Migration, understood as the movement of people and cultures, gives impetus to globalisation and the transculturation processes that the interaction between people and cultures entails. This book addresses migration as a profoundly transforming force that has remodelled artistic and art institutional practices across the world. It explores contemporary art's critical engagement with migration and globalisation as a key source for improving our understanding of how these processes transform identities, cultures, institutions and geopolitics. The book also explores three interwoven issues of enduring interest: identity and belonging, institutional visibility and recognition of migrant artists, and the interrelations between aesthetics and politics, and its representations of forced migration. Transculturality indicates a certain quality (of an idea, an object, a self-perception or way of living) which joins a variety of elements indistinguishable as separate sources. The topic of migration is permeated not only with political but also with ethical urgencies. The most telling sign of how profoundly the mobility turn has affected the visual arts is perhaps the spread of the term global art in the discourses on art, where it is often used as a synonym for internationally circulating contemporary art. The book examines interventions by three artists who take a critical de- and postcolonial approach to the institutional structures and spaces of Western museums. The book also looks at the politics of representation, and particularly the question of how aesthetics, politics and ethics can be triangulated and balanced when artists seek to make visible the conditions of irregular migration.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the transformative impact of migration and transculturation through the lens of contemporary art and the distinctive perspective it can provide on how notions of identity, belonging and community change with migration and globalisation. It seeks to establish a historical and theoretical framework by relating to the current discourses on the relations between globalisation, migration and contemporary art. The book focuses on artists as professional labour migrants and considers the impact of migration and globalisation on artists' career patterns and the conditions of being an artist. It describes the political concern with the recognition and visibility of migrants and their histories in museums, and the need for change in institutional practices, curatorial perspectives and the writing of history emerging with intensified transnational migration.
This chapter seeks to draw up an outline of how 'globalisation' and 'migration' have been articulated in Western discussions of contemporary art since the 1990s, and how the two discourses intersect: 'art and globalisation' and 'art and migration'. Since the 1990s, terms such as 'global art', 'the global contemporary' and 'the global art world' have become a staple of mainstream art discourses. Thus, Jonathan Harris begins his introduction to the anthology Globalization and Contemporary Art by comparing 'globalisation' to the well-established terms 'modernism' and 'renaissance'. As opposed to the emphasis on globalisation-from-above in the discourse on contemporary art and globalisation, globalisation-from-below takes centre stage in the discourse on contemporary art and migration. Here, nodal points such as migration, diaspora, exile, refugeedom, displacement, precarity, subalternity, cosmopolitanism, cultural translation, creolisation and migratory aesthetics push globalisation into the background.
This chapter examines the historical role and impact of the postcolonial position in greater detail, firstly by analysing its underlying notion of cultural identity as well as its institutional critique. Secondly, by tracing how this critique has paved the way for greater recognition of artists from non-Western diasporas in an increasingly globalised art world. The chapter aims to work through the binarisms and simplifying categorisations of classic identity politics in the visual arts. In the discourse on cultural identity in relation to contemporary art, the most frequently used term is not 'cultural identity', although cultural identity and identity politics are clearly the issue. The blind spots in the critique of Westernism remind us of the need for more complexity-sensitive methods and theories in the field of art history and art criticism.
When contemporary art became a market phenomenon in the major metropolitan centres during the 1990s, it was expanded, but also, at the same time, divided, by an influx of art from other regions of the world. It is important to remember that the workings of the global art world affect not only artists from non-Western countries, but also those in Western countries with a well-functioning art-institutional infrastructure as well. To use the phraseology of the literary scholar Sudesh Mishra, the sociocultural condition of a migrant can be seen as a 'scene of dual territory'. This chapter argues that the migratory pattern of artists, who have chosen to be based in their home country, but must live as globetrotters and engage with different cultures and places in order to pursue international careers, could best be described as circular migration.
Migratory aesthetics and artists with a migrant background can have various points of entry into museums, galleries and collections. This chapter examines interventions by three artists, Fred Wilson, Yinka Shonibare and Rina Banerjee, who all take a critical de- and postcolonial approach to the institutional structures and spaces of Western museums. Mining the Museum was based on a collaboration that allowed the artist to interview the staff and to have open access to the collection, including the objects and histories that had been hidden away in the museum's basement. Like Wilson, Shonibare highlights the complexity and reciprocity of interracial and colonial relations. The Musée Guimet invited Rina Banerjee to make an intervention in the hope that this could help the institution get beyond the orientalist and Eurocentric outlook on which the Museum's collection was originally founded.
This chapter presents close readings of works by the London-based Nigerian expatriate Yinka Shonibare, Delhi-based British expatriate Bharti Kher, and Vietnamese-born Danh Vo, who grew up in Denmark and then became a resident of Mexico City. It describes that Amelia Jones specifically refrains from devoting herself to interrogating the relationship of identity politics to developments in contemporary art. She reminds us that Art is always about identification. Identification evolves as a dynamic and reciprocal process that occurs between viewers, bodies, images and other kinds of visual representations and media. The chapter traces some of the ways in which the altered experience of subjectivity has begun to shape identifications differently, so that older ways of thinking about identity in terms of binary oppositions no longer resonate in quite the same way.
This chapter is concerned with how art can engage with migration politics related to the categories of forced and irregular migration. These categories include refugees and asylum seekers. The chapter examines how artworks can question the citizenship gap and the social stigmatisation of irregular migrants as 'crimmigrant' bodies. The centrepiece of this discussion is Sahara Chronicle, a video-based work by the Swiss artist Ursula Biemann, which investigates the conditions of migration in the geopolitical space of the Sahara. The chapter focuses on the migrants' perilous journey from the coast of Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to the shores of Europe. That journey has been evoked in the British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien's video installation Western Union: Small Boats. It considers issues of European border politics and securitisation, along with their consequences for forced migrants.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book develops an understanding of the problematics and transformative workings of migration and globalisation through contemporary art. It outlines how intensified globalisation and mobility have profoundly changed the discourses on art. The book traces, how in tandem with globalisation, the critical debates on identity politics and multiculturalism in the Western art world gradually paved the way for greater institutional recognition and visibility of artists with a migrant or minority background. It demonstrates that artists' interventions can be used as a critical tactic to navigate institutional structures. The book examines the nexus of forced migration, border control, securitisation and humanitarianism through the lens of some contemporary works of art that address the problematics of clandestine migration from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.