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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:Re: Replay to Manfred Brönner and more
Date:Mon, 19 Oct 1998 20:52
Author:Yu Yeon Kim  [kim@plexus.org]
Reply To:forum1@hkw.kbx.de


This being a forum of cultural practitioners from different nations obliged by necessity to converse in English, which for many of us is a "second" language, there will obviously be problems of translation of and interpretation of meaning. Given this, I am inclined to allow that in some texts what I may assume to be apparent, may not be what is actually intended by the author.

However, I must confess to being puzzled by the implication, if I understand him correctly, of Manfred Brönner's that I "lament about the development that uses and incorporates the arts in its strive for business". My point was how relationships and language have already to an extent been predefined in digital discourse by the nature of its commercially orientated structure and tools as well as the market place, which fuels its technological development. To work critically and creatively within or in relationship to such an environment requires recognition of these aspects of it, at least.

I think that if we are to examine the "usage of the Internet for cultural exchange" then this necessitates a consideration of the cultural mechanics of the Internet - the way meaning and culture is conveyed, absorbed, reinterpreted, and translated through networked space. If this is so, then it is also necessary to understand without romanticism, its nature - the market and creative forces that give it shape and constitution, and the inherent perspectives of the capitalist/post colonialist environment from which it originated. Furthermore, as the fabric of the Internet is a vast number of computers at various locations around the world, that are owned by individuals, organizations, companies, governments etc., all connected (at times) to each other, then "global culture" as facilitated by the Internet, must likewise be formed and evaluated by the dynamics between those locations.

"Global culture" then, essentially implies plurality, but also a confluence of cultures that are in a continuous process of contact, exchange and evolution that is determined to an extent, by the problematic entwining of their histories. In this context what is portrayed by the "Other" is not the subject itself, but the culture that assembles the definition. Indeed, it must be very difficult from the Western perspective, with its history of colonialism, to go further than the mere fetishization and stereotyping of Asian, African and so-called Third World cultures. These cultures do not need protection from being infected or contaminated by, as Armin Medosch puts it "the kind of globalization that can bring harm to previously protected local economies and cultures". There are no hermit kingdoms anymore. The travelling merchants, crusaders, colonialists, printers, wireless and telephone companies got to them long before the Internet. The evolution of global culture started eons ago, facilitated by trade routes, migration, war, crusades, and colonization. In the contact zone, however it might be facilitated, both the carrier and the recipient are "contaminated" by their meeting. Both receive a cultural packet that is brought into a foreign context where it is assigned new values that are relevant to the needs of that culture. The import is assigned a new ownership that attaches it within the foreign context. Indeed, much of European culture, with its legacy of Colonialism, is a complex overlay of cultural bits, imported, borrowed, or stolen from other cultures. What is important for the European cultural practitioner is to recognize the origin of these "artifacts" and the methods by which they were obtained as a formative process of Western culture. It is equally important for the Asian or African cultural practitioner to identify this process of authorship and the determining influence of their cultures on the development of Modernism and contemporary Western culture. The prevalent notion that the contemporary art of non-Western countries is only a replication of the forms and language of Modernism, and one that has no relevance to their cultures, is not credible. If an Asian, African, or Pacific artist chooses today to use a form that is apparently "Western" it is because it is as much theirs as any other - though its repossession both subverts and charges it politically.

Modern "global" culture is a pluralistic discourse of cultures in which the transport (I hesitate to say "exchange", as what is transferred is transformed in the process) of cultural ideas has been accelerated perhaps beyond our ability to reasonably assimilate them. However, this data is always translated on arrival according to its relevance to the locality. Although within this milieu we may find certain things in common (and certainly the most basic of these is that we are all human), the complexity of the interaction of our cultures will always result in myriad differences. The development of cultures has always been an issue of interchange rather than a preservation of local integrity.

I must agree with Olu Oguibe that the intent and manifestation of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale has a special relevance here, in that it was not only a celebration of the pluralism and differences within globalism, but that it also addressed the dynamical relationships of the histories and geographies that comprise it. It is true that this remarkable event has been inadequately, and in some instances, erroneously documented. Perhaps this is something we should take steps to repair soon. In this respect I applaud the efforts of Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt with "Universe in Universes".

I would like Manfred Brönner to expand on his idea of "One Forum". I must say that I am somewhat alarmed by the prospect of such an entity, as I believe that pluralism and contradiction promote critical thought rather than hinder it. I do not believe that international discourse should be institutionalized, or that there should be one absolute organization that validates or acknowledges cultural practice. Inevitably, there will be many such associations, but if they are to serve any real purpose they will be temporary and focused on issues that mark a transition in critical thinking to embrace new and evolving paradigms of cultural interchange.


Yu Yeon Kim


PLEXUS Art and Communication
"only connect ..."
http://plexus.org
oracle@plexus.org



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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

Project direction: Gerhard Haupt - haupt@uinic.de
©  House of World Cultures, Berlin. 1998