Who Needs It?
… Global Visions is most useful when regarded as a reference book of dissenting sound bites against the complacency of the ‘mainstream’ and its inability to stimulate a taxing critique of its own failures or adequately to embrace, or give recognition to, the darker peoples of the world. Jean Fisher, who edited this collection states that ‘… despite the increased traffic through the art institutions of cultural products by the formerly excluded, it has done little to shift the old binary oppositions of western self and other and the structures which sustain them. Aesthetic theory and critical debate – where it exists at all – are [sic] still woefully inadequate to conceptualise the complexity and heterogeneity of contemporary art practices which do not comfortably reflect a narcissistic Eurocentric identity’. Thus, Araeen, Oguibe and company all stick the boot in. Reading this book, those more cynical than me will conclude that all this angst-ridden interrogation will ultimately count for nothing, because it was the Arts Council itself that acted as midwife to the protracted and difficult birth of the INIVA project. Perhaps we should slap INIVA’s arse and wait for it to cry before we pronounce the baby fit and healthy. After all, the Arts Council had previously acted as midwife to the birth of ‘ethnic arts’ and ‘cultural diversity’. And it doesn’t take much to realise that those concepts, while not exactly stillborn, died in infancy. Death being due to a multitude of unforeseen complications.
Despite (or maybe because of?) its huffing and puffing, Global Visions throws up some unsettling questions. Will INIVA make any difference? Who is INIVA for? Who needs ININVA? Above all, what the hell is INIVA? Answers to these questions run away from us when we try to identify and corner them. In this sense, even the better contributions contained in Global Visions, as succinct as they are, are ultimately of limited value.
The above extracts are from a book review by Eddie Chambers, “Who Needs It? Global Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts”, Third Text Publications, London, Rasheed Araeen, Jean Fisher et al., Art Monthly, London, Number 183, February 1995:45