşıyan her çeşit müze ve sanat merkezi bu değişime nasıl yanıt veriyor; Batı dışı ülkelerde günümüz sanat pratiklerinin henüz sağlam temellere oturmayan yapısı ve modernist uygulama kalıntıları nasıl değiştirilebilir; bu tür kurumların sanat konusunda bilinçlenmesi gereken yeni izleyicilere gereksinimi varsa, bu izleyici nasıl kazanılacak; kültürlerin yeni haritasını hazırlamak için farklı kültürlerin temsilcilerinin işbirliği büyük bir önem taşımaktadır; bu işbirliği nasıl olmalı gibi sorulara odaklandı.

ZKM konferansında Claude Ardouin ( London), Karin Adrian von Roques (Bonn), Waltraud Bayer (Graz), Hans Belting, (Karlsruhe/Viyana), Andrea Buddensieg (Karlsruhe), John Clark,( Sydney), Ekaterina Degot,( Moscow), Shelly Errington (Los Angeles), Julia Fabényi,(Budapest), Ginta Gerharde-Upenice, (Riga) Gregor Jansen, (Karlsruhe), Bogumil Jewsiewski (Quebec), Ladislav Kesner (Prague), Lin Chi-Ming ( Taipei), Beral Madra,( İstanbul), John Onians (Norwich), Wonil Rhee (Seoul), Peter Weibel ( Karlsruhe) ‘dan oluşan antropolog, küratör ve kuramcılar sanat piyasası sınırlarının ve Batı sergi sahnesinin ötesindeki çözümleri arayadı. Bu arayış, her şeyden önce genel tartışmalar içinde etkisizleştirilmiş olan siyasal tartışmayı öne çıkardı.

www.zkm.de - http://on1.zkm.de/zkm/stories

The Global Challenge of Art Museums

ZKM Workshop, Karlsruhe, 23-26 June 2006

(Preliminary Replies to Questions)

What does contemporary art today mean in different cultures?

We have to define this term “different cultures”.
ulture, is an end product of the entity composed of modernism, postmodernism, technology, administrative reason, media and progressive and productive institutions.
Precisely this notion of culture has its roots in the Enlightenment, in Imperialism and in Colonization; it is a definition based on 20th century European culture and its extension to USA and vice versa.
To draw boundaries to this end product is difficult; it is transforming itself continuously or it is deeply divided in itself.

The difference appears when we start defining culture outside of this environment, mostly without Enlightenment, without Laicism, with a mandatory modernism, with a colonized memory and with derivative forms of global capitalism. If there is some kind of similarity between these contexts, it is because of the global capitalism that removes the local differences. Otherwise, there is a significant difference in defining the global art outside of EU and its current systems.

The meaning of contemporary art for a society shifts from politics to social engagement, from civil rights to individual freedom. Most of the countries east/southeast of Turkey, or so cold Global South have either authoritarian regimes or ruling religious dogmas and only some of them are in the process of democratization. In these environments contemporary art is a political tool or an access to free expression, criticism of the prevailing order/disorder or a way out of the local art scene.

İn addition, there is a vast modernist production that determines the local art markets and solitary artists who work for the sake of art making or art as a privileged class status sign.
Contemporary art mainly introduces a platform where the high and low culture, the common and the particular meets and merges as a meeting point of different social classes.

In most of these countries, cultural politics are pervasive and inevitable, however, we always think that official culture politics have a bad repute, because culture is instrumentalized to serve a political end; such as engineering culture politics to legitimate militant aims.
Contemporary art with its political content challenges official culture policies reduces its hegemony.
The paradox is that contemporary art has nourished itself from these crisis moments of current cultural environments.
We should definitely evaluate the function of contemporary art in different cultures, according to its relation to politics.

ost of the curators of the past Istanbul Biennale have not considered this crucial fact, so that we had a series of exotic and touristy concepts, during 90’s Golf crisis, local military operations and PKK terror.
During the last biennale, which definitely has an Iraq conflict
background and which debated Istanbul itself, the curators and the artists were more aware and willing to articulate within this context.

When did it split with modern art in exhibition practice?

Modern and contemporary art are initially visual and stimulating or challenging; they inflict visual thinking, critical thinking and awareness.
In the Global South, traditionally visual thinking and individuality is restricted by Islamic dogmas. When modernism was imposed on the Islamic cultures it practically tried to take the place of the verbal culture, which is even an ongoing procedure within the global electronic communication hegemony. Exactly in this sense Modernism was a rupture and it created the mutilated gaze.

In the modernisms of the Islamic world, the visual aspect of Modernism was split into form and content (which is expected to complement each other), completely detached from each other. Detached in the sense that when the form was adjusting itself to the norms of Western art, the content hanged on to its tradition.
It was a defensive approach that was disguised under the form.
Therefore, the artists, wanted to combine abstract or geometric abstraction with traditional and ethnic art-forms.

Again, surrealism did not exist in its Western form. Daryush Shayegan (1) describes it as: It is a world, in which the reality is disguised behind masks, in which the lies (illusions) are transformed themselves into forlorn aims and became independent. It is sub-realism, where everything is upside down.
In contrast to Modernism during the post-modern process the artists tackled with this mutilation.

Paintings, photography and video with their psychoanalytical and everyday content opened a new path towards the unification of form and content, i.e. the artists liberated themselves from the dictums of colonization and nation state ideologies and journeyed into a deconstruction and re-construction process of the systems.

Is so-called, hegemonic modernism often considered synonymous with Western art and with modern in the larger sense?

Modernism all over the East Mediterranean and the Middle East was an upper structure, imposed on the people with the vigor of colonialism and nation state ideology.
Turkey is the most brilliant example of this sort.
The roots of this modernism is in fact in the Westernization program of Sultan Mahmut the Second and in the Tanzimat (Reformation) of 1839; therefore all modernist art production is a kind of struggle to reach Western aesthetics and standards.
In Turkey when contemporary art split from modern art quite early in the 70’s the contact to the Western world became more intense through the information flow, liberal economy and political communication. First attempts of leaving modernist/formalist discourse were by observing and practicing Conceptual Art, Minimal Art and Nouveau Realism.

These movements were practices within the boundaries of the art academy and in close gallery circles by a very small group of artists, mostly supporting the Left of that time. The rest followed modernist trends, deforming all kinds of modernist forms to decoration and kitsch.
The period between the middle of 70’s to middle of 80’s Turkey was the playground of Soviet Union and United States cold-war policies. Pro-soviets and pro Americans, also fragmented in themselves, fought and killed each other in the streets.
The state ruled every space and time in the private life of the individual breaking down the dissident spirit of two or three generation of artists.
Modernism and post-modernism was always a tool to overcome this hopelessness; Western artist’s behavior was a model. Contemporary art gave the artists the motivation to become skilled for strategies of deceiving, mocking and confusing the gaze of the authority.

How does modernism survive in a global art?

Modernism is an indispensable reality and it is an unfinished process all over the world, as all aspects of global capitalism and democracy generate and supply negative and positive elements of modernism.
Looking to this issue, i.e. modernism surviving within the boundaries of Islamic culture, an essential element is still vigorously present, and that is the epistemological schizophrenia, as described by Shayegan (2).He says, that non-Western civilizations have never experienced the three episteme, the three spiritual and mental tremors, as described by Foucault; they are exposed to these episteme through the intrusion of others. The Non-western world found a well packaged package of human sciences (anthropology) and history.

Yet, most of these societies are still thinking and feeling within the boundaries of pre-classical world. Two heterogenic episteme exists in one mind. Another concept he is presenting is a kind of suture, to find a compromise between the two different paradigms; there is always a danger that this process will create empty statements, confusions and introvert ideologists rather than intellectuals.

Throughout the 20th century artists practicing modern art have survived at the margin of these societies; when necessary incorporated into the state cultural policy. In most of the Middle East and Arab countries modern painting is an integrated element to welfare class life style. In Amman for example, in villa type housing districts, there are art galleries, full of decorative paintings and sculpture. Modern art is a life style cliché.
In Turkey, modern art works and their pastiche derivations are the main profit of auctions since the 80’s, when liberal economy created surplus capital. Global economy dictates the art investor to open museums and display their treasures to the society of spectacle. The paradox is that the content and the form and administrative structure do not correspond to each-other; the architecture is post-modern, the administrative structure is globalized, the content is modernist.

On the other hand modernism in Turkey survives as over-modern as elsewhere.
Quoting Marc Auge
The word over-modern is an attempt to suggest the logic of excess at work in our present-day modernity. There is first of all an excess of information, making us prisoners of the news--as if history had caught up with us in the form of news. Yesterday's news becomes history, already just barely perceptible. It ages even more rapidly than fashion, of which it is an accelerated form.
There is also an excess of space that paradoxically amounts to a shrinking of space: we now feel we live on a finite planet where all we can do is go around in circles…I think this awareness of being in a limited space plays a definite role in the struggles around identity, the exacerbated forms of nationalism, and the intolerance of immigrants that we see today.
Finally, there is an excess of iindividuality, and of the individualization of public references.

Does global art change the concept of modern versus contemporary art?

Globalism defies ruptures and promotes transitions. Global art, with its visual manifestations, such as electronic, digital and computer manipulated images, transnational biennale and transportable exhibitions of 20th century art are playing a role of catalyst between modern art and contemporary art practices.

Contemporary art production infiltrated into modern art production as the marginal art production of a group of nonconformist and antagonist intellectual artists, who can be allowed to remain as they are as long as they will not interfere into the status quo. This is still the state of affairs concerning contemporary artist; the local market is still mute.
The modernist avant-gardes stayed avant-garde forever, however, the contemporary dissidents have only a limited time until they are discovered and integrated into the markets. Global art plays its role twofold:

On one side, it is a tool for anti-globalization proclamations- mostly young and emerging artists or artists from the non-West are utilizing it in this direction, until they enter into the channel of global art market. On the other side, the established artists while holding on to the political aspect of their work - as they are well aware of the power of being a rebel – reconcile with market strategies through the galleries and dealers. In both cases the political commitment is easily broken.

When we look back to the exhibitions of the 70’s and 80’s we can acknowledge that the content and form of these exhibitions have been radically consumed in the Western institutions.
Two kind of exhibitions
riting history, discovering artworks in terms of their situation in time - as Jean Marc Poinsot indicates in his article Large Exhibitions and A-historical exhibitions (Szeemann’s, Fuch’s and Hoet’s) are still prevailing in the Global South, particularly in the biennale curated by Western curators.(4)

The question is: Are these forms of exhibitions also consumed in the Global South?
Currently the international art world is consuming the so called global exhibitions.

The high aspiration of modernism which is to achieve coherence, a consistency by writing history through an exhibition was offended by the fact that the curator is expected to impose his world view upon the artworks in his custody. And, most of the time a chain of objects and images, is too indecipherable to propose any convincing hypothesis, even if the curator has genuine insight. We have seen a series of this kind of confusing exhibitions during the Istanbul Biennale.

Did modernism become the victim of the changing relation between high and low?

Initially high and low indicates a class distinction and determines the aesthetics and taste of the bourgeoisie. We acknowledge that the boundary between high and low art has faded through post-modern process and the contemporary art scene. Yet it is hard to say that its place has been taken low, popular or mass culture.
It is better to say that contemporary art has initiated how to utilize low, popular or mass culture for a goal to stimulate visual and critical thinking of the large public. Contemporary artists exploited or uncovered the power of marginalized populations who can make meaning for themselves.
The changing relation between high and low made art a product of cultures rather than the product of the selective cultivated.

Post-colonial discourse has also contributed to erase the distinction between high (euro-western) and low (non-western) and global art is constituted across cultural boundaries rather than merely inside them.
The canon and fine-art aspect of modernism may be a victim of low culture, but the relation made it possible to discuss the elitist and capricious aspect of modernism and the democratic and plausible aspect of popular culture.
This cross-road has in fact created a profound balance between the well-presented and un-represented.

How does ethnology study contemporary art?

Auge says: We have now a generalized anthropology. Obviously the world remains diverse, but today we are on a planet of which there is no part that cannot be viewed from the same vantage, and where there are phenomena everywhere that derive from the same logic. Thus the problem is not really to go somewhere else and then come back home, but to measure the standard by which the categories of self and other are established wherever one may be. There is no longer much possibility of a great divide. The division between those who observe and those who are observed was no doubt always something of an error, but today even the possibility of that error no longer exists. (5)

There are no museums of world cultures in Turkey, or in the region, obviously, because of their position of being subjects of colonization. The Global South is still the object of the museums and contemporary art centers in the Western world.

In the non-West modern and postmodern art had different fates. Modern art practices were an extension of national state ideology and homogenous identity or a kind of utopia for independency, freedom of expression (abstract art was considered as the most free expression, bypassing the dictums of Islam and state policies) and subordination to Western civilization. Post-modern production is based on the consciousness of indigenous traditions, on difference and resistance to orientalization. Said indicated (6) that there is this truth about the distinctive differences between races, civilizations and languages. It went to the bottom of things, it asserted that there was no escape from origins and the types these origins enabled; it set the real boundaries between human beings.

When we look into the reasons of the interest in the contemporary art and culture of the Global South, we can acknowledge the genuine approach of the Western art expert to this production; because it is complex, heterogenic, resisting and dissident or because the expert would like to behave culturally correct.
Yet, again we can acknowledge a paradox approach. Up until today major political ruptures, upheavals and even wars in the region have stirred the desire and preference for communication and dialogue through art and culture. For example, the Middle East artists had an unforeseen access into the international art milieu after the Post-Gulf War and the Balkan Conflict aroused the interest of EU intellectuals and artists to the traumatized Balkan cities

After 9/11, when the definitions Islam, Axis of Evil and Terror reflected new political and cultural divisions together with their spheres of influence, the aforesaid region became again the destination of desire and dissidence.
It became an experimental field for official cultural policies of EU. Since a decade the majority of exhibitions, particularly the biennales and cultural events are structured within these conditions, manifesting multiculturalism, in combination of religious, ethnic or traditional diversities and particularities.

Beral Madra, June06

1.Daryush Shayegan, Le Rgard Mutilé, Turkish Translation, Metis Yayınları, p.117
2. Shayegan, p.72-79
3. Marc Auge in an Artforum interview (1994).
4. Thinking about Exhibitions, ed. Greenberg, Ferguson, Nairne, Routledge, 1996

. Marc Auge, in an Artforum interview (1994).
6. Edward Said, Orientalism, Penguin, 1995, p.233

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