Walker Art Center
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Globalization from the Rear: "Would You Care to Dance, Mr. Malevich?"


This era has been identified with the emergence of the globalized world, the world of globalization. What is globalization? Ali A. Mazrui provides a concise definition: "It is the processes that lead toward global interdependence and increasing rapidity of exchange across vast distances."[5] This phenomenon, facilitated by political shifts, relies on international economic mergers--the intermeshing of money markets, stock exchanges, and banking systems--as well as on the development of new information networks across the globe, each of these different sectors being inextricably linked. In the economic world, this new form of internationalism--understood as the product of the association between late and predatory capitalism and the nation-state--is contributing to the development of deterritorialization, to the acceleration of environmental degradation, and to an increasing social gap within and across societies. Indeed, globalization could be seen as just another form of totalitarianism hiding new structures of economic or cultural power.

The question that arises is one of the indigenization or homogenization of other cultures and traditions, and more specifically, of an Americanization of the world under the guise of globalization and multiculturalism. These concerns were violently addressed by the recent protests in Seattle, Prague, and Genoa against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the G8. It is fully legitimate to raise such issues, but it is equally important to understand--in a non-Manichean way--their full complexity, as Arjun Appadurai does when he expounds on Americanization: "But it is worth noticing that for the people of Irian Jaya, Indonesianization may be more worrisome than Americanization, as Japanization may be for Koreans, Indianization for Sri Lankans, Vietnamization for the Cambodians, and Russianization for the people of Soviet Armenia and the Baltic republics."[6] This multicentrality critically alters the notion of Euro-American centricity by not stopping there. Such a binary division (the West versus the Others) must be exploded.

What we are witnessing in the era of globalization seems to be a new stage in world development, not unlike the Enlightenment, that is affecting the political, social, economic, historical, and cultural situations of people all over the globe. We are facing a chaotic world in which every cultural space, every edge, every form of theoretical knowledge is about to be epistemologically rearticulated in order to identify the genealogy of the global subject. This genealogy should be explored so that the others do not remain other.

In the field of art and culture, we have been observing an expansion in the scholarship and methodologies used to investigate the cultural formation of the global subject. In the last twenty years, many exhibitions (for example, Les Magiciens de la Terre, the Johannesburg Biennial, the Istanbul Biennial, the Shanghai Biennale, The Short Century, the Gwangju Biennale, Documenta, to name a few) have opened the door to what economist Roger Burbach has called a "polycentrism," which challenges the established canon of Euro-American art.[7] By questioning the cultural dominance of Western art and civilization, these projects compel the curators and the audience to look beyond what we understand as the "modern world" and offer the possibility of an alternative that corrects a unilateral history of art. These initiatives, along with an incredible range of scholarly research (from Edward Said and Fredric Jameson to Homi K. Bhabha, Stuart Hall, Arjun Appadurai, Masao Miyoshi, Saskia Sassen, and Etienne Balibar to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Geeta Kapur, Sarat Maharaj, and Jean-Franšois Chevrier), are forcing institutions to recognize that it is no longer possible to picture the world as it was envisioned by European and American foreign policies and strategies before the historical ruptures of 1989. In recent decades, the efforts of international biennials, freelance curators, universities, and think-tanks have clearly revealed that the old ways of planning and thinking about exhibitions; of programming films, performances, and concerts; and of writing art history no longer make sense.

5 Ali A. Mazrui, "Western Culture in a Globalizing Age," in Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading, eds. Salah Hassan and Iftikhar Dadi (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2001), p. 97.

6 Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), p. 32.

7 See Roger Burbach, Orlando N˙˝ez, and Boris Kagarlitsky, Globalization and Its Discontents: The Rise of the Postmodern Socialisms (London and Chicago: Pluto Press, 1997).