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

Embracing the same sort of tension are works by Turkey's Gülsün Karamustafa and India's Sheela Gowda. In her installation Mystic Transport (1992; p. 205), Karamustafa gives poetic form to the issue of deterritorialization that is so much a part of our imagination when thinking about urbanization and late capitalist development in many of the locations selected for this project. Mystic Transport presents twenty colorful oriental blankets stored in twenty wheeled buckets. On one level we identify with the blanket as the smallest common denominator of nomadic populations. Karamustafa's strength in this particular work is in keeping the emotional association of the blanket with a body at a distance. The installation suggests that the audience/protagonist can manipulate and reconfigure the location of each bucket/blanket/body as he or she sees fit. This estrangement effect--wherein the audience is the center, the decision maker--raises questions about the responsibility of the viewer and the nature of his or her engagement. The seductive quality of the work does not sacrifice the content, and in fact it reinforces a concern for avoiding being overly anthropological.

Sheela Gowda adopts a comparable, though not identical, pattern in her work And Tell Him of My Pain (1998/2001; p. 193). To create this labor-intensive piece, she passes an unbroken 700-foot-long thread through a sewing needle and doubles it in the middle. She then repeats this action with another eighty-nine needles, coats the threads with Kum Kum,[26] and glues them together to make a 350-foot-long thin rope. Like a drawing in three-dimensional space, the long cord is installed in the architecture of the white cube, looping up and down the walls, across the floor, marking the physical environment. In many ways, this piece, and the work of Ranjani Shettar (pp. 233-235), can be read according to the sculptural language described in When Attitudes Become Form and by Krauss in her essay "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" as belonging to a modernist aesthetic of abstraction and dematerialization of space. But such a reading of the work would trap it in a mold cast by Euro-American language and its hegemonic, nominative strategies. Gowda works with traditional materials and traditional skills identified with female labor. In doing so, she produces a work that not only comments on a specific Indian cultural situation but also implies a critical stance toward art history, aesthetics, and the perception and production of artworks.

The complexity of practices, in whatever media, associated with the notion of thirdness stems from the fact that these artists locate themselves on the periphery of dominant aesthetic models and distribution networks, but do not embrace a Manichean opposition to the question of form. They do not seek to reinvent language from scratch but instead choose to twist it, distort it, translate it. These practices lie in the narrow gap that Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn identified when highlighting the distinction between making political art and making art politically. Robin Rhode's work, merging hip-hop culture, fashion, sports, and other aspects of the every-day (pp. 225-227), seems to echo such a notion of thirdness and pulls it toward a resistance that is not necessarily oppositional. Rhode tries to identify a practice that allows him to take pleasure in the reductivness of youth culture and popular culture while remaining critical of them.

The notion of thirdness, of in-betweenness, is central to the practices we are considering here as well as to larger theoretical constructs developed to analyze recent cultural shifts. For Homi K. Bhabha, thirdness is a key element in enunciating and conceptualizing a new international culture based on hybridity: "It is the inter--the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space--that carries the burden of the meaning of culture."[27] He locates culture in what he calls a "third space," a space that collapses new cultural practices and historical narratives.

This idea is presented almost literally in the work of Turkish architect Can Altay, notably in his investigation of what he has termed the "minibar." Through photo-documentation he focuses on those no-man's lands in urban areas where teenagers gather to socialize (pp. 162-163). By reinventing underground communities--often controversial aspects of a neighborhood--these minibars carry new cultural information and problematize the construct of urban spaces. The Japanese architectural firm Atelier Bow-Wow displays a similar interest by establishing an inventory of what they call "pet architecture"--a type of architecture that relates to small units built between larger buildings, existing almost like parasites. The Atelier strives to develop a new architectural language based on every possible solution for utilizing such "leftover" spaces (pp. 169-171). Both the minibar and pet architecture stand as metaphors for locating an alternative space that can generate new knowledge,

26 Kum Kum is a red pigment used in rituals and as decoration. It is also used as a mark of marriage on women's foreheads.

27 Bhabha, The Location of Culture, p. 38.