Sunday, November 26, 2006
The Culture Game
In self-congratulatory tones of tolerance and open-mindedness, the Western gatekeepers of the contemporary art world-gallery owners and museum curators, patrons and promoters-take great pains to demonstrate their inclusive vision of world culture. They highlight the Latin American show mounted a few years ago or the African works featured in a recent exhibition of non-Western artists. Non-Western artists soon discover that this veneer of liberalism masks an array of unwritten, unspoken, and unseemly codes and quotas dictating the acquisition and exhibition of their works and the success of their careers. In past decades, cultural institutions and the critical establishment in the West resisted difference today, they are obsessed with exoticism. Both attitudes reflect firmly entrenched prejudices that prescribe the rules of what Nigerian-born artist, curator, and scholar Olu Oguibe terms the culture game.
In the celebrated, controversial essays gathered here, Oguibe exposes the disparities and inconsistencies of the reception and treatment afforded Western and non-Western artists the obstacles that these contradictions create for non-Western and minority artists, especially those who live and practice in the Western metropolis and the nature and peculiar concerns of contemporary non-Western art as it deals with the ramifications and residues of the colonial encounter as well as its own historical and cultural past. Ranging from the impact of the West`s appetite for difference on global cultural relations and the existence of a digital Third World to the African redefinition of modernity, Oguibe`s uncompromising and unapologetic criticism provides a uniquely global vision of contemporary art and culture.
Olu Oguibe is a visual artist, writer, scholar, and curator. He is associate professor of art and art history at the University of Connecticut.