n.e.w.s. is a collective online platform for the analysis and development of art-related activity, drawing upon contributions from around the globe, bringing together different voices, accents and outlooks from the North, East, West and South. | Read more..

Greetings from the moderator

When I met Renée and Sannetje, and they introduced me to n.e.w.s., I was drawn to participate in large part because I saw the website as a potential tool for greatly facilitating collaborative projects which involve regional networks.

I’ve been asked to be the moderator for this first phase of n.e.w.s., and I’d like to offer some reflections on what’s been happening so far on the website.

Among the varied postings so far, there have been discussions involving various theoretical concerns, such as, the vocabularies and concepts for understanding contemporary art — from the early posting by Steven Wright, “Toward an extraterritorial reciprocity”, to the more recent entry by Thomas Berghuis “Contemporary Art: ‘Now’ or ‘Never’?”.

There have been discussions of specific projects: Inti Guerrero talked about “Troca-trocas”, which explores a complex range of issues concerning the construction of gender and sexuality in Rio de Janeiro; and Branka Curcic posted on “TV Gallery”, about television and video art in the former Yugoslavia.

And there have been calls to be reflexive about the very purpose of n.e.w.s. Thomas writes: “As with any new platform for communication, there is the need to ask questions on the role of control, distribution, and reception.... ‘Who are we writing for?’; ‘What are the responsibilities of authorship?’; ‘Are we just preaching to the converted?’; and ‘[Well then,] What about the readership?’”.

This far from adequate summary is just to suggest the growing diversity and different registers of all our contributions thus far.

Renée showed me a book, Curating Subjects, edited by Paul O’Neill. In lieu of an introduction, O’Neill is interviewed by Annie Fletcher, who asks, “Everywhere we turn these days, there seems to be a new book by curators on curators and curating ... Do we really need another book about curating?” O’Neill shoots back: “Absolutely”. Later, O’Neill offers an abbreviated history of publications about curating, then says, “Although many of those anthologies were essential, I grew tired of reading curators discussing their own practices. I felt the urge to compile a book that went beyond the first person narrative. Instead, I wanted to get curators and artists ... to comment, critique or speculate upon the practice of other curators, their predecessors and their peers.”

I think there’s still a place for first person narratives in our discussions here at n.e.w.s. We can think of our discussions in several registers. There are the self-reflections, the articulations of the ideas and arguments that have been preoccupying us, the sharing of projects, et cetera. But what we haven’t quite done yet is get into some collaborative writing — and for the purpose of commenting, analysing and speculating on each other’s work, and the work of our peers beyond the small sampling of contributors within n.e.w.s.

We could be interviewing each other, for starters, rather than just posting blog entries and soliciting comments. We could, for instance, pick a topic like the “Globalization of the Art System”, mentioned in a posting by Ingrid Commandeur, where she talks about the book, World Art Studies — in a similar vein, Mustafa Maluka brought our attention to the book Is Art History Global?. A number of us could undertake to collaboratively write a relatively concise text on that issue, and then others could interrogate that text.

Of course, we need to ask ourselves if should we be doing this, and for what purpose — what would we learn from writing collaboratively here?

But even such collaborative writing exercises remain in the realm of not-so practical discussion. I’d like to think of our conversations here as a building of a foundation. And even while we continue to develop this foundation, and never even come close to completing the job, we should start building on top of it. And by this I mean, I’d like to see us discuss how some of us aim to use n.e.w.s. as a tool to develop new projects.

While some of the n.e.w.s. contributing curators may want to work together, I don’t see that as the main reason why we are all here. Regrettably, I may not end up working together with Ade Darmawan, Mia Jankowicz or Yuliya Sorokina any time soon, but if any of them use n.e.w.s. to develop a new project, then I’m in a privileged position to observe that process as it unfolds through n.e.w.s.

I can imagine that readers of the website (especially those who add comments), many of whom may involved or interested in curating in some way or the other, will find much to learn from having a special view into the workings of the contributing curators.

For a number of years, I’ve been especially interested in developing knowledge networks. From Brisbane to Berlin, it seems that Asian artists are all over the place. What has not kept pace with the spectacle of exhibition, however, is the research and writing about contemporary art from the region. For all Asian art’s global visibility, there are few good books on the subject as well as few magazines or journals that adequately cover the field. “We Asians” may be talking a lot about art, but do we really read each other?

We meet at conferences and symposia, but when all is said, and we go home to our respective places, and get swamped with all the work that we do, what then remains of all that talk? Are we building discourses?

Part of the problem, I feel, is the way we talk with each other. I’m not saying that the standard conference should be discarded. But it needs to be supplemented by other strategies for discussion. Especially in a region like Southeast Asia, where there are huge differences in the access that the various arts communities have to international discourses on contemporary art and theory. (I know that Rich Streitmatter-Tran too is very involved in addressing this issue.)

One of the ways that I’m interested in using n.e.w.s. is as a tool to plan workshops — convergences of artists, curators, writers, audiences — in select locations in the region. Workshops that are especially attentive to the limits of how we have been meeting and exchanging ideas hitherto, workshops which propose alternative ways of convening.



"develop new projects"

Yes, nostra culpa, some of us have been self-indulgently airing our "various theoretical concerns" - the "ideas that have been preoccupying us" - as you breezily describe them. The real point of n.e.w.s., it turns out, is as a "tool" for "developing" new projects and...knowledge networks! Workshops!

Excuse my bluntness, but I remain unconvinced that developing new so-called collaborative "projects" (a noun whose inflationary artwordly use I find particularly comical) is a virtue in and of itself. That kind of "damn-the-ideas, let's develop the network" mentality reminds me of capitalist expansionism. If I was opposed to collaboration, I wouldn't be here; but if artworld exhange is to be fruitful, we have to get beyond the orthodoxy of workshopping & Co., the mantra of a system in intellectual and ethical free fall.

PS. Here is a link to some great reading: http://intheconversation.blogs.com/art/2008/03/interview-with.html#more
From the man who ran the LeisureArts blog anonymously for years. I particularly like this remark, explaining why he quit: "The whole thing started to feel an awful lot like a project, a "work" to use art parlance, and I am deeply skeptical about how that can shape one's thinking. I felt like I was in the service of LeisureArts rather than the other way around."


Global conceptualism

I'll be willing to respond to the subject matter of “Globalization of the Art System”, however I would like for all to understand that Troca-trocas is a project that precisely deals with a "dialectic" between the local and the global. Here, Global refers to the Gay International which has been the legal agenda and cultural movement embraced/translated by local societies worldwide. The presence of a dominant discourse of representation, or a dominant system for social participation, let it be in culture or in the specific field of contemporary art is what Troca-troca takes as a given.

To write on "Globalization of the Art System", I will like to start by taking in hand an exhibition entitled "Global conceptualism; points of origin 1950's 1980's"; a traveling show in the US, which intended to make a statement on the idea that Conceptual art was an international experience, emerging outside the 'centers of power' as a respond to the conditions of dictatorship or to a post-colonial reality, and therefore highly linked to the local political climates of repression. These 'other' contexts lead to produce a certain political conceptual practice quite different to the hermetic, tautologic and perhaps aestheticised work of North American conceptual artists like Kosuth or Le Witt.

Global conceptualism was curated by Jane Farver, Luis Camnitzer and Rachel Weiss, who invited eleven international co-curators for each of the regions examined: László Beke (Eastern Europe), Chiba Shigeo and Reiko Tomii (Japan), Okwui Enwezor (Africa), Gao Minglu (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan), Claude Gintz (Western Europe), Mari Carmen Ramírez (Latin America), Terry Smith (Australia and New Zealand), Sung Wan-Kyung (South Korea), Margarita Tupitsyn (Russia), and Peter Wollen (North America).

More info:


The discussion I invite n.e.w.s. bloggers to continue, is to question how successful are these "re-writings of History"? To what extent this "payback" towards the centers of power really help to operate and change the “Globalization of the Art System”?

I tend to believe that they do not subvert the system or create another one, but rather they insert new content and possibilities to the ecology of the art field, which even if it is exoticized, for example in the case of the aforementioned exhibition casted as "multicultural conceptualism", it still broadens the international experience of culture production which fortunately or unfortunately continues to be guarded by institutions geographically situated in advanced economies.

Inti Guerrero