ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012

(P23)

Elite art in an age of populism: sowing monocultures?

Location Arts and Aesthetics Auditorium
Date and Start Time 06 April, 2012 at 08:30

Convenors

Emilia Terracciano (Courtauld Institute of Art) email
Deborah Swallow (Courtauld Institute of Art) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

We welcome papers exploring the fading of national and local traditions in a new global mega-culture built in part on social networking sites.

Long Abstract

Today, most artists would admit that globalisation has penetrated all sectors of society, including that of contemporary art. But with the advent of globalisation we have witnessed the patronisation of multicultural work, fit for the enjoyment of predominantly western viewers. Over the past two decades, there has been a growing debate on whether a 'Biennale Aesthetic' is leading to the production of 'glossy' work which slots easily into a novel consumerist orientalism. Are artists providing viewers both at home and abroad reassurance that the world is becoming more comfortably monocultural? Although in the West some of the most successful 'boom' art appealed to popular taste- Hirst, Koons, Murakami, Kapoor and Gupta being the major figures; others floated an art world reputation out of popular approbation, and this was especially true of Banksy and other street artists. Do we see here a reworking and intensification of a postmodern populism? And if so, does it pose a deeper threat to elite culture than previously? In an age when there are millions of cultural producers with a potentially global audience, how do the art world and the museum respond?

The panel welcomes papers which explore the fading of national and local dominance and traditions in art in the light of a new global mega-culture built in part on social networking sites.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Taking art back: select artistic offensives, tactics and strategies

Author: Annie Paul (University of the West Indies)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will discuss the rise of new forms of artistic practice as exemplified by Alice Yard and Australian artist Hazel Dooney, who sideline the traditional Gallery-Dealer art circuit by using social media and blogging platforms.

Long Abstract

Is artistic creativity in the digital, postmodern, dotcom era we live in the same as it was in previous eras? The quotidian, the mundane, the ordinary, the everyday—the popular--all of this is now jostling for space in the art museum, ousting the exotic, the extraordinary, the artistic, or at least cutting it down to size. The optic of the market struggles to regain focus as the intermediary in this global creative commons but has yet to find any purchase. In the breathing space produced by this conjuncture some artists are busy exploiting the myriad of new opportunities for creative expression.

In Trinidad, a group of artists has transformed a humble backyard known as Alice Yard into a creative space where they would perform, display or otherwise showcase their productions. The antithesis of the grand theatre, music hall or national gallery Alice Yard has served as a focal point for real time art happenings whose life is then extended by digital means--blogging, tweeting and facebooking the resulting images, video and texts to wider and wider audiences elsewhere.

This paper will focus on new forms of artistic practice as exemplified by Alice Yard and Australian artist Hazel Dooney's sidelining of the traditional Gallery-Dealer art circuits by using social media and blogging platforms to build and reach her audience. Both are conscious attempts by artists in non-traditional locations to breach the citadel of Art as we know it, by availing the new channels and networks globalization has enabled.

Exhibiting India: The Opportunity Cost of a 'Global art history'

Author: Rattanamol Singh Johal  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines recent exhibitions of contemporary art from the Indian subcontinent on the global stage and suggests that the resulting democratisation and homogenisation of works is the price paid for the blurring of borders in configuring a 'Global art' history through exhibitions.

Long Abstract

In his text, 'Contemporary Art as Global Art: A Critical Estimate', Hans Belting notes, "Global art may be critical in political terms, but it is also critical in terms of art categories defined by inclusion or exclusion. New art often blurs any kind of border between mainstream art and popular art, abolishing the old dualism between Western art and ethnographic practice by using indigenous traditions as a reference..." The paper seeks to dissect and further complicate this line of thinking by examining some recent exhibitions of contemporary art from the Indian subcontinent, on the global stage: 'Paris-Delhi-Bombay' (2011), Centre Pompidou, Paris; 'The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today' (2010), Saatchi Gallery, London; 'Chalo India: A New Era of Indian Art' (2009), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and the art fair ARCO '09. I suggest that the inclusionary impetus fostered by the art world's rapid globalisation has translated into large-scale exhibitions aimed at encapsulating the current state of art production in a specific geo-political region (here, India) to offer an easily consumable cross-section of political, religious, social, ecological and art historical concerns. The resulting democratisation, homogenisation and trivialisation of the work - its underlying context, history and rigour (or lack thereof) - is the price paid for the blurring of borders in the current process of configuring a 'Global art history' through exhibitions.

Bordering on blank: the calligraphic modernism of Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990)

Author: Emilia Terracciano (Courtauld Institute of Art)  email

Short Abstract

to follow

Long Abstract

Contemporary globalisation has largely undermined the promises of the post-colonial nation-state, proposing little in its place. As a result the developmental project of the nation-state, along with its cultural and artistic symbols, has become obsolete. Transnational capitalism of the neo-liberal era has created a consumerist vision of managed difference with art no longer capable of relating to local dimensions. It is nonetheless because of the failure of viable national sovereignty and the shrinking aspirations for de-colonisation that it is possible to retrieve the idea of ‘calligraphic modernism’ and formulate a more nuanced reading of its achievements in a global context. Here I intend considering the work of Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), produced in the 1970s and 1980s, which transcends national borders as well as its relationship to the metropolitan centres of modernist art.

Being Glocal? Art In The Age Of The Survey.

Author: Zehra Jumabhoy (Courtauld Institute of Art, London)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will analyze four concepts which swim below the surface of the 'contemporary Indian art survey': the national, international, global and local. Do the terms complement or compete with each other?

Long Abstract

If India's economic liberalization in 1991 - which often runs under the banner of globalization - opened the gateway to foreign trade, investment and TV channels, it also gave rise to another phenomenon: the survey show. These blockbuster exhibitions have been wending their way across Europe and America for the last few years, keeping Indian artists (and critics) un/gainfully occupied at prestigious venues. The 'new India' has given birth to 'a new art', says the tag-line.

There is a great deal of jargon that goes along with the survey show as it makes claims to represent the 'new art from India' to an unfamiliar audience. This paper will address some of the contradictions embedded in this position: does the understanding of the national feed into or oppose the overarching concept of globality? And what happens to local (or communal) identities in this mix? The paper will analyze four concepts which swim below the surface of the 'contemporary Indian art survey': the national, international, global and local. Do the terms complement or compete with each other? Here, I focus on three survey shows in an attempt to show how each exhibition negotiated this difficult terrain: 'Edge of Desire' (NGMA, Bombay, 2007), the first to showcase craft and tribal art; the Serpentine's 'Indian Highway' (London, 2009), which featured a New Media agenda and the Centre Pompidou's 'Paris-Delhi-Mumbai' (Paris, 2010), which concentrated on the ethnic city, without disguising its colonial agenda.

All that Is Solid Melts into Air: Indian Contemporary Art in Global Times

Author: Arshiya Lokhandwala (Lakeeren Art Gallery )  email

Short Abstract

This paper draws and expands on the key issues explored in the exhibition of the same title 'All That Is Solid Melts into Air: Indian Contemporary Art in Global Times' held in Mumbai in December 2010.

Long Abstract

This paper draws and expands on the key issues explored in the exhibition of the same title 'All That Is Solid Melts into Air: Indian Contemporary Art in Global Times', held in Mumbai in December 2010. This exhibition marked a decade of changes that took place within the context of Indian contemporary art, by examining the effects that globalization, as the new global "empire," had on Indian artists. By alluding to Marshall Berman's seminal essay "All that Is Solid Melts into Air" (inspired from Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto), in which he defines the changing nature of modern life based on capitalism's need to constantly revolutionize itself in order to create new markets, I examine the affects through the work of nine artist from the show, including Subodh Gupta, Sheela Gowda, Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat. Through this investigation, my paper raises significant questions of "value," both in terms of the economic aspect as well as an ethical standpoint, which are reflective of the changes taking place in our rapidly changing Indian landscape.

The Red and the Grey: On Ai Weiwei's Social (Media) Sculptures

Author: Wenny Teo (Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the instrumental role of social media in the work of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and focuses on the geo-political anxieties shorn up by such artistic practice in an age of populism.

Long Abstract

The notion of 'social sculpture', championed by the artist-activist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s, predicates the idea that 'every human being is an artist,' capable of re-shaping the 'social organism' itself into a work of art. In today's globalised, digitally connected world, the phylogenic spread and populism of social media networks have no doubt facilitated this ideal, radically expanding the perimeters of cultural production and artistic agency. The artist Ai Weiwei has become an icon of the social media revolution, particularly after the international media spectacle surrounding his detainment by the Chinese state last year. This paper explores the ambivalent shades of Ai's mass-mobilisations, focusing on how he has channeled the so-called 'grey economy of information' circulated on Chinese social media networks towards a politically charged, participatory aesthetic. Ai's online activism will be read in tension with the artist's highly publicized and corporate-sponsored Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern in 2010-11, as well as the international art world's response to his arrest in the same period. I question whether the furore over Ai's predicament is testament to the power of a new 'webocracy,' re-motivating the relationship between art and politics on a global scale, or if it merely constitutes a renewed strain of 'political exoticism,' reminiscent of the wider commercialisation of Chinese art as protest art par excellence in the post-Cold War era.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.