Multiple, peripheral or alternative? Modernism as a global process
The critical moves to displace Euro-America as a centre from where artistic modernism is said to have spread to the ‘peripheries’ in Asia, Latin America or Africa, have brought forth a flurry of epithets with the intent of telling a non-teleological story: we read about multiple, alternative, local, vernacular, de-centred or alter- modernisms, and most recently even an absent modernism. My talk uses a global (conceptualized as transcultural) lens to look at modernist art in an Asian setting and argues against both a diffusionist view as well as one which proposes “multiple” modernisms. Rather it examines connected and constitutive processes of translation, resignification and localization of the migrant languages as well as the myths of modernism, primitivism for example. What are the implications of these processes for recasting the geographies and chronologies of an art history committed to a notion of style as geographically and culturally self-contained? Does the investigation of art history from a perspective outside of the West challenge us to rethink some of the discipline’s premises in a way as to grow beyond both claims of universality as well as radical cultural relativism? How does a connected art history rebound on prevailing institutional taxonomies and practices that relegate objects to separate spheres and exhibition spaces, classifying them as ‘ethnological’, ‘aesthetic’, ‘artisanal’ or ‘cultic’?
June 15, 2016