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Baker Response to Enwezor

Baker Response to Enwezor

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GeorgeBaker
ThispaperwasdeliveredatColumbiaUniversityonFebruary14,2002,inresponsetoOkwuiEnwe-
zor's
presentation,bothaspectsbeingpart
of
theSawyerSeminar
all
culturaleffectsofgloballzation,organized
by
ProfessorAndreasHuyssen.
1
GuyDebord,
Th,
SDC;'ty
of
Ih,Sp,d.d"
trans,Don-aldNicholson-Smith(NewYork:ZoneBooks,1994),120:
2
GuyDebord,
C,,,,,,,,,,ls,,'Ih.Sockty
of
Ib,
Speclae/"
trans.MalcolmImrie(London,Verso,1990),17.
TheGlobalizationoftheFalse:AResponsetoOkwuiEnwezor*
Thissocietyelimillatesgeographicaldistallceonly
to
reapdistanceillternallyil1tbeJorn!ofspectacJtlarseparatioll.
1
Whemverilldivid~talslosethecapacitytoseethingsforthemselves,theexpertisthere
to
offer
all
absolutereamtrance.
2
-GuyDebordIwouldliketobeginratherinauspiciouslybyadmittinghowmassivelyunqualified[amtorespondtosuchalecture.Atthesametime,
1
willalsoimmediatelyclaimthatperhapsmylackofqualificationisavirtuehere,asthesituationofglobalize-tionhasmuchtodowiththepromotingordemotingofacertainsetofskillsandinstitutionalpositions.[willadmitrightupfrontthatIama"biennialLuddite."Ihavebeenapracticingartcriticforaboutsixyearsnow,andyet[donotgotomega-exhibitions.[resenttheirinsistencethatitistothemthatallartisticatten-tionmustbepaid.Iresisttheirclaimthatitisnowonlythroughthemthatartis-ticimportanceistobemeasured.Iget
lazy
intheFaceoftheirattempttomakeallintellectualsinvolvedinthefieldofartintoitinerants,inanupdatedversionoftheGrandTouroraparodyofforcedmigration.Ishiveratthethoughtthatresistingbiennialculture,or"[estivalism"asithasalsobeencalled,isnowtobeequatedwithresistingchallengestoWesternimperialismandculturalhegemony.[avoidmega-exhibitionsduringthefewtimeswhen[havehadtheopportunityactuallytobenearoneofthesebeasts.Ontheotherhand,Irarelyhavetheopportunitytobenearoneofthesebeasts.Andthisdynamicofexclusion-asopposedtoallthathasjustbeensaidabout"incluston't=-isoneimportantphe-nomenonthatIwanttoaddressinmyresponse.[donotthinkwewillgetveryfarinourunderstandingofmega-exhibitionsifwedonotattemptmorerigorouslytodefineglobalizationitself.Itseemstomeimportanttoviewitasa
process,
differentiatingtheterm"globalization"from"theglobal,"somewhatlikewedo"modernization"from"themodern."Andthenthequestionbecomes,whatexactlyisentailedinthisprocess?Isitnot,asGayatriSpivakhasclaimed,the"financializationoftheglobe:'?Isitnot,indeed,the
Amer-
icaniZation
oftheglobe?Inthislectureaboutexhibitionsandglobalization,wedidnotunfortunatelyhearmuch-ifanything-aboutartandartists,andsoletmecitenowthewordsofanartistattemptingtodefineglobalization:"Firstandfore-most,globalizationisthepenetrationofthemultinationalcorporateeconomy
lO
I
DOCUMENTS
 
-d
i
ResponsetoMega-Exhlbltons
I
Baker
intoeverynookandcrannyofhumanlife.Itisthelatestincarnationofanimper-ativethathaslongbeenacceptedasavitalnecessity....thefirstlawofproto-capi-talism:Marketsmustmultiplythroughforeigntradeortheywillstagnateanddie...WhatislargelymissingfromthecurrentpictureisanysenseofmaterialresistancetotheexpansionofthemarketImperative.'?ThesearethewordsofthephotographerAllanSekula.Evenwiththissmallrangeofdefinitionsinhand,anumberofquestionsarise.Whydoyouinsistonreferringtoglobalizationintermsofrupture,as-inyourwords-the"historicalruptureparexcellence"?Thislanguageofrupturesoundstomealotlikethelanguagethatoncesurroundedthediscourseofpostmod-ernismwithintheartworld.The"rupture"ofpostmodernismisnowreplaced
by
the"rupture"ofglobalization,andanaestheticorevenanti-aesthetictermgetsreplacednow-significantly-byaneconomicone.Andyetperhapsneithertermshouldbeproperlyviewedasarupturebutasanintensificationofamuchlongerhistoricalprocess.Ruptureconnotesamnesiatome.AndglobalizationseemsmuchmoreastrategyofwhatTheodorAdornowouldhavecalled"falsetotaliza-tion"ratherthanthefragmentingforceclaimedforithere.Mysecondmajorquestionwouldbe:whoandwhereistheaudienceformega-exhibitions?[askthisquestionfacedwiththecrucialimportancespectatorshipandaudienceissuesoccupybytheendofthelecture,whileanytraceofanaudi-enceseemedstrangelyabsenttomeintheearlierhalfofthetalk.[wouldventurethefollowingreasonsforthisabsence:Mega-exhibitionsentailaviolentassaultonthetraditionalnotionofanaudienceforart,evenanassaultontheideathatartneedsanaudienceorapublicatall.
If
"mega"heremeansbig,wearefacedwithexhibitionsthatare
too
hig,
thatsufferfromagigantismthatechoesandservesthecontemporarygargantuanscopeofanewlyglobaleconomy.Mega-exhibitionscannotbetakenin,digested,understood,orreadinanycompletemanner,andthissublimescaleservesthefunctionofobfuscation.Theyarecon-structedbycuratorialauthorsaslabyrinthinenarrativeswhoseplotevadesanyattemptatbeingfollowed,nevermindcritiqued.Thebaroquecurvesofcontem-poraryarchitectureseemsimplecomparedtothelayoutofcurrentexhibitiondesign,andtheparallelweightytomesofcontemporaryarchitects-S,
M,L,XL-
arerivaledbymega-exhibitioncatal~guesthatmockthenowquaintscopeofevenbiblicalnarrativebycallingthemselvesSimply
TheBook-I
refer,ofcourse,tothecatalogueforDocumentaX,abookbythewaytoolargeformanytobeabletoaffordto.purchaseit(infact,withabookthissize,youdon'townit,youonlyglanceatitinlibraries,inotherinstitutions,whichseemsatellingdestinationtome).Thisphenomenologicalviolencethatmega-exhibitionsposetotheirspecta-torsisonlyaugmentedbythesocialviolenceentailedbyart'sincreasingmedia-tionthroughthisform.Oneoftenhearsthatbiennialscreateaccesstoartisticcultureforlocalaudiences.Andthistheycertainlydo.Butitseemsnecessarytocontemplateaswellhowthismediationofartactuallybarsaccesstoculturefor
3Noel
Burch
andAllan
Sekula,"Notes
OnaFilm,"
Oclob"
J
00(Spring2002),B3.
DOCUMENH
I
Zl
 
localaudiences,providingfullaccessonlytoanincreasinglynarrowcadreofexpertsandprofessionals,creatingaclassconflictbetweenthosetiedtothespaceofparticularityandthosewhosejobitistocirculateendlesslythroughthespaceswhereartonlyeverpartiallyrevealsitself.Mega-exhibitioncultureseemstomeboundupwiththequestionofexclusion:ascontemporarymuseumsbecomemuchmoreinclusivethantheirtraditionalmandateallowed,biennialssucceedtotheplaceofarbiterofthecanon,tothejudgmentseatofartisticimportanceandstatus.Butwhoelseisexcludedinthisprocessoftheprofessionalizationandspe-cializationofartthatbiennialcultureentails?Yourchoiceofwordsinthelecturegivessomeclues.Youspeakof"biennials"asoffering"transnationalencountersbetweenartists,artmarkets,institutions,andvariousprofessionals."Ifindittellingthatthistransnationalencounterexcludesthepublicastraditionallycon-ceived;itseemstohavenoplaceinthisnewspace.Lateryoualsospeak
of
hop.ingtolocatethenatureofmega-exhibitionswithinaquitespecificnexus:thatofthe"market,institutions,andmedia."You,speakofthevarious"actors"workingthroughthisglobalizedspace:"curators,exhibitions,museums,collectors,media,market..."Someveryimportantactorshavefallenoutoftheselastequations.Artists,forone.Criticsaswell,andperhapsespecially.Theyarenotneededorwantedanymore.Forinthemomentofglobalizationandtheriseofthemega-exhibition,whatweactuallywitnessforperhapsthefirsttimeisthe
totalinstitution-alizationofthepracticeofart,
theonsetofart's
totaladministration
or
totalbureaucratization.
Curatorsreplaceartistsinsuchaneconomyinthesamewayasexpertsreplacecritics.Reproductionbecomesmore'crucialthanproduction;thecontainerbecomesmore,importantthanthecontained.Thesecriticalgoalsofpostmodernismfromtwentyyearsago,whatitcalledtheshiftfrom"worktoframe,"havenowbeentransformedintotheoppositeofcriticality:theyhavebecometheiron-cladlawofadministrativerecuperation.Insuchaneconomy,Ihavetoadmitthatitbecomesquitedistressingtohearacuratordenounce"institutionalcritique"-aswellasnotionsof"mediumspecificity,""artisticautonomy,""artisticparticulari-ty"-asareiterationof"occidentalist"modernityandasamountingtoa"theologyofmodernism"propogatedfromtheviewoftheWesternavant-garde.(Obvious-ly,Ihearthejournal
October,
ofwhichIamnowaneditor,andtheworkofRos-alindKraussasthetargetofsuchremarks.)Alloftheseartistic:strategies
are
strategicandcontingent,poisedtodayagainstthehomogenizationofcapitalistglobalization'astheyweredeployedyesterdayagainstthenation-stateandthefascistrigidityofcapitalistindustrialization.Inthisdenunciationofinstitutionalcritiqueasoccidentallst,inthisfrustrationwiththerecalcitranceandhistoricalmemoryassociatedwithartisticspecificity,Ihearthenewrapaciousnesspropertotheascendencyoftheglobalcurator.IfIamwronginthisregard,weshoulddis-cussourdifferencesonthismatter.Twomodelsforthestructureofmega-exhibitionsseemtorunthroughthelat-
lZ
I
DOCUMENH

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