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How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?

Sarah Rogers
4 April 2013

In certain respects, the demands on contemporary artists issued forth by a (purportedly novel) globalised cultural economy are starkly obvious in the Arab world. The concurrent fascination with contemporary art and the region has resulted in the now well-documented - and equally well-debated - critical and curatorial investment in contemporary art of the Arab world. In other ways, the question posed by Ibraaz is disarmingly complex; for there is a dialectical relationship between contemporary art and globalisation for which we must account. It is not just that globalisation has forged both an infrastructure and an iconography (a visual language suggestive of migration and borders, for instance). Instead, as the art historian Pamela Lee has eloquently argued, the contemporary art world is not a separate entity upon which globalisation enacts, but rather 'the work of art's world' is constitutive of globalisation (2012). A cursory example: the vast interest in contemporary art of the Arab world is assumedly brought about by a globalised cultural economy, underwriting the timeliness and significance of a project such as Ibraaz. Yet through the deployment of the Internet as a platform for critical reflection and its dissemination, Ibraaz is itself an agent of globalising processes. To reverse the question from 'how has globalization effected contemporary practices in the region', to 'how does contemporary practice in the region effect globalization', is a slight yet profoundly meaningful shift because it enacts a reversal of agency that enables, in material terms, both participation in and resistance to the processes of globalisation.

Sarah Rogers

is an independent scholar. In 2008 she received a Ph.D. from the Dept. of Architecture at MIT, where she wrote the dissertation, 'Postwar Art and the Historical Roots of Beirut's Cosmopolitanism'. Her writing on the modern and contemporary art of the Arab world has been published by Parachute, Art Journal, and Arab Studies Journal and she is a founding board member of AMCA: Association for Modern & Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey. She is currently editing a collection of essays on the Khalid Shoman Private Collection in Amman, Jordan.

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