Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beginnings that emerge with new beginnings

As an organizer of the Out of Time Symposium, it was/is incredible to begin with a one of a kind dialogue. Please read my interpretation of what transpired at this opening event in the form of notes.
-Annie Fukushima-

Event Details:

9:30 a.m.– 10:30 a.m., Geballe Room, Center Note Conversations:
Keynote Conversation: Transnational artworlds, social justice, and the “will to globality”
Okwui Enwezor + Laura Pérez + Ramón Grosfoguel
Introduced by Dalida Maria Benfield

For the Out of TimeSpace symposium ritical questions/definitions surrounding issues of art, visual culture, border thinking, and radical intervention, were provided by center conversations between Laura Pérez, Ramón Grosfoguel and Okwui Enwezor.

While every beginning has a beginning, this particular one of the Out of TimeSpace Symposium began with that of the voices of people of color, here more specifically a woman of color scholar: Laura E. Perez. Perez shared with the audience the beginnings of the symposium that began much earlier than 9-11 (and we can even say, even before that in conversations/inspirations that transpired much earlier): the symposium arose out of, the Visuality & Alterity Working Group at UC Berkeley, whose goal was to create connections with other institutions in order to answer the question of: “What does praxis mean?” Concerns for the graduate students in this working group were the politics of the local and global, in order to think about the different locations that bodies occupy, what different powers look like, how is it articulated through different networks, and where are the sites of interventions.

For Perez's work, there are three sites of work. First, Chicana art (1985-2000, a multimedia, relatively recently sophisticated work to understand the aesthetic strategies) – that allows for a thinking of the decolonizing aesthetics or world views that are embedded in this, how does it circulate how is it being read? The second is inspired by Perez’s work as a curatorial team that was conceived two years ago. The team worked on murals in the mission to engage with global conversations, to challenge cultural Darwinism in which the digital becomes opposed to accessible mediums. The third, is the critique of corporate companies and the art world relations that are embodied in the widely traveled shows of Chich Marin. Such a linking is embodied in one of the locations (the El Paso) where what greeted people who attended Marin’s shows was a painting that included with it a large Target logo. As Perez began the Chicana Art project, that inevitably led her to thinking more seriously, what has happened in the aftermath and the NEA backlash, the appropriation and occupation of public art spaces. The changing of art spaces, the economics, the kinds of work people are doing to critique the museum, and other forms of museum and exhibition, to begin crafting the maps as to what is going on in the arts, where public display, its practice is one sense, a growing corporation, but also a limited incorporation.

Questions that Perez moved the audience toward include: How do we respond? Can we respond to the types of privatization that are happening to public spaces? Such questions segue to Perez’s last comment and that is on the following: The creation of the museum and other display spaces, have always been tied to the performance of collective identities/performing of a national identities. It’s a very un-innocent process. Community process is made. Who is operating those spaces, how the public museum and other spaces, Connected to the privatization of other public spaces. We need to investigate corporate welfare. She asks: How is it that local museums, you can trace the pressure that museums are getting from govt. cut backs that open the doors of corporations?

Ramon Grosfoguel followed Laura E. Perez in the conversation. His work, a comparative framework, contributed to the conversation through his engagement with the cartography of power. Grosfoguel's methodology is to decolonize a world systems paradigm. Grosfuguel contends that if you look at the traditional social sciences, as much critical they are to they are to the Cartesian thoughts, there is a legacy of Cartesians that we have not overcome. The “politics of knowledge”, “I think so therefore I am”, the “I” is where we produce knowledge. The assumption is that you are supposed to produce a knowledge that is “nowhere” that assumes a neutrality. The “I” is not situated anywhere, not in the body, the dualism between mind and body, mind and somewhere, the mind is somewhere floating that allows the Cartesian of western thought that allows, he calls it an “epistemic racism”. The assumption that western epistemology is superior to the rest. If you look at the canon of social sciences it comes from western thought. What he is questioning is more a complexity of what it implies if we take a seriously the tradition from those other traditions of thoughts. It is the hegemony of thought. If we use this politics of knowledge, we get a very limited and distorted and the world systems, a capitalist world system or a global capitalism. The problems that he has with that definition, if you start the analysis of the present world system and you look at it from Europe expanding, then you get a particular configuration. What happens if we shift the geography of reason to the “undersight” of the experience. What we arrive at is a “complex package of power relations”. Grosfoguel contends that we need a complex understanding of power that is more multiple. On a world scale the relations that are global between north south, it is not just a phenomenon of the economy. Who does the work in the periphery, usually people from non-european origins. Those who get the benefits at the core, are usually people from either western or from western origins. There is another configuration he talks about the global/gender hierarchy. In white feminism there is a limited understanding of patriarchy, in fact the patriarchy the patriarchy that was globalized is European patriarchy. He wants to understand the local patriarchy and the global patriarchy. In other places it was matriarchy. Grosfoguel we are going to fight power, we need to have a process conceptualization of power. That is why he thinks that we need to look at the geography of reason. Can’t talk about it in the oldways of superstructures, he would prefer to use a concepts that have been used by people of color or feminist frameworks – intersectionality. Where one thing is the last instance of something, the heterogeneous to capture the complexity of where we live.

Okui Enwezor then followed Grosfoguel, calling for specificity. Enwezor has three key terms:

1) right at this moment the key question, what he calls the strategies of solidarities

2) techniques of coalition building

3) Building the minor (the aesthetics of the minor)

Okwui conveys that it is not so much to decolonize, but eviscerate the structure. Reading a 1970 quote, this quote is central to where we are (Berkeley as a site of revln.), that leads to the question: “What can you do as a young artist that seems relevant and meaningful”

Such a question is important to how we think about the issues, the kind of works that are fed on the market, that have become a site of excess. He thinks that the resonance of questions surrounding multiculturalism are no longer relevant in the institutions. One has to begin first not with the critique of the museum. Museums may serve public functions but they are private. It is not an open system the museum it gives us the imaginary that appears to be public in spite of its privatization. Multiculturality for Enwezor is what one has to contest, not necessarily deuniversalizing feminist discourse or cultural rhetoric. Enwezor argues that to really to begin to talk about muliticulturality, we have to begin where this multiculturality takes place.

Enwezor asks us to look beyond the public sphere. How do we move beyond that to think critically about civic society in which the Civic society are goal oriented? Enwezor argues that one trajectory for us is to not feed the beast. The minor, does not operate from the domain of the privileged manufactured commodification, a redistribution of works say systems of consumption.

Moving away from the model of the public sphere to the model of the civic society, where the politics of the north and south is a battle of the public sphere that are deeply embedded in the world system (grassroots institutions). This is one way to respond to this tension of the local and the global and how material, aesthetics, so forth move. The instance of civil society play a greater role in developing civil society. These societies are societies in translation. What is valued is the community. How do artists in Senegal respond to the rural AND the urban. This is not a local/global context, the way the rural is marginalized. They begin from redistributing the social capital. What they do is a transference of skills, that critique of the system, a collective of artists in Senegal is a redistribution of knowledge/skills. How the life worlds of these communities function, he thinks that we need to be attentative to “civil societies” – chicano movement are fundamentally a civil society movement that are in many ways very seductive.

Important “take-away” points may be read in the form of more questions/directions for thinking about how time-space of visual culture and intersecting realities interact with each other in both the global and the local:

How we can move beyond western binarisms that are highly polarized in the global north? One way is to invert the western binary.

How can new terms/language allow for a decolonial project? For example, “Interculturality” Latin American concept, interculturality implies equality.

What are the Different ways of defining community, the public sphere versus the civic bodies is useful. Different spaces that people function?

How does public/private provide binaries further inequities, and where are the spaces of possibilities?

And seeing this symposium as a particular beginning within many beginnings, what is art in this context of the Out of TimeSpace symposium?

Where may we build coalitions?

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