Reappraising globalization

W hen in the early 1990s the phenomenon of globalization entered the discussion of contemporary reality, the national and the global suddenly became two antagonistic forces, each seeking prevalence over the other. In contemporary art, the effects of globalization were seen as compromising local and national aspects of art but at the same time liberating art and artists from cultural isolation, thus providing access to a more culturally democratic and interconnected world. Globalization seemed to contain an inherent contradiction. Some sided with and others against it, a polarization that reflected the opposing aspects of the term. Now that the heat in this initial debate has abated and globalization is part of our everyday lives, it is perhaps time for a more balanced appraisal of the subject which takes into account both its benefits and its disadvantages. This is the idea behind «Transcultures,» a contemporary art exhibition organized by the National Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Cultural Olympiad and still on view at the Athens Concert Hall. In the exhibition’s catalog, which has just been published, Anna Kafetsi, the director of the museum, examines the various strands of cultural globalization and uses more neutral terms such as hybridity (instead of national or global), to define cultural identity and the complexity of contemporary art. «Transcultures» is aimed at showing that contemporary artists are no longer trapped between the polarities of the local and the global but, something like citizens of the world, use different experiences toward an integrated whole. Befittingly, the exhibit includes artists from diverse ethnic backgrounds – some have spent time in different countries and experienced different cultures – who have, moreover, adopted a multiethnic approach in their work. Kendell Geers, for instance, is South African but lives in Brussels, while Shirin Neshat and Kimsooja are Iranian and Korean respectively, but both live in New York. Other names include Gary Hill, Emily Jacir, Katharina Fritsch, Miroslaw Balka, Bill Viola, Kounellis and Walid Ra’ad. The Greek artists participating are Danae Stratou, Costas Tsoclis, Giorgos Hadzimichalis and Costas Varotsos. «Transcultures» is an exhibit that addresses cultural nomadism and cultural hybridity. It helps replace cultural divisions with a more complicated reality of cultural exchanges and cross-cultural understanding. By extension, it helps overturn simplistic or monolithic notions of globalization and shows a world in constant flux and transformation. «Transcultures» will run until the end of the year (Exhibition Hall at the Athens Concert Hall, Kokalli 1 & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333). Catalogs of the Museum of Contemporary Art are offered at half price at the museum’s shop (corner of Frantzi & Kallirois, tel 210.924.2111).