ZKM | Museum für Neue Kunst, 17.09.2011 – 05.02.2012
World Time. The World as Transit Zone

In Search of the Global Contemporary - A Visit to the 'Construction Site'


We searched for the ‘construction site’ and found it during the construction of the exhibition. CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY.

All images: Fidelis Fuchs. © ZKM.

Who or what is ‘the global contemporary’? Is it a neo-liberal market or a utopian concept of a true globality, a compliant field or a resistant game? Patrick D. Flores, member of the international curatorial committee, posed the question as to how one should exhibit global art today without having to provide a definitive explanation as to what it is. For the Blog he explained what global contemporaneity meant for him, and why the motif of the ‘construction site’ is so important for the concept of the exhibition. 

On the one hand,
there is the belief that global art or art that is made contemporaneously all over the world in the present is coordinated by some meta-structure of neo-liberal persuasion. On the other, there is the always-already resolute desire to resist this totality, an everyday hope that resistance would actually inhere in the truly worldly. In this vein, the global contemporary because it lives in the same time but in different places, at discrepant rhythms, through a gamut of vectors, is by nature, to borrow a phrase from the philosopher of the Baroque José Lezama Lima, “errant in form, but firmly rooted in its essences.” It is this errant form and essential rootedness that is quite elusive, too nimble to be caught by any instrumentalist impulse. But it is also not eternally inchoate or aleatory either; it is errant, and therefore conscious of norm, aware of translation, decidedly political; it is rooted, and therefore sensitive to origin and the future. It invests in the process of communication, dialogue, collaboration, reciprocity; it is determinate at the same time that it is chastened by the “commonality of finitude,” and so open to chance and precarity. This construction site, this emergent place of making and unmaking, is an effort to create a condition of this play, speculation, critique, bricolage, going out on a limb for art that must outlive certain contexts that oftentimes refuse it.

Seen alongside an exhibition, this forum as a platform of the “unfinished” might look aberrant. The exhibition is fully formed, a collection of objects prone to becoming commodities, curated with authority, explained through a pedagogy, marked out by themes, confined in space. It should appear then that the exhibition, regardless how it postures to be complete and sufficient, is ultimately incommensurate, always suffering from the lack that is not intuited: how it is made, how the public receives it, how its afterlife would transpire. It should appear, furthermore, that the exhibitionary does not overdetermine the contemporary. While it ensures the “sensible” and the “present,” it does not reduce the art to a thing that merely “makes sense” and that is “there.” The exhibitionary is an instance of a performance of a longer duration, a node in a network of past and prospective contexts. It is not terminus; rather it is a mere part of a playing out, of work, memories of factures. And since, it belongs to a broader conversation, a wider sympathy of revelations, it is necessarily inclined to persist, to go on. It is “time consuming” and therefore actually existing and tentative, historicized and contemporary.

(Patrick D. Flores)


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