Walker Art Center
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The Local Tango and the Global Dance


does not ultimately need one periphery, and the periphery never really wants to do away with the dualistic system that it inherits and sustains. Who knows if one is not in fact the center of the periphery? So, in a way, I try to operate outside the local/global, center/periphery system; they are orbital constellations interdependent on each other. There are, of course, tactical handicaps in working simultaneously within both realms--it is one thing to approach these systems as merely operational, but shall we go on?

Warmest, Vasif

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Dear Vasif,

Yes, I think we should go on. First, because it seems to me that there is still something to gain from upholding the operation of the periphery/center dichotomy, namely, preventing a regression into new twisted forms of nationalism and covert nationalist cultural policies. Just recently, an elderly Mexican art critic, Raquel Tibol, proclaimed that Mexico is not a periphery, that "we are both our center and our periphery." This in my view entails an attempt to reconstitute the cozy feeling of a local artistic wholeness, where local artists can be as indulgent as they want with their sense of belonging, local institutions can still pretend to create a local canon and then try to export it without any questioning, and finally local critics (like me) can benefit from an easily achieved local authority. As a friend of mine told me many years ago, in places such as mine there is always the risk of becoming the little king of a little kingdom. Despite the constant violence involved in the arbitrariness of global selection and the constitution of the transnational artistic canon, I feel that the very randomness of this machinery is more exciting and more intellectually effective than the reconstitution of the idea of "international art" as something akin to a United Nations assembly of small national schools.

I would even go so far as to propose that it is only through the current interlocking and, yes, as you put it, the complicity of the periphery and the center that we in the periphery can pretend to search for a sense of radicalism in cultural practice. Very cynically, if you want, I would say that it is due to the center's longing for some kind of political specificity in the art coming from "out there" that we see artists emerging around us who do not conform to the expectations of the market or to local institutional tastes in terms of "quality," "formal discipline," and "seriousness." In fact, political and intellectual radicalism in the periphery emerges and has a chance of becoming artistically relevant because of what I would describe as "foreign intervention"--the displaced utopian and critical desires that the critics and curators in the centers cannot necessarily find in their immediate surroundings.

To a certain extent, this may apply to your own situation. How do you explain the apparent contradiction of Proje4L departing from yet depending on the specific dynamics and resources available in Turkey? In other words, can our local practices survive their inherent unpopularity without the certain stamp of authority that comes from our thin participation in the global sphere? To be more specific, what exactly do you show in your museum? Is it a professional and well-funded venture like Kiasma? Is it concerned with representing accurately what is going on around you in your place?

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Dear Cuauhtémoc,

It is precisely the luxury of the periphery that needs a historical dismantling. Otherwise, the contemporary cannot be wholly emancipated. I think it was Luis Camnitzer who articulated in the Hybrid State catalogue the "local kingdom" with its middle- and bureaucratic class base.[3] The class base of the peripheral power can therefore be linked to the project of modernity (other modernisms, if you will) as the privileged subject and agent.

3 See Luis Camnitzer, "After the Fall of Bureau Communism," in Hybrid State, exh. cat. (New York: Exit Art, 1992).