Ibraaz Platform 005
Ibraaz is pleased to announce the launch of Platform 005, which explores the following question:
How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?
In response to this question, we publish essays, interviews, projects and responses by a number of figures, including Gulf Labor, Walter D. Mignolo, Hans Haacke, Raed Yassin, Nadia Mounajjed, Sophia Al-Maria, Shuruq Harb, Ala Younis, Hanan Toukan, Haig Aivazian, Visualizing Palestine, Ahmad Zatari, Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi, Yuko Hasegawa, Mario Rizzi, Cynthia Zaven, Lasse Lau, Simone Fattal, Mirene Arsanios, HG Masters, Adelita Husni-Bey and Anahita Razmi.
We will continue to publish further content surrounding the 005 Platform question during the coming months as part of our monthly newsletter.
Globalisation and the Future of the Future
Editorial by Anthony Downey
The tensions and side-effects produced by globalisation have provided much by way of content for contemporary art. In the context of North Africa and the Middle East, the effects of globalisation can be read not only in terms of cultural production but also in the fast-developing topographies of cities across the region. The task of gauging or recording the long-term effects of these processes on local communities and art practices is a gargantuan one, and yet one thing remains certain: in a globalised cultural economy beholden to the demands of global media outlets, 'soft power' diplomatic initiatives, international market integration, and the culture industry, the ecology of culture across the region is changing rapidly and developing in unexpected ways.
One of the prime ideals guiding and allowing for globalisation is the ascendency of deregulated, precarious labour conditions as the normative mode of employment rather than the exception. Add to this international migratory patterns and so-called 'economic migrancy' and it becomes all the more clearer as to who the winners and losers are in the apparent hegemony of globalisation. It is with these points in mind that Ibraaz's Platform 005 set out to address some of these changes and their impact on how culture is produced, who it is produced for, and who benefits from the work of art.
In the last decade or so, developments across the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) have presented ample evidence of globalization's impact. If we are witnessing what many refer to as 'Gulf Futurism', a state of being specific to the region and explored here in a project for Ibraaz by Sophia Al-Maria, then the dreamscapes of the future are in constant danger of being usurped by the spectres of the immigrant labourers upon whose abject misery they are being built.
In their report essay for Ibraaz, Gulf Labor, a coalition of international artists, observe continued failings when it comes to equitable labour rights and humane working conditions on Saadiyat Island. Hans Haacke's photographs, presented alongside this essay, present the symbolic and actual disjunction between the dreamscapes of the future and brutal, sordid reality that underwrites their construction. But before we point the finger too forcibly, we should be ready to admit to a broader fact: the global art world is powered by precarious labour, whether it is the intern in a gallery in London or the worker producing an artwork in downtown Delhi or Shanghai. Precarity – as Guy Standing argues in The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011) – is and continues to be the order of the day for a whole new class of working individuals and communities across the globe.
Art's 'role' is often imbricated within a process of re-envisioning an imaginative potential – a horizon of potentiality – that negotiates inter alia the political imagination, the configuration of the social, and reductive versions of history. This 'role', for want of a better word, seems fitting when it comes to contesting the effects of globalisation in all their sinuous intricacies and enquiring into a singular question: what is it to live through and endure the effects of globalisation? In so doing, art produces forms of knowledge about globalisation that would not – and possibly could not - otherwise exist. This is the role of the aesthetic, if not poetic imagination: to think otherwise.
Globalisation seems to be offering us, in all its incursions into and reconfiguring of local and regional contexts, a vision of the present and future that remains inescapable if not irremediable. But does that have to be the case? In cities such as Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Tunis, and Cairo, are we seeing other potentialities emerge that could define not only the momentous changes we are witnessing in the present, but also determine future horizons of artistic, social, civic and individual engagement. This is not a region specific issue; on the contrary, it is, fittingly, a global issue and the stakes as they stand could not be higher. They involve the very future of the idealism once associated with culture as an agent of a common rather than an individual or privatised good.
This editorial is a condensed version of an essay written around the subject of Ibraaz Platform 005 by Ibraaz Editor, Anthony Downey. To read the full text, follow this link.