Far From Local: policy and practice (of art and culture) around the globe

V.2, n.1, Summer 2010
Editors Note
Rebecca Hernandez and Ania Szremski, co-editors

When our shaky, if giddily profitable, financial infrastructure shattered around us in 2008, the art world (like any other sector) soberly realized that business as usual was no longer possible. Non-profits closed their doors within months, some museums began deaccessioning collections, capital campaigns floundered mid-stream and certain art fairs began to teeter on the brink of disappearance. In our first issue of e-merge, we interviewed the key players of Art Chicago in the midst of this economic turmoil, keenly aware that the definition of that nebulous job title “arts administrator” would only grow increasingly uncertain as the art world continued to shift and adapt to these new economic realities.

While several interviews in our first issue frankly discussed the impact of the economy on Art Chicago and the institution of the “art fair” itself, the e-merge editorial team decided to devote an entire issue to the consequences of the global financial crisis. What resulted from our call for papers, however, was a much farther-reaching, panoramic view of the intricate and deeply imbricated relationship between cultural policy, politics, economics, arts administration and institutional development than we had envisioned. While the course of events that was set in motion in 2008 seemed to herald a dramatic change in trajectory, the papers we received reminded us that this is just another knot in a fascinatingly tangled narrative. The geographical scope of this survey presents us with a greater understanding of the opportunities that can arise under the dynamics of growing, transforming, or collapsing forces.

In this issue of e-merge, our contributors (all of whom are current SAIC graduate students or recent alums) take us across the globe, exploring cultural policy and institutional issues as they relate to the rapidly shifting political realities of the past 20 years. Hantao Shi presents a thoughtful and richly detailed portrait of the generation of ’85 in communist China, a group of artists practicing an experimental art while carefully preserving their position within the state arts apparatus, while Katrina Enros tackles the contentious topic of censorship in the context of Canadian cultural policy, reminding us of the need for clearly defined censorship practices. Next, Paige Johnston critically questions the development of a unique model for a contemporary art museum in the aftermath of the Bosnian war, and Allison White delves into the hotly contested cultural developments in the United Arab Emirates, with a particular focus on East-West tensions and political bias that becomes manifest in the literature surrounding this topic. Finally, Grace Murray explores the building of two new contemporary art museums in India, which strive to reproduce well-known museological models while negotiating heightened visibility for a hitherto institutionally neglected facet of Indian cultural production.

While these papers touch on diverse geographical locations and socio-political contexts, taken as a group they reveal subtle and surprising connections and commonalities, weaving together to create a loosely knotted image of a global art world. If we are truly heading into a brave new world of arts administration in the aftermath of the financial crash, what lessons can we learn from these disparate case studies? What institutional models are reproducible, and which should be avoided? How can we encourage bottom-up, site-specific sustainability while playing by governmental rules, and the laws of the market? And, lastly, how can institutions protect themselves from infrastructural vulnerability while remaining relevant, dynamic, and availing themselves of diverse forces and practices?

Table of Contents
85 New Wave: Experimental Art in China
by Hantao Shi

A Brief Survey of Censorship in Canadian Cultural Institutions
by Katrina Enros

Art of the Epoch: The Ars Aevi Project
by Paige K. Johnston

A Survey of Emerging Arts Frameworks in the United Arab Emirates
by Allison White

Global Art and Museums in the New Urban India: Building the Devi Art Foundation and the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art
by Grace Murray

Cover art:
Sara Schnadt, “Connectivity,” 2007. Photograph by John Sisson.

A special thank you to: Paul Matthew Davis, Nicholas Lowe, Julio Rodriguez, Jess Takla, and Rae Ulrich for their generous support and assistance throughout this issue.