SEE Theories and Postcolonial Studies - Part 4

posted by sab on 2006/08/23 15:34

[ SEE Theories and Postcolonial Studies ]

Post(-)Colonial Aloofness

Travelling and blogging seem to go well together for other people, I find it rather difficult to remember what I wanted to blog the day before when I read things like this. Actually, it just makes me angry more than I could explain, and question my whole interest in Postcolonialism, Balkanism and all other -isms. Maybe that's why the following article, found on nettime on the 19th of August, was the cherry on top of my postcolonial pie with balkan cream.

The article has first been published on Bidoun, a magazine on arts and culture from the middle east, and can be found here on nettime.

Modern Incline Modern Decline

Francesco Bonami

From BIDOUN Spring/Summer 2006

In December 2005 of 2005, I participated in a symposium organized by Bob
Storr at the Venice Biennale with the appealing title: Where Art Worlds
Meet: Multiple Modernities and the Global Salon. It meant what it said.
There were "different art worlds" trying to become one big artworld,
people talking about different versions of modernities, the global and the
global salon itself. Like many other symposiums, it was an excuse to
create meaning around an exhibition, and the level of incoherence was
accordingly very high.

When the term postcolonial was said for the 7,487th time, establishing a
record - surpassing the number of performances of the Phantom of the
Opera, and even Cats, the two longest-running shows in Broadway history -
I searched desperately for my 44 Magnum to randomly shoot a couple of
speakers and a few nodding listeners. Unfortunately, I'd left the gun at
home that day. So I decided that I no longer give a fuck about
colonialism, precolonialism, post-colonialism, neocolonialism,
hyper-colonialism, homemade colonialism, organic colonialism, low-fat
colonialism or semi-colonialism. I really don't. Not to say the we cannot
change the world we live in, but we cannot do so before accepting that the
world we live in is just that - not some kind of fiction with multiple

In fact, Venice, as a city and a former colonial power, is the perfect
example of how power can eventually rot, molder and putrefy, how colonial
hubris can be transformed into a mass rape of tourists. Venice is the best
example of postcolonial malaise. Sustaining power requires modernity. A
city needs cars, not gondolas; taxis, not a transportation mafia.
(Amsterdam, the 'Venice of the North', has no gondolas, plenty of cars,
and a taxi mafia second to none, or it must be Goa, India -- yrs truly)
Yet modernity is only One; the plural that has been used and abused so
often during the last decade is a delusion. One modernity, that's it. One
fucked-up modernity, for sure, but one and the same. One could paraphrase
the title of one of Matthew Barney's works here: a "modern incline" exists
as well as a "modern decline." There are countries, institutions, artists,
critics and curators who experience the incline of modernity, and those
who live its decline.

There are other places, but no other realities, at least not in the
artworld. Too bad Homi Bhabha declined his invitation at the last moment,
preferring to stay in the golden cocoon of Harvard, the ultimate example
of an auto-colonial, supermodern cultural organization. Whoever blames him
for doing so is an hypocrite. The privilege of the last-minute refusal is
a result of modernity. The only possibility of finding another way to be
modern is to create a modern way to relinquish privileges, or to try to
invent new modern institutions and organizations elsewhere - to detach
ourselves from the modern center to which, in one way or another, we are
all gravitating for accreditation, self-celebration and recognition.

As long as we haven't abandonned the idea that the postcolonial is the
last surviving global underground, the last factory for a possible
revolution of the mind, we will continue to sit around a long table
farting theories on the Darkness of our Modern Hearts. We are at best
post-colloquial; we're no longer listening to anything but to our own
theories. We refuse to cope with the fact that we are either in a modern
world gone berseck or in a world that never succeeded in being modern in
the first place. I care exclusively about art that speaks to the world -
be it in the local, the marginal, the center or the bottom. Anything else
is completely irrelevant. Bad art exists everywhere, for every reason. Bad
taste, lack of ideas, colonialism, corruption, religion, incinerated
modernity, stale modernity, whatever. Bad is bad, good is mostly good.
Heraclitus was convinced that we become who we are. And so am I. A dwarf
is a dwarf, Kate Moss is Kate Moss. And we cannot change any of the above,
but we can make the best of it instead of conducting a "discourse" that is
a cheap fiction. The Venice symposium was basically that: a fiction about
and mockery of ourselves. Would you like to know where art worlds meet? In
one and the same world, in the very same places, with more or less the
same people. Multiple modernities? No way! And the global salon?
Considering the mess going down these days, it's more of a Global Saloon,
with swinging doors, the pianist, the good guys and the bad guys all
playing poker together.


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The imagineSEE-weblog is a space about ideas, images, (re)inventions and (re)constructions of and about the Balkans, from outside and within SEE.

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This is a part of the collage 'The Black File' by Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic, who will be represented at documenta 12 (16/6-23/9) in Kassel this year.

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