Essay


Provisional Horizons

By Apsara DiQuinzio Sep 15, 2012 Download Full Essay

Excerpts from the exhibition catalogue for Six Lines of Flight: Shifting Geographies in Contemporary Art.

Six Lines of Flight
Find out more about the catalogue.

"The six cities represented here are not considered primary international art centers (for example, New York, Berlin, Los Angeles, Beijing, or London), and none of them hosts a major biennial. Yet they all have active, localized art communities that extend beyond their own regions and become international places of exchange."

Nestled on the verge of six horizons one finds the cities of Beirut, Lebanon; Cali, Colombia; Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; San Francisco, USA; and Tangier, Morocco. These places are separated by vast bodies of water, geographically sited on variegated land, and differentiated by unique spatiotemporal realities. And yet if one moves across the contours of this shifting terrain, one eventually finds that at the verge of each horizon is a continuous line: the horizon that circumscribes these locales, orienting them in time and space, also connects them. Occasionally, various cultural and economic forces at play push certain regions into the perceptible foreground, while others occupy less discernible zones.1 This exhibition explores the correspondences of these six distinct yet interconnected cities, highlighting a few key artists living and working within each of them. The individuals included here have a common interest in and a strong commitment to their own locality, and through their combined collaborative work have formed, or been a part of, unique platforms of various kinds, whether organizations or collectives, that have over time forged connections between their sphere and the larger constellations that constitute the world-horizon.2 Through their efforts, the artistic and cultural position of each city has increasingly shifted into focus. Each of these endeavors has produced what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari might refer to as a line of flight, or "a connection, one that takes place between self and others, pushing the subject beyond self-centered individualism also to include non-humans or the earth itself."3 Like vectors on the horizon, lines of flight deterritorialize (de-center), opening up to new encounters and possibilities, and, ultimately, new forms of knowledge, thus expand­ing fields of understanding for our heterogeneous, rhizomatic, and networked world. Invoking the conceptual playfulness of Deleuze and Guattari, this project aims to "proliferate lines of flight that extend across the social field."4

Now more than ever, artistic enterprises operate as cross-cultural platforms among interconnected constellations that possess the ability to broaden one another's initiatives through the development of exchange with divergent communities. Over the past several decades it has become increasingly appar­ent that contemporary art is no longer defined by a few primary centers; it is now composed of many centers, small and large, each possessing unique histories, constituencies, and ethnic identities. The emergence of platforms has been a defining characteristic within this landscape—a phenomenon that has over time congealed into a new global paradigm of artistic connectivity and interdependency. In many ways this change has been a result of the emergence of an "informational society" within the context of a global economy restructured by new flows of capital.5 Internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are obvious enhancers of this new world system of simultaneous feedback and participation.

Six Lines of Flight convenes artists who have created and helped to build unique platforms on a grassroots level in six cities around the world, presenting works that index the distinctive locations in which they were made.15 Through their divergent endeavors, the artists have helped make all of these cities important artistic centers that are now key cross-cultural platforms for other artists living and working in those areas, in essence forging "a new society within the shell of the old."16 Often supported by private, outside funding sources, the featured organizations play a defining role in determining the cultural constitution of their own spheres. As George Yúdice notes, "the most innovative actors in setting agendas for political and social policies are grassroots movements and the national and international NGOs that support them. These actors have put a premium on culture, defined in myriad ways, a resource already targeted for exploitation by capital (e.g., in the media, consumerism, and tourism), and a foundation for resistance against the ravages of that very same economic system."17 The deployment of the term platform is now as integrated into the language of contemporary art as it is in the techno-global system, as evidenced by the descriptions of the associations represented here. For example, one of the mission statements for the Cinémathèque de Tanger is to "act as a platform for cross-cultural exchange and dialogue." Beirut Art Center refers to itself as "a space and platform dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon." Futurefarmers also describe their studio as "a platform to support art projects, an artist in residency program, and our research interests." Moreover, the sàn of Sàn Art is Vietnamese for "platform." In his essay for the Documenta XI cata­logue, Sarat Maharaj calls the platform "a test and try laboratory site"; this reverberates in the description of Lugar a Dudas (A Place to Doubt): "a laboratory to foment knowledge of contemporary art, facilitate development of the creative process, and provoke the community to interact through artistic practices."18 Other organizations and collectives included here are the Arab Image Foundation, The Propeller Group, Helena Producciones, and Fabrica de Pensule (The Paintbrush Factory), all of which are similarly defined and conceived.

At the conceptual center of the project lie a series of conversations between artists who have formed some of the organizations and collectives mentioned above, SFMOMA staff, and members of art commu­nities in the San Francisco Bay Area (many of whom were meeting for the first time). These exchanges took place in San Francisco between August 29 and September 1, 2011, and an excerpt from a transcript of one conversation is included in this volume (see pp. 182–91). This transcript is in many ways the key to the project and serves as an important starting point for unlocking cross-cultural understanding.19 The roundtable revolves around a discussion of "the periphery," the notion that variously circum­scribes each city and to a certain extent undergirds this project. The six cities represented here are not considered primary international art centers (for example, New York, Berlin, Los Angeles, Beijing, or London), and none of them hosts a major biennial. Yet they all have active, localized art communities that extend beyond their own regions and become interna­tional places of exchange.

Notes

1. Edmund Husserl writes about the "misty" and "never fully determinable" horizon, and the distinction between perceptible and imperceptible spheres within it, in Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), 52.

2. Maurice Merleau-Ponty developed the concept of the world-horizon to designate the structure of perception in the world, which fluctuates between stages of determinacy and indeterminacy. For him, the natural world was the "horizon of all horizons." See his Phenomenology of Perception (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), 47, 385.

3. Rosi Braidotti, "Lines of Flight + Suicide," in The Deleuze Dictionary, ed. Adrian Parr (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 149.

4. Tamsin Lorraine, Irigaray & Deleuze: Experiments in Visceral Philosophy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 180.

5. Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, vol. 1, The Rise of the Network Society, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2000), 21.

15. In selecting the featured cities, I had aspired to include one from each continent, in acknowledgment of the global landscape of contemporary art. (Due to the profusion of activity in Beirut, I ultimately favored the Middle East over Australia.) Although each country I visited over the course of my research has become home to multiple new artistic centers in recent decades, the places featured in this exhibition are unique for the prominence and impact of their artist-run spaces and collectives. Given the importance of the local among the broader themes of this project, as well as to the works in this exhibition and the efforts of these collectives, it was essential to include my own locality, San Francisco, among the cities of focus.

16. Hardt and Negri, Commonwealth, 8.

17. George Yúdice, The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 83. I thank Pamela M. Lee for bringing this book to my attention.

18. For Cinémathèque de Tanger, see http://www.cinemathequedetanger.com/texte-22-3-2.html, accessed March 22, 2012; for Beirut Art Center, see http://beirutartcenter.org/presentation.php, accessed March 22, 2012; for Futurefarmers, see http://futurefarmers.com/about, accessed March 22, 2012; and for Lugar a Dudas, see http://www.lugaradudas.org/lugar_a_dudas.htm, accessed March 22, 2012. For Sarat Maharaj, see his "Xeno-Epistemics: Makeshift Kit for Sounding Visual Art as Knowledge Production and the Retinal Regimes," in Documenta 11_Platform 5, 75.

19. The desire to host such a conversation was largely inspired by the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah's use of the conversational model "between people from different ways of life" as an instrumental method for understanding localized ideas or values in order to learn from difference and envision what our shared values of responsibility toward one another might entail. See his Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (New York: Norton, 2006), xxi.

 

Get the stories. Join the conversation. Visit Story Board, a digital hub for texts and videos, dialogue, and a constellation of outside links offering windows into the worlds of SFMOMA artists and artworks.