Going global. This dimension of thought has become an established component of contemporary discourse recently, irrespective of the artistic or cultural scenarios to which it refers. In this context, globality, globalisation and globalism form a vague cluster of overlapping ideas, and it is rare for any attention to be paid to the clear distinctions that actually need to be drawn between these notions.
A series of questions arise as soon as the word »global« is used: is it possible to talk about something like a »globalist« thrust with reference to the internationally networked art scene? In other words, not just to talk about a control and overview function with a growing sphere of influence, encompassing more and more centres, but also to address actively fostering exchanges, mutuality and diversity? Or is this way of looking at things just another perspective that originates in the West and only partially reflects disparate local realities? Are the dominant import-export scenarios in the art scenes of various continents and regions actually committed - even to a limited extent - to securing equal opportunities? Or is a historically entrenched imbalance simply being perpetuated, the kind of imbalance that proves so difficult to overcome even for institutions like biennales and large art shows which adopt a global approach?
You cannot simply sweep questions like these out of the way by proclaiming that your own thinking has always taken a »globalist« approach. Instead these interrogations perpetually spur us on to address the suppositions and blind spots in our attitudes, constantly challenging us to be profoundly suspicious of the purported cosmopolitanism of our artistic and intellectual pretensions.
This edition concentrates on these prerequisites and questions by taking a closer look at the potential of globalism when it is given a positive twist. This exploration hinges on regional clusters and spheres of influence, and sheds light on the particular ways in which these are configured within the broader political context, as well as in specific local settings. One way in to the topic involves turning an analytical spotlight on particular art-world centres in the Asian and Maghreb world: Keiko Sei and Toni Maraini for example look in detail at the art scenes in Thailand and Morocco, also with a view to teasing out how local artists on the spot grapple with the phantasmagorias concealed within global promises. The opportunities and shortcomings, hopes and disappointments of the globalist approach in discourse are also addressed in essays by Erden Kosova and Nancy Adajania. Whereas Kosova considers the outlandish positioning of contemporary Turkish art in the midst of a flurry of nationalist, anti-capitalist and globalist claims, Adajania argues that fundamentally rewriting cultural geographies is crucial: rather than advocating a simple inversion of former centre-periphery models, she calls instead for fragmentation structured around multiple poles, and urges us to move towards »critical transregionality«.
It would be fair to say that one of the subtexts that appears frequently in many of the essays collected here is the idea of globalism asserted as an active, shaping force vis-à-vis increasingly rigid power structures around the globe, a process often experienced as utterly inevitable. Brian Holmes emphasises in his essay that the economic and financial crisis means it is not at all straightforward to overcome these ever more rigid structures and turns his attention once again to the cultural foundations of economic globalisation. Anna Schneider seeks to locate a counter-model to this fatal dynamic in the »maritime turn « in contemporary notions of culture – a fluid, variable, yet simultaneously historical and material basis for worldwide relations rooted in the notion of exchange.
Finally, a further aspect of the globalism debate also pertains to current art production per se. To what extent do current practices take an interest in a global approach – as distinct, for example, from strategies rooted in the local context (although the two options are certainly not necessarily contradictory)? To what extent is the call for a global approach imposed on art practice by the outside world, in some instances by players with a higher hierarchical status, and to what extent do individual approaches only comply with this demand to a limited degree? Questions like this will remain highly topical in the future too. A congress in late February focussing on the topic of globalism will look into these matters in greater detail. At the congress, contributors to this edition will engage in a dialogue with a number of artists and theoreticians. Debates at the congress will concentrate on the leitmotif of the prospects for a »united« critical force rooted in nodes around the world, and consider how viable this might be.