Excerpt from In the belly of the monster
The lack of nuanced responses to globalization has deep roots, stretching into the whole cultural and technological web that keeps us both informed and passive. It touches on the way the media serves up our information, the way we relate to each other in a de-territorialized world and the blinding desires that global consumerism both generates and satisfies. Confused in the thrilling yet numbing embrace of ultra-fast capitalism and seeking some critical reflection, we sometimes resort to forms of oppositional fundamentalism.
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[How can one] move away from fundamentalist descriptions of culture and its identification with a nation or community has to face; namely, how to attack the monster that is globalization while still being dependent on its possibilities. There is no easy way out of this, no ideological trick that can free us from a constant negotiation with and celebration of the very mechanisms we would like to see transformed. It is wrong to say that these mechanisms are evil per se. Instead, we can do nothing but consider each occasion of their application, determine who loses and who gains, why and in what way, and then respond. In short, we have to exchange global experiences on the micro-level and concern ourselves with micro-actions in relation to them, unless we want to turn back to the cozy protection of ideologies of left or right that tell us who we are and what to think.
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To propose that small-scale, local and independent cultural initiatives are a part of the way forward within and around globalization might seem absurd, or at least privileging an activity that is always, in any case, trying to conform to the system, but that is (arguably) its very condition of potentiality. All the initiatives I have come across within the framework of RAIN and most outside, have sought ways to question current conditions avoiding the overt oppositional critique of the anti-globalist protestors and refusing to rely solely on the power of individual self-expression in the tradition of classical art. Instead, their projects are interested in working through discussions, dialogue and a tangible ‘play’ with the very mechanisms of globalization that allow them an inferior seat at the table in the first place. The groups are engaged with their localities and with individual social actors within them, and in doing so naturally propose changes in social and economic relations through art. This intimacy with a particular environment acts as an antidote to the utopian tendency in art today. Utopias are dangerous in many ways, not only if they are made real but even as a proposal, when they seem too often to lead to a kind of lazy disinvestment in the existing situation. Contrarily, there is always a danger of romanticizing the local, in which only indigenous actors can act with legitimacy in the immediate environment. This tendency needs to be tempered by a global exchange between different localities that acknowledges pluralism and promotes reflexive criticism.
This is precisely what artistic networks provide and can, at best, become a way of learning from one another’s experiences wherever they originate, while consciously adapting that knowledge to local conditions.