Walker Art Center
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Musings on Globalism and Institutional Change


The choice of the term multidisciplinary, as opposed to interdisciplinary, is in itself revealing. We found compelling reasons for leaving the door open for interdisciplinary actions, or the blending of disciplines, while maintaining the possibility of doing the very best disciplinary work. That's why we chose the concept of "multi" over the concept of "inter," which seemed to suggest a trap in which all work would have to cross these borders, and we didn't believe that was true or necessary.

I'm beginning to see how these ideas of convergence and in-between spaces as alternatives to traditional canonical definitions and distinctions might have stemmed from what I still like to think of as the very fertile soil of globalism, recognizing that some of those fields are also very polluted.

VND: I was just going to go there. When we talk about international versus global, it is not unlike talking about multiple disciplines versus interdisciplines. The problem with globalism is that sometimes people look at it as if it were only interdisciplinary, whereby all elements must intersect. We need to make a distinction between early internationalism and current globalization. You could be internationalist, but from an import/export model--lots of things coming together from different parts of the world, like pavilions at a world's fair. Globalization, to some extent, doesn't allow that model because it forces you to ask, "But where are the connecting points?" On the other hand, if you look only at the interconnectivity, without seeing the cultural specificity that underlies each of those connecting points, then something is lost as well. So how can we arrive at a definition of the globalizing phenomenon that will allow for both the reach of latitudinal, across-the-world connection and the depth that comes from the specificity of a time and a place? The in-betweenness is what interests me. It's not about an either/or paradigm, but one that includes both.

KH: Let's be simplistic, for a moment. How would you define internationalism, and then how would you define globalism?

VND: For me--in elementary terms--internationalism implies that you look at the world and you bring it over. If you go back to the end of World War I and to the establishment of the League of Nations, that period was all about international cooperation and representation. The phenomenon of globalism, however, particularly in the latter two decades of the twentieth century and now into the twenty-first century, is about the messiness of how all these worlds connect, or stay apart.

KH: Let's look for a moment at the simple equation of globalism=interconnectivity, and the question of when globalism actually began.

VND: So much of it has to do with when the literature began to pick up on this word and who started writing about it first. The concept tended to be linked to geopolitical and economic factors, the speed in communication being discussed as one of the key factors in the development of globalism. With that speed, of course, comes compression of space and time, and all the implications of that.

KH: All tied to technology. Perhaps, then, it's not an accident that the rise of the PC coincided with the rise of the term globalism.

VND: It's about information and access to information. It's worth noting that multinationals understood this much earlier, and began to use the word globalization as an indicator of successful business practices. A corporation may look for cheap labor in one place, but do their packaging somewhere else if it's more cost efficient. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce cost and maximize profit. It's also a question of the markets: where the markets and new economies emerge, corporations follow. The role of Asia in this rise of globalization is an interesting phenomenon to consider.

KH: In many ways, Asia led the way both as a market and as a producer for the multinational companies. Maybe, then, it's not surprising that we in the West are most familiar with the contemporary art practices in Japan, as opposed to, say, Africa or Latin America or even other regions of Asia.

VND: Japan was much closer to industrialized Western notions and nations, so there's greater familiarity and proximity. Our recent interest in Chinese art, for all kinds of complicated reasons, is wrapped up in the aura