Curators Conversations

Nathaniel:

I am interested in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), their strategic decentering and formation of an identity construction based principally through agonistic relations, in order to interject (and perhaps interrupt) the mechanism of the curated exhibition. Seeing the New Wright Biennale as an opportunity to investigate and reflect on the historical condition of NAM not as a historical event but as a process, one which hope to find reverberating through artistic practices today. That is to say the exhibition is not about NAM, but NAM, in some way provides a principle through which to structure the exhibit and our curatorial approach. 

 

The proposal was also lacking a unifying idea as it were, if NAM is the working method and structuring principle then we needed a hook. Perhaps the lens of the “Global 1968” protests, those that look beyond the hegemonic framework that sees ‘68 as culturally French. As NAM was constructed as a response to and against the Capitalist West and the Soviet Block before the proliferation of postwar neoliberalism the global protests of 1968 were a direct response to this proliferation and the uneven development it brought. Both events simultaneously respond to a failure of the left whilst also producing new political subjectivities. 

 

Along with the show we wanted to have a series of film screenings - looking at 3rd Cinema as a movement in particular along with some works from the Sankofa Film and Video Collective amongst others - and some workshops and panel discussions. 

 

Susan:

I was thinking of what proposal I would submit and I feel it does overlap with the ideas of the Non-Aligned Movement. I am interested in art that is non-aligned or non-polar. So much political art creates a one-sided view or one-note message. I am interested in political art that isn't speaking directly about politics but roots deeper into the artist's psychological political landscape. I am critical in the role of art-activist work in a gallery so I am interested in how this art can speak on politics while being anti-heroic and anti-sentimental. I feel that heroism and sentimentality push stereotypes and the hegemonic culture forward, so I am more interested in the ways artists break through the hegemonic without being exoticized or polarized. I also think of absurdist art as fitting into the non-aligned and how these political views can become more philosophical and psychological in their impact. I agree that it would be useful for the works to create conversations in the gallery space themselves and how different backgrounds maybe even live in similar narratives. 

 

Nathaniel:

Yes! I like the idea of thinking through Non-Alignment more broadly as a concept, as it exists in its many different forms within and throughout what is now a pretty global hegemony of post-war neoliberal capitalism. Many of the traditionally Non-Aligned nations and their independent economies were unable to cope with the global shift towards neoliberalism. 

 

I think it’s particularly interesting that we are thinking through these ideas in Los Angeles. Particularly as i’ve found that throughout my conversations i’ve found that in the US context everything which is non-American has to constantly justify itself - but like you said we could also broaden this to everything not fitting with the hegemonic culture of the US having to constantly justify itself. It seems this is where your reference to non-polar is interesting, a phrase i’ve not come across in this context but it got me thinking of the oft used phrase “We live in polarizing times” - and the question what does a non-polar artistic gesture look like? And in our role as curators, what does it feel like to enter a space which is non-polar, a non-aligned space? (although I think these are different, maybe there’s a tension between the two spaces, but one thats productive?) A space which expands instead of restricting, opens up to embrace, but not in a naf hippy happy kind of way, in a rigorous and contradictory one perhaps. I will admit to doing a quick google of the term which came back with:

 

Non Polar: A non-polar bond is when electrons are shared equally across all atoms in a molecule.

 

This notion works against exactly this idea you raised of the authorial artist - the activist who is telling you what to think, how to feel - their direct response to a ‘political’ situation seems impotent, particularly when encountered in a gallery / museum setting. When I say impotent I mean that I see so much contemporary art utilizes its ‘criticality’ as a commodity - such that the performativity of criticality has become somewhat a lynchpin of neoliberal self-reflective techniques. That it has ultimately packaged itself as a commodity and we need to think of new ways to do and new ways to think about politics. What does an artistic space of “equal sharing” - one of permeation and betweenness do? What does it look/feel like? I would then wonder what the curatorial gesture of creating conversations between individual “artist's psychological political landscapes” - what would that communal psychological landscape look like? 


I am very interested in what you see as these highly charged areas? Whether they are geographic or more abstracted spaces? What kinds of activities you see occurring within them. It makes me think of Fred Moten & Stefano Harney’s concept of the Undercommons. A space to “refuse to ask for recognition and instead want to take apart, dismantle, tear down the structure that, right now, limits our ability to find each other, to see beyond it and to access the places we know lie beyond its walls.” 

 

I think this conversation and the points you raise gets to the heart of the question I’ve been asking myself (and as of yet been unable to answer):

-       Why is it important to think of Non-Alignment today?

Especially given the specific social and political environment that gave birth to the movement has passed, and drastically shifted. The moment of passing, too, is tied to larger geopolitical shifts. To utilize the terminology of Geeta Kapur – the world dialectic is over. So any reference to it becomes a gesture in hindsight, a gesture which I don’t want to negate as I think there’s importance in it – it’s a matter of finding that importance…

 

Susan:

Yes, at least my work is more concerned with how these ideas fit within the US narrative. Will the group you were working with also be working on this project with us? I wonder about how other countries' narratives are similar or different to the US and how artists counter politics. I think it's interesting to think of how non-Americans and the non-aligned feel that they have to justify their work and how the effort of doing so can cross the line into becoming didactic. I'm interested in artists that are able to express politics and culture beyond the didactic and abstract into intellectual curiosity. I really like the idea then of the non-polar artistic gesture you mention, and how searching and breaking down this idea could influence the curation search. Also, it's curious to think about how non-polar work looks in the same space and if these works are really different or living within the same narrative. 

 

To be continued...

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