Drawing upon visual materials documenting the recent upsurge in government, cartel and paramilitary sponsored violence in Mexico, this article highlights the ways in which State fetishism in Mexico and the inviolability of the State rely on a specific use of the sacred generated in public displays of excess that advertise how one's adversaries await ‘a fate far worse than death’. The article specifically refers to visual images of criminals, weaponry and violent acts to show how the expanse of the State in Mexico is such that even violence perpetrated against the federal government by groups commonly assumed its enemy, such as drug cartels, is not only enacted via a similar logic to that of its avowed enemy, but serves as a necessary supplement to its existence.
According to Imre Szeman, globalisation suspends the categories of postmodern representation and compels us to see culture increasingly in terms of commodity production and exchange. Rather than attempt to map out the distinctly cultural dimensions of globalisation, this article examines the uses of the global in contemporary theorisations of art and art history. Examples are provided in which the focus on transnationality, multiculturalism, cultural hybridity and global feminisms often operates according to post-political assumptions concerning the end of ideological class struggle. In most of these cases, universality is understood abstractly in terms of power and hegemony rather than concretely in terms of capitalist hegemony. The article argues that cultural particularisms have a paradoxical relation to the universal processes of neoliberal globalisation, establishing hierarchies that are legitimised through capitalist ideology.
This article considers how contemporary conditions of production have resulted in a reconfiguration of the artwork at the outset of the twenty-first century. It offers a detailed analysis of the entrepreneurial output of Anton Vidokle, artist and co-founder of e-flux, focusing on the video A Crime Against Art (2007) which documents Vidokle's mock trial at the hands of invited ‘artworld agents’. This complex work encapsulates dominant tendencies in recent art, namely the turns towards the social, knowledge production, performative documentary and education. Situating it in relation to Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello's consideration of the evolving structures of capitalism, the article argues that this is an exemplary instance that illustrates how the artwork itself has been radically reformulated. As part-and-parcel of this transformation it frames the recent rise to prominence of the curator and, by extension, the curatorial function so often appropriated by artists, as a symptom of economic conditions.
Amikam Toren won the Rome Scholarship in 2009; these pages are inspired by that experience and how it initiated later work. Porno Romo looks at Rome as a living palimpsest, reconstructing the colosseum and using its original stones (which were removed in order to build the modern city), it provides the framework through which the artist reflects on his experiences during his stay in the city. ‘It was only through sheer frustration that I picked up the bucket and threw the contents on to the studio floor, I looked at the scattered olive stones. From every angle, they looked like a negative photographic image of a galaxy (the cat is my witness). I took the broom which was there, in the corner and swept the galaxy into the bucket. Without further ado I threw the stones again, a different configuration of a similar image was now resting on the floor, by the time I was sweeping again, I became aware of the forms created by the broom, sweeping was drawing was sweeping and so on… I decided to act the whole activity in front of the video camera. These were the first moves that led towards the making of The Olive Way (after the Milky Way) after that I spent many hours in different spaces (both public and private) at the British School at Rome, throwing and sweeping olive stones. Because I continued eating black olives, the work grew and expanded both in space and density, the sound produced by throwing and sweeping was compelling, like the sound of the sea. Reconstructing the Colosseum was an interesting job, throwing galaxies out of a bucket, well, this was something else…’
The relation between politics and art is increasingly debated within contemporary political philosophy and critical theory. This article focuses on Chantal Mouffe's negotiation of this relation, which forms an integral part of her agonistic pluralist project. In particular, it aims at critically exploring the role of artistic practices in re-politicising a largely de-politicised, post-democratic public space. What are the challenges such a re-politicisation poses? However, although re-politicisation can be the only response to post-democracy, it needs to avoid its own absolutisation/idealisation. From a radical democratic point of view, the need for re-politicisation is thus a need for a post-utopian, self-critical, cautious, agonistic re-politicisation. What is the role artistic practices can play in this enterprise? Recent art projects by Antony Gormley and William Kentridge are presented and discussed in order to illuminate the political relevance of contemporary art. They both seem to embody elements central in Mouffe's agonistic pluralism and can also develop it in new directions.
In the last two decades, Thai contemporary art has secured a small but conspicuous niche on the international exhibition circuit, despite the country's meagre infrastructure for art education, presentation and promotion. To advance professionally today, Thai artists must navigate between two distinct but overlapping spheres – each with its own practical, aesthetic and political constraints – one national, the other post-national. In this article Thai contemporary art is historicised within this dual framing. It is argued that its current state of intellectual exhaustion is inextricable from a wider failure of the national project, all too obvious in the country's ongoing constitutional meltdown. The author locates key historical precedents in the 1930s, when an institutional modern art first emerged, in line with the imperatives of a modern bourgeois nationalism with aspirations towards international standing and recognition. There is then a survey of the relationship between modern art and the modern state since, charting their convergences and divergences. Here, Georges Bataille's theoretical distinction between the homogeneous and the heterogeneous affords a byway around conventional notions of state and non-state agency, specifying a kind of sovereignty – these days perhaps peculiar to Thailand – that is neither pre-modern, nor fit for today's globalised world.
Artistic nomads described in Nicolas Bourriaud's Altermodern are the elite darlings of the contemporary artworld. Yet these transgressors of national boundaries often fail to engage with or slowly abandon local audiences and iconography. Through an analysis of several South African artworks, this article proposes that Okwui Enwezor's alternative concept of the ‘aftermodern’ is particularly relevant for those working against nomadic superficiality. South Africans Nicholas Hlobo and Clive Sithole are discussed as counterpoints to facile reliance on transnationally recognised sign systems. The both personally idiosyncratic and culturally bound meanings of these artists' materials and significations create subtle oppositions to globalising homogeneity. Utilising material iconographies and histories akin to those of Joseph Beuys, ‘aftermodern’ artists challenge superficiality by privileging local connections to chart new gender constructions and identities through media specificity and subtle linguistic play.
The noble aims of ‘Exhibitions: L'Invention du Sauvage’ (‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’) at the Musée du quai Branly were not enough to counter the museum's primitivist postmodern architecture or the exhibition's curatorial strategy. Presenting a large number of archival images, as if documents of a barbaric age, along with declamatory wall texts that outline the sins of colonialism might satisfy the guilty conscience of the postcolonial European imagination, but it does nothing to speak for the agency of those mainly indigenous performers whom the exhibition showcases. Lost in the exhibition are the ways in which these Indigenous performers in Europe's capitals shaped the modern imaginary and sought to articulate their own modernity.
Third Text is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.