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


It is not clear whether anything "new," as understood by the historical avant-gardes, is emerging from the arts in a globalized world situation. Nevertheless, the shifts of focus described above do lead to a reevaluation of what Carol Becker has called the "subversive potential of art"[36] and, by extension, the subversive potential of institutions dedicated to the arts. This subversion is not necessarily one that derives from the perception of a specific injustice. It is a subversion that suggests that there are no permanent models, no acquired tastes or situations, that everything is subject to change and nothing is a given. This subversion is a state of permanent alert that proposes the arts as a site for infinite experimentation, the location of a quiet resistance against barbarism and against all attempts to codify and systematize the world. The effect of globalization on artistic practices might be to place at the center of the arts and their institutions the very question of their own object(ive)s. What determines a work of art? What legitimates the work? Whom is the work for? How should we address it? How can we write a different history of art that entails a multiplicity of disciplines and theories in determining the structure and the genealogy of art practices? In this light, globalization is the permanent urge toward other latitudes and might be, in fact, an unachievable project--a project that would have encouraged Kasimir Malevich to dance with Hélio Oiticica, and above all, to immensely enjoy it. In terms of the history of art practices and exhibitions, such a step would have been equivalent to a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and inducing hurricanes around the world.

36 See Carol Becker, "Herbert Marcuse and the Subversive Potential of Art," in The Subversive Imagination: Artist, Society, and Responsibility (New York and London: Routledge, 1994).