TONGOLELE on Sun, 1 Sep 2002 02:04:13 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> oh, the gents they do protest too much!

Too all those nettimers who appear to have been irritated by my modest 

It is quite enlightening and amusing to discover that the protagonists of
a milieu that is famous for its irreverence toward anything considered
established, its ironic attitude toward anything purporting to represent
"truth", and its propensity for parasitical caricature, would be so very
sincere, so incredibly earnest, and so absolutely righteous in their
responses to a parody of the "scene" they are a part of. Apparently, it's
fine to lampoon everything from multinationals to medecine as long as the
holy temple of culture remains untouched. It is also quite
endearing to find that so many men have rushed to the aid of damsel Bosma
- hence, I must conclude that chivalry is not dead in the realm of the
posthuman, but humor appears to have evaporated! Herr Cramer, I'd say that
if you are perceiving uptightness, it might be coming from the reflection
in your mirror, as it seems you cannot take a joke when it's on you!

For those who apparently have not read Jonathan Swift, the Irish colonial
satirist whose spirit and title I borrowed, I highly recommend his
brilliant and hilarious tracts that artfully poke fun at the piety and
hypocricy of the British. He's a great avatar, I'll say that.

My main point, for those who had trouble discerning it on their own, was
that Bosma's opinions were based on rather ludicrous, reductionist
descriptions of the works she glossed over in her review. One could
approach in the same way, as I did, and the resulting appraisal
would sound quite disturbing to those who felt themselves the object of
such a critique. Bosma's attitude toward the artists and curators was
arch, ignorant and at times even racist.  Ah yes, that terrible word. But
nearly every time any non-white subscriber to this list makes an
assessment of anything posted as being racist, that non-white subscriber
is attacked -- by white, leftist, progressive, activists and theorists who
embrace nomadism and deterritorialization but refuse to examine their
prejudices or their own relentless need to micromanage all opposition to
official discourses about people who have been deterritorialized and
subjected to racism in Europe and America. We're dealing with is about a
political project of territorial control. Doesn't matter to me if that
territory is physical, intellectual or artistic. Hence, a parodic approach
was a good tactic in such a repressive milieu.

I have no doubt that Transmediale juries wade through zillions of
applications. I have sat on dozens of such juries in my lifetime and have
done the same - and know from experience it is in no guarantee of
democratic procedure, or that the final selection will reflect a range of
tastes or provenances - it usually just becomes a statistic that festivals
can boast about (" Wow we are so omnicient that we reviewed 2 million
applications in our search for the best of whatever...." ). Any good
shopkeeper in a European city would know that a pastiche tray of goodies
from around the world will sell - as long as nothing on the tray BITES THE
HAND THAT FEEDS IT. Thus the number of entries reviewed, Herr Andreas,
does little to alter the insularity of the milieu, the cliquishness of the
scene, the narrowness of its aesthetic views, or the obsession of its
proponents to restrict their view of the history of avant garde new media
to the last ten years, (tossing in an occasional and unusually inaccurate
reference to some early 20th century European avantgarde.) There was new
media, intermedia, activist media and electronmic media before The Next
Minutes and before nettime -- and alot of it continues without having any
contact with this milieu.

I find it quite symptomatic that the high priests of No Border
consciousness, posthuman subjectivity, and new media chic always seek to
trash postcolonial theory and dismiss the art they consider to flow from
those ideas. The same European leftists who believe they have the solution
ot the "refugee problem"  are the ones who do everything possible to force
the expressions of refugees, exiles, immigrants and their offspring in the
domain of intellectual discourse and art practice through their
CHECKPOINT. Those who step around that BORDER are condemned to be exiled
from the temple. We didn't pass quality control, oops. How come you don't
like us anymore when we leave the refugee camp and get college degrees and
speak your language(s)? Why might this be? Is it really about theoretical
weaknesses of postcolonialist thinkers (whose ideas are rarely discussed
in depth - all that I ever see here are blanket statements about
"postcolonialism" as if it were singular)?  I doubt it. None of you who
have responded have demonstrated enough openness, sensitivity,
understanding or respect for anticolonialist struggles or postcolonial
intellectual and cultural production for me to think for one minute that
you know something significant about them. The resistance to any
discussion of institutional racism in culture adds to my
skepticism.  Forget about dealing with the outrageously obvious racist
psychodynamics of internet porn and "artsy" erotica. That's another can of

Instead, I would say, the real problem is about control of the question .  
That is a political and an aesthetic matter, and arguing that this realm
of culture should be separated from the political is a smokescreen that
prevents dealing with the political implications of various aesthetic
positions, such as formalism . Documenta XI has a good deal of work by
artists who ARE exiles, refugees, immigrants and the children of
immigrants in Europe - they each express their approaches to these issues
without the need of translators and facilitators from the activist
communities of Europe. I am not a fan of every single work in the show,
but I understand why they are there and the fact that their presence and
their numbers bothers so many art cognoscenti to be indicative of how
accustomed you all have grown to a kind of tokenism that only allows a
handful into your spaces before you start screaming "TOO MUCH".

Because of the presence of some many artists who deal with the question of
"belonging" in Europe and who also represent that democraphic, Documenta
XI doesn't need a truckload of No Border-ites to hold hands with a few
refugees in the plaza in front of one of its buildings. Frankly, I find
that project quite naive (Master Brian) and old hat . Many artists have
displayed human beings from groups considered to be marginalized by the
art milieu or the society at large - and most of the the time those
projects are quite exploitative and ridiculous. I myself did a two year
itinerant performance about the history of the ethnographic display of
indigenous people in Europe and America over ten years ago.  At present,
Spanish artist Santiago Sierra travels around the world with one of these
sorts of projects, but at least his foregrounds the exploitation of
underemployed workers and refugees he puts on display instead of
constructing an image of himself as a hero who helps outsiders. The
implication when this sort of human display is done by "progressives" is
that we, the artgoing public, need to live out the drama of a "real
encounter" with "those people" in the flesh in order to be transformed.
Whatsamatter? Don't you guys ever look at the people who serve you doner
kebabs and pad thai, the ones who sweep your hallways, change your kids'
diapers, shop for your grandparents and gyrate in your sex clubs? The
effectivess of such a gesture in an art context relies on two potentially
problematic assumptions - 1)that the audience is different from those on
display (which in the case of this Documenta was not exactly the the case
when it came to the artists and the crowd at the opening) and that the
encounter, just because it is live, is "real."  The so-called refugee
intervention at Documenta XI was staged, however real the people it is
were.  Ever heard of performance art? It's all about the overlay of
fictions in any phenomenological encounter with external reality. There is
nothing more real about gaping at foreigners than there is about looking
at art by foreigners and their children. But strangely, most of the
reviewers of Documenta XI, not just Bosma, have found a need to complain
about how awful it was for them to have to experience so much work by
immigrants and refugees and foreigners.  We're "depressing" when we stop
serving you. Must be painful to have to witness evidence that "the other"
is capable of reflexivity - on his or her own.

On the question of whether postcolonial theories are to be faulted for not
dealing with Eastern Europe - first, no one has stopped anyone from doing
so.  Second, I cannot see why it is necessary for every theoretical
proposition to have the same Grand Narrative universalist pretentions of
most modernisms, and of nettime saints such as Hardt and Negri or Deleuze
and Guattari. Do you fault feminist theories for not directing themselves
toward the situation of gay men who are feminized? Hardly. Queer theorists
take what they want from feminist theory, adapting it to their specific
needs. I suggest that those interested in the intersection of postcolonial
theories and Eastern Europe so the same.


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