With the title of “Globalismus/Globalism”, this issue of Texte zur Kunst proposes a critique of the discourse on “Global Art” as it has emerged in the wake of economic globalization. Our main questions were: Does a global world need Global Art – or – does a globalized world produce globalized art? What, precisely, is the difference between these two phrases, between making a political claim and the economic structure? When did the term “Global Art” become the assertion of a “contemporary world art” that is composed along the lines of global economization, and what possible alternatives and other historiographies exist? Where do the potentials and surpluses of the global lie, if we grasp them as a political horizon of common action – no matter how inherently contradictory that notion may be? Is the current pervasiveness of “Global Art” in exhibition titles, conferences, funding programs, and their implementation in study courses symptomatic of a (self-)surmounting of the Global North? Or does it indicate a universalization of its concepts of art that remain linked to capitalism’s colonizing power of definition and does it therefore finally have more to do with globalizations than with the global?
To pursue these questions, it is necessary both to question the self-historicizations of European culture and art histories and to develop curatorial and artistic models which construe the global within contemporary art beyond a mere hegemonic discourse. In searching for a differentiated and multiple global that brings disparities and contradictions as well as the inner perspectives of the actors to the fore, one must discuss art and its production conditions in regard to shared colonial and postcolonial histories, economic and geopolitical relationships of dependence, as well as different cultural traditions and conditions of reception. For us, “globalism” is therefore a phenomenon that, above all, provides a framework for these different and opposing perspectives.
Eva Birkenstock and Johannes Paul Raether addressed artists from New-Delhi, Petersburg, São Paulo, and Shanghai, who give an account of their local production conditions, especially of how they have changed in the wake of the financial crisis since 2007. In his narrative of a “transcultural global modernism” and its art history of contact, Christian Kravagna conceptualizes the global as the horizon of a possible, politically-won cosmopolitanism. Marion von Osten and Sarat Maharaj go in a similar direction and, while referring to their current research interests, propose that in certain artistic practices a surplus of the global occurs that contradicts globalization. These forms of practice only gradually enter into museum structures, which usually give preference to an aestheticizing form of globalization. Focusing on ethnological museums, Susanne Leeb analyzes inequalities institutionalized until today and discusses the role attributed to contemporary art in the way these museums are now being newly conceived – a contribution to which Anke Bangma and Sylvester Ogbechie respond. Felix Fiedler, in turn, deals with a special case of this problem, which is all too present in contemporary Berlin – the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace and the Humboldt-Forum it will house.
The currently popular equation of global and contemporary art, as evidenced by the term “Global Contemporary” (Hans Belting/Andrea Buddensieg/Peter Weibel), which Michaela Ott addresses in her text, it precisely what illuminates the necessity to focus on incompatibilities and contradictions instead of constructing a “we”, which since 1989 has become increasingly consolidated as a projection of the Global North. This kind of expansion and elucidation of specific differences, as discussed by Maurizio Lazzarato and Sarah Rifky in their email-conversation with Kerstin Stakemeier, cannot be derived from the prescriptions of globalized and financialized capital, but must instead make one’s own role in it experiencable to open fields of action beyond it. The “financialization” of capital, which has been discussed in the past years by Marxist writers such as Christian Marrazzi, as well as by Lazzarato, proposes an understanding of the current crisis of capital as a self-stabilizing state in which the “real” and the financial economy have become inextricably identified with each other. In art, too, globality asserts itself not least as an effect and expression of an entanglement of financialized conditions of expression and production. For example, a discussion group in the magazine NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art establishes the following on African art in museums: Art is all the more global the more it comes from financial centers, which are no longer only Western. And Chika Okeke-Agulu aptly criticizes Western globalism in a reader edited by James Elkins, “Is Art History Global?”, with the words: “Globalism is the pressing issue of art history only if we mean Western art history, which, like other knowledge industries, must align itself with the discursive and operative logic of political and economic globalization unleashed by post-industrial Western democracies and free-market economies.”
Hence, instead of accepting “Global Art” as a new category of covert European and Western self-definition, we would like to cast a view on a differentiated and pluralized notion of the “Global”, which is critical of power structures and capitalism, on the possibility of writing the narrative of art as transnational entangled histories, and of bringing the exchange relations between actors from different regions of the world to the fore. Such a perspective also affects the attention paid to the transnational effects of capitalist crises in the Northwest and the ongoing political scenarios of upheaval in the “Middle East”. In light of this persistent global multitude of crises, one must also discuss the question as to the role of art and of artists beyond regionalist structures of advantage and prejudice. Instead of establishing new patterns of dominance with the world-spanning gesture of a “Global Art”, talk of the global in art should challenge not only one’s knowledge of what is distant, but also one’s own practice as the globality of what is close by.
(Translation: Karl Hoffmann)
Editorial Note: The present issue of Texte zur Kunst was conceived by Susanne Leeb, Oona Lochner, Johannes Paul Raether and Kerstin Stakemeier. It was assambled by Philipp Ekardt (editor in chief) and Hanna Magauer (editor).