The global art market is truly global, no longer within the light of 90s world-beatesque utopian optimism, but in the sense of modern capital invading and making every territory on earth bend the knee. Artists from non-western cultures often struggle within a myriad of forces that puts pressure on not just their voices, but needs to express themselves within their cultural and filial contexts. The “great awokening” of the art world surly likes to pay lip service to these struggles, but unlike past imaginations of supreme mosaic expression, multiplicity and difference, the artistic voice must conform to still hidden, westernized assumptions about the work of art itself.
Deanna Havas, in an interview with the Red Scare podcast said it the best when she states that POC artists must become “POC artists” or “women artists”, in essence becoming a commodity selling an outsider/”marginalized” identity to social conscious boomer art collectors. Their art in other words, only gains value in a weird, inverted woke form of Neo-exoticism, where oppression and marginalization is bought and sold, not viewed as inherently valuable as a form of cultural expression, but as expressions of cultures that are swallowed whole by western signifiers. To put it plainly, their work is no longer about “this is art that is made within my culture and understanding of the world, and it is unique”, but rather “this is is valuable because it is not ‘western”. It is not western, yet is praised by the ideological concepts of aesthetic critical theory that the west has produced to critique itself. The artist from “outside the west” or outside the norms of (a bygone) white, heterosexual male society, etc. is objectified as producing works seen through the lens of modern bourgeois liberal sensibilities. They serve as ideological tools rather than genuine sources of alternative and newer art and aesthetic styles. In term, the non-western, non-male, POC, etc. artist conforms to this combination of cultural, economic and artistic-academic pressures in the west to make such works that only finds valuation in propping up the grand deconstruction of the west critiquing itself.
I am trying to air on the side of sensitivity when i say that modern liberal woke capital in the art world has placed non-western and POC artists in a unique position, at one hand being promoted and lionized, and on the other, having their potential genuine artistic expression stifled to be coaxed into creating works of “critique” alone. Let me also mention now a main thrust of this article, the issue of when artists from other cultures outside of the west have very “unwoke” opinions and customs that show up in their artwork. The woke cultural art world gatekeepers have yet to come up with an answer that is not pure unscrupulousness: Either they ignore these contradictions of promoting “unwoke” artists because they come from marginalized identity groups, or they violate their kayfabe liberal principles of morphological equality and “toleration”, and use the powers of cancel cultures to cancel the very artists they are trying to promote.
either way, there is this anxiety in the non-western artist that is born from this need to be true to ones self, yet conform to a new and even more insidious form of liberal cultural colonialism in the modern world. This brings us to the brilliance of an artist like Chiharu Shiota, who goes where certainly very few North-American born artists would go in the current oppressive cultural climate. Continue reading “Modern Art Madness Week II, Wednesday: Rootedness in a Rootless Globe, Chiharu Shiota’s “Dialogue from DNA”.”