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Globalization of the Art System


One of the latest books that i bought was 'World Art Studies: Exploring Concepts and Approaches'.

It's one of these typical art theory-anthology-books, but a particular one, especially seen from the perspective of the Dutch academic field. It's motto is: 'art is global and can be approached from many disciplinary angels', i.e. a plea for a truly interdisciplinary, all encompassing study of the global art world. This sounds almost to good to be true, but i found some interesting articles in the book, though, that relate to the 'books', the discussion topics, that we have defined sofar...

For instance the article: 'The Discourse on Contemporary Art and the Globalization of the Art System' by Kitty Zijlmans. One quote that strikes me in her article and which gives plenty reason for debate:

'In this respect the emergence of a global modern art production can be viewed as exemplary for the increasing functional differentiation of societies on a global scale. Following this line of reasoning, the rise of a modern art production (...) in the non-Euro-American world, is not so much the result of the spheres of influence of this art, but rather of the development of an evolving functional differentiation of societal systems worldwide.'

What a gloomy conclusion!, was my first reaction to this article. It neglects the whole idea of a spontaneous cultural diversity on a global perspective, since it's not the inherent cultural values or aesthetic power of non-western art that will ultimately feed it's 'global emancipation', but some internal functional social-economic proces. So much for any romantic idea of an interculturalization of art.....

Still, putting the intertwinement of art, economy and politics so much to the foreground as Kitty Zijlmans does,

opens up an interesting perspective on the study of for instance the booming contemporary art scenes in China, India and the like... And maybe this radical position is just what we need to begin to understand what's going on on a global scale in contemporary art.... It's defines art as an autonomous knowledge system, but one that is inherently connected to the development of a society as a whole, and therefore to other knowledge systems such as economics and politics. But it doesn't advocate a neo conservative or leftish point of view (see book 'Autonomy of organisations') nor does it promote an 'exit strategy' (Stephen Wright).


worldart and the extradisciplinary imperative

Not being much inclined anyway to what Ingrid Commandeur affably refers to as "the whole idea of a spontaneous cultural diversity", I feel an almost, well, spontaneous epistemological affinity for this book -- and am very grateful for the reference and the conversation it may be able to engender. Indeed, if we want to understand how art has, perhaps inadvertently but without much coercion and in flagrant contradiction to its routinely professed values of liberating otherness, reinvented itself as the cultural apparatus of capitalism in such neoliberal, one-party states as China and the Emirates, we need this sort of integrated methodology. Ultimately, though, I wonder if that's what we want to do. I mean it's interesting, it may well generate thoughtful and thought-provoking by-products, but I find it's not quite funny enough.

Aside from a possible deficit of conceptual tomfoolery, there are two things that I find troubling about the book's stated objectives: its supposition-laden title and motto. "World Art" is a genre, not a description of art's condition in an era of globalisation; "disciplinary" angles or disciplinary anythings are anathema to understanding art, which though it does not lack some rigor is not a discipline at all (unlike art history, with its canonic references acknowledged by the research community and upheld by the disciplinary "police") but rather an EXTRADISCIPLINARY activity or passivity, outside a disciplinary framework, though always subject to disciplinary capture. I will post something more in-depth on these three points shortly.


the art historian of extraterritorial reciprocity

Sorry for my somewhat late response, i'm caught up in a rebuilding project of a house that i'm going to move into in a few months, so my first week of vacation, not working at the office of the magazine, which is weird in itself because the magazine has taken over my live since i started to work for it, was consumed by hard physical labour instead of intellectual labour. And now my whole body is protesting against this sudden transformation of bodily activity.

I'm glad my first post provoked a reaction, it was certainly written with some ironical exaggeration (like 'spontaneous cultural diversity') to provoke such. It seemed like the right way to start up an immediate communication with the other members in my blog. But i do feel i have to clear up some use of and mingling of terminology in the above reaction of Stephen Wright. The title of the afore mentioned book is World Art Studies. Exploring Concepts and Approaches. I do not want to defend the scientific principles of the book here, since i'm still reading it (it's a 400 page counting book, heavily theory oriented, hardly no images with articles ranging from ' World Art Studies and Historiography of Chinese Art', to 'Neuroarthistory: Making More Sense of Art' and 'Art aesthetics and Cultural Anthropology: Retrospect and Prospect'. I mean it's wide perspectives are jummy! but i am not at the point yet where i can give my final verdict of the book, which no doubt will be partly critical too)

First of all the book is not only concerned with studying contemporary art, but art through the whole history. So in that sense the 'World Art' in the title is never meant to be 'a description of art's condition in an era of globalisation'. Only the article by Kitty Zijlmans really is orientated at and reacting to the contemporary art world. Secondly the book is just what it says it is: it is written by and mainly meant for an art historical scientific community. What they want to do, I my opinion, and what I find so exciting about this book, is exactly this 'to challenge the so-called disciplinary police' of art history as discipline with to many confinements. I think if you would transform Stephen Wrights definition of 'the artist of extraterritorial reciprocity', and change it to the art historian of extraterritorial reciprocity you get exactly the kind of attitude the editors of this book advocate!!!