Tuesday, June 19, 2012

logorrhea at artforum to the point of grasping "intense proximity"

view of "intense proximity", photo: andré morin

alFreDo tRifF

continuing our discussion on arthoodication, how about alexandra perloff-gilles's review of "intense proximity" @ the palais de tokyo for artforum?
Intense Proximity, the 2012 triennial at the newly renovated Palais de Tokyo, is a testament to the complexity of global networks and the increasingly globalized nature of the contemporary art world.
allow me a premature comment on gratuitous circularity: "increasingly globalized" & "contemporary art world" are family: "increasing," i.e., more and more in-the-now. "contemporary," as we speak. then we have "globalized," i.e., worldwide in scope, of which "art world" is a part of. doesn't it keep ringing over and over?

the story goes: curator okwui enwezor sits down with his 4-curator team to "interrogate" (...) the mission of the previous triennials, launched by the Ministry of Culture in 2006 as a response to a perceived lack of recognition of French artists on the international scene."

what's "interrogation?"
For Enwezor, the ever-accelerating pace of globalization—that “intense proximity” to which the exhibition’s title refers—renders such displays of nationalism unthinkable. In the wake of recent French debates surrounding immigration and integration, what does it mean, Enwezor asks, to organize an exhibition designed to affirm cultural identity? 
first, the exhibition's title: "intense proximity," as foggy as a turner painting. second, "nationalism" & "cultural identity" are not synonymous, but again, family. why "unthinkable?" because you are a diasporic superstar curator who interrogates globalization from the nomadic side? (living like attila is not a tenable proposition for the common joe in an overpopulated world). besides, feeling proud of being french or moroccan is not divorced from accepting peoples from other places. nationalism (defined as being close to one's nation) doesn't preclude jingoism.

 view of "intense proximity", photo: andré morin

what does "cultural identity" mean? al-fresco paintings of aix-en-provence? piaf? beef bourguignon? let's complicate it a bit: cubism? deconstruction? neither picasso or derrida were born in france, but they're as french as brie. the identity part of "cultural identity" is as opaque as "intense proximity."

perloff-gilles' conclusion is a blast: 
In their attempt to revisit ethnographic practice and open up a postidentitarian discourse, the curators have deliberately done away with classification schemes in favor of a transnational panorama of contemporary creation. The absence of geographic, thematic, and formal divisions has its merits in sometimes intriguing juxtapositions between works. The sheer quantity of works on display, however, leaves the viewer grasping in vain for a sort of logic to structure the viewing experience, as one wanders through the labyrinthine concrete crypts of the expanded Palais de Tokyo. When you evacuate all hierarchies and taxonomies, as the curators have here, the center doesn’t hold. Which is, indeed, the point.
why "post-identitarian?" we haven't got to "cultural identity" yet. have we? isn't it odd that the curators favor a "transnational panorama" as they were trying -often one hopes in vain- to interrogate "cultural identity" in the first place?*

why bother? grasping in vain is precisely the point!

*this is an excerpt of the exhibit's press release
The Triennale explores a space where art and ethnography converge to a renewed fascination for the unknown and distant. The idea of the project is to go beyond the notion of national space in favor of a space whose morphology is constantly changing and whose definition goes beyond the usual categories of local, national, transnational, geopolitics, the de-nationalization of purity, of miscegenation, etc.
"intense proximity" begins to look like a super-redundant arthoodication cipher in-between post-identitarian and globalization (both categories of identity construction!) see how they overlap: the globalization theorist points to blurred boundaries, virtual reality & free markets over national borders. The post-identitarian expert points to ongoing colonialist practices that blur boundaries & past histories converge with current post-colonial conditions that transcend, well, national borders.


Anonymous said...

why bother? grasping in vain is precisely the point!

moot point.

Anonymous said...

Nice try triff.

T32882041 said...

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain and idea without accepting it"...

Alfredo Triff said...


Anonymous said...

I just came back from the Triennale in the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and I must agree with you. The whole exhibition felt uncentered and sometimes even void of meaning. As if I was witnessing a reenactment of an old ethnographic display, mimicking theoretical frameworks of the past in a contemporary setting. Watching the world, in black and white, slow motion.

The problem was that I could not figure out which world I was witnessing. Was this the politically correct vision of a diplomatic curator whose mission it is to capture ' arts and minds' ? Or was I trapped in the ephemera of the guilty conscious of the very confused ' school of Western European thought', that has seem to have lost it's grip on reality?
When I walked down the stairs to the basement floor of the exhibition, I noticed a text on the wall:

" Fuck immigrants, let us wash our own toilets'.

Reading that comment made everything clear. Globish, global english language has become the dialect of all ' the others' the world consists of. Including myself. The 'washing' instead of cleaning of toilets, resonates with personal hygiene. The West has tried ' to cleanse' it's collective memory from it's sordid past for decades.
The 'other' has always been present and visible. But now ' the other' desires to be treated equally and will not be ignored anymore.
The problem is now, how to accept this fact and how to build a future together including all forms of ' otherness' we are confronted with.
Ethnographers categorized and dismissed the unknown as the uncontrollable lesser half of humanity. Western modern civilisation claimed to bring salvation to the world. In the end it failed, western 'modernity' brought war, genocide, slavery, inequality, segregation and economic crises. Maybe we should start to clean our own toilets and ask ' the immigrants' to share their views of the world we live in, instead of observing and studying them while they clean up after the mess we've made. Otherwise I fear history will inevitably repeat itself.

We should tell all these stories not in obscure histories of scarfed women, half naked men and bare feet children, but speak the truth of the lives of Philipino nannies and illegal African domestic workers, imprisoned sex workers from former Eastern Europe. Instead of colonizing their countries, we colonize their minds and lives, as parasites we live off their cheap labour , banishing them to a shadow world, trying to forget what brought them to the West in the first place; Western greed and dominion.

The writing is on the wall at the Palais de Tokyo, that is intense. An acute reminder, not of the past but of our present day and age.

Alfredo Triff said...

thanks, Ano. good point.