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Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, 12 October - 4 December, 1998

[as of December 1st 1998 the forum has been prolonged - ... open-ended]

Subject:Replay to Manfred Brönner and more
Date:Thu, 15 Oct 1998 11:42
Author:Pat Binder  []

I wish I could be saying this in Spanish, but I am glad that there exists this tool of expression for sharing our thoughts in dialogue.

I welcome Mr. Brönner's self criticism, which is not frequently found in cultural administrators of an institution that has as its main goal, disseminating German culture throughout the world, with some respectful exceptions of course, and not very different from similar institutions (Brititsh Council, etc., etc.)

His appeal of creating ONE forum (virtual and real) instead of having a one-sided "global" market is highly commendable, but before engaging in such a dream, some self-criticism on the part of the "Other" side is also needed.

He says that we have to "force the self-centered to see", and that this "should be one major topic of this discussion". This obsession we usually have coming from any kind of peryphery is as responsible for the status quo as it is the self declared "main stream".

Here I wish to refer to Ravi Sundaram's statement for this forum, where he writes that "the political impulses of a Third World cultural dialogue are as relevant as ever..." and that "a critical intra-Third World cultural communication was always hampered by the old system of sovereignty (which privileged states)." It has the same direction of thought as what Geeta Kapur said in an interview with Gerhard Haupt and me. It was regarding the concept of the last documenta in Kassel, which claimed to be a "comprehensive survey and interpretation of the state of contemporary culture", yet included very few artists from the so called "South".

Geeta Kapur said: "...though I come from India, I'm no longer interested in repeatedly telling European curators that they must include Asian art in their exhibitions. There is a certain kind of parallel developement of regions now, and thatęs for the best. I'm not saying that regionalism is important; what I'm saying is that there are parallel expositions and parallel discourses, and it's not necessary to have everything come to Europe or go to America. If it happens, then good: it means that there is a greater balance of exchange, that a new form of internationalism is developing. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to trouble me very much anymore." []

This appeared to be traditionally the point of view of an event like the Havanna Biennial [], and for many years - although being Cuba isolated itself - it succeeded to build a bridge among artists from different countries. Unfortunately, since the last two Biennials, the event is becoming a "showroom" for the West, spoiling the atmosphere of communication among artists, that existed in the past. A similar development one could see from the first to the 2nd Johannesburg Biennial, though in this case I have to confess that I draw these conclusions from my "virtual" visits. The first Biennial in Johannesburg in 1995 was the first international event of its kind to understand the possibilities of the Internet in making available information that is otherwise very difficult to obtain. On this web presentation [] there is still almost the only information about contemporary art we can find in the Internet about African countries like Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Moçambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Reunion, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe. The approach taken by the second Johannesburg Biennial, inviting different curators from different cultural backgrounds seemed meritorious in the beginning. But since its website has been lost in cyberspace (could anyone tell me where did it go?) for all of us who couldn't afford travelling, we have to believe - or not - the reviews, like Sabine Vogel's DakArt98 review [] saying about Johannesburg that "last year (it) ignored the local scene and catapulted itself most probably offside with an exclusively New York-oriented market internationality".

Some time ago, I was annoyed that somebody from Europe would dare to ask me if there was contemporary art in Argentina. At that time I would have asked the same question to somebody coming from Vietnam.

Pat Binder
Buenos Aires, now Berlin

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Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, on the use of Internet in the cultural exchange with and between Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. 12 October - 4 December, 1998

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