Our annual printed publication – the CoBo Supplement strives to increase awareness by serving as a platform to develop conversations pertaining to contemporary art. This year’s edition, released to coincide with Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, features the opinions and viewpoints of over fifty influential, global art leaders on eleven dynamic topics addressing significant ongoing discourses in the art world. To kickstart on our conversation on Third Culture Artists, we bring to you the musings of Victor Wang, Oscar Murillo, Haroon Mirza, Matheiu Borysevicz, and Inti Guerrero.
Text: Victor Wang, Haroon Mirza, Matheiu Borysevicz, and Inti Guerrero.
Images: Courtesy of Contributors, and Oscar Murillo.
The topic of third culture artists addresses the phenomenon of a generation being immersed in and influenced by a highly globalized, multicultural environment. Constantly in motion, crossing borders, and all the while accumulating complex identities which their practices become inherently informed by, these artists explore themes with a distinctly unique cultural perspective. One that becomes increasingly pertinent in the nationalistic political climate enveloping the world today.
Victor Wang, Associate Curator, PERFORMA
Excerpts from Flight Mode – A Theoretical Proposition by Victor Wang
Derrida describes mapmaking—the first writing—as the wounding of the forest rather than the scarring of the soil. —Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
There is a distinctive nature to national borders: a linear force that produces planes of authority that firmly reshape the geopolitical curvature of the earth’s surface. A performative function and aesthetic quality have been attributed to these hand-drawn lines since their rudimentary inception, in the first maps of South America to Asia, creating particular concepts of place. These gestures and lines of division formed a global visual paradigm, though they also limited borders’ verticality to land, allowing for extra territories of resistance and experience in the air above it.
At a certain height in the earth’s atmosphere, land, laws, borders, and governmental regulation begin to lose their control over individuals. In this borderless frontier, at thirty- seven thousand feet above sea level, a temporary warping of geographical belonging occurs—a spatial and temporal reorganizing during which, for a moment, roads and cities simply become lines and marks on the surface of nature—and a new visual and geographical paradigm emerges.
“Flight mode” is a system of perpetual motion that keeps an individual above ground and away from any immediate sense of nativity, self-controlled mobility, or singular identity. It is a spatial- temporal reconsideration of the accelerated and expanded economic, political, and cultural-social relations of globalization.
This disconnected space of production initiates a deconstruction of site-specificity, in the sense that the producer and the site are both in constant motion, allowing for a more globalized understanding of what geographer David Harvey has called “time-space compression.” The acceleration of flight puts the body in constant motion, at a loss of control and at an unnatural disconnection from the earth. It also characterizes the geographical expansion of our experience of mobility and the degrees of instability felt when moving between countries.
The complicated fluidity of place and migration, between the local and the global, makes it difficult for the art institution to imagine an experience that simultaneously creates and unravels identity and nationality. This amorphous state keeps families, friends, communities, villages, and nations in continuous motion and exhaustion. We work in order to continue and progress in our daily lives, passports allow us to remain, to not be expelled, and resources must be cultivated and extracted.
This state of being is further complicated when such individuals have to partake in a larger national cultural discourse, requiring them to represent or define the cultural landscape and to occupy spaces designated for political and cultural authenticity, such as biennials.
It also acknowledges that “flight mode” and the “impossibility of settlement” open up a complex discussion around ideas of site- specificity, or perhaps site-mobility, and duration as both a psychological and a physiological experience, a transitory state of becoming within a disconnected, globalized sense of time.
*This essay was originally published in Oscar Murillo: the build-up of content and information by David Zwirner Books.
Oscar Murillo, Artist
Haroon Mirza, Artist
The subject of third culture artists makes me think about the debates around cultural appropriation (CultApp). As a first generation offspring of immigrants to the United Kingdom, I have had to adopt a culture different to that of my parents. Now, at the cliff edge of Brexit, the abyss of nationalist fear, I have to question what it means to appropriate a culture – is it my right, and more critically do artists truly have freedom of expression if they embody a “third culture?” Do third culture artists have an edge through being able to adopt ideas from more than one culture? No, because the market requires them to only speak about the cultures they have ties with, which is in fact prohibitive.
It seems important though to reassess our approach. Where lies the difference between the use of an idea and the transgression of it? For me, the use and celebration of an idea is productive and an at- tribute of cooperation, whereas the transgression of an idea is potentially confrontational. So thinking about this notion of a third culture artist allows me the liberty to think about CultApp as a beneficial imperative, both as a survival technique or mechanism for integration, but also, and more importantly, as a methodology for cooperation and exchange of knowledge and ideas. This is, of course, only under the caveat that knowledge and ideas are not property but are freely available to all.
*This is an excerpt from Haroon Mirza’s essay, the full version will be published online on our website later this week.
Inti Guerrero, Artistic Director, Bellas Artes Projects, Manila/Bataan, The Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art, Tate, London
Crossing borders in the art world represents a form of privilege, a phenomenon often blindly used as a metaphor to define “contemporaneity.” Most people in the world do not move. They stay put, continuing to live where their ancestors are buried. In our field, those/we who are mobile also represent a tiny fraction of the vast and complex art histories and cultural lineages of places. Given this privilege, we should preserve a sense of responsibility and awareness when we cross borders (either physically or online) to create work (works of art or exhibitions) with location-specific subjects and narratives. At the same time, there should not be a moralist stigma towards “cultural appropriation,” given that all cultures exist by virtue of their own constant and evolving appropriations, adaptations and translations of forms.
Mathieu Borysevicz, Founder and Director, BANK/MABSOCIETY, Shanghai
I am writing this at 11,277m above the Pacific Ocean on a flight from Shanghai to LA. I have lived away from my motherland for half of my life and travel internationally on a bi-monthly basis. My children are “Made in China” but identify as Americans. We speak Chinglish at home and go to India for Christmas. In fact most of the people I know exist in “Flight- Mode,” our new mode of subsistence. However, although the professional art world encompasses more physical space, I believe that its cultural space is shrinking. In fact, if we look at the rituals and role of “art” in places outside of the usual hegemony, it looks frighteningly similar to that hegemony. Art fairs or Biennials the world over address the same issues in the same forms. Not only are artists navigating or living in more and more different territories but also these territories are becoming less and less distinct. What is becoming distinct is the blur of nomadism. Like Woody Allen says, “80 per cent of life is showing up” so we must show up everywhere; usually we are surrounded by the same people that showed up last time in the last place. This has created a certain homogeneity (that those who went somewhere else can invariably catch on Instagram); but when the carbon footprint of our obligatory and incessant migration begins to flood the planet, the only responsible thing to do will be stay at home.