18 November 2014
Since its inauguration in 1987, Third Text has established itself as the leading international journal dedicated to the critical analysis of contemporary art in the global field. It has brought with that analysis a particular attentiveness to shared experiences of colonial histories and the impact of globalisation on diverse cultural practices. The journal supports new and established voices, and in seeking to avoid intellectual closure, provides a platform for the articulation, contestation and debate of various theoretical positions. The journal has created a significant archive of knowledge production to benefit artists, researchers and art historians worldwide. Following a thorough independent review in 2014, with a new, independently elected group of Editors, new Trustees and model of governance, the journal intends to build on its past achievements, and to explore emerging areas of timely and pressing research into visual culture and contemporary art in their most diverse and numerous definitions.
Third Text has distinguished itself by its pioneering study of the exclusionary zones of ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ and by its challenge to Eurocentric and ethnocentric notions of aesthetic criteria that marginalised ‒ and at times continue to neglect ‒ the work of culturally diverse practitioners. Forged in a period of passionate discussions of multicultural policy, studies of race and identity politics, the journal has recently broadened and deepened those considerations by making significant contributions to the critical analysis of such diverse areas as: artistic practice in the Global South (including Brazil, South Africa, and India); the history and theory of militant cinema; contemporary art and political ecology; revolutionary aesthetics; and culture in transitional and transnational societies. It seeks to continue to advance these areas of cutting-edge research, including an examination of the complex cultural realities that are emerging and competing for recognition in the globalised artworld. In addition, it aims to bring fresh analysis to the creeping forms of neo-colonialism and manifold modes of socio-political, ethno-religious, and ecological-economic crises that have defined and resulted from the contested hegemony, and differential realisations, of neo-liberal capitalism worldwide.
Admittedly, the ‘third’ of the journal’s title might now be viewed as dated ‒ there is no longer such a discrete geo-political category in existence as implied by the so-called Third World, a term deployed during Cold War modernity to distinguish nations both non-aligned with First World NATO member states, and unassociated with Second World countries of the Communist Bloc. Moreover, while the film-maker and theorist Trinh T Minh-ha once presciently claimed ‘there is a Third World in every First World, and vice versa’, the economic conditions once clearly associated with those designations arguably no longer apply to our post-Cold War world where growing inequality is pervasive within and between all nations. Likewise, the term ‘text’ remains symptomatic of a time of post-structuralist discourse and deconstruction that tended to recode and investigate all experience as language, a context definitively surpassed by the contemporary mobilisation of new theories of materialism, object-oriented philosophy, and speculative realism in social science and humanities research.
Yet these changing discursive vicissitudes have not compelled a fundamental reformation of Third Text’s core mission. In choosing to retain its title, the journal pays homage to its groundbreaking legacy, and aspires to continue its longstanding commitment to investigating artistic practices within and beyond the Euro-American horizon. The journal remains dedicated to a position of critical independence ‒ a third space, one might say ‒ with regard to the commercial and institutional forces (those of the art market and the increasingly privatised museums and universities) that are exerting growing pressure on shaping, and sometimes obstructing the critical discussions of art, culture, and politics today. As such, Third Text offers a platform to pursue critical dialogue about experimental cultures, to advance independent education, and to study the historical and current conditions of art’s practice, reception and distribution in a global framework.