Walker Art Center
The Local Tango and the Global Dance

that at the moment appears imaginary. It's funny, but the assignment to write about curating that initiated this conversation had to do in part with acknowledging that in some people's minds I was imposing a foreign view on local art. In any case, let me address two issues.

First, to what extent does the notion of an "inside" depend on how feasible it is to conceive something like a local art history? I am convinced that the way in which contemporary art in Mexico in the 1990s broke with all local artistic tradition was so drastic that no one can even recall anymore those pre-1990 local contexts. The only artistic references that seem to have meaning for artists operating at the moment are precisely those moments that were left out of the narrative: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Marcos Kurtycz, Ulises Carrión, or even a police tabloid photojournalist such as Enrique Metinides. Artists here, my dear Vasif, are titling their works in English, if not actually writing them in English. We are so integrated by now into the American economy and psyche that the question of "identity" seems to be fruitful only if looked at from the outside: Ruben Ortiz-Torres, who is based in Los Angeles, has more to say about what it means to inhabit the Mexican stereotype by addressing the underlying revolutionary content of Speedy Gonzalez than anybody who is working from within a spiritual or geographical "inside." Would you say that things are radically different in Turkey? Can contemporary artists have a relative dialogue with a historical cultural structure?

The second issue has to do with the question of the interaction between local and global politics. I am immensely impressed with the way Hardt and Negri, in their book Empire, argued that there had been a shift from the old-fashioned idea of a horizontal internationalist class struggle toward a continuous eruption of very local and brief political events based on regional concerns, which immediately touch on central issues of global power without becoming global in themselves.[8] They spoke metaphorically of a transition from Marx's "Old Mole" to movements that behave more like snakes leaping from regional concerns to challenge the universal order. The Zapatistas, of course, articulated this model. But just a few weeks ago there was another rebellion in San Salvador Atenco, a town a few miles east of Mexico City, by people, branding machetes and taking policemen as hostages, who oppose the expropriation of their communal lands to build a new airport. They were questioning the assumption that extending the global network of business and communications was more important than their existence as a community. And I would say that there is not any more pressing global issue than this.

Once you realize that the more you think locally the more you end up acting globally, developing a view from and to the inside becomes hard to achieve. I guess that one of the things we find interesting in artists working from this location (Francis Alÿs, Santiago Sierra, Teresa Margolles, Minerva Cuevas, to name a few) is that at the same time they refuse to illustrate "globalism" they also show that by operating locally they can have global currency.

Are the conditions of artistic production in Turkey entirely different? How would you distinguish between looking at artworks and artists "from inside" versus merely curtailing their possibility for expansiveness? Perhaps what I am saying is that I find it difficult to address what your friend, the artist, said when she argued that she was interested in working for herself. Call me an ideologist, but such a position has less and less meaning for me.

Apologetically yours, Cuauhtémoc


Dear Cuauhtémoc,

Good to hear from you. I guess it is time to close the discussion before it becomes something, or nothing, else.

I am not speaking of conscious processes or illustrations but of the insider's view that shifts the index from the inside, without having anything to do with local artistic traditions. For me, the least meaningful works today

8 See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000).