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Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, 12 October, 1998 - ... open end

Subject:Re: a contribution to the forum
Date:Tue, 08 Dec 1998 05:54
Author:Leandro Katz  []

Thank you Gerhard Haupt for this great initiative.
After following nearly ninety responses and reading well over 650,000 characters and the related links for the past few weeks my neck is sore. It is hard to be succinct, so I'll use bullet summary sentences hoping to find (and to suggest) the use of a more focused and straightforward language for these discussions.

*First, Art McGee's splendid list of sites offering theoretical perspectives (Nov. 18) include good sources to understand the level of the discourse on some of the issues addressed by this Forum. It is hard to read elaborate philosophical texts on an e-mail screen and it would be better to make them accessible to retrieve and print in the same way that Coco Fusco's "At Your Service: Latinas in the Global Information Network" was available to download -

*E-mail and the internet are powerful tools to circulate statements, petitions and denunciations of violations of freedom of expression and of human rights. Such has been the case with petitions circulating in the U.S. and in Europe protesting the attempts to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S., the endorsement of The Hate Crimes Prevention Act after the case of Matthew Shepard, a gay student murdered in Wyoming in the U.S., the Pinochet case in England/Spain and its consequences suffered by artists and activists in Chile, just to name a few. (See also Hans Braumüller's 11/30 great response Crosses of Mail Art)

*Other e-mail and Internet developments have included the ability of research groups to gather previously inaccessible information on the recent dark periods of history -- in Central and South America -- making information available to groups conducting investigative historical and forensic research in connection with political disappearances in these regions. Clearly the results of cross referencing and sharing bibliographic and journalistic information at the great speed of e-mail, has allowed tremendously powerful conclusions to come to light. These groups have been able to recover public records which had been destroyed or deleted from the local archives by military regimes, but different members of the research group were able to find them in archives or testimonies in other regions of the world.

*Document on the Rights of Artists. I was impressed by Francisco Córdoba's statement and the document that he refers to. Perhaps he should distribute it among the subscribers. And perhaps the main focus of this Forum should concentrate, at least for a moment, in reviewing how artists from different parts of the world are treated not only within the social, political and economic conditions of their own region, but by the national and international cultural institutions and art specialists that try to curate them. I appreciate Olu Oguibe's remarks and share his disappointment in those of us who have kept silent for a while. But I think that several serious consideration have to be brought up to the surface before that remarkable list of people that he brings together in his remarks, "theorists, cultural workers, administrators, funders and fundraisers, critics and technicians" are able to hold hands and dance around the globe.

*Many years ago in New York the Art Worker's Coalition tried to enunciate the principles or Artists' Rights. Very recently a group of Latino and Latinamerican artists in the U.S. tried to address the suffocating conditions resulting from the dismantling of the public art funds and the privatization of culture. The main attempt of these meeting was to address these conditions together with museum directors, curators, art historians and critics. The general institutional atmosphere suggests that, even the very wealthy cultural institutions, regard the artist as a worker whose fees are below their lowest paid employee. Although the Latino cultural institutions in the U.S. are more like alternative spaces than very rich museums, most institutions still regard the work of the artist as a free natural event, like a sunset, speculating on the idea that artists will be honored to show their work in their noble institutions... for nothing and with hardly any support!

I think that the basic conditions that rule the relations between the artist and the cultural institutions need to be brought up into the open before any productive exchange of ideas can be discussed. Basic specific principles, not all necessarily financial, need to be articulated, shared and disseminated.

*I appreciate the frankness and pragmatism of Britta Erickson's and José Tlatelpas' suggestions about networking and sharing information on different practical subjects. Perhaps another section of this Forum should be dedicated to these matters. These issues are difficult to discuss in the open at times, but the deteriorating conditions of making and showing art in the real world are often the result of too many artists making concession to galleries and cultural institutions and not being aware that in the professional world there are basic things that the artist should expect and demand.

*I should have began by following Britta Erickson's suggestion: I am a conceptual artist and filmmaker born in Argentina and living in New York.

As an independent filmmaker I am impressed by the Discussion Boards posted in and recommend to visit this site. Discussions on this site are organized by subject. The most virulent discussions posted on the Discussion Boards have been dealing with conditions that film and video makers are subjected to by festival programmers and curators. In this exchange of news and opinions several issues have come up in connection with mostly American film, video and new media festivals that demand an entry fee when submitting work to their selection process. This practice, which is not used in any other part of the world regardless of the economic conditions of that country, is also being practiced by the Open Call type of gallery exhibitions requesting artworks for consideration. This is not merely a result of the loss of public funding for the arts. It is another indication of the deterioration of the basic principles that support the work of the artist as it mirrors the blatant opportunism that seem to dominate over artistic and cultural practices today. This opportunism stands out more clearly when one also realizes that many curators, posing as self appointed art historians, attempt to write the history of contemporary art, without much field work or research, to merely end up choosing their best friends and relatives, in a petty political game that would make Simon and the Pope's nephews blush!

Perhaps the Forum can organize the discussion by subject and address these important issues. I also hope that you will be able to publish the document presented to The Bologna Art Fair and The Document on the Rights of Artists presented in Paris to the UNESCO mentioned in Francisco Córdoba's November 13 statement.

All the best, Leandro Katz

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