Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art

Lars Nittve’s “Trans/Mission. Art in Intercultural Limbo” proceeds from concerns he formulated in 1987 as curator of “Implosion—A Postmodern Perspective” at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The thesis he states as a condition for new directions in art assumes the complete leveling and homogenization of art (and everything else to the extent that it is subject to commodity dictates) by the mass media and the culture industry. The media-presentation of art-as-information has increasingly obliterated traditional cultural distinctions linked to time and place. The significance of cultural centers has disintegrated to the degree that they no longer possess a privilege on information. Potentially present everywhere is a post-Modern consciousness that assimilates historical and cultural differences only in the form of information, i.e., as manipulable material at our disposal.

If such an implosion has eliminated all hierarchical distinctions between the center and the periphery, is it at all possible for new artistic directions to develop anywhere but at those places along the former peripheries or borders where the international media culture and local cultural traditions collide? Where the friction or discrepancy between these totally different frames of reference brings forth an interplay of no longer hierarchical but, rather, productive differences? The artist who straddles different cultures, cannot develop, however, from a single fixed position. Vis-à-vis the market system and its products, artists cannot assume a set posture, but can only effect a certain deviation, a subversive slipping among different cultures and languages in an uninterrupted, unlocalizable movement, an (inter)cultural multilingualism. Such an interculturalism constitutes, in its sliding motion, differences that cannot so easily be co-opted as commodities and information. Interculturalism destroys the trap of an artistic mother tongue. It speaks every language as if it itself had already assimilated the differences among many languages, as a play of citations and deviations. Language thereby changes so radically that it no longer functions as a normative system: it becomes creative, poetic, spontaneous.

Eleven artists from four continents participated here. In various ways, they are all in contact with a number of diverse cultures and give visual expression in their work to the movement of such an intercultural in-between, the movement of differentiating deviations. Francesco Clemente, Julio Galán, Kristján Gudmundsson, Fariba Hajamadi, Ilya Kabakov, Anish Kapoor, Jac Leirner, Yasumasa Morimura, Juan Muñoz, Cheri Samba, and Ulrik Samuelson live and work along the borders of several cultures. This exhibition shows that the form that interculturalism takes is actually determined by the matrix of knowledge and cultural identities the artists are working with. Their attitude toward other cultures changes depending on the position that they and their original culture occupy within the hierarchical, Eurocentric system of art. Clemente, for example, plays with cultural codes with incomparable sovereignty; Muñoz and Morimura, on the other hand, collide with an overpowering European tradition and commit patricide; Kabakov treats European Modernism as historical material, as the information commodity; through technique and theme, Kapoor synthesizes an Indian heritage and a Western understanding of the artist; and Samba seems all the more colonialized because his works, whose social function is complex, appear naive to a Eurocentric, “neutral” esthetic eye.

Johannes Meinhardt

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.