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miercuri, 13 iunie 2012

La trienalle , Paris , Palais de Tokyo , 2012

Intense Proximity, Art as network OKWUI ENWEZOR What is the landscape that Intense Proximity seeks to traverse? It examines, through recourse to visual art, performance, and cultural action, a sociopolitical environment in which a fracture between belief and its symbols has become unmistakably visible. The recent shaping of national and cultural narratives through exhibitions offers a salient basis for critical reflection on the exhibition project La Triennale, which, in its earlier incarnation as La Force de l’Art, was intended to display and promote “contemporary French creations.” Whatever the benefits of such exhibitions in advancing the notion of a particular “national” aesthetic in an increasingly globalized world, it could be argued that the blind spots of nation-oriented exhibitions are even greater. Throughout the 1990s, as large-scale artistic events such as biennials and triennials became increasingly global, exhibitions, which were conceived along the lines of a national model, were exposed to increasing scrutiny and critique. Such exhibitions were not only considered anachronistic, especially in the wake of the supposed post-identitarian network of global artistic spaces being opened up by globalization, migration, and border crossing; they were also viewed as limiting the scope of the complex conversations that often exists within each national scene. La Triennale 2012 takes as its starting point this externally bounded space of artistic production, and proposes to explore this contested space according to the following questions: First, how can the seemingly opposing, yet complimentary systems of the imagined national space be reconciled in an exhibition project within contexts in which the very structure of multiple identity, social expression, and individual autonomy have become part of the national conversation? In turn, is contemporary art and its various systems of legitimation, mediation, and diffusion, capable of shaping this debate, able to occupy critical positions beyond the circumscribed borders erected by an art system intent on reflecting only its own entrenched values? These questions come, not without risk of misunderstanding. Given the unambiguous nature of the identitarian gambits of French politics at this historic moment, it could be easily assumed that La Triennale 2012 is making an argument for identity. It is not. La Triennale 2012 instead begins by arguing that while the general culture in France is entangled in the conundrum of identitarian debates, contemporary art provides a more complex mechanism for opening an exploratory public forum into a post-identitarian discourse. La Triennale 2012 proposes an exhibition space that serves as a civic nerve for exploring the contradictions inherent in the idea of a national exhibition which, simultaneously aims to celebrate its artists and also show great hospitality to those artists who are outside of the national space but who share part of its cultural imaginary. Rather than conceive an exhibition project that smoothes over differences, and blends the inherent tensions between aesthetic and critical concepts, between social diversity and cultural differences; or between national and secular identities on the one hand, and ethnic and religious identifications on the other; or between civic rights of indigenes and human rights of aliens, La Triennale 2012 proposes the concept of Intense Proximity as an organizing principle. The great heritage of post-enlightenment thought created a model of global relations in which the concept of distance, particularly in the field of ethnographic research, delineated a spatial paradigm that all but severed temporal contiguity with a broad array of cultural scenes that were assumed to be incompatible with the modern conception of social identity. Incompatibility framed a world of the outside. And on the inside, it furnished a philosophical program that in turn shaped decades of discovery and exploration. Twentieth century ethnography’s great legacy, and its impact on the world of forms and visual production, is not simply in its prodigious research output, or its voracious appetite for radical alterity. Rather, it is in that moment of ethnographic poetics: the entry into the field of research by the speculative camera. As long there existed that critical measure of distance between the near and far, ethnographic poetics invariably projected to the world: the image of man at a remove from modern society. Thus, in this historic moment when there are arguably no more outside cultures to discover or far away places to explore, when the asymptotic relationship between outside and inside has become cause for alarm and anxiety, it appears that our time is emblematized, and equally traumatized by the collapse of distance. With this collapse, difference and alterity leaps out of the abyss where it had long been confined, and we enter the zone of Intense Proximity, a form of disturbing nearness that unsettles as much as it exhilarates and transforms the coordinates of national cultural vectors. At its core, Intense Proximity is based on a series of programmatic directions on the ways of sharing space, social experience, and aesthetic antagonism without resorting to the strident pieties of identity politics, nativist self-regard, ethnocentrism, and myths of national cultural cohesion. The proximity suggested here is with regards to both the public’s physical relationship to the artistic works, but also with metaphoric combinations that sometimes exacerbate the relationship between art and society. Fundamentally, the goal of the project is to shift from the idea of national space, as a constituted physical location, to a frontier space that constantly assumes new morphologies (local, national, trans-national, geo-political, denational, contaminated, etc.) Now, approximately four months before the exhibition begins, we are pleased to see that the collective curatorial development of La Triennale 2012 has developed organically alongside the research of the artists and institutions affiliated with the program. Together, we anticipate a project that blends subtlety with force, ambition with rigor. January 5th, 2012

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