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A Journal of Accounts Art | Culture | Theory

Nancy Adajania | Stephanie Bailey | Adam Geczy | Lana Lopesi | Ian McLean Andrew Maerkle | Guy Mannes-Abbott | Basak Senova | Andrew Wood


Venues│Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Hall, Asia Culture Center, Select Locations in Gwangju Metropolitan City

H o st s │Gwangju Biennale Foundation˙Gwangju Metropolitan City www.gwangjubiennale.org

문화재단


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A Journal of Accounts Art | Culture | Theory

Editor Alan Cruickshank Publisher DIVAN JOURNAL | University of NSW Art & Design Design Alan Cruickshank

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD NANCY ADAJANIA India Cultural theorist, editor, writer and curator, Bombay (Mumbai) JOHN BATTEN Hong Kong Writer and art, culture, and urban planning critic

ISSN 2207-1563

THOMAS BERGHUIS The Netherlands/Australia Fellow, Leiden Asia Centre, Leiden University; Principal Fellow (Honorary), School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

© Copyright 2018 Alan Cruickshank in conjunction with the University of NSW Art & Design, Sydney, the authors and artists.

DIANA CAMPBELL BETANCOURT Bangladesh Artistic Director, Samdani Art Foundation; Chief Curator, Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka Artistic Director, Bellas Artes Projects, Manila

No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission.

FULYA ERDEMCI Turkey/The Netherlands Curator and writer, Istanbul/Amsterdam

d ɪˈv a n | A Journal of Accounts is published biannually by DIVAN JOURNAL and University of NSW Art & Design, Sydney.

PATRICK FLORES The Philippines Professor of Art Studies, University of the Philippines, Manila

Editorial | Subscription | Advertising inquiries: Email: artandculturejournal@gmail.com Post: University of NSW Art & Design Paddington Campus, Cnr Oxford St & Greens Rd, Paddington, NSW 2021 Australia

BLAIR FRENCH Australia Director, Curatorial & Digital, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney

The views and/or opinions expressed in d ɪˈv a n | A Journal of Accounts are those of the contributing writers and not necessarily those of the editor, DIVAN JOURNAL or the University of NSW Art & Design, Sydney. divan: from the Persian dīwān, an account book; origin dēvan, booklet; also related to debir, writer; evolved through ‘a book of poems’, ‘collection of literary passages’, ‘an archive’, ‘book of accounts’ and ‘collection of sheets’ to ‘an assembly’, ‘office of accounts’, ‘custom house’, ‘government bureau’ or ‘councils chamber’, to a long, cushioned seat, which in this sense entered European languages. divan presents a shift of content and meaning over time coexistent with evolving historical relationships between the East and West. d ɪˈv a n | A Journal of Accounts offers critical interpretations on contemporary art and culture, and its broader art historical, socio-political and theoretical contexts, from the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia), greater Asia/Asia-Pacific regions, and Australia.

ADAM GECZY Australia Senior Lecturer, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney; author, artist PAUL GLADSTON Australia Judith Neilson Chair in Contemporary Art, University of New South Wales Art & Design, Sydney ALEXIE GLASS-KANTOR Australia Executive Director, Artspace, Sydney REUBEN KEEHAN Australia Curator, Contemporary Asian Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Modern Art, Brisbane VASIF KORTUN Turkey Board Member, SALT, Istanbul RAY LANGENBACH Finland Research Fellow, Finnish Academy of Fine Art, Helsinki SUSIE LINGHAM Singapore Independent thinker, writer, educator and maker in the arts IAN McLEAN Australia The Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art, University of Melbourne VALI MAHLOUJI United Kingdom Curator, writer, critic and author, London GUY MANNES-ABBOTT United Kingdom Writer, essayist and critic, London CHARLES MEREWETHER Georgia Curator of Contemporary Art, National Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi NAT MULLER The Netherlands Independent curator and critic, Amsterdam NIKOS PAPASTERGIADIS Australia Professor, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne ROBIN PECKHAM China Editor-in-Chief, LEAP magazine, Beijing

Cover: Composite image from Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (details), 2015-17 (top and bottom) and Jean-Gabriel Charvet, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique [The Voyages of Captain Cook], 1805 (middle). Photos courtesy Lisa Reihana and New Zealand at Venice; and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

SIMON REES New Zealand Director, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth TAN BOON HUI USA Director, Asia Society Museum; Vice President of Global Arts & Cultural Programs, Asia Society, New York PHIL TINARI China Director, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing

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MURTAZA VALI USA Writer, art historian, and curator, New York ALA YOUNIS Jordan Curator and artist, Amman

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Contents 102 Unlearning Style: Rethinking Japan’s Art History in a Global Context

19 Parergon

ALAN CRUICKSHANK

ANDREW MAERKLE

20 Paper Tigers: The New Iconoclasm and Identity Politics IAN McLEAN

112 Akal Baanta Baanti: Experiments in Collaboration NANCY ADAJANIA

32 Now Where? On Navigating Without a Compass STEPHANIE BAILEY

120 What Comes Over the Sea In Pursuit of Venus ANDREW WOOD

46 Tales from the Deportees Room: Porting One (DXB) GUY MANNES-ABBOTT

80 Operation Sunken Sea: Flipping The Historical Narrative

130 Indigenous Futurisms, New Media and Contemporary Assertions of Indigeneity LANA LOPSESI

138

BASAK SENOVA

IMAGE NOTATIONS

90 Superpositioned: Regionality and Identity, Meaning and Critical Experience ADAM GECZY

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CLIMATES.

HABITATS.

ENVIRONMENTS.

Narra Tree Habitat: Southeast Asia Conservation Status: Vulnerable

THE ExHIBITION HALL

Trees of Life – Knowledge in Material 21 July – 30 September 2018 Stagings. Soundings. Readings. Free Jazz II 21 September – 4 November 2018 THE LAB

Journey of a Yellow Man. Selected Materials from the Independent Archive 15 September – 25 November 2018

NTU CCA Singapore’s overarching research topic, CLIMATES. HABITATS. ENVIRONMENTS., informs and connects the Centre’s various activities for the next three years. Changes in the environment influence weather patterns and these climatic shifts impact habitats, and vice versa. Precarious conditions of habitats are forcing the migration of humans and other species at a critical level. The consequences of human intervention are felt on a global scale, affecting geopolitical, social, and cultural systems. The Centre intends to discuss and understand these realities through art and culture in dialogue with other fields of knowledge.

Located at

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore Block 43 Malan Road, Singapore 109443 www.ntu.ccasingapore.org ntu.ccasingapore @ntu_ccasingapore @NTUCCASingapore


Aug – Nov

2018 Sensory Agents Centred around Len Lye’s noise-making kinetic sculpture and a set of audio recordings held in the Len Lye Foundation Archive, Sensory Agents focuses on the role sound plays in Lye’s work and links Lye to a younger generation of artists who share his interest in the capacity of sound and music to elicit sensory responses. The exhibition includes installations, projections and new commissions by Yuko Mohri (JP), Sergei Tcherepnin (US) and Danae Valenza (AU). Also featured is a series of newly commissioned compositions by contemporary artists and composers using the sounds of Lye’s sculpture, including Daniel Beban, Sabisha Friedberg, Sally Ann McIntyre, Campbell Kneale, Phew, Francis Plagne, Nell Thomas, Taku Unami, Ben Vida and Mikey Young. Curated by Sarah Wall Yuko Mohri Moré Moré Variations 2017. Photo Ayumi Matsuura. Courtesy the artist

Projection Series #11: An Oceanic Feeling Through a series of screenings of recent artists’ film from around the world, An Oceanic Feeling explores how the seas are thoroughly imbricated in human histories of colonialism, slavery, exploration and labour. This Projection Series asks: what if we understood the ocean not as dividing us but as connecting us? What politics, what ethics, would follow? Featuring films by Peggy Ahwesh, Noël Burch, CAMP, Filipa Cesar, Mati Diop, The Otolith Group, Louis Henderson, Maddie Leech, Rebecca Meyers, Philip Scheffner, Alan Sekula, G. Anthony Svatek and Francisco Rodriguez. Curated by Erika Balsom, Govett-Brewster’s 2017 International Film Curator in Residence Noël Burch and Allan Sekula The Forgotten Space 2006. Courtesy of Doc.Eye Film

42 Queen Street New Plymouth Aotearoa New Zealand

govettbrewster.com

Open seven days 10am – 5pm


Art is knowledge. Asia Art Archive is a catalyst for new ideas that enrich our understanding of the world through the collection, creation, and sharing of knowledge around recent art in Asia.

www.aaa.org.hk

Asia Art Archive 11/F Hollywood Center 233 Hollywood Road Sheung Wan, Hong Kong T. +852 2844 1112 E. info@aaa.org.hk

AsiaArtArchive aaa.org.hk Opening hours Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm


CONTEMPORARY ART CENTRE FREE ENTRY

10 HOLLYWOOD ROAD, CENTRAL, HONG KONG

DISMANTLING THE SCAFFOLD Presented by Spring Workshop 9 June – 15 August 2018

SIX-PART PRACTICE: WING PO SO SOLO EXHIBITION Presented by the MA Programme in Fine Arts of the Chinese University of Hong Kong 9 June – 15 August 2018 www.taikwun.hk


MATTHEW DAY, KEIR CHOREOGRAPHIC AWARD, 2014, CARRIAGEWORKS. IMAGE: GREGORY LORENZUTTI


SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 – JANUARY 20, 2019 CURRENTLY ON VIEW THROUGH AUGUST 12, 2018

Clouds Stretching for a Thousand Miles: Ink in Asian Art Asia Society Museum 725 Park Ave. (at 70th St.) New York City AsiaSociety.org/NY

Masterpieces from the Asia Society Museum Collection M.F. Husain. (Detail) Peasant Couple, 1950. Oil on canvas. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Photography by Walter Silver


Sarker Protick, Disintegration (detail), from the series Exodus (2015—ongoing). Photographic installation, variable dimensions. Courtesy the artist.

Temporary Certainty

Rushdi Anwar Alana Hunt Sarker Protick

31 AUG – 14 OCT 2018

181-187 HAY ST HAYMARKET SYDNEY

4a.com.au


CONTRIBUTORS Nancy Adajania is a cultural theorist and curator based in Bombay; has written since the late 1990s on the practices of four generations of Indian women artists. Her book, The Thirteenth Place: Positionality as Critique in the Art of Navjot Altaf (The Guild Art Gallery, 2016), extends the field of art history by developing regional histories of Marxism, feminism and collaborative art practice in the context of postcolonial Indian art. She has proposed several new theoretical models through her extensive writings on media art, public art, the biennial culture, trans-cultural art practices, subaltern art, and the relationship of art to the public sphere; joint Artistic-Director 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012); taught curatorial practice course at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts 2013 and 2014; edited the issue ‘Some things that only art can do: A Lexicon of Affective Knowledge’, Aroop (New Delhi, 2017) with trans-disciplinary contributions from the fields of visual arts, music, architecture, dance and theatre. Stephanie Bailey is Londonbased Senior Editor of Ibraaz, a contributing editor for Art Papers and LEAP, Editor-at-Large Ocula. com, and a member of the Naked Punch Editorial Committee. She also writes regularly for Artforum International, and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and is the curator of the Conversations and Salon Program, Art Basel in Hong Kong, where she was born and raised. Adam Geczy is an artist and writer who teaches at Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney. He has published over fifteen books, including The Artificial Body in Fashion and Art (Bloomsbury, 2017), and is editor of two journals, the Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture and ab-Original (both published by Penn State Press). His is currently working (with Vicki Karaminas) on a book about the philosophical implications of popular culture and contemporary art.

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Lana Lopesi is an art critic based in Tāmaki Makaurau, New Zealand; her writing has featured in a number of publications in print, online, and in artist and exhibition catalogues; Editor-in-Chief for The Pantograph Punch and was Founding Editor of #500words. Ian McLean is the Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History, University of Melbourne; has published extensively on Australian art and particularly indigenous art, including Indigenous Archives The making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art (with Darren Jorgensen), UWA Publishing, 2017; Rattling Spears A History of Indigenous Australian Art, Reaktion Books, 2016; Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Contemporary Art, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014; How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art: White Aborigines Identity Politics in Australian Art, Power Publications, 2011 and The Art of Gordon Bennett, Craftsman House, 1996. Andrew Maerkle is a writer and editor based in Tokyo; has written extensively about art in China, Japan and Southeast Asia for Art & Australia, Frieze, ARTiT and Artforum; has contributed numerous essays and interviews to catalogues; 2006-08 deputy editor of ArtAsiaPacific; graduated with honors from the Comparative Literature and Society Program, Columbia University, New York, in 2003. Guy Mannes-Abbott is a Londonbased writer whose work often performs in visual art contexts, including the critically-acclaimed In Ramallah, Running (Black Dog, 2012), contributory texts for e-flux journal’s Supercommunity (Venice Biennale 2015/Verso, 2017), End Note(s) (Rotterdam/Hong Kong, 2015) and a short story for Drone Fiction (Dubai, 2013); has contributed essays to WdW Review Vol.1 (Rotterdam, 2017), Future Imperfect (Berlin, 2016), The Gulf: High Culture, Hard Labor (New York, 2015), collaborated with

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the Bombay-based CAMP on The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories (Folkestone Triennial, 2011), and wrote the introduction to Mourid Barghouti’s Midnight & Other Poems (2008); taught theory at the AA School of Architecture, London; his cultural criticism has been published widely in The Independent, The Guardian, New Statesman, Bidoun, Third Text, Architectural Review, Camera Austria, Middle East Monitor, etc. He is a core member of the Gulf Labour Coalition, and campaigner for London’s urban forest, some of which spirit is at work in his forthcoming tribute to the city and its commons; Rivering the Roding. Basak Senova is a Vienna-based curator and designer; has been writing on art, technology and media, initiating and developing projects and curating exhibitions since 1995; has lectured in various universities in Turkey; curator, Pavilion of Turkey, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); co-curator, UNCOVERED (Cyprus) and the 2nd Biennial of Contemporary Art, D-0 ARK Underground (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Art Gallery Chair of SIGGRAPH 2014, Vancouver; curator of Helsinki Photography Biennial and The Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures (both 2014); Pavilion of Republic of Macedonia, 56th Venice Biennale (2015), Lines of Passage (in medias res), Lesvos (2016) and The Discord, Jerusalem (2017). Since the beginning of 2017, she has been working on a long-term research-based art project CrossSections in Vienna, Helsinki, and Stockholm. Andrew Wood is a Christchurch, New Zealand-based independent curator, cultural historian and critic, with specific interest in the visual arts, design, craft, architecture, clothing, literature, food, social history and the politics of identity and representation. His most recent book was the bilingual German and English translation Karl Wolfskehl: Three Worlds / Drei Welten: Selected Poems, Cold Hub Press, 2015, with Friedrich Voit.


ALAN CRUICKSHANK

Parergon This issue marks two years of publication of di’van | A Journal of Accounts. The journal’s philosophy, in critically evaluating the contemporary, the art historical and art theoretical, from West Asia, to East and Southeast Asia, and to the Asia-Pacific, apropos to what might be deemed Australia’s present socio-cultural condition, has sought to establish a crucial link between these ‘zones of contact’ and advance an additive perspective to the wider art world through the reflective and retrievable analogue platform of ink on paper, not necessarily a redundant agency despite the propensity for the digital. Its particular raison d’etre—‘History underscores The Contemporary’—draws attention to the long-fuse, slow-burn that actuates cultural endeavour and the unequivocal markers of registration and interrelationships in these regions. Within this context repeating dynamics ensue and commingle: the politics of representation and identity, post-truth and fakery, and the polarisation of political culture; reimagined or revisited anniversaries and commemorations; future-imperfect historical and regional positionings and departures; shifting and reinterpreted narratives; and the unassailable constant of recurring histories. Backgrounding these scopic perspectives, amongst others, is an intriguing artworld construct, of a prevailing fixation cultivated by the lodestars of contemporary art, international biennales and their equivalents, from the apogee of Venice to the boundary riders, through the challenging hypotheses of title and rationale, with the artistic director or curatorium functioning as seer or forecaster, and the artist as advocate or champion, avidly declaring a collective appriorism that this art will redeem us, from apathy or ignorance, neutrality or complicity, of the world’s travails; art as panacea, remedy and atonement. The archetype of this approach in 2017 was documenta 14: Learning from Athens, which called attention to Europe’s economic, migration and democratic crises, proposing exhibitions in both Athens and Kassel that acutely identified the hegemony of Germany within the European Union and its browbeating of Greece over its economic vandalism and political obstinancy (and perhaps to confirm its anti-capitalism badge, effecting from an extravagant budget a sizeable deficit in the process). Following in its wake the 10th Berlin Biennale–We Don’t Need Another Hero, assertively repudiated ‘unyielding knowledge systems’ and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of ‘toxic subjectivities’. Less sermonic though no less equivocal was the Istanbul Biennial’s A Good Neighbour which focused on multiple notions of ‘home’ as an indicator of diverse identities and ‘neighbourhood’ as a micro-universe exemplifying the current challenges of co-existence, Turkey’s domestic political turbulence and regional power plays notwithstanding. Their Euro-cohort, the 57th Venice Biennale celebrated mankind’s ability to avoid being dominated by the powers governing world affairs; art as an act of resistance, liberation and generosity. Elsewhere, the 2018 Shanghai Biennale: Proregress–Art in an Age of Historical Ambivalence posits the role of art as a witness of current global ambivalences, struggles and anxieties, while the Gwangju Biennale–Imagined Borders responds to the current times of change and uncertainty within today’s political and planetary crises. Et alia. This dynamic, of art in a world of crisis, presents an expansive platform for pervasive and compelling discourse seemingly for some time to come.

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IAN McLEAN

Paper Tigers: The New Iconoclasm and Identity Politics

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… you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. Deuteronomy 7:5, c. 640 BC “We cannot,” Oscar Wilde wrote in 1889, “re-write the whole of history for the purpose of gratifying our moral sense of what should be.”1 But this is exactly what historians do: they rewrite stories to gratify their moral sensibilities. Currently being written out of history and so out of the future is the moral ascendancy of Western civilisation and its icons of power. This was patently evident in an open letter posted on Artnews (online) on 21 March 2017. Announcing they were the future, “a youthful coalition of artists and scholars of colour”2 chastised two Asian-American curators of the Whitney Biennial for exhibiting Dana Schutz’s Open Casket (2016), a painting protesting racial violence.3 The issue was not Schutz’s protest but her heritage, which was named with the race term “White”. Penned by Hannah Black, a thirty six-year-old black British artist with a Master of Fine Arts from Goldsmiths University of London and signed by nearly fifty co-signatories (the “youthful coalition”), the letter asked the curators “to remove” the offending item “with the urgent recommendation that the painting be destroyed and not entered into any market or museum.” The nub of their argument: “White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights.” So, “The painting must go.”4 Wilde didn’t take ethics out of aesthetics but made aesthetics the benchmark of ethics. In thus making aesthetics the measure of ethics, he designated it a sacred practice, to the point of defending the art of a (probable) serial murderer, Australia’s most acclaimed colonial portraitist, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright. As if also believing art was a sacred enterprise, the Cuban-American artist and curator Coco Fusco fumed in disbelief at Black’s letter: “I find it alarming and entirely wrongheaded to call for the censorship and destruction of an artwork, no matter what its content is or who made it.” Fusco added an additional ethical imperative: Black “presumes an ability to speak for all black people that smacks of a cultural nationalism that has rarely served black women.”5 Fusco thus points to the morality driving this new iconoclasm: identity politics. No wonder she bristled. For several decades she has been at the forefront of efforts to revoke the ethnocentric arrogance of identity politics, of, in this case, the Western artworld. Fusco fought for inclusion, not exclusion. Australian indigenous academic Marcia Langton made a similar point in 1994: “There is a naïve belief that Aboriginal people will make ‘better’ representations of us simply because, it is argued, being Aboriginal gives a ‘greater’ understanding. This belief is based on an ancient and universal feature of racism: the assumption of the undifferentiated Other.”6 While Fusco wasn’t the only individual quick to return fire, the institutions seemed less perturbed, as if secure in their power. The Whitney Biennial, for example, refused to censor Schutz’s painting but did allow protestors to politely mount a vigil in front of it, effectively blocking its view and at the same time transforming a pedestrian work into a more interesting performative piece. In the process, it increased exposure of the Biennial, Shutz’s offending painting, and in the most reproduced photograph of the debacle, Parker Bright (one of the “youthful coalition”) obscuring the painting’s view with his ‘Black Death Spectacle’ T-shirt. Most of all, it affirmed the Whitney Biennial’s artworld authority.

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IAN McLEAN

A few months later Stephen Townes was equally cool-headed when he asked for his paintings depicting Nat Turner’s slave rebellion7 be removed from public view following an AfricanAmerican employee of the gallery objecting to portraits of black men with nooses around their necks. While insisting he had intended to “honour the countless black men and women that fought against slavery… [and] not to fetishise Black pain”8 Townes thought it important to respect the feelings of the offended employee. This was not a case of identity politics—Townes is African-American—but of objections to art’s sacred rights, some would insist duty, to challenge and offend. It thus went to the heart of modernism’s iconoclastic raison d’être, expressed in George Orwell’s maxim: “Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Townes replaced his paintings with a gesture to minimalism, in which a blue tape wall drawing traced the edges of the removed painting, like police tape around a crime scene. In both these examples iconoclasm was revealed to be a paper tiger, as it provided an opportunity for the artworld to reiterate its authority. Parker Bright seems to know this better than anyone. He is now protesting the use of the widely disseminated image of him in front of Schutz’s painting by the French-Algerian installation artist Neïl Beloufa.9 Bright instagrammed: “How many times will images of me be used by white/*non Black (Beloufa is French-Algerian) artists for fine art or for products????... Literally using my likeness for your ‘powerful’ work, like u didn’t do anything but put me on a mirror FUCK U PAY ME.” THE ICON AND THE SACRED ARCHIVE Traditional iconoclasts (from the Greek eikon: “likeness, image”; klastes: “breaker”) destroy religious images (icons) for religious reasons. However, iconoclasts don’t destroy icons because they are against icons. Iconoclasts are iconophiles, not iconophobes; they buy into the sacred power of icons. There is secret pact between the making and unmaking of icons, an aesthetic game of thrones that distributes political power. Icons are images that declare their power by distinguishing the divine from the mundane. As such they are a licence issued by the gods for political or earthly power. Stored and guarded in the archive (from the Greek arkhi: “first, chief, ruler, primeval”)—not any archive but the sacred Archive that was Derrida’s subject in Archive Fever, icons are documents that “state the law: they recall the law and call on or impose the law.” The first archive was a secret cave, more lately churches and museums, where special signs (icons) are gathered into “a single corpus... a synchrony in which all the elements articulate the unity of an ideal configuration”10—what the art museum calls “the canon”. This “single corpus” is the sacred Archive. In hiding behind the skirts of the priests, or archivists, political or earthly power anchors itself in a spiritual or metaphysical domain. Sovereignty—the power to make the law—is ultimately won and lost at the entrance of the Archive, not from the barrel of the gun. The Archive is a site of iconophiliac obsession, but the single corpus that is the Archive is never a settled thing. It must be continuously reiterated, which is how icons are remade and unmade. The most powerful art in the Archive is always the most iconic, but in times of change iconoclasm comes to the fore to enhance the Archive’s agency. Schutz’s and Townes’ paintings were iconoclastic as they spoke against the residual iconic power of white mythology—in this case the context was ‘Black Lives Matter’ and the apparent impunity of the police in killing black people on North American streets. The attempts to censor these works were also iconoclastic, and also made in the name of Black Lives Matter. In testing the limits of what is permissible, each affirms the Archive’s function as the mediator of symbolic power. l

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Paper Tigers: The New Iconoclasm and Identity Politics

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ICONOCLASTIC ART Western art descends directly from religious icons and is a consequence of the separation of the state and religion in Europe. These new secular states, consummated in the nation-state, transferred the Archive from the secret caves of cathedrals (usually the sacristy or crypt) and palaces to state monuments and museums. Here statues and portraits of secular heroes such as Captain James Cook (the Christopher Columbus of Australia), American Civil War Confederate generals and revolutionary heroes, became the new icons—modern versions of gods, saints and ancestral heroes. Iconoclasm thrived in Western art during the previous two hundred years because of modernity’s relentless assault on tradition. The twentieth century, especially the first half, was extremely iconoclastic, so much so that by the 1950s the avant-garde had stormed the Archive. Thereby absorbed into its corpus, modernist art became the new icons, and its defining iconoclasm was an empty gesture, as in Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953). Made with de Kooning’s blessing it quickly became a postmodern icon. As the Western avant-garde settled into a self-satisfied sense of achievement, the need for iconoclasm—which is unabated—found other avenues, in the streets but also the studios of nonWestern artists. Iconoclasm had, of course, come from the streets before this. In every revolution the masses pull down the statues of those it is moved to overthrow, and the streets have always been the source of minor eruptions and infringements. For example, on 10 March 1914, at the height of the avant-garde’s iconoclastic assaults, the Canadian journalist Mary Richardson concealed a cleaver in her bag and entering London’s National Gallery slashed Velasquez’s iconic Rokeby Venus. Given her timing it could be read as a Futurist action—let’s call it “Slashed Rokeby Venus”—but the Futurists didn’t claim her as one of their own. Richardson was a political revolutionary, not an avantgardist. She targeted her icon well, as “Slashed Rokeby Venus” was made in the name of feminism, and specifically Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which today would be banned as a terrorist organisation. Richardson struck at other symbols of the phallocentric state, even bombing a railway station. She later became head of the women’s section of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Perhaps she really was a Futurist. Even though there are echoes of contemporary futurist art in Richardson’s “Slashed Rokeby Venus” and it anticipates by some thirty-five years Lucio Fontana’s slashed monochromes (Concetto spaziale, 1959), her iconoclasm wasn’t, to my knowledge, ever regarded as a work of art. There was more than enough iconoclasm in modernism at the time. This was not the case with iconoclastic actions coming from the street, and especially from non-Western sources. For example, Al-Qaeda’s riveting fully televised demolition in 2001 of Minoru Yamasaki’s modernist icon, New York’s Twin Towers was immediately declared a work of art. Shortly after the attack the renowned German composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, pronounced it “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.”11 Damien Hirst believed it was intentionally planned for its aesthetic affect: “The thing about ‘9/11’ is that it’s kind of an artwork in its own right. It was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually.”12 Al-Qaeda had seemingly keyed into late twentieth century postmodern aspirations but with a much greater grasp of spectacle. Yamasaki’s buildings were Charles Jencks’ (the postmodernist architectural critic) pet hates. Jencks had applauded the official visually stunning dynamiting of Yamasaki’s Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis in 1972 as the death of modernist architecture.13

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IAN McLEAN

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Paper Tigers: The New Iconoclasm and Identity Politics

If Stockhausen’s and Hirst’s instincts to incorporate ‘9/11’ into the Archive were a canny way to transform the Al-Qaeda death machine into a postmodern paper tiger, they were misconceived. This new Islamic iconoclasm was inaugurated by the fatwa on Salman Rushdie for his celebrated postmodern novel The Satanic Verses published in 1988, which called not just for the burning of the book but also for Rushdie’s head. By coincidence the fatwa was issued on Valentine’s Day 1989, the 210th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s death and the day Rushdie attended the funeral of his close friend, writer Bruce Chatwin. FAST FORWARD Fast forward to the recent left activist identity-politics fuelled iconoclasms of Hannah Black et al. They might sound a similar note to the occasional iconoclastic skirmishes of far-right religious activists—in for example, attacks on the photographs of Andreas Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe —but the trajectory is very different. The leftist iconoclasts are overtly political rather than religious, young, and include a coalition of emerging artists. Unlike the religious right, the leftist iconoclasts mainly strike at art that has outlived its time. It kicked off with the violent student campaign to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, to which the university authorities quickly capitulated in April 2015, suggesting how little they had invested in this statue. This iconoclastic sentiment against statuary quickly spread to the USA, where it received an extra push from the Black Lives Matter movement formed in 2014. The tipping point was the shooting in June 2015 of nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston by a twenty-one year-old white supremacist who had posted online photos of himself with his pet icon, the Confederate Flag. Within days the flag, long an icon of white supremacism, ceased to be flown on state government buildings and was withdrawn from sale, and an emboldened broad iconoclastic coalition, from leftist iconoclasts to Republican governors, began demanding the removal of the numerous statues of Civil War Confederate heroes. The process rapidly accelerated following the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville between white supremacists and leftist iconoclasts in August 2017, and within a month about twenty-five such statues had been decommissioned and another twenty were slated for removal.14 All this action around symbols, especially in the form of statues, was too good an opportunity for the artworld to pass up. In November 2017, one hundred and twenty prominent artists and scholars, including Claire Bishop, Lucy Lippard, Hal Foster and Martha Rosler called for the removal of the Christopher Columbus monument in Columbus Circle, and two other monuments in New York they found politically offensive. You can be sure that these keepers of the Faith do not perceive the current activist-driven iconoclasm as a threat to the Archive in which they serve. Unlike eighty of their colleagues in America’s National Academy, including Marina Abramovic, Chuck Close, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman and Kara Walker, Bishop, Lippard, Foster and Rosler did not come to Schutz’s defence when protestors sought to close an exhibition of her work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston that opened shortly after the Whitney Biennial. Here one senses battle lines within the Archive.

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I wonder what Foster’s position is on Sam Durant—an artist on whom he has written favourably and the creator of the only significant contemporary artwork to be totally destroyed in the new iconoclasm—though this time from Native American activists, who seem to have a better eye than the leftists. Durant is a well-established social and political activist artist whose projects address issues of race, including Native American history. He is currently researching Confederate monuments and memorials. However, very shortly after the Schutz affair his activist art on behalf of the oppressed came unstuck with Scaffold (2012), a large celebrated artwork that had featured in dOCUMENTA 13, (2012). The Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, known for its critically acclaimed program, had purchased Scaffold for $450,000 as a centrepiece in their revamped Sculpture Garden, part of an extensive remodelling of the gallery that opened in June 2017. Scaffold appropriated seven gallows used in executions of people on the losing side of class war, colonial genocide and slavery, including the gallows in the largest mass hangings in North American history, of thirty-eight Dakota men at Mankota, Minnesota (1862). Durant conceived Scaffold as a critique of state sanctioned murder. The appropriated gallows were arranged into a single corpus so that visitors could climb between them as if it was a playground. “It was all to scale,” said Durant, and “designed in such a way to retain some of that iconic visual presence.” The USA has not dealt with its history at all—it is interesting to compare it to Germany for instance, where everywhere one goes, there are monuments, memorials or markers to The Holocaust. It is taught, it is integral to the curriculum; it is part of the fabric of German society: “Never again.”15 The Sculpture Garden was on traditional Dakota land, about 100km north of Mankato, and the mass hangings are etched into Dakota memory. The local Dakota community rallied in protests against the work. The Walker had not consulted them: they were not intimates of the Minneapolis art scene. The Walker had also not consulted them on the Jimmie Durham retrospective due to open at the same time, which caused consternation amongst a large number of Native Americans. Durham, many years self-exiled in Europe, is the most celebrated Native American contemporary artist, but many Cherokee deny his claims to being one of them and sought to sanction the exhibition. The Cherokee have their own embattled Archive, but the Dakota were focused on Scaffold. They wanted it burnt in a cleansing ceremony, and that’s what happened with Durant’s and the Walker Art Centre’s agreement. Durant had everything to gain: publicity, being on the right side of history, and the ritual immolation was a performative extension of his original iconoclastic idea that, in its meditation on death and redemption, provided a suitable spiritual closing to the project. Besides, it was a conceptual artwork. It existed as an idea, or more accurately a plan, and could be easily reconstructed, which it can be if the Dakota so want, as Durant gave them the intellectual rights, a clever way for him to preserve the artwork. AUSTRALIA Statues of the same vintage and aesthetic value as the Civil War Confederate generals being removed from parks are also under fire in Australia. Those of Captain James Cook are the favoured target. His statue in Hyde Park, Sydney, has been graffitied as part of Australia Day protests in the previous few years, and this year pink paint was splashed over his statue in the Melbourne seaside suburb of St. Kilda. This was not mindless vandalism as several civic leaders claimed, but a deliberate iconoclastic act conducted with some rhetorical flair as the opening salvo in the ‘Invasion Day’ protests against Australia Day. Australia Day and Invasion Day, celebrate and resist, respectively 26 January 1788, the iconic date on which the First Fleet, of navy and convict ships, arrived at l

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Sydney Cove, when the first European settlement was established on the continent. Cook wasn’t there. Long dead, he had been cannibalised in Hawai’i nine years earlier. Not much actually happened on that summer’s day. No ‘invasion’ was launched—this wouldn’t come for another thirty years or more —though the ships had made the short trip from Botany Bay, where they had made landfall a week earlier. But there was no general disembarkation once the ships had anchored in the cove. This would occur in stages over the next several days and the official proclamation wasn’t made until 7 February, what the colony’s Governor Arthur Phillip called “the memorable day which established a regular form of Government on the coast of New South Wales.”16 However, this is far too much historical detail for the symbolic language of art. As artists will attest, too many facts complicate the truth and get in the way of a good icon. This is why Australia Day is 26 January, and statues of Cook and not Phillip are the icons of invasion. Unlike Phillip, Cook has entered indigenous as well as settler lore in the Pacific and Australia as an ancestral being. With the 1988 Australian Bicentenary the iconic power of Cook gained a new life. In 1987, prompted by the coming Bicentenary celebrations, the Arnhem Land artist Paddy Fordham Wainburranga began a series of paintings depicting a very Macassan-looking ancestral Cook, which he titled Too Many Captain Cooks.17 The Bicentenary was also the year in which the first indigenous Mardi Gras float appeared in Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. It featured a black Captain Cook. The idea of the indigenous activist and dancer Malcolm Cole, helped by sound artist Panos Couros and costume designer Anemaree Dalziel, he was fitted into a splendid oversized dandified uniform. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported, “It will be hard to miss the tall, striking figure of dancer Malcolm Cole dressed as Captain Cook with a black Sir Joseph Banks and two black sailors beside him in a boat pulled by white men. What Captain Cook thought about being mimicked by an Aboriginal in a parade with a blue elephant, a condom over its trunk… is anybody’s guess.”18 Jump thirty years to 2018, WAR (Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance), the indigenous activist group who help organise Invasion Day, also have a keen rhetorical sense in their iconoclastic lashing of Australia Day: “WAR will not rest until we burn this entire rotten settler colony called Australia, illegally and violently imposed on stolen Aboriginal land at the expense of the blood of countless thousands, to the f..king ground… F..k your flag, your anthem and your precious national day... Abolish Australia, not just Australia Day.”19 The dandification or pinkification of the rather humourless Edwardian statue of the St. Kilda Cook standing tall, prim and self-satisfied like a good Englishman, had a lighter but equally affective rhetoric. I doubt that this large pink splatter painting was intended as a wry or even celebratory joke on rumours of Cook being gay (same sex marriage had just been legalised through a national referendum), but it made this black suburban phallus—its bronze heavily oxidised—into a silly icon of white power, whereas I had hardly noticed it before despite having lived nearby for many years. Quickly cleaned by the local Council all was soon back to normal, the statue returned to a smudge on the St. Kilda foreshore. If the leftist iconoclasts are speaking to power from the margins, the Archive has not flinched. The greying academic statues in park corners and the overgrown concrete jungles of our cities have long lost their lustre. They were put out to pasture long ago. If the several statues of Cook scattered across Australia have lost their aesthetic presence as icons, the figure of Cook hasn’t. It still is the conquistador of the Australian imagination. Symbolism is an emotional thing, which is why

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it’s about getting the aesthetics right, even if it means fudging the history. Cook’s presence as an icon, an image of power in the Archive, is still felt, but not in the Edwardian statue on the Melbourne waterfront or Sydney’s Hyde Park. These days we feel it most in the contemporary paintings of Australian indigenous artists Gordon Bennett and Daniel Boyd, as in Bennett’s Notes to Basquiat (Death of Irony) (2002), which depicts a pink-coloured Cook directing the planes towards the Twin Towers. Bennett’s iconoclasm was unmatched in his day, but as aesthetic iconoclasts tend to do, Bennett played against, and so to, the Archive and it welcomed him inside. It was and is business as usual. Notes 1 Oscar Wilde, ‘Pen, Pencil and Poison’, Intentions, New York: Brentano’s, 1905, p. 90 2 Coco Fusco, ‘Censorship, Not the Painting, Must Go: On Dana Schutz’s Image of Emmett Till’, Hyperallergic, 27 March 2017; https://hyperallergic.com/368290/censorship-not-the-painting-must-go-on-dana-schutzs-image-of-emmett-till/; accessed 13 March 2018 3 Her painting was based on a photograph of Emmett Till‘s battered body in a casket. Till was a fourteen-year old African-American who was badly beaten and murdered in 1955. An all-white jury acquitted those charged with his murder 4 The full letter can be seen at http://www.artnews.com/2017/03/21/the-painting-must-go-hannah-black-pens-open-letter-to-the-whitneyabout-controversial-biennial-work/ 5

Coco Fusco, op cit.

6

Marcia Langton, ‘Aboriginal Art and Film: The Politics of representation’, Race and Class 35/4, 1994, pp. 95-96

7

A slave rebellion that took place August 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia in which rebel slaves killed over fifty white people

8

Cara Ober, ‘Provocative Nat Turner-Inspired Portraits Fuel Debate After Their Removal’, Hyperallergic, 8 September 2017; https://www. google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Cara+Ober,+%E2%80%98Provocative+Nat+Turner-Inspired+Portraits+Fuel+Debate+After+Their+ Removal%E2%80%99,+Hyperallergic,+8+September+2017&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8; accessed 13 Maech 2018 9

Beloufa printed the image on a mirror for his exhibition, L’ennemi de mon ennemi (The enemy of my enemy), Palais de Tokyo, 2018

10

Jacques Derrida, ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics 25/2, 1995, p. 10

11

Terry Castle, ‘Stockhausen, Karlheinz The unsettling question of the Sublime’, New York Magazine, 27 August 2011; http://nymag.com/ news/9-11/10th-anniversary/karlheinz-stockhausen/; accessed 13 March 2018 12

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/sep/11/arts.september11

13

See Terry Smith, The Architecture of Aftermath, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006, ch. 5

14

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/16/us/confederate-monuments-removed.html

15

Carolina Miranda, ‘Artist Sam Durant was pressured into taking down his “Scaffold”. Why doesn’t he feel censored?’, Los Angeles Times, 17 June 2017 16 Arthur Phillip, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay With an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island (1789), Gutenberg Press ebook, 2005 17

Paddy Fordham Wainburranga painted many variations of Too Many Captain Cooks from 1987 until the late 1990s. He died in 2006

18

John Stapelton, ‘It’s the black and white Mardi Gras’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 February 1988; see http://reconciliation.tripod.com/ malcolm-cole.htm 19 Richard Ferguson, ‘WAR activists ramp up calls to “burn this colony”’, The Australian, 30 January 2018; https://www.theaustralian.com.au/ national-affairs/indigenous/war-activists-ramp-up-calls-to-burn-this-colony/news-story/9603540c4d035c226a4f50b309ee585f

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Now Where? On Navigating Without a Compass

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To every equation, to every formula in the surface world, there is a corresponding curve or mass… And if these masses are not evident in our world, on the surface, then it’s inescapable: they must have their own entire world there, beyond the surface. Yevgeny Zamyatin, WE1 This essay is not about the politics of terminology as much as it is about the histories to which regional terminologies are bound, and the processes that occur in and around their making. The intention is not to re-enforce the application of these terms, nor is it about redefining the borders to which they extend. Rather, the idea is to consider the dynamics inscribed into words that define certain geographies so as to understand what is at work when they are deployed, bearing in mind Walter D. Mignolo’s assertion that “geopolitical namings and mappings are fictions.”2 Core to this approach is the position that all words are common resources manifested as abstract spaces: sites of negotiation whose definitions are dependent on all stakeholders with a vested interest in their meaning.3 Geographical remits, and the terms associated with them, have become a standard method of curating large scale exhibitions that often (wittingly or not) act as platforms for international diplomacy, sometimes reducing artists, curators and writers (purposefully or otherwise) to the role of ambassadors expected to stand in as representatives of a cultural identity, either as part of a regional or national framing, or to complete a “global picture”.4 Looking at how these frameworks have been used in the art world in relation to their use in the economic sphere offers some insight into the geopolitical processes taking place through certain geographical framings and the words associated with them, particularly when considering the politics—and economics—of soft power, to which art so often aligns. This is especially true when taking into account the historical processes that have brought certain geographical nouns into being. Take “Middle East”, a neologism that emerged5 “from the imperatives of late-nineteenth century diplomacy and strategy”6 when there was a Western need to define the region between the Far East (China) and the Near East (Turkey) for the purposes of colonial expansion.7 In its early inception, the term encapsulated the Arabian Gulf, expanding to incorporate Iraq, the eastern coast of Arabia, Afghanistan and Tibet.8 After World War II, Winston Churchill redefined the territory to exclude Afghanistan and Tibet, and incorporated the Suez Canal, Sinai, the Arabian Peninsula, and the newly created states of Iraq, Palestine and Trans-Jordan.9 In its evolution, the Middle East’s reach has included everywhere between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, depending on the political and economic stakes involved.10 The decline of the Ottoman Empire was a key factor in how the Middle East was physically defined—the result of a hasty division of the Empire’s former territories by the Allied powers during, and after, World War I.11 As Karl E. Meyer writes, the new states created at this time were “less nations than swirling eddies of discontented peoples”, leading one commentator to observe: “They are making a breeding place for future war.”12 The impact of these events extended well beyond the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, too. Consider the breakdown of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s as a result of ethnic conflict. Established in 1918 out of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian territory, Arjun Appadurai has noted how impossible it is to imagine Yugoslavia’s collapse “without the peculiar state structures into which these peoples were placed after World War I, in the wake of the collapse of the Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian empires.”13

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Writing in 1993, post-Gulf War and in the aftermath of the Yugoslav breakup, Appadurai observed how, “almost a half century after independence was achieved for many… ‘new’ nations”, “the nation form [was] under attack”—a form he called an “ideological alibi of the territorial state” and “the last refuge of ethnic totalitarianism”, whose “discourses have been shown to be deeply implicated” in those “of colonialism”.14 These words resonate today, as a resurgence in nationalism echoes the genocidal impulses surrounding nation-building during the twentieth century—a time when, as Mark Levene wrote, a global system of nation-states was established on violent terms after the collapse of various empires.15 This violence had to do with what Appadurai describes as the modern nation-state’s “preoccupation with the control, classification and surveillance of its subjects”, which “has often created, revitalised or fractured ethnic identities that were previously fluid, negotiable or nascent”.16 Such fluidity is often mentioned in relation to the Ottoman Empire, which incorporated an array of ethnic groups within its sphere of influence so that they not only co-existed, but also overlapped. As Aron Rodrigue elaborates, “There were Turkish-speaking Greeks, Arabicspeaking Jews, Latino-speaking Jews, Armenians only fluent in Turkish and not in Armenian”17—but these multicultural configurations were far from harmonious, nor were they always consensual or devoid of bloodshed. This contradictory Ottoman legacy—of being both an empire and global melting pot at once—was invoked in a 2016 exhibition at Izolyatsia in Kyiv: an art centre exiled from the Donbas region in 2014 when a pro-Russian separatist militia, declaring the “People’s Republic of Donetsk”, stormed its premises. Curated by Cathryn Drake, The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory, proposed a comparative study of three nation-states formerly bound by the Ottoman Empire —Turkey, Albania and Greece—through the artwork of three artists who deal with the complexity of their respective contexts: Petros Efstathiadis, Ali Kazma and Leonard Qylafi. As Drake writes, “the diverse regions of Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East”, have “taken vastly different directions guided by the vagaries of realpolitik and ethnic strife” since the Ottoman Empire’s fall.18 l

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With Ukraine positioned between a post-Ottoman, post-Austro-Hungarian and post-Russian/ Soviet cartography, the context of the exhibition was just as important as the works included. Drake took each history as a reflection of “the enduring threads and ruptures that transcend the artificial constructs of political entities” including modern day borders; “a reality exemplified by the current European crisis and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and Ukraine.”19 Current geopolitics cannot be divorced from those of the past, particularly when taking into account the historical period surrounding World War I, which saw various territories redefined in the wake of imperial collapse.20 Back then, the British Empire was concerned with keeping trade routes and trading posts under British control, while opening up new ones in order to support an expansive economy whose survival was predicated as much on international trade as it was on military strength. Most modern empires had, and have, similar concerns: to consolidate power through whatever means necessary. As Edward Said observed, modern empires, like capitalism, have long been adept at “constantly expanding” and being “inexorably integrative” for that purpose.21 “Whether in Marx, or in conservative works like those by J. R. Seeley, or in modern analyses like those by D. K. Fieldhouse and C. C. Eldridge,” he wrote, “one is made to see that the British Empire integrated and fused things within it, and taken together it and other empires made the world one.”22 Making the world “one” through expansion and integration is ultimately an act of (violent) consolidation in which a territory is bound by an identity that is articulated not only through economics, trade and infrastructure, but also through culture, and an articulation of it through language. This binding is reflected in the regional terms that have been used by both the colonisers and the colonised of history in order to stake and preserve territorial claims. Consider what being Ottoman meant: belonging to a geopolitical brand that incorporated different cultures into a single identity, and which even expelled certain cultures in the name of that identity (as was arguably the case with the Armenian genocide). It could be posited that the nation-state is a distillation of this idea: a form that bears the residue of the imperial histories out of which it emerged, where a single word, for example “China”, comes to define a complex community. (China is made up of over fifty ethnic groups, who did—and do—not all consent to being incorporated into the country’s borders.) This adds another dimension to the contemporary moment, when the world is being reshaped by an amalgam of neo-imperial and neo-national forces. With the collapse of some nationstates, Iraq and Syria being two tragic examples, we have also seen the metamorphosis of others into a blend of history’s formations. Take Russia, now re-asserting claims over the former Soviet Union, with the state activating its diaspora in support of its cause. (In 2014, the year Crimea was annexed, parliamentary elections in Latvia saw a pro-Russia party take the largest share of the vote.23) These are interesting dynamics when taking into account a 2014 New Scientist editorial that described ISIS as a “postmodern network” in a world “after the nation-state”.24 In the same editorial, Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, “supposedly intended to protect Russian speakers”, were described as “a transnational act in itself” rather than one of neo-nationalism, or neo-imperialism.25 Undeniably problematic, this contemporary transnationalism recalls Appadurai’s concept of the diasporic public sphere, which operates beyond the confines of a defined territory through a transnational network. It is in this diasporic condition that Appadurai saw the surges of a post-national order, and in one 1993 essay, he imagined how “bounded territories could give way to diasporic networks, nations to trans-nations, and patriotism itself could become plural, serial, contextual and mobile.”26 In that text, Appadurai considers how the USA might act as a model for a post-national space: “one territorial locus (among others) for a cross-hatching of diasporic communities.”27

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Some twenty years later, this vision of a post-nationalist space, or future transnationalism, has problematically aligned with the methods through which modern empires have consolidated —and are consolidating—their borders and populations. It is a vision—and contradiction—that also aligns with processes unfolding within the global art world and the economic sphere, as reflected in the development of certain geographic and geopolitical terms being used in both realms as markers of cultural and political systems and their associated identities. Consider “neoliberalism” or “globalisation” for instance: descriptors of what is often understood as a single political and economic project, often associated with neo-colonial expansion and exploitation, but which represent a complex set of regulated and unregulated processes undertaken—privately or otherwise—by individuals, corporations, institutions and governing bodies (to name but a few entities) that mediate the practice and application of both concepts in real time and not necessarily in alignment across the world. *** In the twenty-first century age of corporate empire, the term “Middle East” has developed further. More recently, it has combined with “North Africa” and “South Asia” to create the acronym MENASA, which the financial community seems to have coined in the mid-2000s to define a rapidly developing region while bolstering relations within it.28 The global management consulting firm McKinsey takes MENASA as a single economic bloc, acknowledging connections that “date back thousands of years”.29 Global investment firm Abraaj Group, however, considers South Asia separately,30 while taking MENASA as one holistic space in the realm of culture, as evidenced by the Group’s art prize launched in 2008 with Art Dubai to award artists from within it. Founded in 2007, Art Dubai is an art fair firmly located within the MENASA’s geography while not limited to it. The 2017 edition, for example, was described as the most globally diverse art fair in the world, with ninety-four galleries from forty-three countries, from Algeria to Uruguay. This scope suits the global outlook of Abraaj Group, whose remit beyond MENASA includes markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Turkey and Central Asia, and Latin America: a region commonly known as the “Global South”. There is of course an expansionist agenda embedded into such practices as those undertaken by both Abraaj Group and Art Dubai, but these agendas acknowledge the realities of the times. One 2011 Abraaj Capital document describes a “multipolar, multi-stakeholder world” that has replaced “the predictable world of yesterday, characterised by its bipolar nature and the iron curtain.”31 In this shift from an old to a new world order, “competing blocs”, “fixed alliances” and “hard power” have been replaced with a “new multilateralism” based on “global networks” and “soft power”.32 The art world as a global community is an expression of this new multilateralism, with the proliferation of art fairs and biennials in particular offering one mapping of its trans-global terrain through apparatuses that constitute its network.33 In the case of Art Dubai, this is a state- and corporate-sponsored event that mediates the socio-cultural and geopolitical forces of the global, regional and national through a market-based cultural platform. Here, the acronym MENASA functions as “a catalyst for integration”, to quote Reema Salha Fadda, “a strategy that integrates artists from regions occupying a more ‘peripheral’ position into the global art economy”34 while establishing Art Dubai as a centre for such integration to occur35 (a tactic that could be equated with Abraaj’s role as an investment firm working in markets throughout the so-called Global South). l

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This logic was reflected in Art Dubai’s recently discontinued Marker sector, which showcased underrepresented regions from beyond the MENASA.36 One could play devil’s advocate here by posturing that this integrative and expansive approach is fundamentally flawed, in that there remains a centre of representation to which marginalised or “peripheral” cultures and regions must aspire. Consider Artsy’s numerical breakdown of representation by “Race and Ethnicity” at the 2017 Venice Biennale.37 Figures appear like a pyramid scheme, with “57% white” at the top of the list and “1% First Nations” at the bottom, recalling Wu Chin-Tao’s description of the global art world’s “basic structure” as “concentric and hierarchical”.38 This centralised structure seems inscribed into such large-scale, international art events like the Venice Biennale, which emerged at a time when European nationalism was intrinsically tied with European imperialism, and National and World’s Fairs acted as commercial and political platforms predicated on producing nationalist-imperialist citizens of a modern world empire. Take London’s 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works and Industry of All Nations: a World’s Fair “of all nations” that demonstrated “a pronounced exhibtionary drive to strip Non-European communities of cultural and historical significance”, so that such communities “might be easily and profitably assimilated into a global”—read: British—“economy”.39 Today, to quote Suhail Malik and Andrea Philips, art remains “a ‘source of legitimacy’ for empire-making allied to capitalisation”.41 Consider the “inexorably integrative” and “constantly expanding” art market, with the Swiss fair Art Basel, which operates on three continents (in Basel, Miami and Hong Kong), recently described (rightly or wrongly) as a colonising force40—not unlike Gagosian Gallery, with its empire of spaces and offices located in Athens, Beverly Hills, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco and Rome.

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But while the art world does operate as a propagator of soft power and the politics that are debated therein, it is also a critic of it, despite its connection to the history of empire, the economic logics followed by global investment firms, and the politics of governments that regulate the behaviours of art and finance within their sovereign states.42 This is especially clear in the case of post-colonial regions like the Gulf, where, as Reema Salha Fadda writes, institutions support forms of soft power that not only serve “to integrate art from within the [Middle East] (where colonial frameworks are still ongoing and where neoliberalism has only further fragmented the region) but also to form connections with the world at large.”43 There is a de-colonial project inscribed into these endeavours, with the Sharjah Art Foundation being particularly active in creating the conditions for such connections to form in order to de-centre the art world’s Western-centrism. At the 2012 March Meeting, Salah Hassan referred to the Foundation’s MENASA position, describing its institutional model as one that “shied away from the focus on spectacle and grand schemes in pursuit of Western recognition and global legitimation” by concentrating on creating “more engagement with artists locally and globally in a balanced manner that will benefit the regional art scene in the long term.”44 A year later, this investment was broadened in Re:Emerge–Towards a New Cultural Cartography, the 2013 Sharjah Biennial curated by Yuko Hasegawa, who cited Anders Gunther Frank’s 1998 book ReOrient (which considers Eurocentrism as nothing more than a blip in world history) as a key reference. The 2013 Sharjah Biennial expanded on the MENASA remit by locating Sharjah within the Global South: a name Arif Dirlik describes as being “entangled in its implications with other terms that post-World War II modernisation discourse and revolutionary movements generated to describe societies that seemed to face difficulties in achieving the economic and political goals of either capitalist or socialist modernity.”45 The result was a realignment of Sharjah’s position, linking the Biennial and its context to a geography formerly known as the “Third World”, coined in 1952 by Alfred Sauvy “to distinguish the formerly colonised or neo-colonised world from the modernising worlds of capitalism and socialism.”46 Towards the end of the 1960s, the Third World came “to represent a revolutionary way out of the dilemmas presented by capitalism actually-existing socialism.”47 Galvanised by Algeria’s independence, the movement, as Dirlik recalls, “seemed poised at the edge of history.”48 But that edge became a borderline49 when Northern manouevres severed any chance of a North-South conversation in the 1980s,50 relegating the former Third World to the lower tiers of a global capitalist economy.51 By 2003, the Third World became known as the “developing” South, defined by its economic and industrial separation from the “developed” North.52 That year, the United Nations announced a special day for South-South cooperation to remedy a “gross imbalance between developed and developing countries”, with one document imploring the South to follow the example of an affluent North “built on strong and interactive webs of cooperation”.53 Fast forward to 2013, and the Sharjah Biennial’s Southern focus offered a visual representation of this imperative by representing a decolonising “South” internally dealing with the contradictions and paradoxes of a twenty-firstcentury world. This position embodied, in many ways, an ongoing Third World struggle for a way through the binaries laid down by the geopolitics of the Cold War. Walter D. Mignolo and Caroline Levander in 2008 described this embodiment succinctly when they called the Global South “the place of struggles between, on the one hand, the rhetoric of modernity and modernisation together with the logic of coloniality and domination, and, on the other, the struggle for independent thought and decolonial freedom.”54 l

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Of course, the 2013 Sharjah Biennial’s use of the term “Global South” also reflected trends within the economic sphere, as art’s activities so often do. According to one UN report, “Between 1996 and 2009, South-South trade grew, on average, twelve percent per year (fifty percent faster than North-South trade),” and in 2011 accounted for twenty percent of global trade.55 Reflecting on this growth, the term appeared in two hundred and forty-eight publications in the humanities and social sciences in 2013 (compared to just nineteen in 2004).56 That year, China launched the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) policy, a development strategy centred on reviving Silk Road routes on land and sea, and described as having “the potential to be perhaps the world’s largest platform for regional collaboration”57 with the policy’s scope covering some “sixty-five percent of the world’s population, about one-third of the world’s GDP, and about a quarter of all the goods and services the world moves.”58 OBOR is representative of a strategy of “open regionalism” that China has been pursuing in the Global South through the “creation of regional business forums for Africa, the Arab World and Latin America.”59 The idea is to create a transnational network based on economics and trade rather than culture or ideology. China’s approach appears decolonial if not post-Western, despite the fact that such an economic project firmly places it at the centre of the region it is attempting to network through its OBOR initiative.60 It also points to how the South as a concept has changed in recent years, as various nation-states that were once included in its remit have shed post-WWII positions for neo-global futures.61 The first G20 summit in 2008 offered some insight into how much North-South and SouthSouth dynamics have changed, with “official development assistance” contributions from China exceeding those from countries located in the so-called North, including Canada and Australia.62 Today, as Dirlik observes, “the geographies of development have been reconfigured, calling into question not only the earlier Three Worlds, but the viability of the North/South distinction. Presently, the boundaries between the two are crisscrossed by networks of various kinds, many of them economic, thus relocating some of the South in the North and vice versa.”63 What follows is the argument that the divisions laid down by the past no longer stand, and neither do the terms that represent them. In 2016, the World Bank even stopped distinguishing between “developed” and “developing” countries in the presentation of its data: a clear indicator of the implausibility of continuing a discourse along “Northern” and “Southern” lines.64 “The main issue is that there is just so much heterogeneity between Malawi and Malaysia for both to be classified in the same group—Malaysia is more like the US than Malawi,” Umar Serajuddin, a senior economist in the World Bank’s statistics office, explained. “When we lump disparate countries together in the same group, it isn’t really useful.”65 The same could be said against the use of the terms “Global South”, the “Middle East” and geopolitical naming in general, even if this argument is a provocation. There are, after all, arguments for naming too, especially if undertaken as a point of resistance to pre-existing narratives. Abraaj Group’s insistence on calling focus markets “growth markets”, for example, is to dispel the myth of “risky emerging markets”—what chief executive Arif Naqvi calls a universally practiced hypocrisy.66 In this case, the decentring of colonial dynamics is embedded into the assertion and definition of regional terms that are being put forward by post-colonial, albeit capitalist subjects: a reversal of the legacy ingrained into “Middle East” as an imposed colonial term, and an honouring of the Third World liberation movement’s assertion that economic strength is crucial in asserting political positions.67 Yet, while various terms are being deconstructed and reasserted in both the cultural and economic sectors, viable alternatives have yet to emerge when it comes to finding new ways to articulate the world, its complexities, and its politics. Or perhaps the

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third way proposed by the Third World movement remains unresolved. Today, as curator Xiaoyu Weng has pointed out, China, like many nation-states, is sitting on a paradox, embracing “the idea of a global community and the new free-floating individualism it engenders” while struggling “to reinstate the very national borders and internal forms of control that global trade and multinational corporations tend to blur or erase.”68 For Weng, “to grasp both sides of this paradox at once” is “what the present demands—and China is hardly alone in inhabiting it.”69 In this globalised age, histories have become too intertwined to remain separated in what is essentially a globalised modernity,70 leading writer Chan Koonchung to wonder if “only a complicated cocktail of modern and global perspectives could more readily explain present-day reality.”71 China seems aware of this fact, if its foreign policy is anything to go by. But even this position links to the imperialising politics of the past, just as the global initiatives taken by cultural and financial institutions alike should not be considered innocent of the contradictory politics that are so often associated with geopolitical namings and mappings. Consider the slogan for the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, which offers an insight into an aspiration that has manifested at various points in the world, and in various forms throughout history, by a number of imperial powers: “One World, One Dream.” The phrasing is both transparent and problematic when considering how the concept of a global ‘oneness’ has been co-opted for various interests, from the national to the colonial and corporate. The art world can also fall in line with this “one world” logic. Yet, how this unfolds is ambiguous, given art’s association with state and corporate interests and its tendency to at once uphold and critique them. *** In thinking about these integrated times, two exhibitions in 2016 sought to destabilise the neat divisions through which the world has been understood. Koyo Kouoh’s Eva International: Still (the) Barbarians, performed a destabilisation of the North-South binary by pulling the post-colonial legacies and discourses of the South right into the heart of the North through the identification of Ireland, a member of the European Union, as the first post-colonial nation. In so doing, Kouoh invoked Appadurai’s call “to widen the sense of what counts as discourse” by demanding a “widening of the sphere of the postcolony” in order “to extend it beyond the geographical spaces of” what we have come to understand as “the ex-colonial world”.72 Similarly, The Time is Out of Joint, curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh and organised by the Sharjah Art Foundation, in collaboration with the Asia Culture Centre in Gwangju, was a group show that challenged fixed notions of place and time by taking two exhibition histories and one future conference into a single conceptual frame: the First Arab Art Biennale in Baghdad (1974), the China/Avant-Garde exhibition in Beijing (1989), and the future Equator Conference in Yogyakarta (2022). Taking on the concept introduced by Andalusian philosopher Ibn Arabi, in which time is considered as fluid space and space as fluid time, The Time is Out of Joint challenged the common use of regional frameworks in large-scale exhibitions by blurring and blending global time and space. For Abou El Fetouh, Beijing in 1989 is equivalent to Egypt in 2011. The curator points to two images to support this claim: a man standing in front of a PRC tank during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, and a 2011 photo of an Egyptian man standing in front of a police tank. These images, the curator discovered, also connected with a photograph from the 1984 Gwangju Democratic Uprising of a Korean man holding a flag in exactly the same way that the protestor l

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in Egypt was photographed in 2011. Referring to Judith Butler’s essay, ‘Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street’, in which Butler sees the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt as both an active moment that created a space of equality and a performative stage that expanded to include people from all over the world, El Fetouh finds a common thread not only between past movements, but in the wave of global protests that were sparked in Tunisia in December 2010. In conversation he notes, “people entered into this collective body and began performing a space of equality in front of others: and this is why the other Arab revolutions started, and Occupy happened, and so on.”73 El Fetouh’s cosmopolitan position transcends regional divides by reflecting on historical and contemporary ruptures understood both in parallel and in relation. It is an approach that embraces a sense of unity without offering a name, claim or brand other than an empathetic consideration of what it means to be a “citizen of the world”. El Fetouh’s approach recalls Kwame Appiah’s rejection of the term “West” and by association “Western civilisation” in a lecture that recognises the fact that, with some “seven billion fellow humans” living “on a small, warming planet” today, “the cosmopolitan impulse that draws on our common humanity is no longer a luxury”, but “a necessity”.74 It also reflects a prediction made in a 2009 Brookings Policy Brief that describes an increasingly globalised world made up of “cross-border networks—economic and political, public and private, elite and grassroots, legitimate and illegitimate”—that will “continue to grow” and as a result, weaken “the traditional hold states have over the economic, financial, social and political actions of their citizens.”75

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In this scenario, Appadurai’s post-nationalist space or trans-nationalist diasporic public sphere applies once again, but this time as a counter-narrative to those proposed by various world powers seeking to dominate the map. These movements that have erupted worldwide since we entered the second millennium, from Tahrir to Hong Kong, reflect a certain dissonant unity when it comes to the crises plaguing the world as it stands, and a connection between the histories and systems that brought them into being. The contradictory relations between different manifestations of the global—from a corporate or colonial enterprise to a grassroots endeavour—demand attention if we are to think about how we might learn to bridge divides while similarly upholding and respecting them so as to conceive of the global as a common site rather than a space that must be named, claimed, and “unified”. To do so is to recognise a messy, complicated and historic struggle that transcends borders and has no name, in which another world is already in the making. This amended essay was first published on the online publishing forum, Ibraaz Platform 010, 1 August 2017; see https://www.ibraaz.org/essays/177 Notes 1 Yevgeny Zamyatin, WE, Natasha Randall trans., London: Vintage Books, 2007, p. 90 2 Walter D. Mignolo, ‘The North of the South and the West of the East: A Provocation to the Question’, Ibraaz Platform 008, published online 6 November 2014; http://www.ibraaz.org/essays/108 3 I have written on the idea of words as commons in ‘A Word in Common’, first published in Noiswere issue 11 in 2012, modified for publication on Notes on Metamodernism in 2014, and finally published in print and online as part of Naked Punch issue 18 in 2016 4 See Natasha Hoare’s consideraton of the so-called geocultural exhibition in her Ibraaz Platform 010 essay, ‘The Faustian Pact’; https://www.ibraaz.org/essays/174 5 The term is often attributed to American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, used a 1902 paper published in The National Review, despite there being instances of earlier use in the British India Office in the 1850s, according to Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake and J. Malcolm Wagstaff. See The Middle East: A Geographical Study, Hoboken NJ: Wiley, 1988, p. 1. Other instances of the term prior to 1902 are mentioned by Clayton R. Koppes, who names General Sir Thomas Edward Gordon’s use in 1900 in ‘Captain Mahan, General Gordon, and the Origins of the Term “Middle East”’, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1976, p. 95; www.jstor.org/stable/4282584. And Daniel Foliard names Seth Low in an 1899 article in Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017, pp. 209-210 6

Clayton R. Koppes, op cit.; www.jstor.org/stable/4282584

7

ibid.

8

Sahar el-Nadi, ‘Middle East of What?’, The European Magazine, Debates: Democratisation in the Middle East: The long story of a Label, 18 March 2012; https://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/sahar-el-nadi--2/6181-the-long-history-of-a-label 9

ibid.

10

Koppes, op cit.

11

As encapsulated in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which established the mandate system, the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne 12 Karl E. Meyer, ‘Notebook; How the Middle East Was Invented’, The New York Times, 13 March 1991; http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/13/ opinion/editorial-notebook-how-the-middle-east-was-invented.html?mcubz=1 13

Arjun Appadurai, ‘The Heart of Whiteness’, Callaloo, Vol. 16, No. 4, On ‘Post-Colonial Discourse’: A Special Issue, 1993, p. 799

14

ibid., p. 796

15

Mark Levene, ‘Why is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?’, Journal of World History, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2000, p. 332

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16

Appadurai, op cit.

17

Aron Rodrigue in conversation with Nancy Reynolds, SEHR, Vol. 5, No. 1: Contested Polities, updated online on 27 February 1996

18

Cathryn Drake, curatorial statement for The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory

19

ibid.

20

The Sykes-Picot Agreement is but one example of the manoeuvres that anticipated an Ottoman defeat–an agreement that Russia was initially a part of (they were promised eastern Turkey) until the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution put an end to Russian involvement, with the Soviets signing the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with the Central Powers in 1918, effectively switching sides in the war, and essentially being excluded from 1919 Paris Peace Conference, during which some Allied Powers called for a military solution to deal with the “Russian Problem”. See Andrew J. Crozier, ‘The Establishment of the Mandates System 1919-25: Some Problems Created by the Paris Peace Conference’, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1979, pp. 483-513 21

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, London: First Vintage Books Edition, 1994, p. 5

22

ibid., p. 6

23

See Richard Milne, ‘Pro-Russia party takes biggest vote share in Latvian election’, The Financial Times, 5 October 2014

24

Editorial, ‘State of the Nation’, The New Scientist, 6 September 2014, No. 2985; http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329851.500-in-ourworld-beyond-nations-the-future-is-medieval.html - .VEezdOfHMXw. I have cited this editorial in two other essays on Ibraaz, as a reflection of my ongoing interest in applying the concept to the context of the art world: ‘Transition Times’, May 2015, http://www.ibraaz.org/essays/128, and ‘A View from Afar’, October 2014, www.ibraaz.org/publications/15 25

ibid.

26

Appadurai, op cit., p. 806. I have cited the concept of the diasporic public sphere in two other essays on Ibraaz, as a reflection of my ongoing interest in applying the concept to the context of the art world: ‘Transition Times’, May 2015, http://www.ibraaz.org/essays/128 and ‘A View from Afar’, October 2014, www.ibraaz.org/publications/15 27

Appadurai, op cit., p. 804

28

Tom Speechley notes that Abraaj Capital coined the acronym in ‘Infrastructure needs in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia’, in Infrastructure Finance: Trends and Techniques, Henry A. Davis (ed.), London: Euromoney Books, 2008, p. 127 29 Kito de Boer, Chris Figee, Saeeda Jaffar and Daan Streumer, Perspective on the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region, Dubai: McKinsey & Company, 2008 30

Speechley, op cit.

31

‘Abraaj Capital’s Approach to the Stakeholder Society: Reinventing the Shape of the Private Equity Model’, June 2011; http://www.abraaj. com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Abraaj_Capitals_Approach_to_the_Stakeholder_Society.pdf 32 Colin I. Bradford and Johannes F. Linn Friday, ‘Is the G-20 Summit a Step Toward a New Global Economic Order?’, Brookings Policy Brief Series, 11 September, 2009 33 In 2011, Art Vista counted 149 modern and contemporary art fairs and 22 biennials staged that year alone; http://www.artvista.de/pages/ art-fair-and-biennial-statistics.html, and in 2016, Terry Smith counted 150 biennials in total that exist. See ‘Biennials: Four Fundamentals, Many Variations’, Biennial Foundation Magazine, 7 December 2016. The number of art fairs counted on the Art Newspaper calendar list in 2015 was 269. See Scott Reyburn, ‘Art Fair Fatigue May Resolve Itself’, The New York Times, 23 January 2015 34

As noted by my colleague Reema Salha Fadda in her editorial comments on this essay, 13 July 2017

35

I have written elsewhere on art fairs as apparatuses of security in the Foulcaudian sense, using Art Dubai as a case study. See ‘Between Dubai and Sharjah: Charting Global Discourse(s)’, Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Vol. 11 Issue 4, 2012, p. 6 36 In 2017, this sector was discontinued, with fair director Myrna Ayad stating there was no longer a need for it, given the globalised nature of the main gallery floor that year–as stated, with some 43 countries represented 37 Artsy Editorial, ‘Venice Biennale Artists by the Numbers’, Artsy, 3 May 2017; https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-venice-biennaleartists-numbers

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38 Wu also points out Okwui Enwezor’s 2002 documenta 11, described as “the most radically conceived event in the history of postcolonial art practice” that offered “an unprecedented presence of artists from outside Europe and North America”. Wu observed “nearly seventy-eight per cent of the exhibiting artists featured were living in North America or Europe”. Chin-Tao Wu, ‘Biennials Without Borders?’, Tate Papers, Issue 12; http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/12/biennials-without-borders#footnoteref7_toslpno 39 As Paul Young writes Aboriginal products were “stripped of any cultural resonance” on the exhibition floor and “offered up… as raw materials”. The China section, meanwhile, which had little to no participation from the Chinese state, and was met with derogatory responses. See Paul Young, ‘Mission Impossible: Globalisation and the Great Exhibition’, p.16, and Francesca Vanke, ‘Degrees of Otherness: The Ottoman Empire and China at the Great Exhibition of 1851’, p. 201, in Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, Jeffrey Auerbach and Peter H. Hoffenberg eds, Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2008 40

Alyssa Buffenstein, ‘Art Cologne Director Thinks Art Basel’s Expansion is a “Form of Colonialism”’, Artnet, 25 April 2017

41

Suhail Malik and Andrea Philips, ‘Tainted love: art’s ethos and capitalisation’, Contemporary Art and its Commercial Markets. A Report on Current Conditions and Future Scenarios, Maria Lind and Olav Velthuis eds, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012, p. 230 42 As my colleague Ala Younis noted in her editorial comments on this essay, made on 23 July 2017, “There is another contradiction evident in the art world/market; while some projects expose who lives/is in the periphery, and thus people in precarious, poor, or under-represented conditions, these projects are sometimes put up for sale (thus ending up in the hands of the rich, or in institutions as acquisitions), or are shown in museums (taking into account the history of museums, and the complicated relationship between these histories and what museums do, represent, and so on). I mean to say that the art world is also a centralised body, and within its centre is conflicting practices/notions.” 43

As noted by my colleague Reema Salha Fadda in her editorial comments on this essay, made on 13 July 2017

44

Salah Hassan, Keynote speech at the 2012 March Meeting at the Sharjah Art Foundation, 17-19 March 2012. See the publication dedicated to the event, Working with Artists and Audiences on Commissions and Residencies, March Meeting 2012, Anne Barlow (ed.), Sharjah: Sharjah Art Foundation, 2014, p. 36. It is important to note here that in the section following this endnote, which includes mention of the Sharjah Biennial, EVA International, and definitions and developments within the South not to mention the OBOR policy, were also cited in my introduction to a specially edited dossier in LEAP issue 45, June 2017, ‘Non-Aligned Movements’ 45

Arif Dirlik, ‘Global South: Predicament and Promise’, The Global South, Vol. 1, No. 1 2007, pp. 12-13

46

ibid., p. 13

47

ibid., p. 14

48

ibid.

49

See Vijay Prashad, ‘Dream History of the Global South’, Interface: a journal for and about social movements, Vol. 4, No. 1 May 2012, pp. 43-53 50 See Ronald E. Muller and Arthur L. Domike, ‘Cancun’s Meaning’, The New York Times, 18 October 1981; http://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/18/ opinion/cancun-s-meaning.html; Prashad, ‘Dream History of the Global South’, p. 48; and John Williamson, ‘A Short History of the Washington Consensus’, a paper commissioned by Fundación CIDOB for the conference ‘From the Washington Consensus towards a new Global Governance’, Barcelona, 24-25 September 2004 51

In which national economic development no longer required the development of a nation as a whole, but only of those sectors that could benefit the global economy. See Dirlik, op cit., p. 15

52 With “all the world’s industrially developed countries (with the exception of Australia and New Zealand) lie to the north of its developing countries”. See United Nations Development Program, ‘Forging a Global South’ in the United Nations Day for South-South Co-operation, 19 December 2004 53

ibid.

54

Caroline Levander and Walter Mignolo, ‘Introduction: The Global South and World Dis/Order’, Global South, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 2011, p. 4

55

‘South-South Integration is Key to Rebalancing the Global Economy’, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Policy Briefs, No. 22, February 2011 56 Thomas Hylland Eriksen in ‘What’s Wrong with the Global North and the Global South?’ published on the Global South Studies Centre website; http://gssc.uni-koeln.de/node/454. Quoting Heike Pagel, Karen Ranke, Fabian Hempel and Jonas Köhler, ‘The Use of the Concept “Global South” in Social Science & Humanities’, presented at the symposium ‘Globaler Süden/Global South: Kritische Perspektiven’, Institut für Asien- & Afrikawissenschaften, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 11 July 2014

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57

ibid.

58

Kevin Sneader, quoted in ‘China’s One Belt, One Road: Will it reshape global trade?’, a McKinsey Podcast featuring McKinsey senior partners Joe Ngai and Kevin Sneader speaking with editor at McKinsey Publishing, Cecilia Ma Zecha, published online July 2016; https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/china/chinas-one-belt-one-road-will-it-reshape-global-trade 59 Alex E. Fernandez and Barbara Hogenboom, ‘China’s Growing Economic and Political Power: Effects on the Global South’, The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus, Vol. 5, No. 12: 0, December 2007, p. 9 60 As Dirlik writes, such a consensus “seeks in multilateral global relationships a new global order which is founded on economic relationships but also recognises political and cultural difference, which recognises differences in regional and national practices within a common global framework…” Dirlik, op cit., p. 18 61 As Arif Dirlik notes, the conception of the South “may be significantly different in its composition and territorial spread” today compared to “the South of the early 1970s, or the colonial South of the immediate post-World War period.” Dirlik, op cit., p. 13 62 Adolf Kloke-Lesch and Colin Gleichman, ‘Global development beyond the North-South paradigm’, G20 and Global Development, Thomas Fues & Peter Wolff eds, German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), 2010, p. 15 63 See Dirlik, op cit., p. 15, and note: this point recalls Abraaj Group’s argument that the weakest link in the world economy in 2008 was not in the so-called “emerging” South, but in the heart of the “developed” North. See Naqvi quoted by Elizabeth MacBride in ‘The Story Behind Abraaj Group’s Stunning Rise In Global Private Equity’, Forbes, published online 4 November 2015; https://www.forbes.com/sites/ elizabethmacbride/2015/11/04/the-story-behind-abraajs-stunning-rise/#5674343c20ac 64

Tim Fernholz, ‘The World Bank is eliminating the term “developing country” from its data vocabulary’, Quartz, 17 May 2016

65

ibid.

66

As quoted by Elizabeth MacBride in ‘The Story Behind Abraaj Group’s Stunning Rise In Global Private Equity’, op cit.

67

As noted by Marcelino dos Santos, a founding member of FRELIMO for liberation of Mozambique, in an archival clip included in Naeem Mohaiemen’s Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017), a three-channel video study of the Non-Aligned Movement first shown at documenta 14 in Kassel, 2017 68 Xiaoyu Weng, ‘Counter-mythologies, or Tales of Our Time’, Tales of Our Time (exhibition catalogue), New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2016, p. 19 69

ibid.

70

Chan Koonchung, ‘Ambiguous Doublespeak: The Two Songs Sung Simultaneously by Jiangshu in Chinese Discourse’, The Time is Out of Joint Exhibition Reader, Volume 1, Sharjah: Sharjah Art Foundation, 2016, p. 59 71

ibid.

72

Appadurai, op cit., p. 796

73

Tarek Abou El Fetouh in conversation with Stephanie Bailey, Ibraaz Platform 010, 6 May 2016; http://www.ibraaz.org/interviews/193

74

Kwame Appiah, ‘There is no such thing as western civilisation’, The Guardian, 9 November 2016

75

Colin I. Bradford and Johannes F. Linn Friday, ‘Is the G-20 Summit a Step Toward a New Global Economic Order?’, Brookings Policy Brief Series, 11 September, 2009

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Tales From The Deportees Room: Porting One (DXB)

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16:03 “You in uae I take it? ‘In’?” … With a sudden jerk I look out over a familiar nightscape with recognisable light-ways as we prepare to land. It’s two, almost three years since I was last here. I’m returning for a two-month residency in Sharjah, to make a work focused on the landside residues of centuries of ‘porting’. My expectant scans give way to a realisation that the zonal abstractions, classic squares of light and pretty white loops, are not immediately legible after all. Livid orange carriageways threaded with pretty junctions stream through slabs of blackness towards the horizon, where they curl and disappear. An adrenalin of fond (mis)recognition gives way to a buzz of curiosity as I stare into a mask of nothingness. Heidegger’s forest pathways loom from this darkness; those orange darts of confident purpose are named and signed-posted, like the walks around the philosopher’s hut on the mountainous edge of the Black Forest. The other squiggles—concentrated but seemingly random, clearly not leading anywhere beyond themselves—echo the wood-cutter or—gatherer’s pathways on which visitors get lost when approaching Heidegger’s work-world at Todtnauberg. I take quick images on my phone in case I’m bounced back this time, and my face is unavoidably dominant amongst their dark deceptions. The burning assertion of the main artery down there is not Shaikh Zayed Road but a bypass; the Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, recently named after Abu Dhabi’s deputy ruler. The future or futures lie beyond. Dubai is built on reiterations of a single shining future, an old ‘futuristic’ one of air-conditioned fantasias and air-borne policemen in which doubters can be deleted. The orange is an open-all-hours signal of rapid progress towards it, the rest a darkness from which unscripted futures will emerge in the light of a new day. Any ‘nothingness’ below is actually dense with trails and pathways of migrants picking out a life here, like those hunting wild mushrooms in the ruined industrial forests of Oregon. There, or here, indeterminacy is the mode for encounters with and between foreign, precarious and unsystematic worlds being improvised amongst the ruins of our common one. Recognising what will grow in these gleaming ‘ruins’ incorporates Anna Tsing’s insurgent whisper, “Our first step is to bring back curiosity.”1 Matsutake mushroom pickers in the American northwest are typically Southeast Asian migrants, displaced from China to Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam, finding new value in the wreckage. The treasured Matsutake represent “the fruiting bodies of an underground fungus”2 that also supports their host trees. Post-Hiroshima, they were the “first living thing to emerge from the blasted landscape”3 and require human-disturbed forests or landscapes like these to grow at all. I’ve enjoyed some of the brightness and know parts of the darkness below intimately well; those deletable milieus of South Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Nepali and Bangladeshi migrant labour camps with connective trails throughout Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular. It is my familiarity with those realms, and attempts to wield nuanced precision with ground-up authority in writing about them, which makes my detention and deportation on arrival at DXB distinctly possible.

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*** The Rolla tree in the midst of its eponymous Square near Sharjah’s city centre takes the form of a swish of white concrete through the bottom of which is cut the leafy form of a half-sized tree, revealing a replica tree trunk with bare branches beyond. It’s a remarkable object in every way, and was commissioned by the current Shaikh, Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, in tribute to a tree that flourished on this site from the early nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth. The stories attached to the tree relate to its actual and symbolic role in Sharjah’s life, sketched flatly in this text from the city’s Heritage Museum; Rolla Square is located in the heart of Sharjah near Al Hisn. The square was home to a large old Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) where people regularly gathered during celebrations, holidays, poetry recitals and horse-races. The name rolla is derived from roal which is the name given to the tree’s fruit. The tree is believed to have been about 15 metres tall by 30 metres wide, which provided enough shade for more than 500 people to gather under. The ruler of Sharjah, Shaikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Rashid Qassimi I (1803-66), is said to have brought the tree to the emirate. The Banyan tree is believed to have lived for 150 years before it died in 1978. Rolla Square was built as a memorial to the tree.4 The Rolla tree figures in the memoirs of the ruling Shaikh, where he describes his uncle and predecessor sitting on “a big chair”5 under the canopy for Eid celebrations. Amongst the dignitaries gathered beside him in the shade was his Wazir Ibrahim Al-Midfa, publisher of the first newspaper on the Trucial Coast in 1917, and owner of a fleet of trading boats and a library in his creekside home with its unique minaret-like barjeel or wind-tower. His mercantile links with British Bombay allowed him to disseminate news of the coloniser’s excesses, which recommends him to us. His family lost their ancestral home near the creek to 1970s developments on and around Bank Street, but the building survives as a museum in the ongoing Heart of Sharjah redevelopment. Noura Al Noman is one of Ibrahim Al-Midfa’s granddaughters and a writer of Arabic sci-fi. Rather than receiving passively in English, she wanted to conjure positive future visions and broadcast them in a mainstream Arabic terminology. She grew up by the creek and “spent many family outings, especially Eid, under the famous and massive Rolla tree of Sharjah. People would set up swings on its branches and families would picnic in its shade… [it] was the first Banyan tree to be planted in the UAE, transported from India by ship in the early 1800s.”6 l

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In 1932 Imperial Airways added a small airport two kilometres outside Sharjah’s walls and four days flight from London to its route to Karachi via Alexandria, Gaza, and Baghdad. Aerial images reveal the old Rolla tree in its more informal setting while film clips and stills from the midtwentieth century show it standing alone between the fort and walls of what is becoming the Heart of Sharjah and the Shaikh’s al Qasimiyyah school. It was a large open area—also known as the Ruler’s Square or majlis7—and horses, camels and falcons can be seen in these images, as crowds cluster around the huge tree, which also functioned as an informal caravanserai. Childrens’ sports day races activate the space, jeeps cluster next to the Rolla in anticipation of the coming bus stand. In 1970, the funeral for Gamel Abdel Nasser was marked in this same space. Whether Shaikh Saqr brought the Rolla from India or elsewhere, or planted it himself is not certain, but the origins of the tree are more interesting than an absence of footnotes. As is the Shaikh most closely associated with it. Shaikh Sultan bin Saqr was the leader of the Qawasim tribe who stood up to the incoming colonisers and was painted by the British as a notoriously deceitful man even amongst his own people. This is a line common to many accounts of newly colonised territories, and can only be taken as a compliment. Saqr was also held hostage by the Saud family in Diriyya in the early years of the development of their Wahhabi ideology and power as it swept through and around Sharjah. This is well-documented in contemporaneous correspondence between him and the British interlopers, who disputed its significance. And the Rolla tree itself? It condenses the most interesting currents in the region for at least two hundred years, the most potent of all the residues of port activity across the Gulf, the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and beyond. India’s most holy of trees, named after a people or subcontinental caste in English, and an epiphytic species which can grow on any host, this tree embodies the transfer of a foreign species into the sand, earth and ground and culture of Arabia and the modern Emirates specifically, where none of the people it represents have the right of residency. *** 07:53 “Where are you now? I’m trying to get in touch with you.” *** Four of the thirteen men gathered have their back to the Lebanese artist who composed the frame; an American academic, a British writer, an Indian artist and an Irish journalist. The whole group cluster in an open-air courtyard lined with lowering desert light in geometric lines, ruddy gold across mould-patterned tiles, feet, legs and toilet doors. It’s a photograph taken down a short run of steps towards a row of doors stencilled with numbers from 94 to 101, some open, others ajar; one marked STAFF is closed. This is LABOUR CAMP NO. 49, BK Gulf LLC, as a sign above the external entrance reads. A camp for male construction workers in Mussafah district on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, run for a British subsidiary of Balfour Beatty and their local business partners. The nine men facing the camera and visitors are migrant workers from South Asia, including two middle-aged men who have come from prayers still wearing the dust from their shift. The shorter of the two supervisors from Peshawar is listening to the British writer as he gestures with one hand. The Indian artist is

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speaking more fluently to the younger men and their showered and changed heads are turned in rapt attention. After the shutter releases men in their twenties fill the yard in dusty work gear with Arabtec tags; younger, sober-faced or fizzing at our presence. They assemble in some wonderment to ask questions, show us their accommodation, and share testimony about their work on Saadiyat Island in conversational detail. *** No-one is alone in the Deportees Room, especially at the generously inclusive club established at DXB. Within minutes of my arrival, two anxious Thai teenagers are deported with a man in his thirties who had established a camp on the bench seating on the far side of the Room, directly beneath the airport sponsor’s big watch and logo: ROLEX. The seats are pressed close together to be used as beds by some of the most precarious people in the world. Nearer to me are two South Asian men, Indian and Hindu I would guess, wearing different airs to the rest of us; friendly but mutually absorbed, off-duty staff, probably on their way home. We exchange greetings but they are peculiarly absorbed in their phones and I am not feeling especially gregarious. After a while an African colleague of theirs appears, also relaxed and friendly, and we greet each other as if it were habitual. He is in uniform, and reveals that he and and all three are Security Guards, working for Emirates (Airlines). A pair of potted plants stand directly in front of me across a shiny, reflective floor. The floor reflects a brushed aluminium waste-bin, two metre-high brushed aluminium plant pots and a meshbacked office chair pressed against a partitioning wall. I am not thinking about these banalities; I am reflecting less than the mottled white marbled floor. I’m just wondering if the tall plants in the metre-high pots are real, whether they are alive. Each is about a metre and a half tall, with similar but varying shapes, colours, forms, imperfections and browned tips, even suckers. What more perfect atrium than the bright vastness of Dubai International’s Terminal 3? All three get up to leave for a while and I find myself counting the fifty-seven seats in the Room and then measuring it under the watchful not-so-ethical face of the great ROLEX above. There are eleven tiles between me and the plants, which occupy a space five tiles wide, for example. The tiles are 500mm by 500mm square and at its greatest expanse the Room is twenty-four tiles long by seventeen tiles wide. That is twelve metres in length, and eight and a half metres wide, which is large enough to be a small theatrical stage or performance space. Big enough though only half the size of the Rolla’s shade in which the Shaikh, “his relatives and the dignitaries of the town” sat “receiving the Eid congratulations” while “the ‘iyala dance, a war dance, was performed near them”8 in the middle of the twentieth century, only twenty years or so before independence. Even at less than half the scale of Shaikh Sultan Saqr’s arboreal majlis, the Deportees Room is large enough to stage something then. What? ***

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00:59 “Ok, from where exactly? And how long detained? Questioned etc? Did they take your laptop or phone away?” *** A series of images from my phone show the professor joshing with the Emirati taxi driver over dhal and rice in a cafe below a digital clock sponsored by Rainbow milk, reading 02:00 and 28˚. On the neighbouring table the artists record testimony from two migrant workers, as they prepare to take their employer to court in a week’s time. The cafe is one in a short row which includes the hardworking tandoor of Al Hanmaniah Bakery, a short walk from a Labour Camp in Al Sajaa industrial district of Sharjah, which is a forty kilometre drive into the interior beyond Sharjah’s University campus. Later, we weighed the modest positives of camp life here amid the remote but benign neglect; open access, contiguous facilities, aspects of recognisable social space. These qualities reduce significantly towards Al Quoz and Jebel Ali in Dubai, Mussafah and Mafraq in Abu Dhabi, and especially at Saadiyat Island’s idealised Labour Camp with its confinement and clinical artificiality. We left Al Sajaa through ramshackle desolation in a sudden heavy shower of rain which drew long tyre-tracks in the sand under a black sky. If we had turned left on the main highway and continued eastwards on the E88 road to Dhaid, we would have reached Ed-dhelaimah, which “means ‘The Dark Area’ because of the high density of bushy big close (ghaf) trees (Prosopis cineraria), which makes it dark during the day since sun light don’t [sic] pass through.”9 This protected area is one of the most important in Sharjah, according to the Environment and Protected Areas Authority. Rare and endangered animals have been released within it by the Shaikh, including the Arabian Oryx, ghaf-loving gazelles, foxes, along with the sand skink and Ethiopian hedgehog. The Dark Area is a lush green copse standing in the middle of orange sand dunes, above water reached by roots up to sixty-five metres long. It extends to an “estimated”1.9413 square kilometres.10 I had been planning to walk out this way to Dhaid and then up into the mountains and eventually down to Sharjah’s east coast via more wildlife and nature reserves to Kalba and Khor Fakkan. These old ports are south of the Straits of Hormuz, north of Muscat, and open to the Indian Ocean. Buses ply this route, and my commission covered car hire, but I’ve been this way by road before and the heat of the sand and the relative cool of the ghafs which dot the landscape beyond The Dark Area—along with the irrigated farms linking north to Ras al Khaimah and surprisingly green wadis in the mountains—had become elemental to my purpose. Incidentally, the ghaf is also native to the Indian subcontinent where it is known as the jhand and “deeply revered”.11 It produces a fruit in the form of long green pods, which is cooked and eaten in Rajasthan. In April 2017, a couple of months after my ‘escape’ from the Deportees Room, Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, launched a new India-UAE cultural partnership: “The logo shows the flags of India and the UAE planted firmly in the Ashoka Chakra surmounting the leaves of the ghaf tree, the national tree of the UAE. The moral authority of the twenty-four spokes of the Chakra ready to roll into the future allied with the reverence for the environment represented by the ghaf tree signals a relationship of monumental significance.”12

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Simultaneously, an actual monument was being rushed towards completion on Saadiyat Island. The Louvre Abu Dhabi, celebrated at its November 2017 opening as the ‘Rain of Light’, was built by thousands of Indian men under brutally exploitative conditions, built in this way despite the relatively minuscule cost of dealing with the recruitment debts at its billion dollar heart, which would also honour a series of decrees issued by Abu Dhabi’s Shaikhs. The monument of significance here is Saadiyat’s brightly lit memorial to forced labour in 2017.13 In contrast to Abu Dhabi’s darkly empty rhetoric, I still anticipate stepping out of the light into Sharjah’s Ed-dhelaimah and laying down my tracks across the dunes when I leave with the early-rising gazelles and sand fish.

*** Two years before I sat in the Room the artist who took the photograph in the Mussafah Labour Camp sat here. The professor, the artist, the journalist and the writer in the photograph have also all been banned, blacklisted or deported since trying to amplify the voices of entrapped migrants from subcontinental ‘nowheres’ on the outskirts of regional towns, or remote valleys in Nepal and Waziristan. In that period human rights advocates have been banned, migrants have been deported for protesting their conditions, and Emiratis imprisoned without charge or disappeared for expressing any doubts about Abu Dhabi’s increasingly autocratic and militarily adventurous régime.14 Two hundred years before me, Shaikh Sultan Saqr al Rashid al Qasimi was confined to a Room like this on a similar autocratic whim. Saqr became Shaikh of Sharjah and its shifting territories in 1803, at a time when the British, in the form of the East India Company, were consolidating and expanding their regional influence at sea from Bombay. Simultaneously, Wahhabi-infused Saudi Imams were flexing and raiding from their inland base at Diriyya, in the Najd, just north of Riyadh, which would become their base and eventual capital city. They had previously taken and lost much of the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf and their strict monotheistic influence extended east into Ras al-Khaimah and Oman. “In March 1809 a delegation arrived from Dir’iyya, led by Muhammad bin Salama, to invite Shaikh Sultan to meet their ruler, Imam Muhammad bin Saud. The following month, accompanied by eight tribal shaikhs, Shaikh Sultan travelled to Dir’iyya [where] he was imprisoned and his accompanying shaikhs were sent home. Shaikh Sultan bin Saqr… was replaced both in Sharjah and in neighbouring Ras al-Khaimah by Shaikh Hassan bin Rahma” and other Wahhabi agents. “All of these men had fallen under the sway of the S’audi forces.”15 Sharjah’s ruling Shaikh writes with brave clarity about these sketchily documented events and a predecessor’s escape from his Saudi prison after three years. Saqr travelled in disguise to Mokha, then the principle port on the coast of Yemen, and soon discovered his loss of Sharjah from the Imam of Muscat. He sought sanctuary and material support from Qasimi cousins who then ruled the Persian bandar of Lingeh, where he assembled three hundred men to reclaim Sharjah after a four year gap in his rule. Upon their success, he set about fortifying the sea front, building and connecting towers and forts by defensive walls to protect the town from the interior too. ***

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00:16 “I’m amazed u had the balls to start taking photographs when they were extraditing you” It was not courage, just a quiet, befuddled determination to document the place in forensic detail. Writers are always ‘on’. Win or lose, history is ours. When I looked at the high resolution images taken on a new and unused camera—bought to deliver the work I had been contracted to make by the Government of Sharjah in the coming months—I noticed security cameras in the images when blown up large enough. Ask yourself who is paid to watch the footage, what are their entitlements in this society, and how close do you think they feel to being in this same Room? *** “HOTEL” it reads in dark green neon above a relatively short seven-storey building next to a neighbourhood masjid with a single minar of very similar height. One of the many other high-rises reads “Furnished Apartments” across its twelfth or thirteenth floor. Everything I can see is less than forty years old. This image from my phone—my first of Sharjah, March 2011—was taken through tinted windows from the sixth floor of the old Rotana Hotel above a roundabout on the far side of the flyover from the waterfront. Beneath the flyover, al Arouba and Al Sharq Streets meet at the roundabout, in a grid crossed by Arabian Gulf Street which runs to the waterfront. I can see the floating derricks lined up in Port Khalid beyond Sharjah’s creek and the green tubular roof of the Museum of Islamic Civilisation on Corniche Street. Between the two and a lot of beige, peach and sandy towers I also see dhows moored on the far side of the Creek. The Rotana is pyramidal in a stark 1990s style, all tinted glass facades and fortifying airconditioning. The roundabout and gridded highways above, on and below the ground were built to a development masterplan drafted by a British engineering company called Halcrow in 1968. That sentence describes the casual disaster that led to blanket demolitions and high-rise grids, which Sharjah has been busily reversing ever since it was accomplished. Professor of Urbanism at Sharjah University, Hassan Radoine describes the results as “urban chaos” in which “road grids of endless roundabouts… frame districts of noticeable disorder.”16 When I swept back the layers of curtains from my floor-to-ceiling windows, the view hit me with a rush of uncanny pleasures. I tried to capture what I was actually looking at, what was compelling to me, before heading down into it. I stepped out of the lift and into a very close friend who led me across the grid to the waterfront and back to eat at the Karachi Darbar, next to the HOTEL and masjid. The KD branch on Arabian Gulf Street wears a sign advertising its presence “Since 1973” on the outside. Inside, the Bangladeshi-British writer with a key work in the Sharjah Biennial laughed happily as he read me the crazy-cheap menu card. Afterwards, we dodged through Al Shuwaiheen’s ambient blend of Arabian, Iranian and South Asian worlds to the Sharjah Art Museum. The Museum housed Sharjah’s Art Foundation and Sharjah Biennial headquarters at the time and as we reached its entrance another friend, the Palestinian artist and Foundation operative, stepped out. Almost everything encountered so far was the result of an over-hasty imposition of modern engineering cliché that cut through and erased many of the indigenous forms and structures of the old town within the sour, or walls. The Museum is a more recent and considered attempt to replace and renew some of what was lost. Between it and the waterfront stand a pair of grand old baits; l

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al Shamsi and al Serkal, large domestic dwellings with Persian-detailed roof terraces and courtyards undergoing renovation. These were early parts of the ongoing recovery of old Sharjah which extends beyond Bank Street into Al Mareijah and now accommodates SAF’s Art Spaces and Biennial. Bank Street cut a seventy metre wide gash through the continuous suq which ran the length of the town since Sharjah was founded in the early eighteenth century. The old Iranian suq, a.k.a Suq Saqr,17 forms the northern end just beyond bait al-Shamsi and runs parallel with the water towards Suq Al Arsa on the far side of Bank Street. These modest looking, richly stocked shops open both to the waterside and the landside, rather as an airport terminal opens to airside and landside. Instead of Duty Free, I would stock-up here on bitter-sweet Iranian zereshk superior in taste to anything available at home in London. Understanding the quiet vitality of these two faces is key to this place, making for a notably organic local order amidst the imposed disordering grids. *** 12:52 “Oh. Shit. I didn’t know about this. Speechless. Especially after everything we had been discussing. Where are you?” *** The Gujarati port city of Surat has for centuries been a fixed connection between the subcontinent and Arabia. As the official port for the Hajj, where pilgrims gathered before journeying by sea, it developed its own micro-economy which can be traced today in its diamond trade. In 1627 a young Thomas Herbert was on board an East Indiaman called the ‘Rose’ as it reached Surat on its way from England to Gombroone or Bandar Abbas, just along the Persian coast from Lingeh. Bandar Abbas had recently been transformed by Shah Abbas I, the unifying Safavid ruler who ended a century of Portuguese possession of Hormuz—the “emporium of Persia”18—with East India Company support. Herbert had been appointed assistant to Dodmore Cotton, Charles I’s newly appointed Ambassador to Persia. Young Thomas kept a journal of strange sightings on land and at sea, accompanied with drawings of “Bannyans (who are) exquisite merchants”19 but also “gross idolaters”,20 a hallucinatory sailor-eating shark, and the view from Hormuz to Bandar Abbas, for example. His journal reports that Surat, a little north of Bombay, is on the River Indus. Surat is actually on the River Tapti, beside which Hendrik Van Reede, of the Hortus Malabaricus and ex-Governor of Malabar, lies buried in a monumental tomb from 1691. Van Reede’s Hortus —The Garden of Malabar—produced during the 1680s, contains the earliest published image of the Banyan tree, the Ficus benghalensis, or Shaikh Sultan Saqr’s Rolla. I passed his tomb during the monsoon of 2003, on my ride through a city awash with mud. The ‘Rose’ reached Bandar Abbas on the 28th January 1628, where Herbert encountered a port bazaar bustling with “sundry Nations as Persians, Indians, Arabs, Jewes”, especially the numerous “Bannyans” who “are the most subtle and faire spoken Merchants in the Orient.”21 He’s astonished by the sheer abundance; “chiefly fruits and flowers, as Oranges, Lemmons, Pomegranates, Quinces, Peares, Apples, Almonds, Figs, Dates and Lilies, Roses, Tulips” brought from “other places hither”, much of it, he says traded by “Bannyans”.22

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Bandar Abbas was naturally sheltered from the Gulf’s busy channels of ancient trade by the islands of Qishm and Hormuz; a burgeoning port which the British would target for themselves before shifting to the deeper waters of Persian Bushire to the north. Thereafter, along with Zanzibar, it became Oman’s strategic possession into the late nineteenth century. What interests me and seems to have interested Herbert sufficiently for him to gain an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary as a result, was an extraordinary phenomenon “three miles from Gombroone, right against Ormuz Ile”23 towards the south and half a mile from the English Factory. There, against the waters of the Persian Gulf, Growes a tree, which we call the Bannyan tree, whose circumference in the leaves and boughs fixt in the earth, is two hundred and nine of my paces, as I measured. Within, the boughes are lopt off, so that it seems a Theater. And wherein, may ambush very primately three hundred Horse (or men). A Chappell sacred to the Bannyans Numen, is built close to the bole included and hidden, to those without, by her thicke spreading branches, near which is the Cave or Hermitage of an ancient Brahminy, a devout Wretch, having constantly served his Master the Devil about threescore yeares.24 Herbert’s ambassadorial mission crossed the interior to meet the Shah, but within a year both ambassador and Shah were dead. Meanwhile, young Thomas gave birth to a strange cultural assemblage in the form of a tree, the Banyan, which he named after a people that he barely comprehended. A people that included the Bania or Wania caste of traditional merchants, who still reside in eponymous quarters or wads, in the old ports and walled towns along India’s north-west sea coast like Mandvi or Bhuj. Herbert’s Banyan tree bears a biopolitics of this kind but is also marked as a theatre, a religious and socio-political stage bound up with the prosperity and diversity of bandars like this throughout the region, bound up with the possibility of trade as such since the Banyans in each port on both sides of the emerging Gulf were often the gold dealers and money lenders. If the circumference of Herbert’s arboreal theatre of dropped roots was two hundred and nine paces, then it would have been approximately 3,400 square metres. Today a pace is 0.75 metres, but Herbert refers to his own pace, in the early sixteenth century. A pace of mine is closer to a full metre. In any case, his “Bannyan” was larger than my Deportees Room, and only a little smaller than the average size of the arena or stage in Roman amphitheatres across Europe, Britain, North Africa and West Asia. The nearest amphitheatre is at the Syrian end of the Euphrates, Dura Europus, a ‘small’ archeological ruin with an arena thirty-one metres in diameter. This makes it larger than the nearby theatrical stage at Palmyra25 or the next nearest at exceptionally well-preserved Bosra.26 Herbert’s “Bannyan” was about sixty-six metres in diameter using one pace as a metre, forty-nine metres using a three-quarters of a metre pace, which still compares well to the Colosseum in Rome with its elliptical arena of eighty-seven metres by fifty-five metres. The Banyan, which we know can dwarf these little amphitheatres, can also grow anywhere, on and from anything. Herbert described the way the tree branches drop roots to form a kind of cage around a central trunk that sometimes dies away. Of the famously massive examples in India, I have walked inside the one in the Calcutta Botanical Gardens, which first established itself on a date palm in 1782 and can shelter five thousand people.27 In general, the Banyan’s ubiquity long ago numbed me to its qualities, but images of it smeared in red kum-kum to make or incorporate a shrine in Bhubaneswar, in or sheltering a social microcosm of barber, chai stand and bike mechanic in Baroda are indelible. l

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There were other sentinel Banyan trees throughout the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea region, at bandars all along the Baluchi and Persian coasts linking to and from Mughal and British India. Once inside Gulf waters, there was one in Hormuz itself, opposite Herbert’s originary one outside Bandar Abbas. A large Banyan stood at the mouth of the harbour at Bushire near the head of the Gulf and riverine routes to Baghdad, Dura Europus and on. Further afield, Banyans were introduced to Hawai’i by the family of the last indigenous ruler, King Kalakaua, where music and mourning was performed under the grand canopy, as well as rebellions to protest their usurpation by white settlers and subsequent annexation by the United States of America. And there was one other Banyan, of course, just outside the land-side sour of Shaikh Sultan Saqr al Qasimi’s Sharjah, a town with about two thousand inhabitants in the late 1820s, when it was planted. Saqr’s Rolla tree reached thirty metres in diameter, ninety-four metres in circumference and almost half the size of Herbert’s Banyan at Bandar Abbas. Compare that further to the stage and semi-circle orchestra pit at Bosra, twenty-one to twenty-five metres across, which serviced 15,000 spectators in the cavea itself. By any standards, Saqr’s Rolla tree grew into a significantly scaled feature on the edge of the Ruler’s Square beyond the sour and embedded Al Hisn. *** I walk off flight EK032 into DXB’s tubular T3, which is quite familiar and unchanged but for an unfamiliar sensation of not knowing whether I will actually ‘land’. Landing, even in this dumbly mediatised age, requires uh, land and for me to physically walk upon it. Outside the Terminal. Under the coddling sky. Even if only towards a taxi. Thus, I’m embracing the strangeness which has bred a nonchalance in me to the point of displaying an unnatural cool. At no point have I pictured myself walking out in the balmy air at the end of my six hour flight. If I do get through, I’ll be overwhelmed with quick joy and a rush of contained purpose. Still airside, I descend the multi-storey escalator to be met by a Mahabha28 agent who whisks me through crowd control barriers as we cut across Arrivals. I’m carrying all I need for my six week residency, so can skip baggage reclaim where the palm tree-lined travelator is reflected in its mirrored ceiling. Polite grins and exchanges greet us at the desk, an unusual experience, but quite soon the pleasantries dry up in confusion. The diligent checker makes two or three goes, verifies that I’ve been here before, tries again and, with genuine surprise in his face, says there is a problem which he does not understand. His arm takes wing and from my right another man looms with a plastic grin. So it goes. I play the surprised-but-not-remotely-ruffled-hand. My Mahabha agent is actually flustered, replaces herself with a colleague to go and seek advice. I send messages to my Sharjah hosts but I know that key figures are in the air and won’t land for a couple of hours, by which time it will be too late (so it proves; my phone rings at the exact moment the plane deporting me starts to taxi). An hour passes very quickly in this abstract space before I decide I should go through the motions of a conventional response to delay. Minutes later I’m being led away to the big Security Office in the sky, referred to with a fluttering gesture by another tight-lipped man sent to collect me. He is the blankest of those so far encountered, but while he guides me to an electric buggy I try to engage him in Arabic. He ignores me, so I persist until he offers an awkward grin and says he does not speak Arabic—“I am not…” he tails off, “I am Russia.” The drive along the Terminal on the buggy takes us quite a long way from human or other signs of life. We pull up outside a small glass-fronted office, which is closed and empty, but where he says I must “just wait. Report here.”

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Above the empty reception window it reads General Directorate of Residential and Foreigners Affairs. A large sticker in the middle of the glass centres on a falcon above the words IMMIGRATION INVESTIGATION. Beneath it the glass stops short of the counter so that documents can be conveyed. There are symmetrical clusters of circular holes cut in to aide hearing, the backs of matching screens. Through the glass a rear partition wall is lined with desks and PCs. Plum centre, pride of place, are two small portraits in heavily ornate gilt frames. On the the left is a youthful likeness of the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi, the same virile force that greets visitors to Abu Dhabi’s Yaz Island where it towers on a motorway bridge. Press images of his rare public appearances, in which he is unrecognisable, caused me some bewilderment. The figure on the right of the two is the Shaikh of Dubai, ubiquitous landside and much more diligent in keeping up appearances. The all powerful rulers whose insecurities have brought me here are framed by potted plants of an anonymous and banal kind, placed each side of the reception desk. I would not have noticed them at all if my circumstances were not so removed from meaningful human experience. But they are and I do. I notice that they are real, living, well-watered plants. I could reach in and touch them or their soil if there were any ambiguity about it. They remind me of tall, brown, thistles clustering a farmer’s stone-built store in a valley outside Ramallah which were described to me, winkingly, as “soldiers protecting the qasr!”29 The Shaikhs’ ‘soldiers’ stimulate an insurgent thought which will grow in potency in the Deportees Room. *** 7:01 “Ok. Messaging XXXXXXXX. Shifted job to T3 Camp Costa ;) If you really* can leave the room try to meet?” *** Ras al-Khaimah is in flames. Lingeh is in flames. Buildings are in ruins, stores are burnt out, men are dead, the boats in each port howl orange to a descending black sky. Europeans had behaved in this way for centuries throughout the region on every coast and in many ports. What I find odd is that they made paintings of their work. The “intent” of the long-planned mission sent from Bombay was simple in its ill-informed crudity and prejudice: “to crush the pirates in the Persian Gulf”30 according to Captain Wainwright, leader of the expedition. Of the hundreds of troops envisaged for this expedition a significant proportion were to be Indian sepoys.31 The expedition would be accompanied by one artist, too. “The main point of attack was to be Ras al-Khaima, but all other Qasimi ports from Rams southwards were to be attacked and their ships destroyed (as well as) all Qasimi ports on the Persian coast.”32 The caveat was always “to avoid any clashes with the Wahhabis”. The Shaikh of Sharjah added to this in his 1985 doctoral thesis that, “It is most curious that the organisers and the leaders of the expedition did not possess any accurate information on the whole Arab coast. They did not even know the exact location of their main target, Ras al-Khaima.”33

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The Company expedition set off from Bombay on the 14th September 1809; thirty-six gun frigates and several smaller cruisers, with seven hundred European and five hundred “native” troops. “On 11th November the whole force assembled in sight of Ras al-Khaima, but they soon found out that their frigates could not get within four miles of the town.”34 Next day, Wainwright continued, “the town was cannonaded by the small cruisers and gunboats with visible effect.”35 As the sun rose on the morning of the thirteenth, they made a two-pronged attack which cleared the town by ten o’clock and erased it by mid-afternoon. He writes in that florid Latin hand they used, “Thus, in a few hours was this enterprising and powerful people reduced to poverty and weakness.”36 They had not quite finished, as the Shaikh continues: “In Wainwright’s words: ‘On the 15th, the squadron sailed to attack the pirates on the Persian coast. On the 17th it was off Linga, that town was abandoned on the approach of the ships, and all the piratical vessels, twenty in number, nine of them very large, were destroyed without loss of lives’.”37 It is the paintings that interest me most. A number were made from on-board vessels outside Ras al-Khaimah, showing the troops landing, in red-belted jackets and tall black hats firing and reloading their muskets, inhabitants throwing arms in the air as they are hit. One from the southwest was painted, it says, at half past two that afternoon, showing the town engulfed in black towers of smoke, British soldiers in neat line formations, huge dhows aflame behind them. In the foreground of this painting, shoeless, barely-dressed Asian men retrieve textiles from burning buildings. The painting of Ras al-Khaimah at 2:30pm is inscribed to the expeditionary artist; “R. Temple HM65th Regt.” There are similar ones of Lingeh, from distant moorings, again against the rising mountains behind, again attributed to Temple, but no timecode evident. In one, the town, which had been abandoned strategically, is intact, but the smaller looking dhows in the water and others drawn up on the beach are spewing lividly assertive orange flames. These paintings are sickening in their banality and the ways they incorporate epistemological distance, their contemptuous ignorance of and unhesitant lack of interest in the land here, what happened landside, or the interiors of its peoples. Everything waterside, you understand, now belonged to the East India Company. The paintings are equivalent to those images of aerial bombardment of Iraq in 1991 or 2003, which I witnessed from the banks of the River Indus in the desert of Gujarat. Or of drone images of wedding parties being eviscerated, suspected jihadis or resistors being summarily assassinated. They are no different from the Salafi ‘propaganda’ videos made in response. The British returned in 1819—directly from reducing Bhuj, the capital of Kachchh—and exceeded their official mission, destroying Ras al-Khaimah, stripping Sharjah of fortifications, destroying fleets and sacking Lingeh to reduce their foes to dependency for one hundred and fifty years to come. Yet, I can’t help but think of Saqr as the canny winner in the ruins. He nurtured a form of sovereignty in Sharjah and beyond which had the effect of consolidating Sharjah as such. He ruled through internal strife and mortal conflict for forty more years until his death in 1866. What of his Rolla tree, planted in the late 1820s, transplanted or seeded, from who knows where? Lingeh? Hormuz? Or all the way from Surat or Bombay? I would love to know, but it seems undiscoverable. The Rolla was planted landside, out left of the fort’s entrance to the interior, and would have been big enough to sit under in his own lifetime. Saqr the wild mushroom?—flourishing in symbiotic relationship with the holiest tree in India which took root in his time, place of ruin and repair.

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Tales From The Deportees Room: Porting One (DXB)

*** 00:01 “Ok. We stage a meeting in the Deportees Room DXB. An artist, a writer, a rights activist, an academic, NGO, like this… We film what we are able to plant. This involves risk Ok! So we are all ‘in’ then!” *** In thinking about what I have been doing, or might hope for in certain circumstances, I kept circling Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali’s notion of the truth of taste/taste of truth. Yet this is not intended as “the incredible exploits of some fabulous exemplum”38 as Eric Ormsby reassures us about the work of Al-Ghazali. Al-Ghazali had been teaching in Baghdad, at the Nizamiyya madrasa appointed by the new Seljuk ‘kings’, when he had a well-documented, physical and mental breakdown of some sort in 1095. It caused him months of pain and triggered his departure for Damascus, then Jerusalem and finally a return home to Persia. This life of sufi-like seclusion lasted for eleven years. Abu Hamid was about thirty-eight years old when he left Baghdad and about fifty when he wrote al-Munqidh min al-dalal or The Deliverer from Error some five years before his death in 1111. Al-Ghazali was driven by a “quest for certitude, for an unshakeable basis of knowledge” in an age of what he called “spiritual torpor and lassitude, of lukewarmness and mediocrity”.39 What appeals to me is that his certitude had to be “realised by ‘taste and practice’ (dhawq wa-suluk)”40 which, crucially, is “available to all, even the unlettered.”41 For Abu Hamid “to taste means to experience directly”,42 a notion that takes in the Qranic reminder that “every soul will taste of death”. This perception of taste recurs in Sufi writing, that of Persian and Christian mystics and the author of al-Munqidh drew from exceptionally wide sources. Ormsby concludes; Though he is openly eclectic and allows several approaches to truth, he presents the deepest truth as accessible only through immediate, living experience, or “taste”. Taste has a direct meaning for the reader, as an ordinary, and daily, physical experience. The experience of taste has, however, the further merit of being notoriously incommunicable. Unlike the other senses, taste has few analogues [but al-Ghazali’s use of this notion] is an astute way to communicate something incommunicable to a wide and diverse circle of readers.43 I would like to rescue this notion of taste as an individual and collective experience of truth and truths, from scholarly or theological debate. In the contexts of ruins assembled here, taste generates new value, present in the beginning and after the end. It allowed al-Ghazali to capture “transfigured, spiritual senses” and dreams understood as “the innate, unmediated state of knowing”44 for his (prophetic) purposes. I will do something similar for mine in relation to artful invention, temperamental resistance and speculative visioning within Anthropocenic dystopias. In the Deportees Room at DXB the true experience of taste is inclusiveness. Sharing. It is that which is in common—public space. It is a taste of an Other. When the national tree of the Emirates, the ghaf, is eaten in Rajasthan, that is what it tastes of. Pradip Krishen describes how the bark of the tree is sweetish and can be ground into flour and how it “saved lives in the Great Rajputana Famine of 1868-69.”45 This is the truth of taste; interior, active, unerring.

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Similarly, the figs of the Banyan or Rolla, the sacred tree of India and Arabian Eid-awning, taste peculiarly good in Terminal 3 I will discover when I stage a return. They are the taste of the only kind of revenge—or response to the despotic refusal of truths engaged by the Abu Dhabi regime —worth my time. My truths are eclectic, I can’t think of a more direct way of conveying the resulting experience. I also can’t help but think myself out of the Room by holding to the improvised, migratory, outlawed joys of embracing how precarious all life is here, now. Versus the ruins of Saadiyat Island and the demagoguery that arms itself to delete others. The Deportees Room reminded me that all life begins after deletion, that we’re already there. *** IMBECILIC CONTINGENT INTRUSION46 Everything we know about ourselves and our various shared and not well-shared histories affirms that systems of hermetic control never work for long, that consolidation hastens collapse. The more autocratic the regime, the messier the collapse. I will leave all of that to time, which will operate unerringly. Meanwhile, to demonstrate a simple truth, we are going to plant a forest in DXB’s Terminal 3. It’s easy. Those of us who know the place will return from various ports in carefully staged flights that betray no joint venture. We will all be either prevented from getting on a flight, stopped at and detained at DXB, or held in the Deportees Room for some hours. Two of us at least will get in—to the airport, not the country!—and overlap in the Room on ROLEX time. We will take our allotted hour to find food in the Terminal and head up to our Costa rendezvous. We will have seeds of trees with us. We will be carrying gorgeous presentation boxes of fertilised roals or figs, like the kind from Aliya Dates Farm that I recall from a leather-lined yacht in Abu Dhabi’s Palace Marina. Gifts, you see. Gifts of the Rolla tree, the put-upon-banyans, these potent embodiments of hopes, wishes and dreams for change. And we will plant, wherever we find soil in the Terminal. Where the palms grow in the great halls, where floral displays are within reach, in the two potted plants in the Deportees Room itself. I will enjoy reaching my hands underneath the glass partition in the Security Office to plant rebellion right under the fixed visages of the two Shaikhs at the rear of the room. These seeds will grow into ‘soldiers’ protecting new qasrs which are closer to the Palestinian farmer’s shelter in the wadi than the thunking spectacle of the new Ruler’s Palace at the end of the corniche in Abu Dhabi. The point is to document the planting on film; soiled fingers, hasty thrusting and smoothingover, in mirrored halls under ROLEX time and meaningless ads for connectedness. Then to share that harmless but insurrectionary ‘poor’ imagery with the best generational minds out there at Sharjah’s 2019 Biennial and beyond. *** 8:01 “We are out of uae. ‘Out’ ;) WE HAVE FOOTAGE Brother ‘Costa’ received his gift and promises more…” l

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Notes 1 Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016, p. 6 2

ibid., p. 40

3

ibid., p. 3

4

Author’s note from a board at the Heritage Museum, Sharjah; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuW_WzGSGpA

5

Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, My Early Life, Domenyk Eades trans., London: Bloomsbury, 2011, p. 21

6 https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/sharjah-family-shares-70-years-of-emirati-women-s-history-through-three-generations-and-fivewomen-1.631385?videoId=5688157736001 7

Samia Rab uses these constructions in her research, which she spoke of at the March Meeting in Sharjah, 2013

8

Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, op cit., p. 21

9

See Govt of Sharjah page; http://www.epaashj.ae/protected-areas/ed-dhelaimah/

10

ibid.

11

Pradip Krishen, Trees of Delhi, Delhi: Dorling Kindersley, 2006, p. 277

12

See Khaleej Times; https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/abu-dhabi/emirati-indian-cultural-celebrations-begin-in-abu-dhabi

13

See Middle East Eye; http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/louvre-abu-dhabi-universal-museum-or-memorial-forced-labour-1371077816

14 After my deportation 9-10 January 2017 as a “security threat” with orders “from the centre” according to Sharjah authorities, I offer a tiny sample of examples: 16 January 2017, Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, retired academic and conservative critic disappeared after tweeting his wish for “freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly”, resurfacing ten days later promising a “new phase of communication with followers”; 20 March 2017, Ahmed Mansour ‘disappeared’ again from his home in Ajman and has been held without charge ever since, a further chapter in his persecution since appealing for democratic reforms previously; see https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/21/uae-freeprominent-rights-activist March 29th 2017; Dr Nasser bin Ghaith was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for sending tweets criticising his experience of lacunae in the justice system in Abu Dhabi. “By imposing this ludicrous sentence in response to his peaceful tweets, the authorities have left no room for doubt: those who dare to speak their minds freely in the UAE today risk grave punishment,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research in Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Regional Office; https://www.amnesty.org. uk/press-releases/uae-prominent-academic-jailed-ten-years-over-tweets; The UAE bans Skype, Whatsapp, Change.org, filters news and arrests curious journalists; https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/-attack-on-press-freedom-_swiss-tv-journalists-arrested--held-in-abudhabi/43670010 15

Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Under the Flag of Occupation, London: Bloomsbury, 2015, p. xiv

16 Hassan Radoine, ‘Chapter 10. Sharjah, UAE’, in Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region, Murray Fraser & Nasser Golzari eds, London: Ashgate Publishing, 2013, p. 246 17 Mona El Mousfy and Sharmeen Syed, ‘Cultural Exchange and Urban Appropriation in UAE & The Gulf’, George Katodrytis & Kevin Mitchell eds, Architectural Design No. 233, 2015, p. 31 18 Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, ‘The Myth of Arab Piracy’, University of Exeter PhD, March 1985, p. 17. Also published as a book with the same title though different pagination, London: Routledge, 1988 19 Thomas Herbert, A relation of some yeares travaile, begvnne anno 1626. Into Afrique and the greater Asia, especially the territories of the Persian Monarchie: and some parts of the orientall Indies, and Iles adjacent, London: Printed by William Stansby and Jacob Bloome, 1634, p. 37. NB: This is the full title pasted from the copy at the British Library, London 20

ibid.

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21

op cit., p. 48

22

ibid.

23

ibid.

24

ibid.

25

Palmyra has a twenty-three metre diameter orchestra pit, and a forty-five metre long stage

26

Bosra has a twenty-one metre diameter orchestra pit and a twenty-five metre stage

27

Krishen, Trees of Delhi, op cit., p. 323

28 Marhaba (which is a version of the informal Arabic greeting meaning ‘hi’) is a meet and greet service which started out at DXB; https://www.marhabaservices.com/english/about/our-story) 29

Guy Mannes-Abbott, In Ramallah, Running, London: Black Dog Publishing, 2012, p. 52

30

Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, PhD, p. 232

31

Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, PhD, quoting Duncan Minute, June 1809, p. 238

32

ibid., p. 252

33

ibid.

34

ibid., p. 254

35

ibid., p. 255

36

ibid., 256

37

ibid., p. 259

38 Eric Ormsby, ‘The Taste of Truth: The Structure of Experience in al-Ghazali’s Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal’, in Islamic Studies presented to Charles J. Adams, Wael Hallaq & Donald Little eds, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991, pp. 133-152 39

ibid., p. 138

40

ibid., p. 141

41

ibid., p. 140

42

ibid., p. 141

43

ibid., p. 152

44

ibid., p. 149

45

Krishen, Trees of Delhi, op cit., p. 277

46

This refers to a short series of texts called ‘Imbecilic Contingent Intrusions’, a phrase lifted from Slavoj Zizek, The Plague of Fantasies, London: Verso, 1997, p. 129. I exhibited ICI (two) with Cerith Wyn Evans’ neon Lacanian loop in an exhibition titled Essential Things, Robert Prime Gallery, London, July 1999 (all the texts were published on a then ‘special’ CD-ROM edition)

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Tales From The Deportees Room: Porting One (DXB)

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Paper Tigers: The New Iconoclasm and Identity Politics l

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Paper Tigers: The New Iconoclasm and Identity Politics

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Now Where? On Navigating Without a Compass l

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Now Where? On Navigating Without a Compass

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Superpositioned: Regionality and Identity, Meaning and Critical Experience l

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Superpositioned: Regionality and Identity, Meaning and Critical Experience

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Superpositioned: Regionality and Identity, Meaning and Critical Experience l

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Superpositioned: Regionality and Identity, Meaning and Critical Experience

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A Question of Style: Rethinking Japan’s Art History in a Global Context l

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A Question of Style: Rethinking Japan’s Art History in a Global Context

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Akal Baanta Baanti: Experiments in Collaboration l

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Akal Baanta Baanti: Experiments in Collaboration

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What Comes Over The Sea In Pursuit of Venus l

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Walking Back Into The Future: Indigenous Futurisms, New Media and Contemporary Assertions of Indigeneity

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BASAK SENOVA

Operation Sunken Sea: Flipping The Historical Narrative l

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Operation Sunken Sea: Flipping The Historical Narrative

From the nineteenth to twentieth century imaginations of people like geographer Francois Roudaire, novelist Jules Vernes, geologist Albrecht Penck, officer John Ball, architect Herman Sörgel, President Dwight Eisenhower, novelist Jorge Borges, I was given visions of the Mediterranean Sea. I too will shift geographies and relay the instant at which the worldbuilding dream had been revealed to me, the instant at which I had been given the lines: “sink the sea!” As China is building the New Silk Road, and Turkey creating a new canal connecting the Black and Marmara Seas, we too shall explore the capabilities of human progress in a feat of poetic engineering and sink the Mediterranean Sea!1 On 25 May 2018, wearing a black suit and with a persuasive tone, Heba Y. Amin, an Egyptian visual artist and scholar, presented an extraordinary speech on transplanting the Mediterranean Sea into the African continent. Amin performed this speech impersonating a dictator, its speculative narrative —including forgotten and improbable attitudes from a colonial past, while bearing surprising parallels to what we hear from contemporary politics—haunted her audience, its suspicious proximity to today’s narratives fused with a non-hesitant flow, combined with strategic pauses and a resonant projection. As one of the iterations of her project Operation Sunken Sea, Amin’s performance, an amalgamation of quotes extracted from speeches by male politicians and statesmen, was realised as part of the Dal-Bahar Madwarha/The Island is What the Sea Surrounds exhibition for Valletta 2018 –European Capital of Culture, in collaboration with the Mediterranean Institute, University of Malta. In this instance, the critical geography of the Maltese Islands and the Mediterranean Sea, and the contemporary social and political realities of the islanders provided an appropriate platform and logical entry point for her performance.

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Operation Sunken Sea: Flipping The Historical Narrative

*** Heba Y. Amin’s art practice explores issues and histories of urban infrastructural development and technological advancement through multi-layered, long-term projects that offer critical insights into subjective observations, historical accounts, sociological complexities and political satire. Her recent projects, which utilise public performance lectures, mixed media installations and video works, engage the politically acute issues of global migration, postcolonial politics, and historical and geographical narratives that address how socio-economic and political environments can be altered by contorting opposing and even parallel perspectives. Amin has conducted extensive and meticulous research into the fascist politics, dictators and colonial discourses of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, quoting the overlapping, merging and enmeshing elements and rhetoric from these period’s histories, philosophies, politics and technologies. Operation Sunken Sea has been developed and refined by Amin as a ‘speculative’ artistic work, utilising performance and parody to examine historical techno-utopian plans from the early twentieth century to drain the Mediterranean Sea. Amin sees such a speculative approach as expedient and necessary to heighten considerations on what influences and motivates communities in differing geographical regions, in their contemporary political inclinations, attitudes and convictions. This approach submits a further perspective to identify and reinterpret current repetitive, hegemonic assumptions foundational to Western societies, by apprehending the logic and reasoning of re-emergent popular nationalism and accompanying xenophobic, anti-immigration ideologies, and a universal intolerance of difference as demonstrated by a number of current global political leaders. The genesis for Operation Sunken Sea is the German architect Herman Sörgel’s monumental proposal from the late 1920s to create a utopian supercontinent called ‘Atlantropa’, conceived as an infrastructural intervention on the Mediterranean Sea region along with the cultivation of Africa, as a solution to the economic and political turmoil in Europe at that time. As Amin explains; Atlantropa would culminate in dams across the Strait of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles, and between Sicily and Tunisia, converting the Mediterranean into two basins and evaporating the sea by 200 metres to uncover 660,200 km of land. Each dam would contain colossal hydroelectric power plants—the infrastructural foundation for Atlantropa—that would produce enough power to sustain the entirety of the new supercontinent. Sörgel proposed the redesign of the entire topography of a continent that he described as “an expecting vacuum”; his vision of converging Europe with Africa as an economic model echoed the many colonial projects of resource exploitation. Not surprisingly, Africans were not in on the project nor were they the main benefactors of it.2 In addition to the improbability of Sörgel’s idea of recreating continents, his audacity to imagine and apply such a gigantic proposal detrimental to the Mediterranean region underlines an outlandish and egotistical demeanour, not unlike several comparable gestures of resolute grandiosity by current national leaders. For example, in 2011 Turkish President Erdogan announced his “crazy project”, ‘Kanal İstanbul’, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. This massive engineering dream, similar to Sörgel’s—also considered to be a massive ecological catastrophe at the expense of many people—will bisect the current European side of Istanbul forming an island between Europe and Asia, and is intended to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 2023.

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It is evident contemporary geopolitics cannot be read separately from that of a colonial past. As Edward Said proposed, like capitalism, modern empires need to constantly expand.3 While discussing both geopolitical and cultural perspectives, and examining the discourses of Orientalism, Said asserted that Western colonialism was driven by a quest for knowledge and power,4 referring also to Foucault’s ideas of power5 and the relationship between it and knowledge: We should admit rather that power produces knowledge (and not simply by encouraging it because it serves power or by applying it because it is useful); that power and knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a file of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.6 Having the same intention, the motives of such futurist ideas, with a desire to destroy the ‘old’ and demonstrate a better future through technology, can be detected in Erdogan’s proposal in its most severe form. It presents a curt vision of the future, easily dissipated by worsening socioeconomic and political contexts. This bluntness often appears as an audacious virtue for those in power. They not only possess but also express a privileged and mostly inelegant political imagination, enabling their envisioning of the ‘bigger picture’ of the structural transformations of society, for the society. Heba Y. Amin articulates through her project these overlapping elements of numerous, imposing political enterprises by elaborating upon how proposals such as ‘Atlantropa’ appear as examples of radical political imagination. Her long-term project takes on past colonial visions of macro-engineering projects as a provocation to “imagine what such enterprises of social engineering would look like if designed through the demands, methods, potentialities and paradoxes of decolonisation and internationalism.”7 As ‘Atlantropa’ proposed to provide access to energy and employment beyond the nation-state, the Operation Sunken Sea project asks the viewer to challenge the criteria of the individual in relation to their  fundamental human rights exemplified, in this case, by the transnational provision of land, labour, and energy. In this way, one might take the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ as an occasion to think beyond the structures that shape our society, and to consider what are the most precarious, unstable  and urgent issues in our time, rather than to encounter such conditions as a threat to social order,  or a call to its preservation.8 Beginning with Sörgel, Amin researched and analysed various archives, read and watched films of speeches and re-performed them, re-staged photographic portraits, and designed specific installations—in her terminology, “plagiarising”their ideas, re-using the devices and methodologies of Sörgel, and others.9 *** The initial phase of Operation Sunken Sea was launched at Dal-Bahar Madwarha/The Island is What the Sea Surrounds during Valletta 2018–European Capital of Culture in Malta, as a first point of contact between Africa and Europe, including the establishment of a fictitious office and the performance of a public speech. The next presentation of the project, as an installation, will be the 10th Berlin Biennial June to September 2018, followed by several other iterations including the CrossSections project, September and October 2018, in Vienna. Operation Sunken Sea will continue to evolve with various iterations and exhibitions as an ongoing process in different geographies, in future exhibitions and events. l

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The performances in Operation Sunken Sea are critical, integral elements, not only as appropriation and simulation, but also given Amin’s position as a woman re-enacting the speeches and scenarios of these particular protagonists, the majority of whom, as men, have articulated or implemented their monumental proposals through overtly masculine convictions. Amin reverses the order of this dominant power nexus by dissipating its representational codes. Her proposition thus evolves into a ‘woman’s vision’ by reconstructing and representing its masculinity metonymically, as well as metaphorically, exposing the political and social implications of the transposition of past power structures onto today’s configurations of popular narratives. As Amin explains; In the spirit of utopian planning, Operation Sunken Sea proposes alternative narratives in the face of crisis. The resurrection of early twentieth century techno-utopian plans through performance and parody aims to transform totalitarian thought into a severe critique of colonialism and its fantasies. This project takes as central to its concept the figure of the megalomaniac utopian ‘mastermind’ and aims to exaggerate and subvert the narratives and imagery that surround him through the centralising of my own identity as an Arab, African woman, proposing equal scale and temerity. I am to appropriate and invert the ideas, fantasies, and materials of figures like Herman Sörgel, writing them out of history just as women and subaltern subjects have been written out of the archive.10 l

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Amin’s artistic methodology additionally references (Benjamin’s) theories on reproduction. Today, all media platforms (especially social media) collect and distribute images and data at immense speeds and magnitude, communication technologies infusing our lives with a constant onslaught of information. Nevertheless, we have also learned from these same sources that the meaning of any image is dependent upon its context—it is not only such images but also the ideologies and realities behind them that are being created and disseminated. Along with intentionally distorted information, the speed with which the enormous flow of mediated images is propogated prevents its comprehensive ingestion and perception. Correspondingly, the constant and repetitive reproduction of reality through social media cultivates faster and broader models for sharing information. In this respect, what Amin achieves in her project is to visualise how this continual reproduction of reality draws out the essential implications of the principles of image reproduction formulated by Walter Benjamin in his seminal essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’.11 Amin utilises the mediating actions of reproduced images and messages by processing and examining their profound impact upon how people might perceive the world. These fragmented images and messages are pervasive, provocative and speculative. This is best articulated by invoking the artist’s project rationale at length: Invested in the power of technology to generate a new future for humankind, Operation Sunken Sea initiates a large-scale infrastructural intervention unparalleled in scale. A new era of human progress will be initiated through the draining and rerouting of the Mediterranean Sea to converge Africa and Europe into one supercontinent. The operation promises to bring an end to terrorism and the migration crisis, provide employment and energy alternatives and confront the rise of fascism, all of which pose profound existential threats to our future. The project instills a fervent movement towards technocracy which takes a proactive stance towards the reparation of Africa and the Middle East by relocating the Mediterranean Sea within the continent. Expanding upon early twentieth century techno-utopian visions, Operation Sunken Sea investigates the abundance to be acquired from the significant transformation of territorial constructs. It responds to the contemporary moment of political uncertainty in Europe, the unrest and collapse of nation-states in the Middle East, the neo-liberal failure of globalisation in Africa by shifting the paradigm in a time of neo-fascist necropolitics. The operation instigates enterprise, invention and ingenuity with a new vision for Africa and the Middle East. It pinpoints what could be attained by and for those most affected in the last century by the wars waged for oil, resources and power.12 In bringing together the findings of her research, utilising elements from cultural imagination, technology, fantasy and (science-)fiction and presenting them in an eclectic form, Amin’s methodology reminds us of Umberto Eco’s renowned reading of the film Casablanca, that, “Casablanca has succeeded in becoming a cult movie because it is not one movie. It is ‘the’ movies.”13 Infamously, the script was written at the same time Casablanca was being filmed, with actors re-enacting previous dialogue and roles, creating a lasting sense of déjà vu by continual appropriation. As Eco further stated, “two clichés make us laugh, but a hundred clichés move us because we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves and celebrating a reunion.”14 In the same manner, Amin’s project assembles compelling historical narratives and their components, unifying them into a powerful rhetorical tool to influence the disposition of her audience. In her insistence upon ‘details’ becoming an integral element of the project’s rhetoric, Amin’s presentation of archival material offers

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a salient entry-point to understand how its content mirrors current geopolitics, instanced by the differences in maps and geography in archival photos and her office (installation) setting, conveying an ironic and satirical tone to the project. Operation Sunken Sea thus formulates a mechanism that demands an understanding and awareness from its audience. Shifting geographies and rewriting history, however, requires collective thinking. The project seeks to create an art lab for critical and speculative thinking in order to continue in developing new methods of research, critique, and creative intervention within these colonial narratives and their contemporary residues. The project aims to build a kind of mobile institution devoted to imagining and proposing new historical constructs, and putting forth alternatives for future feminist and anticolonial worlds, as ours becomes increasingly uninhabitable.15 In doing so, Heba Y. Amin performs an act of ‘flipping history’, by becoming these implausible but quite effective personas, re-presenting their speeches and proposals as influentially and provocatively, if not more so, than their originators. Amin’s aspiration is to reduce and displace their importance by transposing them into mere background material for her project’s setting, subtly eliminating them not only from history, but also the absurdity of their reasoning and discourse in endeavouring to solve global crises and conflict. Notes 1 Heba Y. Amin performance speech, performed at the St Elmo Examination Centre, Valletta, 25 May 2018 2

Email correspondence with the artist, April 2018

3

Edward Said, Orientalism, London: Penguin, 1977, p. 105

4

ibid. p. 21

5

ibid.

6

Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Alan Sheridan trans., New York: Pantheon Books, 1977, pp. 27-28

7

Heba Y. Amin performance speech, op cit.

8

Heba Y. Amin, ibid.

9

Skype interview with the artist, 4 May 2018

10

Email correspondence with the artist, op cit.

11

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2008 12

Artist’s project statement; http://www.hebaamin.com/works/operation-sunken-sea/

13

Umberto Eco, ‘”Casablanca”: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage’, SubStance Vol. 14, No. 2, Issue 47, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, p. 10 14

ibid. p. 11

15

Email correspondence with the artist, op cit.

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The number for this Biennale of Sydney—twenty-one—could be understood to suggest a significant coming of age, most forcefully given that it was the first of its kind with a curator from Asia. Mami Kataoka, chief curator at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, offered a lofty and ostensibly up-beat title and thematic, Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement. Her position as curator opened up or helped to rehearse in a slightly higher key, where precisely Australia is culturally situated; or more so, the shifts in cultural allegiance and association. If not since the 1980s, then at least since 1993 with the appearance of the first Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) in Brisbane, there has been a growing consciousness of Australia’s relationship with Asia. Definitions such as “recognition” or “realisation” cannot be so glibly used, as the notion of Australia’s ‘Asian-ness’ is a conflicted and uneven one. Certainly this approach is used to extract Australia from its malaise with the once strong (and perhaps soon defunct) Great Britain. Its identification with Asia has a much broader symbolic reach, as it can emphasise both historically and culturally that an ever-growing number of Australians only identify with Great Britain in the most superficially de facto way, through a recent historical past which they did not partake in genealogically. Kataoka, it is presumed, brought with her an Asian perspective, which is to say a context that is not perceptibly Euro-American. But this Biennale may be a case of too little, too late. This concern is compounded more than slightly with what was, to this writer, the most perplexing exhibition rationale in the Biennale’s history. Kataoka boasts a considerable curatorial pedigree. In addition to her work at the Mori Art Museum and a position at the Kyoto Museum of Art and Design, she has worked at the Hayward Gallery in London, been a guest at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and a co-Artistic Director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale in 2012. This history has certainly left its imprint and helps to explain her choice of artists which, when not from Asia (Japan and China understandably predominate) were from the UK (mainly England) and Western Europe, with a disproportionate contribution from smaller countries such as Switzerland and Belgium, whose only interest in Asia is limited perhaps to anxiety over immigration or innocuous commodities. England featured favorably—as if Australia is forever condemned never to escape it—but the real star and beneficiary of Kataoka’s curatorial beneficence was Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with whom she has worked on several projects, and in this instance exhibited three works at different sites. Glaringly, the cultural loser as such was North America; the choice of Australian artists in certain cases also conveyed scrutiny. The country-distribution of artists in any biennale is not an easy task, and it can be subservient to budgetary restraints as much as personal preferences. Although cultural representation should never be a metric, the dimension that Kataoka presented was still one that was very Japanese. This degree is a global cultural tribalism in which Japan’s historic allies and rivals are placed together with the countries with which it has traditionally been in thrall since the beginning of the Meiji Period in 1868: Britain, but especially France, and along with Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. As if mirroring some longstanding national anxiety based on a still relatively recent past, not only was the USA almost invisible, but Germany wholly so, if you discount all those fashionably “living and working” in Berlin. A short, critical audit such as this of the Biennale of Sydney’s artistic demographic may lead to conclude that its curation was conceivably the most difficult and thankless of all biennales. This is quite a claim, but this logic is based not on its shifting financial fortunes (apparently for the first time this year saw a number of ticketed artist presentations and associated events1), but in Australia’s position with regard to the rest of the world. For its geographical isolation has always made such questions about what kind of country we are especially exigent. And while the way in which a country thinks of itself might always be fluid, Australia’s historical affinities with the UK and

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its military and trade allegiances with the USA are mitigated by Asia, and by a significant migrant population whose identification with the two Anglophone nations is minimal, at best. To further complicate this dynamic, many immigrants either seek to dim their cultural roots in favour of identification as Australian (such as it might be) while others amplify their mixed, or removed origins. Additionally, there is a movement in Australian indigenous cultures of reclamation that includes art and language, which has resulted in yet another shift in awareness and possession. One salutary result of this is to stir up again the waters of postcolonial guilt—the glib ‘us and them’ dialectic, one that has and continues to be carefully preserved by artists identifying with the oppression of such pasts as it gives them infinite material. For paradoxically, it is in the act of reclaiming and repossession of identity that individuals take stock of the diversity of cultural forces pressing upon them, meaning that, now more than ever, a global identity is to embrace several identities, and to remark on identity’s mutability, subject to more than outside ideologies, to will and creativity. *** After a national soul-searching over the nature of Australian art in the 1970s and 1980s by conceptual artist Ian Burn and his colleagues, it is perhaps because of the shifting ambiguities that globalisation imposes, that similar issues are now not raised, not only because of their difficulty but perhaps they are not seen as important. The transition into the new millennium proved to be harder than expected, at least for a biennale or festival curator who was tasked with providing a theme apposite to signs of the times. A sense of impending gloom was offset by an appeal to optimism in the 2002 Biennale of Sydney, (The World May Be) Fantastic, curated by English artist Richard Grayson. This exhibition had a significantly European inclination, and was criticised for perpetuating the then still-fresh notion propagated by the ‘young British artists’ of High Art Lite, in which the motley and quirky was preferred over the unwelcome and the tragic. A different kind of elusion was dispatched by Portuguese curator Isabel Carlos in 2004 for her On Reason and Emotion, in what was by all accounts an equal nadir to what followed the 2010 Biennale. Working from an apparently inane premise, the facile dichotomy of reason and emotion, conjuring up some of the most banal binaries of man and woman, mind and body, Carlos again asserted the primacy of Europe through the continued patronage of then fashionable art stars such as AES&F, Francis Alÿs and Bruce Nauman. And where there were exceptions to the rule, as such they tended to assert more of the same; that is, all the clichéd expectations of contemporary art were met. While Australian indigenous artists were begrudgingly presented (such as Gordon Hookey and Elisabeth Nyumi Nungurrayi), the overwhelming voice presented in the name of Otherness was from the American Cherokee artist Jimmie Durham (living in Europe since 1994). While having its somewhat obligatory contingent of Australian artists,2 notably Derek Kreckler, Daniel von Sturmer and Pat Brassington (arguably among the best), this Biennale was so inclined towards Europe as to essentially remove America and Asia from view, the latter only represented by Emiko Kasahara (Japan, “lives and works” in New York), Koo Jeong-a (Korea, “lives and works” in Paris) and Xing Danwen (China, “lives and works” in New York). Given that for many Chinese artists working internationally after the fall-out from Deng’s ‘opening up’ of China in the late 1980s being still fresh, this disproportion appeared neglectful, if not a missed opportunity. It is also instructive to consider that at the time of Carlos’ Biennale, the Asia-Pacific Triennial was still in its infancy, having begun a l

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decade earlier. At that time there was enough critical mass of material to initiate debate as to the relevance and shape of such an exhibition, but it was difficult not to perceive this Euro-Australian Biennale having been assembled as if the APT had Asia ‘covered’ to allow Carlos to carry on with the serious business of curating artists that ‘we’ might understand. Yet it was also precisely at this time that this collective pronoun became noticeably unstable, not only in the predictable multicultural sense, but more so because of globalisation’s increasing multi-dimensionality. Since its inception, the APT did much to animate and circulate debate as to how Asian art differs from that of Euro-American traditions and even of the efficacy of such ventures, when by the early 2000s the meaning of mass art exhibitions was becoming progressively scrutinised. In addition to the concern over censorship (either self- or country-initiated) in order to project one or another image of nationhood, was one matter of vitiating corporate interests, and the artists who most congenially fed into them. A corporation, for instance, is not going to sponsor an exhibition containing an artist whose work comments on its misdoings. The most recent example of this was that of the Biennale of Sydney’s major sponsor, the Australian company Transfield, a subsidiary of which managed services in offshore immigration detention centres that caused such a public furor in 2014 when seized upon by numerous “political” and “engaged” artists demonstrating their pristine civil society credentials. Yet it was indeed the recent example of Transfield that showed the complexity and intricacy of corporate involvement and that to append ideology too readily is to be naïve to the countless corporate interests in any large cultural event, undertaking or institution. Suffice to say that without Transfield’s substantial historical support in 2016 and 2018, the Biennale has found itself critically strapped for funds, which meant smaller events and fewer artists. From a numerical point of view—turnstile numbers—the most popular APT was its fifth iteration in 2007, most likely attributable to the official opening of the new Gallery of Modern Art (adding to the Queensland Art Gallery), in addition to hosting numerous favourites or soon-to-be, of Asian art—Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapor, Yang Fudong and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. An attempt was made for a number of Australian artists to be placed in dialogue with their Asian and Southeast Asian contemporaries. (In retrospect, Ai Weiwei, already a central figure of the then prominent wave of Chinese contemporary art, had shown some sign of his inclination towards cultural disjunction with his chandelier entitled Boomerang [2006], installed dramatically over the water feature near the Gallery’s entrance, according to the APT catalogue presented as an “extravagant symbol of affluence and aspiration”, more in keeping with the kitsch of hotel lobbies, “that China’s increasingly affluent middle class could hope for in the adornment of their homes, hotels and shopping malls.”) The Biennale of Sydney that preceded this APT was the comparatively intellectually weighty Zones of Contact curated by expatriate Australian Charles Merewether, who up until then had spent a significant period of time in the USA at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles (1994-2004). Zones of Contact was the closest to any form of creditable international dialogue between artists that also evoked the way in which they travel and draw from external cultures, being significantly different from the primitivist urges of their modernist colleagues. Merewether’s engagement and sympathy with Australian art also meant that artists were not chosen according to superficial picture theory (‘this looks like that’) to which many indigenous artists have long fallen foul in the frequently uncritical blending of traditional motifs with Euro-American abstract painting traditions. In an interview, Merewether expressed his sensitivity to the porosity of Australia’s boundaries and the need to see Australian art well beyond the art history and criticism schooled in discourses from London or New York, and as a counter to Carlos’ many omissions:

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[I] just didn’t understand why South East Asia shouldn’t be part of something much larger in terms of my research. My feeling… was just that these were areas I really should research to find out what’s going on there. Obviously, the Asia-Pacific Triennial has done a terrific job in focusing on South East Asia and Asia, but that shouldn’t mean that the Sydney Biennale shouldn’t address it, they should, it should be part of the international focus.3 Instructively, Merewether’s Biennale demonstrated the way in which readings of works shifted as they crossed boundaries and inhabited different spaces, a crucial insight especially germane to globalisation and the global condition of forced and voluntary migration, not only of people but of objects, art and other commodities. Even if Merewether seemed to show a bias toward the old traditions, his curation reflected an inquisitiveness and inclusiveness to Asian art that has since been a silent corrective to almost every following Biennale. Any attempt to summarise all Biennales of Sydney up to the current presentation is not my objective here, but rather to provide a stronger impression of Australian culture’s agonistic relationship to Asia, and perhaps more so the agonies of Asian culture with frameworks embedded in Euro-American traditions without much concern for their perspectives to reread and revise them. The 17th Biennale of Sydney, curated by David Elliott and titled The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, was an act of ideological volte face, insinuated in the title itself. For one of the beneficial effects of globalisation is to relieve Australian art of the interminable self-question about “Australian art”. It is no longer beset by the hectoring speculations (think Ian Burn, Nigel Lendon et al.) about what a national art should be and look like. As with individual identities, homogenising visions have become shattered and more dispersed. (Perhaps this exhibition’s greatest cultural solecism was its handling of indigenous artists, specifically the Yolngu, from the northeast cape of Arnhem Land. Elliott had sourced from an Australian millionaire businessman’s sizeable collection of Larrakitj, or burial poles, and installed them en masse; this blank gesture matched by the lack of commentary in the catalogue or any other device for contextualisation. It was cultural tokenism at its most begrudging, a detail that said far more about global culture than the work itself could or wish to say, given that these poles are private, intimate symbols of death and mourning.) The 18th Biennale followed suit as an unsettlingly anodine attempt at cross-cultural inclusion. Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster’s All Our Relations elided the tensions inevitable in cultural translation in favour of a carnivalesque approach. Visually sumptuous but ultimately free of challenges, in many ways it set the tone for much to follow, which was to satisfy the public through comprehensibility and entertainment, where ‘success’ was measured through popular turnout. The 2016 Biennale directed by Stephanie Rosenthal touted itself as a science-fiction bonanza. With little consideration of nationality it paid some lip service to “immigration politics”4 and was also unusual for a non-Australian curator in its non-tokenistic treatment of Australian artists, although they all appeared to have been chosen from the usual roll-call of a small number of key domestic commercial galleries. This Biennale was still off-balance from the previous iteration in 2014 which had the first Australian curator in some time (Juliana Engberg). The 19th Biennale of Sydney, You Imagine What You Desire, both a miscellany of newcomers and the curator’s longtime associates, employed “entertainment as a tactic”—a strategy surprising for its positioning of entertainment at a premium; many of the works had a staged, set-piece quality like unmanned theatre sets, abeyant for something to happen when nothing much really did. In retrospect, however, one could say that the curator’s intentions, unimpressive as they were, were made clear from the outset. Not so this 21st Biennale:

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Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement. While the dominant tone struck by Stephanie Rosenthal’s “immigration politics” (albeit displaced: the very real and grisly contemporary predicament was figuratively juxtaposed against the questionable dream of populating Mars), Kataoka’s take on the ongoing world crisis was dispatched in one work only. What the curator was attempting here was difficult to ascertain, its confused rationale matching its opaque title—and an attempt to parse that title goes nowhere. In her curatorial statement, Kataoka stated her Biennale, examines the world today by borrowing the word ‘superposition’, the quantum mechanical term that refers to an overlapping situation. Microscopic substances like electrons are said to be dualistic in nature: they paradoxically exist in the form of waves and granular particles simultaneously. The state of ‘superposition’ lies across all conceptual levels: from different climates and cultures to views of nature and the cosmic orders, conceptions of Mother Earth and interpretations of land ownership, readings of human history and conditions, the history of modern and contemporary art and the meaning of abstractions. The 21st Biennale of Sydney offers a panoramic view of how they all come together in a state of ‘equilibrium’, while delving into the workings of individual phenomena, considering the equivalence of these opposing notions through the lens of ‘engagement’.5 Much has changed since the conceits and prolix pantomimes of the 1980s, but this was heady stuff, challenging in one’s attempt to make sense of it. It might be supposed that the world, so conceived against nostalgic and neo-spiritualist terms like “Mother Earth”, exists as a series of two or more layers that nonetheless are in some kind of balance (“equilibrium”) while at a same time dynamic (“engagement”); the presumption left to the viewer was that the objective correlative to this maelstrom of abstractions lay in the works themselves. The concluding statement presents little ambiguity as to the coarseness of intentions or the presumptiveness of the curatorial vision: “By placing these artworks, oriented towards diverse concerns and issues which resonate with overall perspectives of the Biennale on multiple levels, across seven venues in the city of Sydney, it is my hope that the Biennale as a whole will serve as a microcosm of the history of Earth, the human race, and a condensed version of the history of Sydney.”6 Resuscitating the totalising aims of modernism and the sweeping ambitions of imperialism, the “overall perspectives of the Biennale” are addressed on “multiple levels”. Apparently, this is an Earth, a human race and a condensed version of history without almost all of North and South America, North Africa, the Middle East, and more. Superposition appeared immediately after Kataoka’s major 2017 survey exhibition in Tokyo, Sunshower: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1982 to Now, lauded as the most ambitious engagement of Southeast Asian contemporary art of its kind—but in its scale and ambition it was already compromised, for it was in danger of exoticising and orientalising itself in the effort to assert its own difference from the Euro-American sphere.7 Moreover, it had to reconsider the historic differences that Japan had asserted over its neighbours that emanated from the Second World War. In many ways it not only exposed the difficulties of a hegemonic voice of any major exhibition expected to be seen as a survey, but it also highlighted the problematic nature of the large exhibition structure. Ironically enough, it is a structure that may be otiose and unsuited to global culture. It may suit its vastness, but not its plurality. The large exhibition will inevitably return to generalisations that may be congenial to corporate sponsors but irksome to the cultures they ostensibly represent.

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So it is in this context that it might be further contemplated what was it the 21st Biennale of Sydney sought to achieve? The curatorial aims laid out were simply too esoteric, while one relatively consistent aspect was that it did have an interest in making, process and the language of craftsmanship. This could be related to the Japanese tradition of the language of things: matter, colour and form. In many instances, if viewed with a sympathetic eye, it could be seen to be saying that despite the lenses through which Asia is perceived, there is still a distinctive materiality to its cultures that, while always overlapping, presents a different resonance from the European or American. This reads like a commonplace, or truism, but the prevalence of the virtual image, the way we travel across digital realms, causes us to forget the dimension of sensory difference from culture to culture, and the basic differences of the way cultures approach the material world. Perhaps it was at this point, although not articulated, that we may begin to consider what is distinct about one culture or another. That is, to retreat into the world of things that coexist and which are often eclipsed by the world of ideas. “Identity,” the overused byword for contemporary art, is grounded in matter. This is not to argue for the bogus neoconservatism of “new materialism”, rather to look at place and belonging in a simplified way. The danger of art transacting a language of matter, however, is that these things are readily translated into commodities. This coincidence of materiality, identity and ideology found its embodiment in one artist. If there was anything to be learned from this Biennale it was the way in which identity can be caricatured in the archaic sin of idolatry. Here Asia and Asian difference appeared packaged in the guise of Ai Weiwei. Despite having spent twelve years in New York and now resident in Berlin, Ai’s brand is that of the quintessence of activism, the apogee of Asian engagement. To foreground Ai at the expense of seemingly everyone else was an ambiguous wager—he dominated media attention such that one could be forgiven for thinking that the rest of the artists were just mere superimposed satellites. Artistic celebrity is much like any other kind of cynosure, as those who have it must weigh up its abuses and entitlements. If there are certain acts undertaken with impunity, there are others that effect disproportionate scrutiny and criticism. His example (and his largest artwork for this Biennale) was also an apposite case study to ponder what today constitutes good political art. It is a question that calls for indefinite renewal, together with the changes in contemporary politics. Activist art is clearly not the same as it was in the 1960s, not only in its import, but in its audience and measurable effectiveness. Ai, who has made a reputation of political agitation and been held in detention by the Chinese government, is one of the so-called ‘untouchables’ of the art world (discounting Cindy Sherman, all of whom are men). In the words of Charlotte Higgins writing in The Guardian in 2013, he “outdoes even Andy Warhol in his ubiquity, his nimbleness at self-promotion and his use of every medium at his disposal to promulgate his work and his activism.”8 Since being allowed to leave China (after his incarceration), this activity has continued unabated. His increasing celebrity is not only courtesy of unabated media attention and through his blog, but escalates to other ventures such as a play about his detention by English playwright, Howard Benton, staged in the Hampstead Theatre in London in 2011. Celebrity has the uncanny ability to confound cause and effect, as many notables famous for their notoriety have demonstrated. Ai’s fame derives from what he has done in the past (and purportedly what has been done to him), but now what he does is automatically exalted. The essential component to the Ai Weiwei brand is speaking out against the oppression of others. There is nothing extraordinary or untoward about this in the first instance, from the point of view

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of any artist. The logical problem is however, that no one can be a spokesperson for everyone. The conceptual and material concerns of most artists begin and end with their immediate surroundings—indigenous, adopted or imposed—speaking on behalf of others can be a privilege at best; worst, a presumption. In addition to his highly-publicised film, Human Flow (2017) first presented last year at the Venice Film Festival, and Crystal Ball (2017) (placed upon a pile of refugee lifejackets), the piece de resistance was the gargantuan black lifeboat, Law of the Journey (2017), sixty metres in length, filled with generic black figures (refugees) fabricated from the same synthetic material. Installed on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, there was no escaping its generalising message concerning global refugee-ism. The work’s scale matched that of the artist’s celebrity. Certainly, the refugee crisis is real and ongoing, and Ai helps make it so—it is certainly modish for artists to graft their concerns onto such situations for the presentation of their own political agenda. Both Law of the Journey and Human Flow are large-scale operations outside the purview of all but the most financially successful and critically ‘loved’ artists. The refugee dilemma unfortunately, along with countless other world crises, will ensure that some artists will be busy with such mega-works drawing from the world’s sorrows for some time to come. In his essay ‘Commitment’, Theodor Adorno pits the “committed” artist—l’artiste engagé, the engaged artist—against a truer and more authentic artist whose commitment is to art itself. Adorno argues that art too obsessed by the causes it serves will lapse as quickly as when the cause is no longer relevant and falls from memory.9 While perhaps a too rigid formula, Adorno’s proposition does serve as a corrective for an artist like Ai Weiwei whose brand of commitment conspires with another Adornian concept, the “culture industry”. Ai’s attempt to conquer the world through art is another form of expansionism, waged in reverse through compassionate principles. His appeal to Asianess is a corrective to any Asian (or otherwise) artist or curator, now and hence. By default rather than design, the Biennale of Sydney suggested that under the din of hegemonic Euro-American discourse, one way of representing difference is through the base matter, through recourse to something unutterable and inviolable. *** And finally a most important interrogatory, what is the relevance of this twenty-first Biennale of Sydney in comparison to those before it, and what is its status in the Southeast-East Asian region of which Australia politically and desiringly supposes it is a ‘part’? Kataoka was the first Asian curator in the forty-five year history of the Biennale, which never ceases reminding us, is one of the most longstanding in the world. With this continual mantra, it was also illogically the first without a printed catalogue, perhaps the first such instance from any ‘longstanding’ major global biennale. This was a glaring omission if not miscalculation, given that a room at the Art Gallery of New South Wales was devoted to the history of the Biennale, which included its legacy of catalogues. Traditionally, these have been an important archive unto themselves and a cultural resource that can be held in libraries internationally. A relatively weak Biennale was thus rendered weaker still, consigned to an unsound digital memory. What Kataoka’s presence did open up once again was the vexed issue of the situatedness of cultural difference, and the more pertinent viable approach of the Biennale, an examination of which did not seem to hold any interest. If there could be said to have been any cultural reflection, it was in what had been elided, both in the artistic demographic and in the very absence of any l

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philosophical or culturally strategic thinking. But its recourse to cosmological obscuration and a profusion of polysyllabic words was by no means a solution to a consequential key consideration. Does the ongoing presence of the APT absolve the need for the question to be raised again about Australia’s geographical position adjacent to Asia? Whether Australasia is an autonomous continent or in truth belonging to greater Asia is a distinction where the ideological and the geographical are constantly blurred. (Running concurrent with the Biennale was the exhibition The Sleeper Awakes at White Rabbit, the Sydney private museum dedicated to contemporary Chinese art, of some of China’s leading contemporary artists: Xu Bing, Feng Mengbo, Wang Ningde and Liu Xiaodong, with biennale-quality artworks reflecting upon a society where unprecedented freedom, ambition and optimism coexist uneasily with anxiety, isolation and ubiquitous state surveillance, highlighting Superposition’s deficiencies in ‘Asian art’, in what was perceived prior to its presentation as providing the possibility, if not necessity, for an Asia-connecting Biennale of Sydney.) The Australian culturati need only look over its near horizon to see the looming, rapidly developing international profile and global pull of biennales in major Asian cities, such as Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei and Gwangju, and more. (Press at the time of writing showed that this Biennale of Sydney was of scant interest in Asia.) To say that Australia is of the southern hemisphere (and might warrant a curator from, for example South America, just as justifiably) is to miss the point entirely. To argue that globalisation renders considerations of the meanings accruing to geographical location redundant, is also naïve. It is also intellectually irresponsible, as it is an argument that can settle any geographical and cultural quandary. Yet another appointment of an artistic director to safeguard Euro-American perspectives would not only spell disaster for the Biennale but would conceivably have a deleterious effect on Australian art and artists themselves, for it would present a bias that they do not share. At the time of writing it was announced that the artistic director for the 2020 Biennale will be the internationallyl

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exhibited Australian indigenous artist, Brook Andrew. He is not the first indigenous artistic director however. Gerald McMaster, who with Catherine de Zegher co-curated the 18th Biennale, All Our Relations, is of the Blackfoot and Plain Cree First Nations people from Canada. Like Andrew, he is also an artist, although his practice has been overshadowed by his writing and curatorial work, which includes Edward Poitras’ contribution to the Canadian Pavilion at the 1995 Venice Biennale. Andrew’s relatively prominent position as an artist begs scrutiny as to issues regarding partisanship and conflicts of interest. It is precisely because of such unavoidable de facto concerns that were, one can assume, considered by McMaster to lead an ethical curatorial approach. There are no shortage of competent indigenous curators in Australia, many of whom also have longstanding national and international records. If the appointment of an Asian female artistic director was not an opportunity pressed to its fullest in 2018, it is hoped that the same disappointment will not eventuate with the Biennale’s next iteration in 2020. The unpalatable truth is this: art, as we have come to understand it in the presence sense and tense, is driven by commercial markets. Contemporary art not-for-sale is enabled by healthy economies —financial, cultural etc. Art pretends to maintain a sanitised distance from money, and everyone plays along accordingly. But Australia’s market is principally Asia. An always growing proportion of its population identify to some degree with Asia. Unfortunately, there is the sense—concretely unverifiable for reasons that should be fairly evident—that the Biennale of Sydney’s affinity with Asia is episodic, passing, and a matter of lipservice to the apprehension of diversity. Rather, it might be better seen as the possibility for the opening up of cultural markets and the possibility for the Biennale to renew itself, as all large organisations, culturally or financially, must.10 Under the rubric of “the third oldest biennale in the world” Sydney might jettison its air of (Euro-American) prestige and resolve that from Asia it still has a lot to discover, and learn. Notes 1 Being Lebanese installation artist Rayyane Tabet, who presented a limited number of performances over a five day period at the beginning of the Biennale, similarly a number of ten minute performances by English artist Oliver Beer, along with the much vaunted but embarassing ‘Keynote Address: Ai Weiwei in conversation with Mami Kataoka’ and the screening of Ai’s Human Flow, all at the Sydney Opera House; and the Nick Waterlow Memorial Lecture by René Block 2 There is a venerable and largely unspoken repetitious patter of the way artists are chosen by overseas curators who have hitherto shown little interest or investment in Australian art. That is, they are selected according to three main channels. The first is ad hoc word of mouth where the sponsors and benefactors (with vested interests) get the most attention. The second is through an equally ad hoc process of who has been discussed and represented in local or international printmedia. The third is when the overseas curator does his or her obligatory ‘national tour’ from commercial gallery to commercial gallery, being regaled and feted in the process 3

https://theartlife.com.au/2006/biennale-of-sydney-2006-zones-of-contact/; accessed 21 March 2018

4

https://www.biennaleofsydney.art/archive/20th-biennale-of-sydney/; accessed 15 March 2018

5

https://www.biennaleofsydney.art/archive/21st-biennale-of-sydney/; accessed 15 March 2018

6

ibid.

7

Patrick Flores, ‘Difficult Comparisons: The Curatorial Desire for Southeast Asia’, di’van | A Journal of Accounts 3, 2017, pp. 62-89

8

Charlotte Higgins, ‘Ai Weiwei shows Venice Biennale his many sides’, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/may/30/ai-weiweivenice-biennale; accessed 19 March 2018 9

Theodor Adorno, ‘Commitment’, Frederic Jameson (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics, London and New York: Verso, 1977, pp. 177-195

10

As did the Transfield company in 2014

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Unlearning Style: Rethinking Japan’s Art History In a Global Context

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Not long before start of the Japanese school year in April 2018, I was unexpectedly asked to teach a seminar in the recently established ‘Global Arts’ program at Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai). The brief was vague, other than that classes would be conducted in English. Although I later understood that the program comprised three specialisations—art management, curation and research—initially I was not even sure how it differed from the similarly titled ‘Global Art Practice’ (geared toward artistic production). What I did know was to expect a broad range of academic backgrounds, from new students embarking on their first focused study in art history and theory to doctoral candidates, and a mix of nationalities—mainly Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, but also others from further afield. How to engage such a diverse assembly of knowledge and experience while addressing such a diffuse topic as ‘Global Arts’? As I thought about where to begin, I found myself gravitating to the coincidence, in 1936-37, of the mounting of two exhibitions that took diametrically opposed stances on the legitimacy of modern art: Alfred Barr Jr.’s Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1936) and the Nazi-organised Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich (1937). At the same time that modern art was codified into a discourse that could be recuperated in the very institutions it had set out to disrupt, an entire state apparatus was brought to bear in an attempt to eradicate that same art from the societies that had produced it. This contradictory episode is indicative of the historical contingency of modern and contemporary art. What we tend to think of as an inevitable development, as illustrated in Barr’s flow chart for the cover of the Cubism and Abstract Art catalogue, or his diagrams depicting the MoMA collection as a torpedo shooting toward the future, is rather more like an ad hoc construction that was built up, torn down, built up again, and continues to be altered. Sharing this contingency with the seminar presented itself to me as an important entryway to the study of modern and contemporary art—not to say global art—from a position outside the Euro-American cultural sphere. In Japan, where essentialist binaries of native-foreign, East-West or traditional-modern have a powerful ideological function in society, the perception of modern and contemporary art as a monolithic entity both reinforces the authority of a phantasmal ‘centre’ and fosters a misguided antagonism that privileges difference for difference’s sake—it is common in Japanese criticism for modern and contemporary art to be referred to pejoratively as an “imported style” or even as a colonially imposed discipline. Invariably not Western while not Japanese either, art in Japan can never be ‘contemporary’ as such: the result is a history that constantly cuts off its tail so as to start anew again. We can read this, for example, in the curatorial efforts at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s by the critics Noi Sawaragi and Midori Matsui, and the artist Takashi Murakami, to identify the emergence of an autochthonous “Japanese contemporary art”. But it is also apparent in the tendency of institutions to enforce a strict periodic divide between pre- and post-World War II art in Japan. In the discourse of modern and contemporary Japanese art, World War II is often seen as a tabula rasa, and everything that came before it is relegated to prehistoric status—despite the existence of strong academic research on the pre-war period, and the historical importance of figures who bridged the pre- and post-war art scenes, such as Yoshishige Saitō, Shūzō Takiguchi and Jirō Yoshihara (not to mention the carryover, in business and politics, of many of the architects of the inter-war Japanese empire, starting with the Shōwa emperor himself). But it is also true, as Terry Smith noted several decades ago in his analysis of the “provincialism problem”, that to practice an international art form does not automatically equate to international

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recognition. Success in Japan does not automatically translate to success overseas; competence in international idioms does not guarantee participation in international conversations. Neither does making something quintessentially Japanese guarantee access to the international circuit, as it may be dismissed for being too specific or local—‘kitsch’. At the same time, Western artists are free to rummage through the cupboard of Japanese references such as Zen or Shinto, archery, Noh or tea ceremonies. What to do about the fact that one’s tradition is another’s avant-garde? In the case of the periphery today, which is still maintained vestigially, at least, by market dynamics, expense of travel, pedagogical divides and language barriers among other factors, a more radical historiography, as I have mentioned elsewhere, might be to turn Alfred Barr’s ‘torpedo’ on its head to extend the scope of the contemporary into the past, and establish a delocalised time that would make it possible to step around obscurantist monoliths, and see them in relation to each other and their surroundings. What is at stake here is not just a better understanding of history, but rather the emancipatory potential of art as an institution. As long as art is never more than a symbol of the power imbalance, real or not, between the West and Japan, as long as art is approached through binary frameworks of foreign and native, it will only ever be about ‘catching up’ or ‘overcoming’—and that means it can be easily co-opted by state power as it was in the Meiji-era drive to modernisation, and during the height of the World War II era militarist regime, when both Japanese-style Nihonga and Western-style Yōga painting were deployed for propaganda purposes. And perhaps as it has been under the current “Cool Japan” policy, by which cultural products such as manga, anime, video games, music, fashion and architecture are promoted as vehicles of ‘soft power’ abroad and valorised as projections of Japanese achievement for audiences at home.1 Concurrently, the decision to privatise the management of public museums in the early 2000s means that such institutions are now subject to bottom-line pressures to produce blockbuster exhibitions that can attract more crowds, more sponsors, and more money, leaving less room for experimental or challenging fare in the yearly calendar. Additionally, there have also been worrying incidents of censorship in recent years, with works being removed from exhibitions or altered due to their political content.2 There is thus a certain urgency to rethinking how to define art in Japan, and it is in this context that two recent exhibitions are of particular relevance. The first was organised in 2017 by the artist Kenjirō Okazaki at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, The Insight of Kenjiro Okazaki: Abstract Art as Impact—How Abstract Arts Can Become Concrete Tools. Working primarily with the Toyota Collection, but also drawing from other sources, Okazaki attempted to reread the process by which abstract art practice was adopted in prewar Japan—a history, he claims in an introductory text, that was obscured following World War II because of “the misinterpretation that Abstract Art was merely a visual pursuit (as demonstrated by American Abstract Expressionism)… the biased view which sees Abstract Art as a matter of design (as claimed by Taro Okamoto); and… the misuse of the term ‘Concrete’ (as shown by the Gutai group).”3 Even where it veered into revisionist rhetoric, Okazaki’s polemical curation was an incisive challenge to the aporias of Japanese art. The exhibition opened with a display of toys developed by progressive educators Friedrich Fröbel, Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner, which were scattered on large tables in the middle of the gallery and surrounded by works by Joseph Beuys, Jirō Takamatsu and Atsuko Tanaka, among others. Noting that Fröbel’s ideas were already introduced to Japan in the 1870s, Okazaki argues that their familiarity with the colourful wooden learning aids meant that the Japanese artists who adopted abstraction in the early twentieth century already had the building blocks for developing their own take on formal expression. This point was reinforced by a subsequent room with reproductions of drawings by Hilma af Klint from circa 1906 to 1918 displayed l

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next to a set of woodblock prints from 1915 by Kōshirō Onchi. According to Okazaki, Onchi’s use of the woodblock print process to generate geometric compositions by combining separate layers of colour on the paper’s surface is a direct manifestation of Fröbel’s concepts about the underlying unity that connects different forms. Yet while both Klint and Onchi arrived at abstraction more or less independently (and in Klint’s case, in advance) of the canonical movement, they are excluded from the narrative of abstract art for being too marginal, and can only be included with a caveat. Throughout the exhibition, Okazaki generated new lines of influence through daring juxtapositions, as in a room where he placed a still life of a bottle and cup from 1923 by the Japanese painter Ryūsei Kishida, known for his deformed figuration marrying principles of Western and classical Chinese painting, between a Giorgio Morandi painting from 1925 depicting similar subject matter and Salvador Dali’s surrealist Average French Bread with Two Eggs on a Plate without the Plate, on Horseback, Attempting to Sodomize a Crumb of Portuguese Bread (1932), as though to suggest that Kishida anticipates Morandi and Dali. Similarly, in the exhibition’s final room, post-war works by Lucio Fontana and Francis Bacon were presented next to pre-war paintings by Kishida and David Burliuk, the Russian Futurist who sojourned in Japan from 1920 to 1922 on his way to New York. Broken up into planar fragments by his red, black and white makeup, the face of the Kabuki actor in Kishida’s small canvas, Namazu-bozu (1922), hints at the gestural hinge between figuration and abstraction that would later be explored by Fontana and Bacon. Another gallery was dedicated to the connections between modern art and industrial design, with several tables of metal electric fans by Peter Behrens (c. 1908) at the entry, and Brancusi’s polished bronzes The Cock (1924/ cast 1972) and Torso of a Young Man II (1924/cast 1973) at the exit, bookending a wall with pages from a Japanese compendium of modern architecture edited by the architect Hideto Kishida and others in 1929. The issue is that, aside from examples like Tomoyoshi Murayama’s Construction (1925) —a flag-shaped assemblage of found materials that incorporates a collage of black-and-white photographic images taken from international news publications and advertising—few of the artworks could self-evidently express the complex flows of exchange that are central to Okazaki’s thesis. Okazaki attempted to counter this limitation through the use of wall texts, labels, and clipboards with supplementary materials that visitors could pick up and read as they viewed the displays, but the exhibition inevitably had a strong, didactic character, and required an expert knowledge of both Western and Japanese art history for full appreciation. Unfortunately, this may have had the effect of reinforcing the authority of the Western canon and the esotericism of abstract art for some visitors, where exactly the reverse was intended. Rather, it is through an accompanying pamphlet, produced in Japanese and English and available for downloading from the exhibition website, that Okazaki brilliantly synthesises different strands of intellectual and art history to produce a new narrative of modern art.4 Tracing the absorption into Japanese society of intellectual currents such as progressive pedagogy, occultism and Poincarean theory, and repositioning artists such as Klint and Sophie Taeuber-Arp as key figures in the development of European modernism, Okazaki dismantles assumptions—many of them perpetuated by Japanese critics—that Japanese artists blindly aped their peers from Europe. Indeed, he notes that Kazuo Sakata, who went to France to study with Fernand Leger in 1921, said that “the reason he could understand the most cutting-edge expressions of Europe… was because he already knew the works of Ryūsei Kishida and others from Japan.”5 Showing how Kishida’s essay from 1922, ‘Observations on the Absence of Realism’ and his concept of mukei (formlessness, or, per Okazaki, “the sense of ‘hyper-realism’ that

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is felt as the absence of realism”) anticipate Surrealism, Okazaki then proposes that David Burliuk’s encounters with artists like Kishida in Japan may have in turn had an influence on the Americans with whom Burliuk associated in New York.6 The point is not so much to one-up the existing canon as it is to unhinge abstraction from received ‘style’ and locate it in material social reality, or the ‘concrete’. The case of Japan demonstrates that avant-garde art was a far more global phenomenon than is traditionally presumed, and that the conditions for its achievement were as much economic or technological as they were cultural. In other words, as with the coincidence of the Cubism and Abstract Art and Degenerate Art exhibitions, the case of Japan posits that the narrative of modern art is invariably decentered, and invariably international. Complementing Okazaki’s exhibition at Toyota was a short, riotous intervention in Tokyo at the private Watari-um, the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, by the artist Yōichi Umetsu and the members of his Parplume art school, also in 2017. Starting with his graduation project for Tokyo Zokei University in 2005, Umetsu has been carrying out an incisive investigation into the reception of Western art in Japan at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, when academic Beaux-Arts practices were installed as the official curriculum at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (the precursor to Geidai). Although the mannerist compositions from this period, when the nude figure was introduced to Japanese audiences as an artistic subject, are easy to dismiss as decadent or passé from the viewpoint of an avant-garde narrative, Umetsu attacks them directly as the zero point of Japanese art. Idiosyncratically rendering everything in flurries of pointillist colour, he inserts his own body in place of the nude women in works such as Raphaël Collin’s Floréal (1886), showing a nymph-like figure reclining in a pastoral setting, or Seiki Kuroda’s allegorical triptych Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment (1897-99), which depicts three women standing in different poses against gold colour fields.7 Umetsu’s approach invites comparisons to the multimedia artist Yasumasa Morimura, but where the latter inserts himself into the Western canon from a position in the margins (perhaps in a gesture roughly equivalent to Okazaki’s), Umetsu pushes farther into the margins of the margin to find the point where margin and centre double upon each other. Umetsu’s project is enough to stand on its own (certainly, it has gained him invitations to intervene in museum collection displays), but in addition he also runs an art school out of his apartment-cum-studio on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Parplume art school. Parplume is loosely modelled on the preparatory schools where aspiring artists go to hone their skills for the exacting university entrance exams, which place a heavy emphasis on technical ability and the naturalism practiced by Collin and Kuroda, but it really functions more as an artistic commune that attracts a wide range of types, from potential art school applicants to drop outs and hikikomori social recluses. Many of the members, of which there may be four or five at any given time, learn about the school through Umetsu’s activity on social media platforms such as Twitter, and come from remote areas to join, finding cheap apartments in the neighborhood and supporting themselves by doing part-time work. (Until recently Umetsu worked as an attendant at an elderly care facility.) Promising little else but the chance to make art in a supportive environment, Parplume can be seen as a response to the highly competitive, elitist system that governs mainstream education and professional advancement in Japan. But it is also an extension of Umetsu’s artistic practice, and soon after establishing the school in 2014, he began to include it in exhibitions such as Parplume University Story at the commercial gallery ArataniUrano (now known as Urano) in 2015, crammed with works by the Parplume members, art supplies, colorful banners printed with pithy missives taken from Twitter—and the students themselves. l

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The exhibition at Watari-um, Parplume University and Yoichi Umetsu (the Japanese title including the injunction “Love, Young Maiden!”) was in a sense the apotheosis of Umetsu’s relationship with Parplume, cementing their interdependency. The exhibition spanned four floors of the museum, with each floor having its own distinct character. It began on the top floor with a solo presentation of recent works by Umetsu, which was a textbook display of contemporary art. Visitors entered through a gate-like wooden partition that was painted in blue, pink and green hues as though to evoke a Monet-Water Lilies canvas stretched into three dimensions, while a looped video of Umetsu, naked, climbing up and down a stepladder in a pastoral setting, was projected onto the far wall. Lining the other walls were paintings including Spirit of the Dead Watching Me (2016), which reinterpreted Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching (1892) from the viewpoint of the titular spirit, replacing the nude female model with Umetsu’s own body (read against Gauguin’s original, this painting could be seen as a visualisation of crossed desires: between the Western artist’s cannibalistic search for an exotic subject, and the Japanese artist’s narcissistic search for subjectivity in Western art), as well as smaller studies of line, gesture and colour done in ink, watercolour and acrylic on square panels. The middle floor had a group presentation of five artists curated by Umetsu, Parplume no arizuka (The Parplume Ant’s Nest), which was described in a wall text as realising a “space where friendship and antagonism coexist in… a monument to Parplume.” The works, ranging from a fishshaped hot water bottle attached to a pulley system that periodically hoisted it up and down in great jerking motions, to potted plants with arrows and other symbols tattooed on their leaves, and a quasi-anthropological collection of plastic detritus (such as detergent caps, toothpicks, clips and the stoppers used to tie up bread bags) neatly laid out on the floor, were all presented in a surrealistconstructivist framework made from wooden bars, painted a vivid orange, that were nailed together at skewed angles, so that it was hard to tell where one work ended and the next began. The next gallery below that was filled from floor to ceiling with works by Parplume members and their affiliates, and included an exhibition within the exhibition, with submissions by artists from across Japan, the Third Gel Gel Festival, packed into a small alcove space; another section of the gallery was a designated activity area where the members of Parplume hosted talks and other events during visiting hours, and slept at night for the run of the exhibition. Lastly, a display of works for sale was set up in the museum’s basement bookshop area. The exhibition was almost too complex to be addressed as a whole—at best one could simply enumerate the works and materials on display (on the Parplume floor: canvases with flecks of paint built up into abstract compositions; drawings of quotidian scenes inspired by the late nineteenthcentury Nabis artists and contemporary manga; a shōgi board with its wooden squares replaced by weathered, colored tiles; videos documenting Parplume activities; a timeline of Parplume’s history; photographed group portraits of the members that met halfway genuine document and advertising campaign parody; clippings of press coverage and printouts of the Parplume newsletter; a wooden maquette of the Parplume building facilities—there was no actual list of works prepared for visitors, just occasional labels and artist statements pasted on the walls, some of them typed, others handwritten). Starting with Umetsu’s solo presentation at the top, the exhibition’s inverted pyramid structure suggested a dialectical passage from ‘art’ to ‘non-art’, from the singular to the multiple, in which the curatorial or institutional authority of art—its assumed selectivity—is gradually exploded and atomised. Brought into a space like Watari-um, the Parplume community revealed its anarchic potential as a ‘form’ that enabled all manner of expression and experience (one artist in the Gel Gel l

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Festival contributed dried mango pits wrapped in clear wrap, another was a middle-aged art teacher who makes naïve paintings of trees, while nearby was Umetsu’s Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment—A [2014], which has been shown in galleries and museums8) to be recognised as being equally visible. But instead of the multitude of works in the Parplume display triumphantly claiming their place as art as such, by nature of their contingency upon Umetsu’s status as an individual artist (more so than Watari-um’s status as an institution), they were shown to collectively inhabit an alienated zone between art and non-art. Even when they formally met the conditions of being artworks—the use of paint on canvas, being accompanied by a title and artist’s statement, etc.—they could gain entry to a ‘legitimate’ institution only once they had been turned into readymades by the sanctified artistcurator, which suggests that they were always non-art to begin with. In this way, the exhibition made visible the inherent alienation of all art in Japan since the Meiji period, when the West was established as the criterion for what art is and is not—but one could continue a step further to say that this alienation is a condition shared by all art after modernism, and that this alienation, more than any ideological apparatus, is the source of art’s emancipatory potential. It is its inherent alienation that allows art to say and do and be anything, and also what allows the viewer to see in it whatever he or she wants to see—including, of course, non-art, or nothing. Yet Parplume should not be confused for a democratic or utopian project. Although there is a certain reciprocity between the members and Umetsu, the latter is clearly in control, perhaps in a position analogous to that of the providers of a social media platform. It is noteworthy that the ‘pyramid’ structure of the Watari-um exhibition also resembled a family tree and, indeed, Umetsu and Parplume can be seen as part of a genealogy of artist groups operating in the margins of Japanese art, from Tomoyoshi Murayama and Mavo, founded in opposition to the mainstream Nika Association in the early 1920s, to the patriarchal Jirō Yoshihara lording it over Gutai in suburban Ashiya starting in the 1950s and the Nagoya-based Yoshihiro Katō leading the performance group Zero Jigen (Zero Dimension) starting from the 1960s, to Takashi Murakami with his Kaikai Kiki management company and failed series of Geisai festivals seeking to tap into otaku culture over the past two decades, and even the guerilla group Chim↑Pom, who have leveraged their outsider status into international recognition. If the recurrence of these groups reflects an enduring antagonism between vanguard art and official culture in Japan, what sets Parplume apart is that its members seemingly have no pretensions to beating the system or making history. The majority of Parplume’s exhibitions take place at private residences and other ‘minor’ venues, and the one member who was accepted into an art university—Geidai—dropped out after two years to return to Parplume. Redefining their own centre, they represent a vision of globality in the age of the Internet in which everything is equally marginal to everything else. Amid a resurgence in nationalist rhetoric around the world, the challenge of living in global times is perhaps to recognise the universality in one’s exceptionality, as might be possible via Article 9 of Japan’s post-war Constitution, which renounces war and the maintenance of military forces. Rather than seeing Article 9 as a “castration” as rightwing nationalists like to claim, and as was echoed by Takashi Murakami in the catalogue of his Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture exhibition (2005), one could appreciate it as an exemplar to which other people may aspire, but which does not rely upon external validation for its significance. That the current Liberal Democratic Party regime is seeking to revise Article 9 is testimony to the tenacity of nationalist realpolitik. It is just part of an expanding climate of authoritarianism: the LDP also has plans to rewrite the Constitution’s section on individual rights in culturally specific rather than universal terms, while in 2015 the

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Education Minister ordered national universities to eliminate or downsize their humanities and social sciences departments. There has also been a creeping rehabilitation of imperial-era rhetoric in mainstream discourse, as when Prime Minister Shinzō Abe called for the mobilisation of the people to spur the economy, or when the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, in a statement issued in October 2017 upon his being named a Person of Cultural Merit, advocated the pursuit of culture for the sake of koku’i hatsuyō (the promotion of national prestige)—a sentiment he reiterated in an article for the January 2018 edition of the journal Shincho Monthly by invoking the pre-war interpretation of the emperor as the kokutai or embodiment of the nation. This is precisely where culture, politics and history intersect. To the extent that it was ‘imported’ art in Japan has an accidental quality. It was intended to be part of a great nation-building project, and not a means to develop civil society as such. We could say then that the idea of art as a colonially imposed discipline is half-right, insofar as it displaces the power exercised by the Japanese state onto an external Other. But as Okazaki and Umetsu show in different ways, Japanese artists have repeatedly recognised themselves in the promise of the international avant-garde, and actively chosen to pursue it, even when they had no social support for their work. Understanding that agency outside of strict national constructs is a key to understanding the future possibilities for contemporary art, and global art, in Japan. In the meantime, although I am only an adjunct lecturer at Geidai, paid by the lesson on what may be a one-off gig, I am also aware of my implication in a genealogy of foreign educators in Japan, and the need to tread carefully along the fault-lines between promoting national prestige, propagating ‘universal’ cultural norms, and trying to build new, transnational networks of subjectivity. On the first day of class, I brought the seminar to the Seiki Kuroda Memorial Hall, around the corner from the university on the edge of Tokyo’s Meiji-era cultural campus, Ueno Park, where Seiki Kuroda’s Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment is displayed only at certain times each year, and asked them to talk about what they see in the painting and its current situation. Notes 1 The position of Minister for the ‘Cool Japan’ Strategy was established in 2012 under the current Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe, and a quasipublic Cool Japan Fund to invest in the development of Japanese cultural production was launched in 2013. A document outlining the Cool Japan mission can be found on the government’s Cabinet Office website. It includes the self-aware observation of the need to come up with a new slogan, as “Cool Japan” tends to be “perceived as not cool for calling ourselves ‘cool’.” At the very least, this is an indication of the paternalistic stance of the policy, which has as its primary objective the promotion of domestic growth. See Cool Japan Movement Promotion Council, ‘Cool Japan Proposal’, 26 August, 2014; http://www.cao.go.jp/cool_japan/english/pdf/published_document3.pdf 2

See Reuben Keehan, ‘Out of site: Japanese art after censorship’, di’van | A Journal of Accounts No. 3, 2017, pp. 40-51

3

The text was printed in Japanese and English on the exhibition flyer and can also be found online on the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art website; https://www.museum.toyota.aichi.jp/exhibition/2017/special/Kenjiro_Okazaki/?t=2017; accessed 10 May, 2018 4 Kenjiro Okazaki, Abstract Art as Impact: The Concrete Genealogy of Abstract Art, You Nakai trans., Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, 2017; http://abstract-art-as-impact.org/abstract_art_as_impact_en.pdf 5

ibid., p. 27

6

ibid., pp. 28-31

7

Kuroda (1866-1924), who studied painting with Collin in Paris, established the department of Western painting at Tokyo Fine Arts School in 1898. After his return to Japan in 1893, Kuroda encountered controversy when he attempted to exhibit his paintings of nude figures in mainstream exhibitions, as was the case when he submitted the work Morning Toilette (1893) to the ‘Fourth Domestic Exhibition to Promote Industry’ in 1895. Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment was first presented at an exhibition of the independent artists group Hakubakai in 1897, and later received a silver medal when it was shown at the 1900 World Exposition in Paris under the title Etude de Femme. Combining Western naturalistic modelling with bold, illustrative outlines and gold backgrounds that recall the use of gold leaf in Japanese screen paintings, the triptych synthesises elements from different traditions to arrive at a new mode of expression (slightly larger than life size, the female figures

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themselves seem to have both “Western” and “Eastern” features), and in this sense is highly modern. At the same time, it is notable for explicitly not depicting the pubic hair or genitalia of the figures—a limit of representation for both male and female nudes that remains more or less in place in Japan today 8 As indicated by the title, this is Umetsu’s take on Kuroda’s masterpiece. Where Kuroda demurred from depicting the genitalia of the female figures in his original, Umetsu deliberately shows his own genitals in his version—albeit through a ‘soft focus’ effect achieved by the use of pointillist technique (not unlike the mosaic effect used to blur genitalia in Japanese pornographic videos). As is characteristic of Umetsu’s practice, the artist also departs from the original in a number of other ways, replacing the gold colour field with a blue-tinted ground, and turning the triptych into a freestanding structure that includes a fourth panel on the reverse side featuring an additional nude figure. Incidentally, Takashi Murakami also made an interpretation of Kuroda’s work, An Homage to Seiki Kuroda ‘Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment’ which was included in an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in London in 2011. Whereas Umetsu critically engages with Kuroda’s work through what might be termed a queer sensibility, the three manga-style illustrators Murakami commissioned to make new versions of the original each exaggerated the sexual desirability of the female figures. Taken together, both Murakami’s and Umetsu’s appropriations reveal the phallic projection of the male gaze, which sees its own reflection in the objectified female figure

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Akal Baanta Baanti: Experiments in Collaboration Towards the end of the 1990s, the Bombay-based artist Navjot Altaf surprised many of her contemporaries in the Indian art world by walking away from a successful career in Bombay and retreating to Bastar, in the tribal heartland of Central India. Through her experiments with sculpture, installation and video, Navjot had already extended herself beyond the security of the painted image and marked her commitment to a productive shift in choice of medium. But the larger challenge of calibrating a robustly ethical praxis, through the alignment of an unfolding formal logic with an ongoing ideological renewal, remained to be fully addressed. Certain questions had haunted her since her youthful phase as a Leftist cultural activist: can individuals belonging to different class and ethnic backgrounds communicate, work together, create a political solidarity and produce shared cultural meanings? Could she develop a way of being and making that truly embodied her chosen value of collegiality? In Bastar, from 1997 onwards, Navjot inaugurated a new life based on the quest for answers to these questions. She began to work alongside artists trained in the rural traditions of wood and bell metal sculpture, sharing in their lives and improvising a mutual pedagogy with them. The transition from Bombay to Bastar was not painless. She and her artist colleagues found themselves working hard to overcome the barriers of class, gender, location, language, education and worldview. After almost two decades of engagement with Bastar, Navjot has been able to evolve new forms of artistic dialogue and co-production. Equally importantly, she has been able to catalyse a process of progressive transformation at the micro-political level of village and district through her collaborative and cooperative projects. Dividing her time between Bastar and Bombay, she has addressed herself to an endemic socio-political asymmetry that has exercised Indian thinkers for centuries, even before the issues of caste, class and marginality were theorised, variously, from the Gandhian, Marxist, Ambedkarite and subalternist viewpoints. As early as the third century BC, in the edicts of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, we find references to the opposed worlds of the nagarika or city-dweller and the attavika or forest-dweller. Navjot’s attempts to negotiate and dismantle this asymmetry have been manifested in her ongoing collaborations in Bastar. Indeed, I would argue that Navjot has out-Lefted the Left in fundamental ways, using approaches that would be inconceivable to those who believe they can ignore India’s complex specificities and simply apply Marx’s teachings and specifically Lenin’s vanguardist prescriptions to the subcontinental situation. Combining intuitive apprehension with intellectual candour, Navjot has reflected critically and unremittingly on the conditions and outcomes of her practice. l

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DISSOLVING THE HIERARCHY IMPLICIT IN VANGUARDISM Navjot has rejected the classical Leftist strategy of ‘consciousness-raising’, a one-way transmission in which a propagandist provokes the poor and ignorant into an awareness of revolutionary class struggle as a means of overturning the exploitative class order. Instead, she has focused on processes of mutuality, working with a group of interlocutors and collaborators in a manner that transforms all the participants. In doing so, I would argue that she has attempted to dissolve the hierarchy implicit both in the model of the vanguard class (beloved of Communist activists) and that of the avantgarde (beloved of modernist artists). While the political vanguard class represents the ascendancy of intellectuals and apparatchiks, the artistic avant-garde represents suitably conscientised painters and sculptors—each grouping arrogates to itself a guiding, governing and ultimately controlling role in society. In neither model does the self-styled advance guard of political or artistic practice cede the slightest ground to any other constituency or group. And in both models, the revolutionary self is absolute in the belief that it is history’s chosen implement of transformation. At the present time, tragically, while the official Left in India has little more than rhetorical posturing to show for itself, factions of India’s Maoist extreme Left—the Communist Party of India (Maoist)—have unleashed unbridled violence in Chhattisgarh, where Navjot works, in the name of an armed struggle against the state. As against these perversions of idealism, Navjot’s projects in Bastar have inaugurated a process of self-unmaking and -remaking that is, in its own quiet way, genuinely revolutionary. She has brought about a change that has helped break down prior structures of class and gender inequality, replacing these with more equitable social relationships of production, enabling new modes of growth and idioms of self-representation. Every phase in Navjot’s practice has been spurred by a creative scepticism towards her own achieved forms, and the consequent need to investigate a new direction of development. Her periodic and self-critical reassessments of her ideological position have been articulated through a movement from Marxism in the 1970s, through feminism in the 1980s, to a feminist-inflected and a critical Leftward position in the 1990s and 2000s. Correspondingly, she has migrated from paintings and drawings, through sculpture and the sculpture installation, to a conception of art as social project, and new media practice. PROYOM: DREAMING OF THE REVOLUTION Let us push back the horizon of Navjot’s practice and analyse her role in the Progressive Youth Movement or Pragatisheel Yuva Morcha (PROYOM) during the 1970s. PROYOM was founded by Dev Nathan and Kiran Kasbekar, who were influenced by Marxist philosophy and were sympathisers of the CPI (ML), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).1 It brought together people from diverse fields, not all of whom were affiliated to the party. They included Navjot and her artisthusband Altaf, students, academics, writers, journalists and filmmakers who could, in the classic Leftist trope, ‘infiltrate the citadel of capital’. Inspired by the student revolts of 1968 in Western Europe, with their apparatus of strikes, teach-ins and sit-ins, the PROYOMites even set up an alternative university during the summer vacation. Their aim was to sensitise youth to workers and peasants’ struggles in India and in the world at large. They would work in the slums and also participate in protests to express solidarity with the anti-Apartheid movement, the resistance against the American neo-imperialist presence in Vietnam and Cambodia, and Iranian students agitating in Bombay against the Shah’s regime. Navjot and Altaf joined in many of these protests while continuing to develop strategies to bring art closer to the public. They would exhibit posters and paintings at colleges, railway stations, hospitals, labour camps and mobile crèches.

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Navjot’s posters (c. 1974) from the closing phase of the Vietnam War display acerbic humour: Uncle Sam is choking on Vietnam, having bitten off more than he can chew, and is sending out an SOS. In another of her posters, fighter planes leave the USA for Vietnam while coffins fly back by the same route. Navjot favoured the use of animation techniques in her posters: repetition with variation and play with scale. But she was also partial to the painterly, shaded, textured treatment, for instance, in her poster of a war-crazed American soldier running away from a military cemetery. While PROYOM gave Navjot the opportunity to interact with workers and intellectuals, she gradually realised that the artistic imagination was being displaced by a program, with little concern for the receptivity or interest of the intended subaltern audience, which was to be edified and improved by the heavy-handed application of utopian ideas. Navjot reminisces ruefully, “During that period, progressive political movements… employed artists for the purpose of propaganda. They neither treated the artist as an individual nor was her specific perception of society taken seriously. In the hope of creating an awareness amongst the working classes, they seemed to have underestimated their aesthetic sensibilities and the artist’s sensitivity.”2 REVITALISATION OF THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT It was Navjot’s first exposure to feminist theory in the late 1980s that jump-started her intellectual development in unprecedented ways. It propelled her not only into gender politics and its relationship to the visual arts through the work of historians and critics like Griselda Pollock and Lucy Lippard, but more significantly, into a study of the interventions that feminist artists like Suzanne Lacy had made in the domains of public art and community art. Even as Navjot immersed herself in Western feminist art theory, the question of gender had undergone a radical change from the late 1970s onwards in India. The women’s movement in India had seen an unprecedented revitalisation since the nationalist struggle. Public rallies were held to protest against dowry, rape, alcoholism and sexual abuse. Peasants and tribal populations, which included a large number of women, had challenged the timber mafia responsible for deforestation and asserted their traditional forest rights. A new generation of Indian feminist scholars began to publish their studies in the 1980s. They were supported by dynamic imprints such as Kali for Women (the first feminist publishing house in India, its list focused on social protest, law, economy and ecology) and Oxford University Press, with its Subaltern Studies volumes and major historical re-readings in the humanities. Thus a large readership learned about the various people’s movements that had emerged in India since independence. The invitation to read the invisible stories of women’s cultural expressions and resistance in Navjot’s Images Redrawn (1996)—her first show of sculpture-installations—is an outcome of the knowledge produced by Indian women scholars, activists and revolutionaries. WHEN THE POLITICAL IS NOT ALWAYS THE PERSONAL We could plot the transitions that Navjot has made in terms of media, genre and sociality, as a passage from the struggle to achieve a selfhood to another condition: that of expressing the freedom to lose that selfhood and release oneself into the world of the Other. In the process, Navjot has attempted to redraft the economies of art practice and create new solidarities. But this is easier said than done in an Indian context. The Indian feminist cannot privilege the university-educated bourgeois suffragette as her unit of measurement. In this complex and multilayered society, the female self is from the

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beginning coded with the markers of caste, class, religion, ethnicity, region and language. To arrive at her own individual agency, a politically conscious Indian woman must negotiate her way through all these pre-ordained markers of identity, which are patriarchally over-determined. In India, I would contend that the personal is always the political, but the political is not always the personal.3 The question that plagued women artists in the 1970s and 1980s was: how do you make the crises of subjectivities remote from your social position your own, without sounding condescending or being guilty of capitalising on the tragedies of the social other? This could only happen when artists could translate privilege into empathy, by pursuing parallel expressive practices based on a mutuality of commitment across class and regional lines (as Navjot has done in her Bastar project). It is only by sharing spaces of criticality, protest and resistance, that women artists can cope with the postcolonial phenomena of violent identity politics and an endangered public sphere, as well as the pressures of globalisation. BETWEEN GODDESS AND EVERYWOMAN In Navjot’s exhibition Images Redrawn, we enter a transit zone that invokes many different sites: it is part street, part archive and part museum. The floorplan of the exhibition alluded to streets and intersections. Dominating these rudimentary streets or sitting at imagined crossroads were archetypal mother-goddesses that recalled the sacred power and beauty of Mayan and Olmec sculptures from Mexico. These chthonic blue and red figures, displaying conspicuous vaginas, full breasts, flared nostrils and deep-set eyes, appeared to have stepped out of a museum. They drew attention to their hands, which were bereft of fate lines (“I have no fate lines, thank god”), and tried to read an undecipherable script on a mortar long used to grind Indian spices or masalas (“Yes I want to read”). It was a magical experience in visual and morphological translation to see form and meaning slip between goddess and everywoman, between monumentality and feminist rhetoric. The work that best demonstrates this slippage is Palani’s Daughters (1996), in which an earth- and blood-soiled body writhes in pain among vaginal pods. Made in response to the accelerating statistics of female infanticide, the reference for this sculpture was a Mayan mother-goddess giving birth. In Navjot’s handling, Palani’s archetypal power gains contemporary relevance. The French feminist Luce Irigaray’s celebration of ‘sexual difference’ had a talismanic effect on her. Palani’s Daughters speaks to Irigaray’s discontent with a society that reduces women to machines of reproduction and further discriminates on the basis of a child’s gender: “Women, who have given life and growth to the other within themselves, are excluded from the order of the same which men alone set up. The girl child, although conceived by a man and a woman does not enter society as the father’s child with the same status as that accorded the son. She remains outside culture, kept as a natural body good only for procreation.”4 The sculptures in Palani’s Daughters were accompanied by panels displaying arrays of rolled paper; each roll had a pull-string attached. Was this an archive of annotations, clues by means of which to decode and understand this strange ensemble? A tug at the string would do the trick. Unravelled, the rolls revealed a lining of photocopied women’s literature from India. This included a wide spectrum of texts, ranging from the Therigatha, the ancient songs of the early Buddhist nuns, to poems, short stories and novels written by contemporary writers, sourced from Susie Tharu and K. Lalita’s pathbreaking two-volume feminist anthology, Women Writing In India, 600 BC to the Twentieth Century.

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Women’s struggles from all over the world found a place in this temporary archive. The lined rolls were meant to transmit what the artist calls “the warmth and strength of women’s struggles”.5 The hidden feminist archive needs to be read in parallel with Navjot’s sculptural approach, which privileges neither a male nor a female gaze. The eyes of her figures, most of the time, do not have eyeballs, as though they were turned inwards upon a stillness that is a strength. It is the gaze of self-sufficiency, born from a classical sculptural stance. Navjot works mostly in a hybrid register, even using apparently contradictory languages: in this case, she complemented the feminist impulse towards emancipation with the appurtenances of a spiritual quest. ARTISTIC DEVOLUTION VERSUS EMPOWERMENT Finally I shall reflect on a long-term collaboration that Navjot has initiated and sustained together with the subaltern artists Shantibai and Rajkumar, among others, in Bastar, a rural district that forms part of the so-called Red Corridor traversing the tribal heartland of Central India. Through the colonial and postcolonial periods, communities in this region have suffered exploitation and been alienated from their natural resources, resulting in widespread disaffection from the state, and today, the region is dominated by Maoist insurgents. Elaborated over two decades at the time of writing, this experiment embodies a radical displacement of the modes of artistic production and reception from the art world’s institutional sites, and their reconfiguration through processes of exchange situated in milieux characterised by socio-economic dispossession, political marginalisation and cultural disadvantage. This experiment has programmatically dismantled single-author models of artistic production and contributed to the formation of rhizomatic cultural infrastructures, collaborative assemblies, or provisional colloquia. Against the conventional model of empowerment—where the artist-citizen engages in a relational practice with subaltern artists, and is seen to bring a higher level of awareness or a special infusion of skills to a situation that lacks and needs these—I would like to focus on another move that the artist-citizen might make while interacting closely with subaltern artists in the framework of projects that expand beyond the ambit and schedule of the project itself, to become forms of being: I would draw attention, not to empowerment, but to devolution. It is vital to distinguish between these two moves. Empowerment implies that the artist-citizen can help those lacking economic, cultural, or political opportunities and entitlements without giving up any of her own privileges. This gesture betrays a residual paternalism, with its emphasis on the munificence of the donor, and produces no genuine transformation in what remains an asymmetry of cultural, social and political capital. Devolution, on the other hand, implicates the artist-citizen substantially and viscerally in the act of giving. It implies that, as a precondition to the development of a more equitable social relationship, she will give up some of the privileges and claims to expertise that reside with her under an inequitable system, and transfer these to colleagues who lack them; after which redistribution, in full awareness of the potential for failed communication as well as for productive mutuality, she collaborates with them in an as yet unmapped space of praxis. This experiment in the creation of new cultural, social and political value does not take equality as axiomatic; rather, equality is constantly tested, redefined and reformulated in the act. This devolution of artistic privilege emancipates the artist-citizen from the fossilised or fetishised ways of ‘being-artist’ that merely sustain and reproduce the self-perception of being a member.

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MUTUAL PEDAGOGY AND THE RECLAIMING OF A PERFORMATIVE CITIZENSHIP While maintaining a presence in the gallery system through periodic exhibitions, Navjot has voluntarily shifted her existential centre of gravity away from the institutional domains of artmaking, which are embedded in the Indian art world’s elite metropolitan ethos. In the same gesture, she has aligned herself as colleague and interlocutor with people who have suffered civil deficits from the state’s peremptory withholding of the entitlements of citizenship. This experiment marks a rupture with existing models of ‘intervention’. It cannot be subsumed under the classic NGO paradigm, nor does it constitute an artistic ethnographic project; nor yet is it informed by a classical Leftist politics of “behalf-ism” with the elite activist speaking and acting for the dispossessed subaltern. It overturns the classic donor-recipient relationship based on a one-way flow of resources, a result-driven orientation, and a monopoly on expressive and critical articulation by the donor or initiator. The role assumed by Navjot in this process is catalytic rather than didactic. Among the key modes of exchange shaped during this experiment, I would identify three: a mutual pedagogy, an expanded interpretative multilogue, and the reclamation of a performative citizenship.6 These modes point to new models of artistic practice as well as of civic participation. By a mutual pedagogy and an expanded interpretative multilogue, I mean the development of processes of collaboration and cooperation that are integrated into the structure of the interaction, during which hierarchies are overturned, new lexicons are co-authored, and new vocabularies of description and forms of interpretation are compiled. This leads to an unlearning and a remaking of knowledge, and a transformation of consciousness for all participants. In both situations, a local system of social and economic deficits has been broken, and entrenched asymmetries overcome. Navjot, Rajkumar, Shantibai and their colleagues have introduced an enabling conceptual infrastructure into a society like Bastar, which is afflicted by multiple constraints of class and gender inequality. In speaking of the reclamation of a performative citizenship, I point to the manner in which this devolutionary experiment emphasises self-organisation and has created interstitial, tactical, and improvisational infrastructures beyond and often in opposition to the frameworks laid down by the state. An emergent subjectivity has thus been produced through mutuality, informal association, and imaginative labour in civil space rather than by political statute, bureaucratic sanction, or official institutionality. CIVIC IMAGINARIES Navjot, Shantibai, Rajkumar and others engaged with the politics of civic space with its dense interweave
of caste, class, and gender relationships by designing and building structures around public utilities such as pilla gudis, playhouses for children (literally, temples for children). Addressing the unhygienic conditions of local hand pump sites in an economical, elegant and organic manner, Navjot and her artist colleagues created nalpars, concrete wraparound perforated screens to shield each pump from garbage, equipped with a channel to drain the outflow of water into a nearby field or watering hole for animals. Since most users of hand pumps are women, the nalpars are ergonomically structured to suit the needs of women’s labouring bodies. Together, the artists built the Dialogue Centre in Kondagaon, a minimalist campus built around a majestic Mahua tree. The open studio and workshop spaces segue into the spaces for colloquia and discussions. Although the Centre is premised on dialogue, it more accurately promotes a multilogue: it acts as a place of assembly for diverse constituents, including local artists, schoolchildren, scholars, municipal officers
and teachers. Given the segregations of caste society and

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the class order, it is remarkably rare for such a plurality to convene on a single platform. The Centre acts as a stage for what I would term “performative citizenship”, which allows for the crossover from symbolic to actual political action, and the production of a newly aware and self-critical community that can transcend the traditional boundaries of group identity. At the Centre, the civic imaginary that has evolved from the interventions of Navjot and her colleagues is articulated through lateral debate rather than vertical dictate. Wide-ranging questions emerge, many of them pushing the boundaries of local political discourse: who has control over land and resources? Why must women remain vulnerable to patriarchy? Is there a difference between artistic labour and more quotidian forms of labour? REFRAINING FROM A READYMADE WESTERN DISCOURSE ON COLLABORATION When Navjot received an IFA (India Foundation for the Arts) grant in the late 1990s, there was no readymade discourse about collaborative art in the Indian context to which she could refer. Elsewhere, Grant Kester’s essay, ‘Aesthetic Evangelists: Conversion and Empowerment in Contemporary Community Art’ had appeared in 1995, and Miwon Kwon was still writing her thesis, which, completed in 1998, was the first incarnation of her 2002 book One Place after Another. The participants in the Bastar experiment improvised a vocabulary that would accurately convey the assumptions and trajectory of their work together. They rapidly found that neither English nor the Sanskritised Hindi that is India’s national language were flexible enough for the purpose, given prior semantic accretions around usage. At the April 2007 colloquium at the Dialogue Centre, I asked the artists how they had customised terms such as “collaboration” and “cooperation” to produce a discourse that was organic to their practice. Although Rajkumar used the term “collaboration” during IFA grantee meetings, he was not comfortable with it, as it seemed too remote and abstract to express the variable textures and temporalities of working together, making choices, discussing and solving problems through conversation. The Sanskritised Hindi term kala sahyog (art-based cooperation) was equally remote and perhaps even alienating, redolent of government notifications. In answer to my question, Rajkumar observed that the key term sahyog (cooperation) was best approximated by the dialect word baithiya, embedded in the local cultural and economic context. “We use this term when we ask our neighbours to help us mark a boundary in the fields, or build a house, or fix a roof. People come forward to help, but they are not paid. Instead, they are treated in the evening to a good meal of bhaat [rice], chakhna [chicken], and mahua [liquor]. This exchange is baithiya.”7 During the colloquium, Rajkumar set aside both the bureaucratese of kala sahyog and the customary usage of baithiya as discursively insufficient. Working towards an active term that would link an experimental practice and its theoretical expression, he bypassed both administrative jargon and barter concepts. Instead, he developed a neologism: akal baanta baanti, the “exchange and sharing of intelligence”, the term akal denoting a range of meanings from self-preserving shrewdness and worldly knowledge to the suffusion of nous and the accomplished grasp of techne. Rajkumar’s discursive exploration, while naming his freshly created conceptual tools, clearly demonstrates his emancipation from preordained community frameworks determined by caste, ethnicity and linguistic group membership.

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POLITICS AS A FORM OF COMMUNICATION One afternoon during the 2007 colloquium, I found myself in a
 pilla gudi built at Shilpi Gram in early 2000. Its open circular form had the effect of stilling the mind, centering the self. As
I looked around the circle of twelve concrete seats, I noticed an anomaly in my count. The twelfth seat seemed to dip away, somewhat—and there, next to it, provisional but no less definite for that, was a break in the pattern, a place of potential: the thirteenth place. Having been a contributor to the discourse on collaborative art as practiced by Navjot and her colleagues for more than a decade now, I would suggest that the thirteenth place signifies the self-renewing internal critique of any form
of collective engagement, which rescues participation and collaboration from becoming complacent and institutionalised protocols. The thirteenth place is made possible by changing the rules of collective engagement, by embracing politics as
 a form of communication and not communication as a form of politics, which was the leitmotif of Navjot’s previous leftist practice.8 I would contend that instead of beginning with communication by assuming a vanguardist role and proposing a manifesto prefiguring an emancipatory politics, Navjot chose to begin with the challenges of the politics in which she and her colleagues found themselves, as it were in medias res. Through a process of devolution and improvisation, they have developed alternative conceptual tools, vocabularies and practices that literally speak, shape and distribute into the social field a transfiguring practice of equity. Notes: 1 The genesis of PROYOM can be traced back to a series of events that rippled out from the Naxalbari uprising of 1967, a “militant peasant uprising” staged in northern West Bengal. Organised by a breakaway faction of the CPI (M) or Communist Party of India (Marxist), India’s major parliamentary Left-wing formation, it was led by Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal, who declared themselves in favour of a Maoist line. This group, formally self-designated as the CPI (ML), came to be known popularly as the Naxalites, after the village of Naxalbari, where they had announced their advent and first demonstrated their power 2

Navjot in communication with the author, August 2009

3 See Nancy Adajania, ‘The Logic of Birds: Points of Departure for Indian Women Artists’,Tiger by the Tail! Women Artists of India Transforming Culture (exhibition catalogue), Waltham MA: Women’s Studies Research Centre, Brandeis University, 2007, pp. 112-125 4

See Luce Irigaray, je, tu, nous: Toward a Culture of Difference, Alison Martin trans., New York and London: Routledge, 2007, p. 40

5 Navjot email correspondence with the author May 2007. These hidden stories remained invisible to most viewers: very few of them cared to open the rolls, not so much out of incuriosity as out of inhibition. They had not been socialised into the protocols of interactivity, and installation art was still in its inception in India 6 For an elaboration of the concept of “performative citizenship”, see Nancy Adajania, ‘The Sand of the Coliseum, the Glare of Television, and the Hope of Emancipation’, in Monica Narula, Shuddhabrata Sengupta et al. eds, Sarai Reader 06: Turbulence, Delhi: Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 2006 7

This exchange took place during the colloquium, ‘Samvad’, at the Dialogue Centre, Kondagaon, 6 April 2007

8

See Nancy Adajania, The Thirteenth Place: Positionality as Critique in the Art of Navjot Altaf, Bombay: The Guild Art Gallery, 2016, p. 256

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What Comes Over The Sea In Pursuit of Venus

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Always to islanders danger in what comes over the sea… Allen Curnow, ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’ (1942) Undoubtedly, New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is a work of tremendous significance and was a popular presentation at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Reihana found inspiration for her video projection in a famous nineteenth century wallpaper—Les sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (Auckland Art Gallery tactfully translates this in labelling the sample in their collection as ‘The Native Peoples of the Pacific Ocean’). Designed by Jean-Gabriel Charvet (1750-1829) around 1804, it was commissioned by the manufacturer Joseph Dufour et Cie to commemorate the Pacific voyages of Captain James Cook. Reihana employs costumed dancers and actors to enact a tableaux vivant based on Cook’s journals and filtered through Dame Anne Salmond’s The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Encounters in the South Seas.1 The work’s title is densely packed. At its most direct it is a reference to Cook’s mission to record the transit of Venus across the face of the sun (an event that occurs only twice every 243 years), the findings of which would help calculate longitude more accurately and thereby improve navigation for Britain’s growing naval and mercantile empire. It also alludes to the attentions of European sailors to Tahitian and other indigenous Pacific women. The French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville dubbed Tahiti “New Cythera” after the mythological birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans). The “infected” refers to the European venereal (from Venus in her aspect as goddess of love and carnal desire) diseases Cook’s and other expeditions brought to the South Seas, as well as the infection of the Pacific by Western hegemony, exploitation and gaze. The abbreviation, iPOVi carries within it a subjective (P)oint (O)f (V)iew suspended between the I and the Eye. The final iteration of iPOVi centres around five main characters: Cook, the botanist and naturalist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Cook on his first voyage to Brazil, Tahiti and then New Zealand and Australia (1768-71), and three Society Islanders, Omai, Tupaia and the splendid and enigmatic Tahitian, Chief Mourner. Pantomime lends itself well to the format. There is an element of Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg and John O’Keeffe’s popular and well-documented pantomime Omai: Or, A Trip Around the World, first performed in 1785, in which the historical personages take on the aspects of the stock characters of Commedia dell’arte. Omai (c. 1751-80) was a young man from Huahine, one of the Society Islands which include Tahiti, who joined the HMS Adventure on Cook’s second voyage and arrived in London in 1774 as a feted exotic celebrity. Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of the major European portraitists of the eighteenth-century, painted his portrait. The library booklike borrowing of indigenous Pacific peoples had become something of a habit in the late eighteenth century. Ahutoru, a Tahitian, had been brought to Paris in 1768 by Bougainville. Joseph Banks befriended Omai, and his return to Tahiti became one of the reasons for Cook’s terminal third voyage (1776-79). The people of what would become French Polynesia were the most familiar Pacific people to Europeans at this time and formed an important diplomatic role between Europe and the South Seas. Tupaia (c. 1725-70) was a high priest, navigator and translator from Ra‘iātea, another Society Island. He was largely responsible for Cook’s successful interactions with New Zealand Māori, and even indigenous Australians despite not having a language in common. The Chief Mourner is striking in a masked costume of bark cloth, feathers and nacre, symbolic of everything about the Pacific world that lies beyond rationalist European comprehension, and a psychopomp between the

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realms of the living and the dead. These five individuals provide what was missing from Charvet’s romantic wallpaper: the trade of European goods for sex, the mutual incomprehension over notions of property and reciprocity, and the resulting misunderstandings—Banks culturally crossdressing and participating in the ceremonial terrorising of Tahitians with Chief Mourner (Banks as Harlequin in blackface in the aforementioned pantomime, subverting Enlightenment idealism), Tupaia trying to keep it all together, and, of course, Cook himself, herald of the rapacious British Empire. Compositionally, at least as seen at Auckland Art Gallery in 2015, the audience is engaged by a twenty-five by four metre wall with five projections scrolling continuously through thirtytwo minutes. Exaggeratedly pantomimed vignettes materialise in fore, middle and background in contrasted scenes in Charvet’s picturesque imagining of Tahiti. This serves as a stage upon which to enact a number of First Contact scenarios, climaxing with Cook’s death in Hawai’i and the presentation of his deboned and cooked thigh to his crew in a gesture of reconciliation. In relation to this lack of temporal frame orientation, much reference in the official literature has been made to the construct of “Tā-Vā theory” developed by Pacific thinkers over the last decade. In the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition at the New Zealand Pavilion, 2017 Venice Biennale, Auckland Art Gallery Director and curator of the project, Rhana Devenport describes this as; A limitless becoming, the temporal and spatial dimensionality of in Pursuit of Venus [infected], is one of its most radical elements; it eschews European readings in favour of engaging with metaphysical perspectives that include the recently articulated Pacific theory of time and space known as Tā-Vā… Tā-Vā differs from Aristotelian-founded, Western temporal and spatial metaphysics in its emphasis on perpetual cycles, and in this way it relates more to Henri Bergson’s idea of duration while also offering something entirely new.2 Arguably, it also has similarities to Deleuze’s concept of “Immanence” and Christian theological conceptions about time, and while this has profound implications for Pacific philosophy, it doesn’t necessarily translate visually because many of its signifiers already exist in the established Western tradition of simultaneous narrative, familiar from comic books to Giotto’s fourteenth century Arena Chapel frescos. More successfully challenging of the white, Western gaze is Reihana’s interest in Māori filmmaker Barry Barclay’s notion of the “fourth cinema” from which an indigenous theory can be framed, as Reihana explains; The fourth wall is a cinematic term that describes an audience’s invisible ‘fly on the wall’ viewpoint. Barclay considers it a privileging view, and in [the article] ‘Celebrating Fourth Cinema’ theorises an indigenous cinema where First Peoples control the camera rather than being the subject of its gaze… in Pursuit of Venus [infected] reflects these ideas by placing viewers as tangata whenua (people of the land). The resulting experience is that you are watching the foreshore action from behind the flora… This reverses the perspective to one of insider/tangata whenua rather than an outsider/audience member.3 This is an exciting development: a significant disruption of the Western gaze of history painting, subverting its tendency to identify with the white (usually male) protagonist, objectifying, exoticising and appropriating the indigenous Other. Here, it is the white explorers who are the Other, though in a cautiously coded way that could be read by Western audiences as laughing with them as much as laughing at them. To what extent a Western audience might confuse this with an anthropological or voyeuristic gaze is uncertain. l

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Although it was a widely popular choice to represent New Zealand at the 2017 Venice Biennale, this was not without controversy. Additional parts were added in order for the 2015 iteration, so popular at Auckland Art Gallery, to qualify as a “new work”, resulting in the larger concept of Emissaries. Putting aside that Creative New Zealand (the government agency responsible for arts development) disregarded its own guidelines for older artwork to get Emissaries there, no amount of inserting new material was going to disguise the fact that it is still iPOVi at heart and anyone who saw it in Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and/or Singapore, would have experienced a strong sense of déjà vu. The later incorporation of a physical Cook and indigenous artefacts, for example, seems less installation art than ad hoc museology. One of the new incorporated elements was indigenous Australian contact narratives, which seemed strange when Tracey Moffatt (considering her historical dislike being labelled an “Aboriginal artist”4) was presented in the Australian Pavilion exploring exactly those themes.5 The principle difference being that Moffatt depicts white violence as congruous with the present and cyclical, whereas Reihana’s framing places it behind the cordon sanitaire of history. It felt safe and comfortable for Western audiences unfamiliar with the Tā-Vā worldview. This presents a paradox because we acknowledge and accept the reality of indigenous solidarity, and in attempting to understand their worldviews we must appreciate that Western constructs like the separation of content and form, and anti-intentionality, don’t necessarily apply. Any criticism must remain consciously aware of that. And yet, for a Western art world audience there is inevitably the question of whether this isn’t still an appropriation of sorts, and in a climate where there is significant emphasis on the politics of late colonialism (“postcolonial” is a nonsensical term as it implies colonialism isn’t an ongoing reality for the colonised), this accumulation of contact narratives can be a liability, open to accusations of the commodified exploitation of a generalised collective trauma and a form of gatekeeping. While an international art audience can respond enthusiastically to the aesthetic appeal and the references to the historical European as Other, their appreciation of the subtleties is always going to be limited by their own geographical and cultural biases, with which Arthur Danto’s notion of an “art world” simultaneously exists within and without.6 Nor should the subalternity of the artist act as a magical forcefield against criticism when the work has knowingly and consciously been placed in an apex Western art world context like the Venice Biennale, frequently described in the general media with the execrable cliché “the Olympics of the Art World”, where it meets the Benjaminian arcade of twenty-first century interconnectivity and globalisation. Also, was the Biennale audience aware that Reihana was subtly mocking their cultural pretentions, which she refers to as the “festival gaze”?7 Charvet exists at the beginning of mass culture (Damien Hirst’s late capitalist giant bronzes at the Venice Biennale the same year may very well be the end)—the reification of appropriation, or as art historian Melanie Mariño says, “the condition whereby aesthetic products are reduced to the level of the commodity(-sign) and aesthetic value is absorbed in the system of (sign-)exchange.”8 Not incidentally this is also a reasonable description of part of the process of colonisation. It lends itself well to an art that, in the words of Jean Baudrillard, “plays with it, and is included in the game. It can parody this world, illustrate it, simulate it, alter it; it never disturbs the order which is also its own.”9 Contrast this with Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course to the centre of an ever-setting sun! (2015-17) by New Zealand artist Nathan Pohio, a photographic billboard installation shown in Kassel and Athens as part of documenta 14 (by far the more interesting international art event that year) within the same timeframe, which is also concerned with a Tā-Vā worldview in terms

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of non-teleological and non-linear time, where perspective remains stationary and the destination is brought to the traveller rather than the other way around. In this case the work consisted of two found photographs of the 1905 visit of the Governor General of New Zealand and his wife, Lord and Lady Plunket, to Tuahiwi to visit the elders of Ngāi Tahu. Enlarged to a massive size, there is a similar timelessness and hierarchical ambiguity (originally commissioned by Christchurch’s SCAPE festival of art in public space, the Plunkets in their motorcar are towered over by the Ngāi Tahu leaders on horseback); it manages to convey a universal political message about indigeneity and imperialism without diluting itself by being overly literal, and entirely earnest in its desire to participate and communicate. But this is not a judgement on merit, merely a contrasting comparison. Putting all that to one side, there has been very little discussion of iPOVi’s more general and aesthetic critical context. Within Reihana’s oeuvre, iPOVi is more sophisticated, resolved and accomplished than the kitsch-prone (not necessarily a pejorative) imagery of her Digital Marae series (2001), and whether intentionally or not, forms an appealing alliance with the two-screen videowork Tai Whetuki/House of Death Redux (2015-16), which acts as a kind of Book of the Dead as a spirit crosses over into the Māori afterlife. If the “ten years in the making” figure is accurate, then that would put the inception of iPOVi around the time of Colour of Sin: Headcase Version (2005), a sound work played through salon hairdryers, which, like most of Reihana’s work, is intended to be a totally immersive experience. Wellington-based art commentators Jim and Mary Barr noted the resemblance of iPOVi to white South African artist William Kentridge’s More Sweetly Play the Dance (2015) which similarly uses actors and dancers in a stylised, multi-channel video work projected onto large screens in a meditation on life, death, joy, disaster and disease.10 It is, however, less focused and not as subtle as Reihana’s work. One could possibly also consider aspects of Ghanaian-British artist John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea, also 2015, and a long tradition of panorama painting as public spectacle, and perhaps (and I mean this as a complement) the craft and magic of Disney imagineers. Comparisons have also been made to the work of German artist Bridget Ziegler’s Shooting Wallpaper (2006), Russian collective AES+F, to which one might add a hint of Kara Walker, and even Pierre et Gilles (the latter particularly in the digital still prints, though without the French duo’s deftly camp humour). Although it has been a project long in gestation, it seamlessly coincided with the zeitgeist of moving image work at the time. Ultimately, however, everything must take its cue from Charvet’s neoclassicism, something Reihana achieves with sophisticated adroitness. The poses and attitudes that seemed painfully overdetermined in Digital Marae (2001) are an asset in the stylised universe of iPOVi. Neoclassicism is the aesthetic projection of authority and hegemony—it is a colonial and imperialist aesthetic. It is also the aesthetic of Orientalism and the projection of Western fantasies on far off places. In the case of iPOVi it’s on some level at least, a self-conscious parody of Homi K. Bhabha’s concept of mimicry as the subaltern’s protective camouflage while negotiating the dominant narrative of the coloniser. Reihana’s use of it is postmodern but must be carefully distinguished from Charles Jencks’ definition of postmodernism as adopting neoclassicism as a counterreformation against modernism, and a reconnecting with humanist traditions.11 Most contemporary Māori art has never, even at its most conceptual or abstract, completely lost touch with the representational and imminent (contrasting with abstract modernism’s transcendental sublime). To represent someone is to contain something of their mauri (lifeforce, essence) and mana (prestige, honour), hence the reverence among Māori for the paintings of C. F. Goldie (1870-1947) and Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926). In iPOVi, even Cook and Banks are accorded a degree of respect.

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Revamped as part of Emissaries, iPOVi sat interestingly in the context of a Venice Biennale mostly themed around the Trump/Brexit meltdown of Western (read Global North) endgame capitalism, and in terms of previous New Zealand deputations, seemed quite a departure from the more internationalist, post-internet relational aesthetics of Simon Denny in 2015 and Michael Parekowhai in 2011. Some commentators thought that Reihana’s work was regressive and not particularly challenging. Auckland-based critic Anthony Byrt felt, “it affirms what we already know”, writing; Over the years, Venice has also taught New Zealand some harsh truths. One is that it’s really hard to make the European art world care about our postcolonial politics. We saw this when we sent Michael Parekowhai in 2011. His project was big and expensive too—all those bulls and carved pianos—with overt Māori content. People here fell over themselves to declare how wonderful it was. In terms of overseas attention, though, it fizzled. iPOVi faces exactly the same challenge.12 One can hardly say Emissaries “fizzled”. British critics loved it especially, but that’s not surprising given that Cook retains a certain fetishistic lustre in the UK as a culture (anti-)hero with new cachet in the era of Brexit jingoism and white guilt. Waldemar Januszczak of The Times said it was the best work in the Venice Bienniale and “This ambitious riveting animated sequence that took ten years to complete deserves to be recognised as one of the key artworks of recent years.”13 Anthony Horowitz of The Telegraph was no less gushing.14 Carola Padtberg of Der Spiegel wrote, “It is a delicate, thoughtful contribution: how strongly do the clichés still determine our thinking?”15 and Jennifer Higgie for Frieze.com said it was, “like a waking dream that visualises the complexities of colonisation and belonging, communication and engagement via song, dance and performance.”16 l

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This was all breathlessly reported back in the New Zealand media.17 An element of cultural cringe lingers yet in the archipelago, and as poet and editor Charles Brasch wrote, “distance looks our way”.18 The NZ at Venice website for Lisa Reihana: Emissaries states that it “disrupts notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth” and its counterpoint of seductive beauty and political message is both striking and the source of its jouissance or frisson is difficult to pin down, even once we have digested the theoretics of “the fourth cinema”. We might look to Susan Best of Griffith University’s notion of “Reparative Aesthetics”.19 Drawing on Affect Theory, Best outlines an emerging artistic approach that sugarcoats political engagement by cloaking it in seductive beauty and anodyne ambiguity, so as not to alienate its audience. This has merit as a possible context for iPOVi and Emissaries, given that there was no particularly angry response from the usual white and fragile suspects, no accusations of politically correct revisionism in letters to the editor pages, nor indeed even a pause over the bellinis and blinis. But the work doesn’t tidily fit into that sort of category, as the postcolonial commentary is right there on the surface, front and centre, and more in keeping with what Best describes as “paranoid” discourse, that is to say, a direct and emotive critical protest, even if in a very understated way. It never disturbs the order which is also its own. Another, and perhaps a better framework for discussion is Bruno Latour’s concept of “iconoclash” where the image is destroyed, but it is unclear whether this is a positive or negative result in a muddying of the lexical and deictic—the subversion and negation of likeness, a nested cultural negation of the cultural negation of colonialism.20 This seems to resonate with what the artist herself has said: I chose to transgress the wallpaper’s conventions. Well aware of the slippery nature of viewpoints and truth, I deliberately included scenes that show the risks of encounter and cultural conflict… I used several techniques in my attempts to resist what I describe as the “festival gaze” (brown bodies on show).21

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Of course, this potentially sets up a problematic dichotomy that precludes the possibility of artists and curators of colour being a complicit part of that festival audience. Earlier, I referred to Tracey Moffatt, an Australian artist who is on record as wanting to be acknowledged as an artist (in the universal sense), rather than an Australian indigenous artist (although, ironically, that is how the Australian and other media tended to frame her 2017 Venice Biennale contribution). Not every person of colour is necessarily coming to the work from the perspective of being indigenous, nor does every non-Western viewer, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, identify as particularly marginalised. As other economies flourish and political influences shift, the international art world is increasingly pluralistic and diverse. What does such a work offer them? Regardless, iPOVi is a work that successfully juggles popularity and significance. Yes, there was a lot of hype, state-sanctioned and otherwise, and that can obscure the finer and subtler pleasures to be experienced in the work. It is a profoundly democratic aesthetic production in the Benjaminian sense, that it can be collectively and publicly experienced, intensified in that the individual can curate their own interaction with the work depending on how they site themselves. It challenges and overturns many stereotypes, flirting with others, sending a political message by means of a most delicately diplomatic, romantically seductive sensibility. Whether iPOVi is a contender for a role as some kind of Pacific Guernica I don’t think anyone can say, but it will certainly cast a long shadow over contemporary indigenous art-making about the late colonial condition.

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Notes 1 Anne Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Encounters in the South Seas, New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2003 2 Rhana Devenport, ‘Emissaries: A New Pacific of the Past for Tomorrow’, Lisa Reihaha: Emissaries – New Zealand at Venice 2017, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland, 2017, p. 22. The article by Barry Barclay referred to can be found in Illusions: New Zealand Moving Image and Performing Arts Criticism, Number 35, Winter 2003, pp. 7-11 3

Rhana Devenport, ‘An Interview with Lisa Reihana’, Rhana Devenport (ed.), Lisa Reihana: In Pursuit of Venus, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland, 2015, p. 17

4

Tom O’Regan, Australian National Cinema, London and New York: Routledge, 1996, p. 327

5

Adrian Searle, ‘Tracey Moffatt Review–Horrible Histories from Australia’s Venice Envoy’, The Guardian, 10 May 2017; https://www. theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/10/tracey-moffatt-my-horizon-australia-pavilion-venice-biennale; accessed 2 February 2018 6 Arthur Danto, ‘The Art World’, The Journal of Philosophy, Volume 61, Issue 19, American Philosophical Association. Eastern Division SixtyFirst Annual Meeting, 15 October 1964, pp. 571-584 7

Rhana Devenport, ‘An Interview with Lisa Reihana’, op cit., p. 6

8

Melanie Mariño, ‘The Parody Aesthetic’, Miwon Kwon (ed.), Tracing Cultures: art history, criticism, critical fiction, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994, p. 94 9

Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, Charles Levin trans., St Louis: Telos Press, 1981, p. 110

10 Jim and Mary Barr, ‘The Other’, Over the Net (blog), 19 May 2016; http://overthenet.blogspot.co.nz/2016/05/the-other.html/; accessed 30 January 2018 11

Charles Jencks, The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, London: Academy Editions, 1987

12 Anthony Byrt, ‘2017 Venice Biennale: The popular option, but…’, Metro, 30 November 2015; http://www.noted.co.nz/culture/arts/2017venice-biennale-the-popular-option-but/ accessed 2 February 2018 13 Waldemar Januszczak, ‘Art Review: Venice Biennale’, The Sunday Times, 21 May 2017; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/art-reviewwaldemar-januszczak-venice-biennale-xt8lhpf5l; accessed 18 February 2018 14 Anthony Horowitz, ‘The Real Star of the Venice Biennale? It Isn’t the Art’, The Telegraph, 22 May 2017; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/ destinations/europe/italy/veneto/venice/articles/anthony-horowitz-at-the-venice-biennale/; accessed 18 February 2018 15 Carola Padtberg, ‘Kunstbiennale in Venedig: Diese Pavillons müssen Sie gesehen haben’, Der Spiegel; http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/ gesellschaft/kunstbiennale-in-venedig-diese-pavillons-sind-die-highlights-a-1147512.html; accessed 18 February 2018 16 Jennifer Higgie, ‘57th Venice Biennale: Arsenale Pavilions’, Frieze.com, 12 May 2017; https://frieze.com/article/57th-venice-biennalearsenale-pavilions/; accessed 18 February 2018 17 ‘Lisa Reihana’s show at the Venice Art Biennale a ‘must-see’’, New Zealand Herald, 27 May 2017; http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/ article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11864158/; accessed 2 February 2018 18

Charles Brasch, ‘The Islands’, Disputed Ground, Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1948

19

Susan Best, Reparative Aesthetics: Witnessing in Contemporary Art Photography, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016

20

After the argument of Joseph Koerner, ‘The Icon as Iconoclash’, Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel eds, Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, Karlsruhe: ZKM and Cambridge Mass, and London: MIT Press, 2002, p. 47 21

Rhana Devenport, ‘An Interview with Lisa Reihana’, op cit., p. 6

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Indigenous Futurisms, New Media and Contemporary Assertions of Indigeneity

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Ka mua, ka muri: walk backwards into the future Samoan cultural commentator Patrick Thomsen introduced his recent essay ‘One Samoan Identity to Rule Them All?’ with the assertion, “Identity is of grave importance for all who are thrust into the mystifying space of diaspora existence.”1 This contention is true not only for indigenous people in diaspora but also for those living within colonised lands. The threats to indigenous culture that arise from colonisation, migration and subsequent attempts of assimilation often force people to retreat to a protector position, one of advocacy for what is real, or authentic parts of their culture. The preservation of culture is indisputable, in the context of its threat of extinction. However, such a position can often lead to its essentialisation, as Thomsen argues further; “To essentialise is to boil away the diversity in the human experience and to cherrypick specific generalising traits that you believe represents all who carry a certain label. But in essentialising our narratives, our interpretation of history becomes one-dimensional too.”2 What Thomsen argues for is a “new way in framing” that “allows us all to participate in an inclusive way that doesn’t leave any Samoan behind.”3 The ways in which we live and exist in the world, or ways of being, are constantly in the process of evolution. As new technologies arise, and medical discoveries drive greater understanding, societies adapt accordingly. Arguably, indigenous ways of being are amongst the most adaptive given the multiple waves of colonisation they have survived, with inherent, abrupt introductions of new technologies, philosophies and theologies. In the current ‘digital world’, such societies are continuing to adopt and adapt, with indigenous-determined digital spaces just as necessary as those in real life. Yet, not only are indigenous people keeping pace, as Academic Dr Suneeti Rekhari has stated, “Indigenous people continue to stretch and challenge the boundaries of [digital] media use”,4 but they are forging ahead. As Rekhari continued, they “are themselves media producers, and are active participants in the processes of production, dissemination, regulation, reception, and innovation.”5 This presents the contradiction though, that these digital technologies and in particular the Internet are both the greatest outcome and the most significant agent of globalisation—this same globalisation that has been said to further the effects of colonisation for indigenous societies. This is what Rekhari refers to as a “double edged sword” as digital technologies and the Internet both provide “avenues to challenge and empower, while at the same time contain and reinforce cultural hegemony”,6 as a knowledge of these globalised technologies is still required. She further claims that, “It is likely that the long term survival of our traditional knowledge will depend upon our ability to exploit the new information and communication technology.”7 It is from this complex and contemporary dilemma that Thomsen seeks a new way of framing. Scholar and historian James Clifford’s notion of “becoming indigenous” links decolonisation with globalisation, to which he states, “Neither process is linear or guaranteed. Neither can subsume the other. Both are contradictory and open-ended.”8 He employs the framework of “articulated, rooted, and cosmopolitan” to understand contemporary indigenous experience, to “register more complex, emergent possibilities”.9 As Australian academic Aileen Moreton-Robinson has outlined, the Critical Indigenous Studies discipline also considers indigeneity critically within complex structures of power, specifically within First World nations.10 It is in this context that Clifford frames indigenous cultural endurance as “becoming”, which he further expands as reaching “back selectively to deeply rooted, adaptive traditions: creating new pathways in a complex postmodernity.”11 He identifies that “indigenous cultural politics often express the new, the way forward, in terms of the old.”12 This draws on Jamaican-born,

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UK cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s discursive linking of pasts and futures as being integral to the positioning of collective subjects, to which he wrote that identities function, “by taking up the discourse of the past and the present.”13 This conveys us to the Māori proverb introducing this text, “Ka mua, ka muri” or “walking backwards into the future”. This is a shared philosophy across Oceania, with Hawai‘ian historian Lilikalā K. Kame‘eleihiwa noting in her book Native Land and Foreign Desires (1992), that the past in Olelo Hawai‘ian is referred to as “Ka wa mamua” or “the time in front or before” and the future is referred to as “Ka wa mahope” or “the time which comes after or behind”. These definitions highlight the importance of the present moment for Hawai‘ian people with one’s back faced to the future while facing the past. This marks the future as being unknown, “whereas the past is rich in glory and knowledge”.14 From this position of walking forward while looking back, or “ka mua, ka muri” it becomes apparent that indigenous futures mobilise past resources and historical practices while expressing them in contemporary forms, or “the past, materialised in land and ancestors, is always a source of the new.”15 This rooted approach to future thinking is seen in the work of a number of indigenous artists whose artworks use different digital technologies to revisit and revise history. In particular, these include Time TravellerTM (2008-13) by Skawennati, Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (201517) and Half-blood (2016) by Johnson Witehira. Montreal-based Mohawk artist Skawennati is perhaps one of the most influential artists working with new media. Co-Director of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace,16 she has been testing new media for over twenty years, including the notable projects Time TravellerTM and CyberPowPow. Time TravellerTM is a multiplatform project that includes the website www.TimeTravellerTM.com, a set of digital prints, a prototype action figure and most notably a nine episode machinima series. Machinima (the conjoining of “machine” and “cinema”) is the terminology for art which uses a pre-rendered gaming engine to make film. Machinima artists are sometimes also referred to as machinimists, or machinimators, who largely subscribe to the look and feel of videogame culture. For Skawennati, this process is used through the program Second Life to tell the story of Hunter, a young Mohawk man living in the twenty-second century (in the year 2121) in a hyper-consumerist and technologised world. Hunter seeks to find clarity in indigenous histories by using his “edutainment” system TimeTravellerTM to travel back to significant historical events of resistance, including the Dakota Sioux Uprising (1862), the Oka Crisis (1990) and the occupation of Alcatraz Island (1969-71). Along the way he meets Karahkwenhawi, a young Mohwak woman from the present; they fall in love and explore these histories together. Across the nine Time TravellerTM episodes it becomes quickly apparent that these histories are remembered differently to the ways in which they have been recorded, noticeably from an indigenous perspective. The machinima approach imagines indigeneity in the future while remaining firmly rooted in its histories. It is perhaps from this perspective that revising histories is possible, and playful. In the artist’s words, “I was thinking about native people and our presence [in cyberspace], and our lack of presence in the future and how people don’t see us in the future. Even we native people don’t seem to see ourselves in the future.”17 While the nine episodes of TimeTraveller™ have had many formal exhibition iterations, it is also freely available online. While this entails an obvious barrier of requiring the technology to access the Internet, this makes it far more accessible to global audiences, moving away from the formal, normative actions of artworks presentation, an obvious dictate given how significant the online environment is for indigenous communities.

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Skawennati, like Māori artist Johnson Witerhira utilises digital technology rather than just reference it. Half-blood (2016), an exhibition by Witehira, included two video games, both of which were titled Māoriland Adventure (2017), alongside large scale cutouts of the games’ characters. Read as two versions of the same game, in the exhibition space they were installed as two large abutting projections. They both followed the same simple storyline, with a playing time of between three to five minutes, where a figure controlled by a single player progresses across the screen. Both games are arrival stories, the first being that of Māori to Aotearoa New Zealand, where the character must kill animals by hitting them over the head in order to move forward, and the second, the arrival of Europeans. Here, ‘progress’ occurs with the character hitting Māori over the head with a Bible to the point of conversion. With Witerhira’s Half-blood the title presents an interesting wordplay on both subject matter and medium. It relates to the artist’s mixed ancestry as well as being a form of arcade slang meaning “the act of handing over the controls of a game to a better player when half the game has been played or when half the life of the game character is all that is left.”18 This title also relies on humour, which Witehira uses to destabilise given histories. The game format is appropriate for another reason, for it’s accessibility to Māori audiences. As I’ve written elsewhere, The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Māori me te Ao Hangarau 2015: The Māori ICT Report 2015, tells us that the top reason for Māori using the Internet is social networking, quickly followed by entertainment. Māori are more likely than other cultural demographic in New Zealand to stream music and videos, and to play video games.19 Another new media work which revises history is in Pursuit of Venus [infected] by Māori artist Lisa Reihana. Known widely as iPOVi, it restages the early nineteenth-century wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804-05), a two metre high by ten metre long, hand-blocked scenic wallpaper illustrated by Jean-Gabriel Charvet for French entrepreneur Joseph Dufour. Comprising twenty separate panels the wall paper features stories of encounter from the records and journals of Pacific voyages of exploration undertaken by the English naval Captain James Cook, and the French naval explorers Louis de Bougainville and Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse. Just as those accounts were of European impressions of the indigenous people of the Pacific influenced by Enlightenment values, so too was the artwork. In iPOVi however, Reihana refashions and digitises Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique from her own perspective; as suggested in the title, with POV being an acronym for film’s point-of-view doubling the meaning. In iPOVi Reihana creates her own significant histories for reconstruction, with some of the vignettes completely fictional, acting as propositions for the viewer. Throughout iPOVi, indigenous languages and singing can be heard. This inclusion is also a shared component of Witehira’s Half-blood, in which the text in Māoriland Adventure is exclusively spoken in te reo Māori.20 Indigenous language is appropriate as both works are set in periods of contact with Europeans, making it a historically accurate choice, their use making strong statements about from which perspective these works are positioned. While iPOVi does not use the gaming language and aesthetics of Half-blood or TimeTraveller™, its technology is equally enticing; the sixty-two minute multi-channel projection is an immersive cinema experience. Its Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki iteration in 2017 was the most popular solo exhibition for over twenty years by a New Zealand artist, with 49,000 visitors.21

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Across these artworks, Skawennati, Witehira and Reihana use the accessible and attractive forms of new media to discuss more complicated and ominous histories. Historically, narratives around indigenous people ‘dying out’, the determing of blood quantum22 as a measure of authenticity (specifically of First Nations people in North America) and attempts at assimilation of indigenous people as is the case with Aboriginal people in Australia, are examples of how indigenous people have been ‘imagined to extinction, an idea propogated in Hollywood films, such as the Last of the Mohicans (1992). By this logic of extinction, the Western colonial imagination sees indigenous life not only separate from the present time but also out of place in the future. As historian and curator Jolene Rickard writes, “Ironically, the image of Natives is still firmly planted in the past. The idea that Indians would be on the frontier of a technology is inconsistent with the dominant image of ‘traditional’ Indians.”23 Time TravellerTM, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] and Half-blood are able to be contextualised within the concept of Indigenous Futurisms, which allows indigenous people to reclaim or reimagine futures through a technological space, offering contrasting narratives to the Western perspective of past, present and future. Indigenous Futurisms is a fairly new term, first coined by Anishinaabe Indigenous Studies Professor Grace Dillon in the science-fiction anthology Walking the Clouds published 2012, to describe a form of literature where indigenous people use sciencefiction to imagine their futures and challenge Western histories.24 Indigenous Futurism, which draws from Afrofuturism, a genre combining African and African diaspora culture with technology and science-fiction, is becoming more widely used and is the focus of groups such as the aforementioned Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, as well as Anishinaabe comedian and writer Ryan McMahon and Hawai‘ian artist Solomon Enos. From a Western perspective engaging the concept of multiple futures through an analysis of these three artworks which explicitly deal with the past may seem contradictory, but indigenous understanding of time is seldom linear; rather it is cyclical. The future imaginary affords indigenous artists a creative space to respond to a dystopian now, grounding their cultural resurgence in contextual and relational practices. Indigenous Futurism asks its audiences to re-imagine space, both outer and inner, from indigenous perspectives, as sovereign spaces where the artists have the creative freedom to determine their own worlds. The artworks by Skawennati, Witehira and Reihana achieve this by speaking back to Western colonialism which has affected their own homelands, and the prejudiced narratives that have been written into Western history books. Within this approach, the past is folded into new possibilities for the present, that is again folded into new possibilities for the future. What Skawennati, Reihana and Witehira highlight is that indigenous people are no longer passive consumers of media; rather they are the media makers who are actively producing, disseminating and innovating.25 Digital technologies are now inseparable from contemporary indigenous experience and a tool to repurpose established Western and colonial histories. Ultimately, these artists highlight how new media can be an integral component to the revitalisation and survival of indigenous culture, livelihoods and traditions. Skawennati, Witehira and Reihana embody “Ka mua ka muri”, reminding us that time exists in the past, present and future all at once. Through this embodiment they assert a history in which there is no monopoly over the future but rather a free, spectacular, culturally relevant wondering.

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Notes 1 Patrick Thomsen, ‘One Samoan Identity to Rule Them All?’; http://www.thecoconet.tv/coco-talanoa/guest-writer/one-samoan-identity-torule-them-all/; accessed 14 April 2018 2

ibid.

3

ibid.

4 Suneeti Rekhari, ‘Indigenous communities and new media: questions on the global Digital Age’, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 7:2/3, pp. 175-181; https://doi.org/10.1108/14779960910955882; accessed 14 April 2018 5

ibid.

6

ibid.

7

ibid.

8

James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2013, p. 5

9

ibid., p. 65

10

Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Critical Indigenous Studies: Engagements in First World Locations, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2016

11

Clifford, op cit., p. 7

12

ibid., p. 25

13 Stuart Hall, ‘Subjects in History: Making Diasporic Identities’, The House That Race Built, Wahneema Lubiano (ed.), New York: Vintage Books, 1998 14

Clifford, op cit., p. 24

15

ibid., p. 25

16

Skawennati is Co-Director of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, a research network of artists, academics and technologists investigating, creating and critiquing indigenous virtual environments 17 Johnson Witehira as cited in Mike Alexander, ‘State of the Arts’; https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/85248461/state-of-the-arts; accessed 25 April 2018 18

Skawennati, quoted in ‘Still, Like Air, I’ll Rise’, https://stpaulst.aut.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/75205/Slair_Roomsheet_FINAL.pdf

19

Lana Lopesi, ‘State of Play: A Review of Johnson Witehira’s “Half-blood”’, 2016; http://pantograph-punch.com/post/review-half-blood

20

Te Reo Māori is the Māori term used to describe the Māori language

21

https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/92510125/kiwi-artist-lisa-reihanas-emisaries-set-to-open-at-venice-biennale

22

Blood quantam laws were first enacted in 1705 by European Americans to define qualification by ancestry as Native American

23

Jolene Rickard, ‘First Nation Territory in Cyber Space Declared: No Treaties Needed’; http://www.cyberpowwow.net/nation2nation/ jolenework.html 24

Grace Dillon, Walking the Clouds, Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 2012, p. 2

25 John Hartley & Alan McKee, The Indigenous Public Sphere: The Reporting and Reception of Aboriginal Issues in the Australian Media, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

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Indigenous Futurisms, New Media and Contemporary Assertions of Indigeneity

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IMAGE NOTATIONS

Page 20 Image courtesy https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=GX6IVagb0-s Sethembile Msezane, Published 28 December, 2015 Rhodes Must Fall UCT _ Rhodes Must Fall Oxford. I believe that South Africa’s memorialised public spaces are barren of the black female body, so last year I started doing performance art… The character I’m portraying here depicts the statue of the Zimbabwe bird that was wrongfully appropriated from Great Zimbabwe by the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes… The Rhodes Must Fall protests had been going on for a month, kickstarted by an activist smearing his statue with excrement. During a lecture, students were asked whether they were for or against. Most said “for”, that it was a painful reminder of our colonial past, but one student–with a piece of paper that said “#procolonialism” on her chest–called protesters neanderthals, and said, “If you’re against the statue you’re against enlightenment and education, and you shouldn’t be at university”… Since the fall of the statue, I think people are still in disbelief … I’m not sure that we need statues at all–it’s a colonialist thing, like marking territory. My work is a response, to get people to look at the landscape with a different eye. People haven’t forgiven or forgotten, they’re still harbouring hatred. That’s why the statue needed to fall. It fostered the kind of thinking that is dangerous to a country in healing. Sethembile Msezane interview by Erica Buist; https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/ may/15/sethembile-msezane-cecil-rhodes-statuecape-town-south-africa

Page 24 ‘When it’s good to break the law, Go ahead, topple a Confederate statue’ In 2015, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that blocked “removing, relocating, or altering monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property” without approval from a state historical commission, thus taking the decision whether or not to remove any of North Carolina’s 140-plus monuments to the Confederacy out of the hands of progressive local governments like Durham. The bill was passed in the other chamber on partisan lines just a month after Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and then-governor Pat McCrory signed it into law. At the time, one North Carolina Republican said taking down monuments was “the kind of thing that ISIS does.” Paul Blest, 16 August 2017; https://theoutline.com/post/2118/ confederate-statues-durham-baltimore

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Page 27 ‘Protests at Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, over the sculpture Scaffold by artist Sam Durant.’ Image courtesy https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Protests_at_Walker_Art _Center,_June_2017.jpg Photo Lorie Shaull Statement by Sam Durant: This wood and steel sculpture is a composite of the representations of seven historical gallows that were used in US state-sanctioned executions by hanging between 1859 and 2006. Of the seven gallows depicted in the work, one in particular recalls the design of the gallows of the execution of the Dakota 38 in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862. The Mankato Massacre represents the largest mass execution in the history of the United States… Six other scaffolds comprise the structure, which include those used to execute abolitionist John Brown (1859); the Lincoln Conspirators (1865), which included the first woman executed in US history; the Haymarket Martyrs (1886), which followed a labor uprising and bombing in Chicago; Rainey Bethea (1936), the last legally conducted public execution in US history; Billy Bailey (1996), the last execution by hanging (not public) in the US; and Saddam Hussein (2006), for war crimes at a joint Iraqi/ US facility. Scaffold opens the difficult histories of the racial dimension of the criminal justice system in the United States, ranging from lynchings to mass incarceration to capital punishment. In bringing these troubled and complex histories of national importance to the fore, it was my intention not to cause pain or suffering, but to speak against the continued marginalisation of these stories and peoples, and to build awareness around their significance. Scaffold seeks to address the contemporary relevance and resonance of these narratives today, especially at a time of continued institutionalised racism, and the ongoing dehumanisation and intimidation of people of colour. Scaffold is neither memorial nor monument, and stands against prevailing ideas and normative history. It warns against forgetting the past. In doing so, my hope for Scaffold is to offer a platform for open dialogue and exchange, a place to question not only our past, but the future… I made Scaffold as a learning space for people like me, white people who have not suffered the effects of a white supremacist society and who may not consciously know that it exists. It has been my belief that white artists need to address issues of white supremacy and its institutional manifestations. Whites created the concept of race and have used it to maintain dominance for centuries, whites must be involved in its dismantling. However, your protests have shown me that I made a grave miscalculation in how my work can be received by those in a particular community. In focusing on my position as a white artist making work for that audience I failed to understand what the inclusion of the Dakota 38 in the sculpture could mean for Dakota people. I offer my deepest apologies for my thoughtlessness. I should have reached out to the Dakota community the moment I knew that the sculpture would be exhibited at the Walker Art Center in proximity to Mankato.My work was created with the idea of creating a zone of discomfort for whites, your protests have now created a zone of discomfort for me. In my attempt to raise awareness I have learned something profound and I thank you for that; http://www.samdurant. net/files/downloads/SamDurantArtistStatementMay292017.pdf

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Page 29 Top: Image courtesy https://sydney-city.blogspot. com.au/2010/10/captain-cook-sydney-statuesproject.html Photographer unknown Captain Cook, Sydney Statues: Project! This bronze sculpture in Hyde Park is of Captain James Cook, the English explorer who was the first European to navigate and map the eastern coastline of Australia. The sculpture has been dressed up for the Sydney Statues: Project! as part of the Art & About Sydney festival. Bottom: ‘Vandals attack historic Hyde Park statues in Australia Day protest’. Photo David Swift https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/ vandals-attack-historic-hyde-park-statues-inaustralia-day-protest/news-story/85fe173a58965f1 22793acf5924f40a5

Page 31 Image available from various websites; sourced https://www.theatlantic.com/international/ archive/2015/04/after-rhodes-fell-south-africastatue/391457/ Photo Mike Hutchings Hovering just above the plinth, graffiti read: “AFRICA LIVES, Fuck Rhodes.” Rhodes had become the chief target of student protesters at the university partly because of his sheer ubiquity; his name and likeness were stamped on everything from scholarships, memorial groves, and universities to cities, countless roads, and, once, even a nation.


Page 32 Wael Shawky, Al Araba Al Madfuna (video still), 2012 Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg Dressed like grown men, with glued-on moustaches and dubbed with the voices of adults, a group of boys retell a story by Egyptian writer Mohamed Mustagab. Shawky builds upon his own experiences with researchers and archeologists involved in treasure hunting in Upper Egypt to consider this parable about the folly of blindly following one’s forebears. Re:Emerge towards a New Cultural Cartography: Sharjah Biennial 11 catalogue

Page 34 Petros Efstathiadis, (from left to right) Loho #12, Loho #1, Loho #15 (2013), from the exhibition The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory, at Izolyatsia, Kiev, curated by Cathryn Drake. Image courtesy the artist and Can Christina Androulidaki Gallery, Athens

Page 37 Wael Shawky, Dictums 10: 120, 2011-13 Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg A multipart project that involves the composition and performance of a qawwali song. Comprised of fragments from curatorial talks translated into Urdu, the song turns this centuries-old tradition of devotional Sufi music into a contemporary art experiment. Taking Sharjah as a starting point, the project examines the relationship between art organisations and their local communities… Throughout a series of workshops, members of Sharjah Art Foundation’s team, most of whom are Pakistani, took apart the Biennial’s rhetoric in order to construct a song. The various forms of literal and theoretical translations to which the texts were subjected—from the spoken to the textual to the lyrical, from English to Urdu, from artspeak to absurd fragment—produced an analytical process that tests the authority of the language used to communicate the Biennial’s raison d’etre. Re:Emerge towards a New Cultural Cartography: Sharjah Biennial 11 catalogue

Page 41 Exhibition catalogue for the First Arab Art Biennale 1974 held in Baghdad, Iraq by the Arab Artist Union. Published by Wizarat al I`lam, al-Lagna alWataniya Li-Ma`rid as-Sanatain al-`Arabi al-Auwal Ministry of Information, The Higher Committee of the Arab Art Biennale. Image https://digital.library. unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc155614/#who Pages 53, 59 ‘Detainees Room with plants, clock detritus’ and ‘T3 Costa Zone Tubular Roof Travelator ROLEX’ Photos by Guy Mannes-Abbott …there are the high res [images] of the Terminal and the Room, its banality is quite important to see/engage esp. in the context/with the content of the text! …The images are named and clear but not (yet/fully) captioned as such… I very positively like the banality… which is intended of course… Emails Guy Mannes-Abbott, 23/28 March 2018

Page 46 ‘Deportees Room banality mirrorimage?l’ Photo by Guy Mannes-Abbott

Page 48 The tree, which grew with high and large branches well within a couple of years, became a known spot for area people who used to sit under the dense shade and spend their days while waiting for cargoes being either loaded or unloaded at the nearby port. Officials at the Sharjah Heritage Museum, who have set up their stall at the ongoing Heritage Festival in the Old Sharjah area, said that the tree has a significant role in the area’s history. The tree, which had served [the] community for almost 150 years with its large branches and enormous canopy of leaves, had died in August 1978 by unknown diseases and left a memory for those who used to sit under this tree. On Eid days (Muslim celebrations two times in a year) vendors used to sell sweets, foods and toys, as swings were installed and [hung] to the branches. Families came from Dubai, Ajman and other emirates to set under the tree and take rest as this place [had become] a common meeting point for travellers. Jamil Khan, Gulf Today-Sharjah, 19 April, 2010 https://jamilkhan.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/ rolla-tree/

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Page 65 Image https://mykaleidoscopecolours.files. wordpress.com/2015/06/old-dubai.jpg Photographer unknown It was Wilfred Thesiger who had famously decried the transformation of the traditional desert society and the scattered coastal settlements, which had once been known as Trucial Oman, into the wealthy modern nation state called the United Arab Emirates. The discovery of vast oil reserves in the 1940s and 1950s have transformed what had been a backward corner of the Arabian Peninsula into an economic powerhouse whose per capita GDP now equals that of the United States. This dramatic social and economic metamorphosis was for Thesiger a personal catastrophe: “the Arabs are a race,” he pronounces, “which produces its best only under conditions of extreme hardship and deteriorates progressively as living conditions become easier.” When the Emirates became a world of superhighways, gleaming office towers, air-conditioned shopping centres, and luxury tourist facilities, it was to Thesiger “an Arabian Nightmare, the final disillusionment.” It was as if by reaping the full benefits of oil production to develop their country the people of the Emirates had let him down personally. Dennis Lewis, ‘Thesiger and the Authentic Arabian Periphery’; https://www.researchgate. net/publication/324418065_Thesiger_and_the _Authentic_Arabian_Periphery


Page 66 Top: The ubiquitous image of the paint-splashed statue of Captain Cook in St.Kilda, Melbourne as reported in multiple media sources 25 January, 2018, including https://theconversation.com/ how-captain-cook-became-a-contested-nationalsymbol-96344 Bottom: Parker Bright protesting Dana Schutz’s Open Casket. Photo Scott W. H.Young via multiple websites and blogs/Twitter It all started on Facebook. One week ago, the very day the Whitney Biennial opened to the public, artist Parker Bright mounted a protest, via Facebook live video, against Dana Schutz’s painting… He only knew of the painting in the first place… because of images on social media. Writer Hannah Black would follow up with an open letter, posted on Facebook… calling for the painting’s removal and destruction. With that, a searing debate opened on social media over subjects like white violence, white privilege, black suffering, the value of art, who can speak for whom, and who can comment on whose experience. Art world observers lined up on opposing sides of the protest. Some claim an artist’s right to depict any subject they choose, and rail against what they call censorship; others point out that white privilege and the appropriation of black experience is as old as America itself, and inherently pernicious. In posting Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye’s argument against Schutz’s painting that was published in The New Republic, retired art dealer Zach Feuer (who once represented Schutz) said that the debate had been very educational, not least in pointing out what he considers the narrow-mindedness of some of his colleagues in the art field… Harking back to the 1993 Whitney Biennial, tweeter @JGLuzifer offered an updated version of Daniel Joseph Martinez’s iconic series of admission badges from that year that stated “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be white.” It was that very biennial, curated by Elisabeth Sussman in the midst of the “culture wars” that marked the emergence of identity politics on the stage of the Whitney Biennial itself, and in the art conversation at large… But the art world, and even the black community within the art world, does not speak with one voice… Artist Kristian Kahn, similarly, found the political left just as guilty in calls for censorship as Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was when he railed against Chris Ofili’s rendition of the Virgin Mary, a lightning rod at the 1997 Sensation exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Brian Boucher, ‘Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy’; https://news.artnet.com/art-world/ art-world-split-dana-schutz-controversy-902423

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Page 67 Gordon Bennett, Notes to Basquiat (Death of Irony), 2002 Image courtesy the Estate of Gordon Bennett From the collection the Estate of Gordon Bennett Photo by Carl Warner In a sense the Notes to Basquiat series, begun in 1998, was a means of escaping from the identity politics in which he had been typecast and the disillusion of the Howard [government] years. The Notes to Basquiat series did not abandon Bennett’s earlier concerns with colonial discourse but more assertively brought to the fore the globalism that had been inherent in his earlier work… [Prime Minister] Howard’s xenophobic politics gained a global face in the policies of Bush, and the War on Terror became the new colonialism, the clash of civilisations revisited. In Notes to Basquiat (Death of Irony) (2002), Bin Laden channels Captain Cook, directing the planes into the New York skyline. Cook’s pink face and uniform combine as an emblem of the dream of late eighteenth century Enlightenment that produced the nightmares of racism, nationalism and clash of civilisations. The painting’s subtitle, ‘death of irony,’ refers to one of the first utterances to catch the mood of 9/11: that 9/11 marked the death of irony or the death of the postmodern play of differences and the discursive nature of reality that had characterised postcolonial critique, and a return to the hard discourse of Enlightenment. Ian McLean, ‘The eternal return of irony: Gordon Bennett (1955-2014)’, 2015; http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/ viewcontent.cgi?article=3343&context=lhapapers

Page 68 Ali Cherri, The Disquiet (video still), 2013 Image courtesy the artist and Imane Farès Gallery, Paris From the exhibition The Time is Out of Joint, curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh. Commissioned and presented at the Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE and Asia Culture Centre–Theater, Korea, 2016. Earth-shattering events are relatively par for the course in Lebanon, with war, political upheaval and a number of social revolts. While the Lebanese focus on surface level events that could rock the nation, few realise that below the ground we walk on, an actual shattering of the earth is mounting. Lebanon stands on several major fault lines, which are cracks in the earth’s crust. The film investigates the geological situation in Lebanon, trying to look for the traces of the imminent disaster. Ali Cherri; https://www.alicherri.com/the-disquiet. Cherri explores the violent history of earthquakes and tsunamis in Lebanon, which is situated on the site of several major geologic flaws, analysing the seismic conditions of a country that has also been subject to numerous man-made conflicts; https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/ ali-cherri

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Page 69 Imran Qureshi, Blessings Upon the Land of my Love, 2011, Beit Al Serkal, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation for the 2011 Sharjah Biennial Image courtesy the artist Red organic forms highlighted with strokes of white paint gently swarm across the courtyard of Beit Al Serkal. Imran Qureshi applies his training in miniature painting to this large-scale installation, made in response to the architecture. The painting process begins with a gestural, perhaps violent application of paint, the traces of which are quietly visible in their more contained and edited final form. The energetic floral forms emerge from pools and splashes of blood-like layers of paint. Occupying a space somewhere between life and death their quiet presence evidences their own transmutation from one state to another; http:// sharjahart.org/images/uploads/downloads/SB10guidebook-final.pdf

Pages 70-71 Rayyane Tabet, Dear Mr. Utzon, 2018 Images courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut Rayyane Tabet’s sculptural practice often uses objects as a starting point for the exploration of memory and individual narratives. Attempting to counter official histories, Tabet’s works give agency to subjective understandings of major socio-historical events. In Dear Mr. Utzon, Tabet focuses on the connection between two disparate locations, Beirut and Sydney, through a performance that looks at renowned architect Jørn Utzon’s design for the Opera House alongside his unrealised plan to build a subterranean theatre at Jeita Grotto, the limestone caves in Lebanon. Inspired by an archival image of Utzon at home with his family, Tabet transforms the Utzon Room at the Opera House into a domestic interior. Tabet is particularly interested in disclosing a more informal portrait of the architect, focusing both on minor and major stories connected to both projects. Starting from the welcoming space of a domestic setting, Tabet’s narrative gradually recovers lesser-known, obscured stories, either tenuously or directly associated with the Opera House or Jeita Grotto; Biennale of Sydney: Superposition: Equilibrium & Engagement guide; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1w6adiWOhFvh5TM-AMqDOLZ34VqeVoQK/view


Page 72 Ai Weiwei, Law of the Journey, 2017 Image courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin I’m very fortunate—I’m like a high-end refugee. I can speak to the media and I get to do so many shows but I have a nation I cannot go back to. It’s very hard to think conceptually “I am settled here” because everything is so uncertain. Uncertainty gives me a clear understanding about the refugee condition… I think if they [critics] feel something is bad taste, they first need to [look at] their sense of what taste is. They can either go to see a doctor or a dentist. As artists, we are not decorating their aesthetic views, we are always working in a dangerous area and questioning existing judgements, [whether] moral, philosophical or aesthetic.You can’t always have so-called good-taste art. I don’t understand why that sort of comfort is important. Art has to be relevant. Relevant means making the people whose life and moral judgements are so fake at least feel uncomfortable about it. If I cannot make them feel uncomfortable, I am a total failure and I will feel sad about why I am still doing this…There is almost no real criticism now. They just tell you they either feel bad or sad but there is no criticism. Why do you feel bad? Why can artists not pose in a certain position, whether as Jesus or Alan Kurdi or whoever? What is so wrong about it? It’s a form. Are there certain forms that are forbidden or that you just can’t talk about? I don’t understand it. Ai Weiwei interview with Aimee Dawson, Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018; https://www.theartnewspaper. com/interview/ai-weiwei-i-m-like-a-high-endrefugee

Page 74 Installation views Little Boy:The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture, 2005, curated by Takashi Murakami. Little Boy is the final installment of his Superflat trilogy, a series of exhibitions that have introduced a new wave of Japanese art and explored the interrelationships between vanguard art, manga and anime, and their forerunner, Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. The project’s title… refers to the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Murakami’s interpretation of Japan’s popular culture and graphic arts of the past three decades is rooted in his country’s memories of the war and in the evolution of Japan’s understanding of its postwar condition. In Murakami’s view, the specific historical events and processes that inform otaku culture include military aggression and defeat in the Pacific War (1932-1945); the devastation of the atomic bomb; Japan’s military and political dependence on the United States; and, the replacement of a traditional, hierarchical Japanese culture with a disposable consumer culture ostensibly produced for children and adolescents. The title also refers to the infantalisation of the Japanese culture and mindset, evident in the fixation on cartoon imagery, “cute” products and young markets–a result, Murakami argues, of Japan’s economic and political dependence on the West. These unresolved conflicts, Little Boy suggests, are the explosive context of Japan’s pop culture… To most Japanese, the term… conjures memories of catastrophic defeat; https://www.japansociety. org/little_boy_the_arts_of_japans_exploding_ subculture

Page 75 Youichi Umetsu, Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment-A, 2014 Image courtesy the artist When touching the subject of Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment, we cannot avoid discussing the existence of Takashi Murakami’s 2010 An Homage To Seiki Kuroda’s Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment…This new idealisation of the female form, different from Kuroda’s, forms a critique of the contemporary, a devolution of the male gaze. Murakami’s global success in contemporary art made such a remake almost inevitable, as a comment on not only the adoption of Western teachings, but also in how Kuroda asserted Eastern expression; https://urano.tokyo/documents/exhibitions/46/ press_en.pdf

Page 73 Khvay Samnang, from the Human Nature series, 2010-11 Khvay Samnang is a member of Sa Sa Art Projects, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Image courtesy the artist

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Pages 76-77 Kopaweda Pilla Gudi (a collaborative project by Navjot, Shantibai, Rajkumar and other members of the village community) based on nine-year old Somnath’s drawing. He is from the Kopaweda neighbourhood where the Dialogue Centre is situated. Image courtesy the artist

Page 77 Top: Navjot Altaf, Palani’s Daughters,1996 Bottom: Navjot Altaf, I have no fate lines, thank God, 1996 From the series Images Redrawn, 1996 Images courtesy the artist These chthonic blue and red figures, displaying conspicuous vaginas, full breasts, flared nostrils and deep-set eyes… drew attention to their hands, which were bereft of fate lines (“I have no fate lines, thank god”), and tried to read an undecipherable script on a mortar long used to grind Indian spices or masalas (“Yes I want to read”). It was a magical experience in visual and morphological translation to see form and meaning slip between goddess and everywoman, between monumentality and feminist rhetoric. The work that best demonstrates this slippage is Palani’s Daughters, in which an earth- and bloodsoiled body writhes in pain among vaginal pods. Made in response to the accelerating statistics of female infanticide… Palani’s Daughters speaks to Irigaray’s discontent with a society that reduces women to machines of reproduction and further discriminates on the basis of a child’s gender. Nancy Adajania, ‘Book Extract: From the Thirteenth Place: Positionality as Critique in the Art of Navjot Altaf’; http://indianculturalforum.in/2016/03/10/ book-extract-from-the-thirteenth-placepositionality-as-critique-in-the-art-of-navjot-altaf/

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Page 78 Nathan Pohio, Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course to the centre of an ever setting sun, 2015 Exhibition view Weinberg-Terrassen, Kassel, 2017 Image courtesy the artist and documenta 14 Photoby Liz Eve At the Tuahiwi village in 1905 there were two photographs taken of the escorting party to Mahaanui Marae. The more formal of the photographs became Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course for the centre of an ever setting sun! (2015). This existing work was the basis of my invitation to participate in documenta 14 in Kassel. My proposal to Hendrik Folkerts and Adam Szymczyk was to produce the second image, that felt more like documentary material, as a work for Athens. Because exhibition periods overlapped, the two images existed simultaneously in two separate spaces for a duration of 40 of documenta 14’s two 100 day-exhibitions. This resonated as a kind of conceptual framing that has been present in my work since 1999. I felt this sat well within documenta’s proposed methodology of displacement, learning and unlearning, and as a platform for indigenous voices to comment on colonial experience on and to the international art scene. I think colonialism as an idea has relevance beyond history, it remains all too relevant in more everyday terms. Nathan Pohio, from Louise Garrett, ‘Ka Mua, Ka Muri’; https:// www.contemporaryhum.com/nathan-pohio-atdocumenta14

Page 79 Skawennati, video still from Time TravellerTM episode 9, 2008-13 Image courtesy the artist

Page 80 Heba Y. Amin, Operation Sunken Sea, 2018 Image courtesy the artist and Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul/Berlin

Page 82 Heba Y. Amin, Operation Sunken Sea: Relocating the Mediterranean, Performance Speech, Dal-Bahar Madwarha/The Island is What the Sea Surrounds, 25 May,Valletta, European Capital of Culture Image courtesy the artist and Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul/Berlin Page 79 Johnson Witehara, Half-Blood (video still), 2016 Image courtesy the artist and Objectspace, Auckland Witehira’s work speaks of his background, his urban Maori reality and the visual lexicon of 2D graphic art and design…Comics, video games and animation, the ubiquitous art forms of popular culture, were omnipresent in the 1980s and 1990s and were central influences for Witehira and his generational contemporaries…Witehira’s reinterpretation and use of Maori art historical references in his artwork supports Dr Rangihiroa Panoho’s proposition in his recent book Maori Art, History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, that Maori art is a palimpsest. In all aspects of this work Witehira highlights that his work which uses the contemporary mediums of 2D graphic design and digital imagery, belongs to the “evolution and sequence” of Maori art and is an art, as Panoho outlines, that is altered in response to new conditions, but still bears visible traces of its earlier forms. Megan Tamati-Quennell, ‘Half-blood Johnson Witehira’; http://archive. objectspace.org.nz/Downloads/Assets/5560/ Johnson+Witehira+Half_Blood.pdf

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Page 85 Heba Y. Amin, The Master’s Tools I, 2018 Image courtesy the artist and Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul/Berlin Amin inserts herself into a reenacted photograph of Sörgel, surrounded by maps and plans; https:// news.artnet.com/exhibitions/five-artists-you-mustnot-miss-at-the-10th-berlin-biennale-1300448


position as a 3-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, who had drowned. “There’s something pathetic about Ai Weiwei going to lie down on the beach to aestheticise other people’s misery,” said the British artist Jake Chapman (who, together with his brother, donated a lifeboat to an artist-led search-and-rescue team in Lesbos) in a January 2017 Artnet interview… Mr. Ai dismissed the condemnation as a whole. “If any act challenges the mainstream’s morals or behavior, it will generate this kind of hypocritical and baseless criticism,” he said, adding that one way of gauging the effectiveness of his work was “to see how it offends the fake public opinion… every state must bear responsibility, rather than being exclusive, shortsighted and cowardly,” he added. “We cannot reject the idea that humanity is one.” Farah Nayeri; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/arts/aiweiwei-refugee-project-qatar-china.html

Page 86 Heba Y. Amin, Visions of the Sea I, 2018 Image courtesy the artist and Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul/Berlin

Page 88 Heba Y. Amin, Operation Sunken Sea installation view Dal-Bahar Madwarha (The Island is What the Sea Surrounds), 2018 Image courtesy the artist and Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul/Berlin What would happen if these projects were proposed by an African Arab woman who used the exact same logic and the same constructs–how would that read? I wanted to embody these men. I’m plagiarising their ideas, drawings, and plans, and I’m restaging their portraits, putting myself in their place. In turn, I am claiming their stories and erasing them from history… The installation itself has a bureaucratic, old-world feel, with dictatorial motifs and props mixed in. The flags that flank my desk are emblazoned with the project’s insignia, which is derived from a map of the Mediterranean Sea by Persian geographer Al-Istakhri in a tenthcentury Islamic manuscript. Many of these old manuscripts illustrated the sea as a positive space and everything around it as negative… It also speaks so well to why so many artists in the Middle East have research-based practices… For those of us who have been colonised, I believe this is how we break the stronghold–by rewriting history. Heba Y. Amin; https://www.artforum.com/ interviews/heba-y-amin-discusses-her-work-in-the10th-berlin-biennale-for-contemporary-art-75675

Page 90 Tiffany Chung, Reconstructing an exodus history: boat trajectories, ports of first asylum and resettlement countries (detail), 2017 Image courtesy the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York

Page 94 Yukinori Yanagi, (top) Landscape with an Eye, 2018; (bottom) Absolute Dud, 2016 Images courtesy the artist

Page 100 Ai Weiwei, Crystal Ball, 2017 Image courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Page 99 Ai Weiwei, Law of the Journey (detail), 2017 Image courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin Law of the Journey (2017), an inflatable boat containing 258 faceless life-size figures, has even been included by the historian Simon Schama in the new BBC series Civilisations, an overview of visual culture since the beginning of time. Mr. Schama says in the series, “There are some contemporary artists for whom art for art’s sake is not only not enough, it actually amounts to a kind of betrayal of their vocation… For Ai Weiwei, the calamity of our time right now is the disaster of the multitudes of displaced, those who are uprooted through no fault of their own, cast adrift on an infinite ocean of terror and despair.” Some of Mr. Ai’s earlier interventions were less appreciated, such as when the artist had himself photographed facedown on a beach in the same

Page 102 Ryusei Kishida, Portrait of Koya Yoshio, 1916 Image courtesy National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo [A]pproaching Kishida’s art stylistically can be confusing. Born in 1891, he was a leading light of the generation of painters deeply influenced by the impressionist and post-impressionist trends from Europe.Yet while Kishida’s early self-portraits… show the techniques of European post-impressionism, the direction his career subsequently took presents a puzzle. Almost as if he felt unsatisfied with–or guilty about–importing the unearned fruits of centuries of Western art, his work became an exploration of the history of European art. “I am beginning to feel more and more strongly that I am not what is called a Contemporary Man,” he wrote; http://archive. metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/793/art.asp

143 — july / 2018


Page 130 Johnson Witehara, Half-Blood (video still), 2016 Image courtesy the artist and Objectspace, Auckland

Page 107 Top: Kuroda Seiki, Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment, 1897 Image courtesy the Tokyo National Museum Bottom: Youichi Umetsu, installation view from Parplume University and Yoichi Umetsu, Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2017 Image courtesy the artist

Page 111 Ryusei Kishida, Namazu-bozu, 1922 Image courtesy Toyota Municipal Museum of Art

Page 120 Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (detail), 2015-17 Image courtesy the artist and New Zealand at Venice

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Page 125 Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (detail), 2015-17 Image courtesy the artist and New Zealand at Venice

Pages 126-127 Jean-Gabriel Charvet, The Voyages of Captain Cook (Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique)1804-05 In revolutionary year XIII (September 1804 – September 1805) the French entrepreneur Joseph Dufour produced a concept in wallpaper design… featuring the people, events and places encountered during the exploration of the Pacific… In this were expressed some of the ideals of the Enlightenment such as human equality, overcoming ignorance through popular education, and scientific progress. These sentiments reflected the belief that progress could be achieved through knowledge of the natural world, which could be manipulated by technology to enhance the human sciences and ultimately produce tolerant and secular societies; https://nga.gov.au/conservation/ Paper/LesSauv.cfm Images courtesy the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Page 128 Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (detail), 2015-17 Image courtesy the artist and New Zealand at Venice

144 — july / 2018

Page 133 Top: Skawennati, Time TravellerTM (composite video still), episode 6, 2008-13 Images courtesy the artist The History Heads Up Display is what makes TimeTraveller™ different from other virtual reality adventures… you can use it to log in, find a date… Want to watch Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World?… just punch in a few simple keywords, like “Columbus + New World” and you’ll be on the island of San Salvador on October 12, 1492; http://www.timetravellertm.com/faq.html Bottom: Johnson Witehara, Half-Blood (video still), 2016 Image courtesy the artist and Objectspace, Auckland

Page 137 Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (detail), 2015-17 Image courtesy the artist and New Zealand at Venice


Di'van | A Journal of Accounts | Issue 4  

Critical interpretations on contemporary visual art and culture and its broader art historical, theoretical and socio-political contexts, fr...

Di'van | A Journal of Accounts | Issue 4  

Critical interpretations on contemporary visual art and culture and its broader art historical, theoretical and socio-political contexts, fr...