Fictional Histories: Magiciens de la Terre

Fictional Histories: Magiciens de la Terre

The Invisible Labyrinth

According to the Great Encyclopaedia, the first museum in the modern sense of the word (meaning the first public collection) was founded in France by the Convention of July 27, 1793. The origin of the modem museum is thus linked to the development of the guillotine. Georges Bataille1

The slaughterhouse is linked to religion insofar as the temples of by-gone eras… served two purposes: they were used both for prayer and for killing. The result (and this judgment is confirmed by the chaotic aspect of present-day slaughterhouses) was certainly a disturbing convergence of the mysteries of myth and the ominous grandeur typical of those places in which blood flows. Georges Bataille2

Let us begin with a historical moment: the French Revolution, whose bicentennial commemoration was the pretext of the exhibition ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ (Magicians of the Earth), and whose Terror constituted modernist Europe’s first ritualised spectacle of human sacrifice: the symbols of the ancient regime had to be sacrificed publicly so that a new order of egalitarian citizenship could be instated – the king had to lose his head, as it were, to make way for the acephalous democratic state. Thus, one might say that the exhibition was a celebration of mass, popular revolt.

Let us now shift to a location: the grand hall of La Villette, the old Paris slaughterhouse, now cleansed of its bloodstains and converted into a museum space looking remarkably like an industrial Notre-Dame. In the context of the exhibition, it is not insignificant that the slaughterhouse is a kind of liminal space: an interface between ‘culture’ and ‘nature’, ‘city’ and ‘countryside’, the sustenance of ‘life’ and rituals of ‘death’. This was the site of more than half the exhibits in ‘Magiciens’, the rest being located in the Musée national d’art moderne, at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Introduce into this context fifty western artists and fifty non-western artists whose work claims a space in the ritual life of its culture, and, in its conjunction of sacrifice, art and the museum, we have the making of a scenario worthy of Georges Bataille. Following Bataille’s logic, one might speculate that the first museums, especially the ethnographic museum, figured a displacement of the sacrifice of the colonised other (its actual or cultural genocide) onto the other’s cultural expressions as fetishized collectibles, thereby satisfying the metaphysical and mystical nostalgia of a Eurocentric bourgeois culture that had relinquished its spirit to the inert gods of capitalist commodification and progress.

Bataille’s heterology, notwithstanding its ‘primitivist’ undertone, addressed a non-rational aspect of French thought that, in the wake of the French Revolution and colonialism, contemplated the social and ethnographic implications of sacrifice in the elaboration of human subjectivity. Thus, in Bataille’s discussion of the continuity and discontinuity of being, the death of the individual (the sign of its discontinuity) nevertheless confirms the continuity of life in the community. Hence in sacrifice, ‘the victim dies and the spectators share in what his death reveals. This is what religious historians call the element of sacredness.’3 As Annette Michelson remarks, ‘Bataille will claim that it is in the festivity of sacrifice and in its sacred violence that man attains the community in sovereignty which is lost in the social order founded on the primacy of production and acquisition’4 – the western social order, in other words, and ‘its culture, the discourse of reason…. In such an order, the rule of ”homogeneity” is totalising, exclusive of “heterogeneity and excess”‘.5 A historical precedent for Bataille’s philosophical musings might be the self-sacrifice by which the African slaves of French San Domingo (later to be the independent state of Haiti) fought for and won their emancipation – a struggle that, as the late C. L. R. James so brilliantly described, was economically and ideologically instrumental in the formulation of human rights during the French Revolution.6

To have perceived the exhibition as a labyrinth of pure heterogeneity and contradiction might have created a potential to address art’s relation not to ‘magic’ (an abused notion that bourgeois culture tried to eradicate), but to the psychosocial dimension of the sacred and the profane beyond the confines of Christian orthodoxy. The curators of ‘Magiciens de la Terre’, however, did not address the Bataille discourse, although it has been central to a postmodern evaluation of heterogeneity and difference. Moreover, in the first ‘manifesto’ they prepared on the exhibition, ‘The Death of Art – Long Live Art’ (1986), they speak of the recent history of western art in terms of a formalist search for the ‘absolute’, making no mention of Surrealism (with which Bataille was, at least for a time, associated, and which was indebted to a ‘Latin’ American sensibility), or of any of the other antiformalist movements, from Dada through the Situationists and Fluxus, to certain post-Minimalist and Conceptual practices that have attempted to recover a collective responsibility for art. Had an examination of the collective rather than the individual been the reference point, a space might have opened for a deeper investigation, for a more appropriate juxtaposition of western artists with those engaged elsewhere in communal ritual practices, and also for a re-examination of western commodity fetishism and mass consumerism as forms of ritual.7 Sigmar Polke alone seemed to have grasped that the core of the debate lies in an internal interrogation of the global implications of the French Revolution, and of France’s historical fascination with ‘otherness’ and ‘exoticism’, with the rational and the non-rational.

The discourse of this self-proclaimed ‘first world-wide exhibition of contemporary art’ opened a potentially fruitful internal reflection on ‘the relationship of our culture to other cultures of the world’ but then buried it under the obfuscating ahistorical and apolitical sign of ‘magic’.8 If Bataille and Toussaint L’Ouverture, the San Domingan leader of 1793, were two spectres hovering over this sacramental feast for the eye, they must surely be joined by Frantz Fanon; one is mesmerised, in fact, by the sleight of tongue in which the exhibition’s title invoked that of Fanon’s Les Damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth, 1961), without foregrounding the passion that made his book such a powerful argument for a collective and political struggle toward self-determination by colonized peoples. If Fanon’s text remains an important document in critical cultural discourse it is not only because it witnesses a particular moment in history, a function we might also desire of art, but because the imperialist mindset interrogated by Fanon still inscribes the institutions of the West.

Into this context come two statements by the exhibition’s chief curator, Jean Hubert Martin:

‘Successful and dominant countries impose their laws and styles on other countries, but they also borrow from them and so become permeated by other ways of life. The notion of cultural identity… is the product of a static concept of human activity, whereas culture is always the result of an ever-growing dynamic of exchanges. We might even go so far as to say that “acculturation does not exist”.’9


‘I oppose the idea that one can only look at another culture in order to exploit it. Our first concern is with exchange and dialogue, with understanding others in order to understand what we do ourselves.’10

What is important here is the manoeuvre around the concept of ‘exchange’, a manoeuvre parallel to that displacing the terms of the entire debate from the interior to the exterior. Martin’s statements oppose exploitation in the same breath that they articulate it, they propose exchange at the moment they occlude it. ‘Looking’, ‘imposing’, ‘borrowing’: these are uni-directional strategies of domination by which ‘others’ have been culturally depleted without their acquiescence. Who are these ‘others’ we should understand? Postmodern debate has made it clear that the ‘other’ is an illusion of the West’s own making: a phantasmic projection of its fears and desires which have never produced anything but a misrecognition and, in consequence, a fatal disruption of the cultures of other peoples. Rather than continue to insist that the ‘other’ reveal itself to our gaze for our purposes regardless of its own, we might first engage in serious self-reflection.

Faced with an appropriating gaze, non-western cultural identities are forms of resistance for those ‘others’ who believe, with justification, that their world view has as much to offer as the West’s. That this resistant component of cultural identity may encompass the social, the economic, the political as well as the aesthetic was constantly glossed over in the commentaries of ‘Magiciens’. But while we stopped to admire the aesthetic charm of a Wesner Philidor voodoo vévé, we might also have remembered that it was voodoo that carried the call to unite for liberation throughout the slave communities of French San Domingo, a political reality masked by the western myth of individual creativity. This tactic foreclosed on meaningful dialogue, revealing the curators’ enterprise to be profoundly paternalistic – a serious matter, for it illustrates the extent to which western institutions can appropriate the language of critical cultural discourse without fundamentally interrogating their own terms of reference.

The Gnostic Map

I want to play the role of someone who uses artistic intuition alone to select these objects which come from totally different cultures… I intend to select these objects from various cultures according to my own history and my own sensibility.
Jean-Hubert Martin11

Those objects which have a spiritual function for the human mentality, objects which exist in all societies, are the ones of interest for our exhibition. After all, the work of art cannot simply be reduced to a retinal experience. It possesses an aura.
Jean-Hubert Martin12

There is a surprisingly naive and unreflective use of the term ‘magician’ in Martin’s text especially since, as Guy Brett points out, in current art discourse it ‘would be considered trite, a disempowering word that would weaken the relationship between the aesthetic and the social dimensions in the artist’s practice.’13 Its introduction here is not difficult to understand, however, given the recent displacement of much industrial production (and dangerous waste) to the cheaper ‘Third World’ labour markets, its severance from the site of consumption in the capitalist centres, which has emptied these centres of their ‘content’. Furthermore, if we can say that during the progressive modernisation and concomitant fading of religious experience in Europe and North America the artist remained one of the few ‘sites’ or ‘castes’ in which knowledge of both production and consumption was retained, then we can begin to see why the West invested its art with transcendental meaning. Perhaps this is why the exhibition tended to privilege traditional material processes; the fetishising of these processes as they are practised both in western culture and elsewhere reflects the yearning for some lost pre-industrial integrity or cultural ‘authenticity’. In any case, the ‘magician’ was always other – the possessor of a knowledge that was arcane, at least to those outside its cultural or caste formations. In the absence of any social or communal dimension to its debate, the exhibition returned us to the uncritical modernist fallacy of the sovereign subject. The works by Barbara Kruger and Braco Dimitrijevic seemed particularly aware of this problem: Kruger’s billboard asked, ‘Who are the magicians of the earth?’ and listed a miscellany of professions as possible responses; Dimitrijevic presented examples of a ‘casual passer-by’ monumentalised along with well-known iconic figures of western culture, such as Leonardo da Vinci. Both works functioned as critiques of the valorisation of the artist, undermining the philosophy of the exhibition. Under the weight of the spectacle, however, they were ultimately reduced to mere rhetorical gestures.

The claim that artwork possesses a ‘magic’ or ‘aura’ that can be universally recognised beyond considerations of cultural context, and hence that its maker is a ‘magician’, is a proposition worthy of more serious philosophical reflection than to be simply conflated with the assertion that Martin’s ‘sensibility’ or ‘taste’ was the arbiter in the selection of ‘auratic’ works for the show. About this latter confession one can have nothing to say, except to wonder what, in fact, was radical about it, since ‘taste’ has been the basis of most western collections of art since Renaissance times. Such privileged subject-positions have imposed calibrated values and meanings on the entire world, and it is precisely this history and taste that need interrogating. As to the former notion, we should not be misled into believing that the ‘aesthetic’ and the ‘magical’, or the ‘spiritual’, are one and the same thing, and that (western) universal principles govern both; or that Martin’s ‘taste’ guarantees either. The best we can say is that these are terms in a relation governed by local circumstances, and that to presume otherwise is to homogenise and to represent falsely the specificity of other peoples’ worldviews: a familiar trick in the face of an incomprehensible heterogeneity.

What consistently appears as an overwhelming difference between ceremony-based work and western art is that the former is participatory (to say so is not to render its producers anonymous but to emphasise their relationship to the whole) and hence functions as a unifying principle in culture, while the latter, with its valorisation of the commodity and the individual, renders all but the artist as spectator. Western artworks are a symptom of division. Entertainment is fast becoming the only role available to them, and if the art of others is defined in the terms of the western aesthetic structure, it too is implicated as entertainment and loses its voice. The homogenising and universalising western aesthetic is an alibi for refusing to hear the voice of the other, which is stigmatised as Babelian, incoherent, incapable of giving an account of itself.

The commissaires find it ‘odd that our knowledge of world literature should far exceed that of the visual arts’14, seemingly unconscious that they speak from the very curatorial position that has, historically, sustained this ignorance through the contempt for non-western visual culture long-held by the institution of art, and the common relegation of this work to the ethnographic museum. I do not wish to belabour the fact that, notwithstanding official apologies that the selection could not be ‘inclusive’, a legislating male voice thoroughly inscribes the institutional text; or that few magiciennes and no artists of the African diaspora – significant ‘magicians’ internal to the West – were unearthed in North America or Europe, while so many bare-breasted ‘native’ and black women were illustrated in the catalogue. Concerning other supporting material, the postcards notably focused on the exotic ‘native’ artist: the Yuendumu artist at work on his earth painting, Esther Malangu in her traditional costume painting her house walls. Catalogues have a historiographic significance, and once the ‘Third World’ participants in the exhibition have faded back into their homelands, what remains legible is another entry in the genealogy of those predictable (mostly white male) artists consistently supported by major institutions. From this perspective, the theology of the ‘magician’ becomes no more than a means to reclaim a value for dominant western art, to rescue it from its tired and debased status as a reified commodity in a capitalist market.

The Journey: Neither Here Nor There

‘Magiciens de la Terre’ has been in preparation for over four years, with a small team of curators, committed to very extensive traveling in order to discuss on site with artists, and able to make direct contacts, from the far North of Canada and Alaska, to the deserts of Western Australia and Arizona, from China and Japan to west and southern Africa, to central and south America.
Press release for ‘Magiciens’15

We have discovered that these artists enjoy showing their work to the outside world and not only because it brings in money for their art. A trip to Paris does not necessarily engender culture shock. Why refuse others the pleasures we also have in traveling?
Jean-Hubert Martin16

In numerous literary and oral traditions the journey represents a kind of rite of passage, but during the modernist and imperialist period it takes on less benign connotations. The journey or travelogue was a recurrent figure in the discourse of the exhibition. The La Villette display itself – organised like the space of a Christian cathedral – attempted to map a circuit of affects for the viewer. The catalogue was, in part, an ‘atlas’ – a mapping of points in space that measure the distance between the centre from which one sets out and the periphery from which one returns. It was in effect a means of maintaining that distance.

With Boy’s Own enthusiasm, a catalogue essay by one deputy curator mapped the American South-West primarily through the white modernist artists who had settled there. The curator made barely a passing reference to the artistic productions of the diverse indigenous peoples of the whole Four Corners territory, although they were in fact the targets of his research. Having criss-crossed the ‘mid-West’ by jeep and plane (echoing Lewis and Clark’s nineteenth-century ‘exploration of the ‘wilderness’ by horse and canoe), he eventually tracked down a desired Navajo sand painter who had so far eluded his grasp (‘avoir réussi à mettre la main’) in a ‘suburb of Phoenix’17 – which, however, borders on a reservation, a fact likely to be of no small import to the artist concerned. Such inattentiveness to detail destabilised the rhetorical domain of the curators’ textual discourse; the commissaires went seeking the art of ‘others’ like ‘explorers’ in the grand nineteenth-century tradition of Livingstone and Stanley.

Thus, none of this is innocent; the lack of political context is redolent of the old colonial discourse of mapping ‘uncharted’ territory (uncharted by whom?) with all the accompanying resonances of naming, exploitation and possession. The European, armed with his global backpack, assumes the freedom to go anywhere uninvited, to violate the boundaries of ‘others’, and to claim their space for himself, for his religion, or for his art. This colonialist arrogance is perhaps exemplified by the working strategy of artists such as Richard Long, and the exhibition repeated the scenario when it sent a few western artists into ‘marginal’ territories: Long, for example, visited the Australian Yuendumu community, while Lawrence Weiner went to Papua New Guinea. Long’s work was a very large mud circle applied to a black wall. References to the work’s size recurred in the texts, as if this in itself were a value. The mud was from the Yuendumu’s terrain; but for this and its size, the piece was not substantially different from any other of Long’s mud works. The artist’s vertical ring dominated the perspective of La Villette like the rose window of Notre-Dame, a giant ‘solar anus’ that oversaw everything including the horizontal Yuendumu earth painting below it, rendering all the lateral exhibits on the floor as so many side chapels. Far from reflecting a dialogue between the two, the relationship replicated the juxtaposition of the colonised and the coloniser, between the West’s manipulative relation to the earth and others’ bodily association with it, and between western neoprimitive aestheticisation of the signs of others’ cosmogonies and the ‘meaning effect’ produced by their own work. The predominance given to Long’s work betrayed the exhibition’s rhetoric of equality, just as the Christian symbolism of the installation at La Villette betrayed the ritual and religious difference of other cultures and their historical struggle for survival.

The ‘”Primitivism” in 20th Century Art’ show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1984, gave priority to primitivist western artists who appropriated the formal properties of non-European cultural expressions, although this was denied in favour of a rhetoric of no more than an ‘affinity’ between the tribal and the modern, which left European innovation superior, intact and essentially uncontaminated by outside ‘influence’. ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ was an attempt to correct this perception, and yet fell into a similar error in its insistence on the notion of cultural ‘authenticity’ (as if there could be a culture not affected by exchange with its neighbours). Most telling was the general exclusion of works by non-western artists ‘contaminated’ (the curators’ term) by, or borrowing from modernist aesthetic strategies in favour of those maintaining ‘authenticity’ of seemingly traditional material processes. But assertions of cultural ‘authenticity’ or ‘purity’ are especially worrying in a climate in which discourses are subtly shifting from discrimination on the basis of ‘racial’ difference to discrimination on that of ‘ethnic’ or ‘cultural’ difference.

There is in all this a fundamental misunderstanding of the sophistication with which other cultures historically internalised western culture and make modernism over in their own image; moreover, one might legitimately argue that modernism arises with the exchange between the West and the Rest, that the West has no privileged ownership of it, and that there are as many modernisms, each with their own local inflections, as there are sites of exchange. The incorporation of motorbikes into gelede masks, among other examples of the recycling of western production and its waste, has a political, and not simply aesthetic dimension that ‘Magiciens’ seemed reluctant to address. Most alarmingly, the emphasis in the curatorial selection of African exhibits of the ‘folkloric’ at the expense of modernist aesthetics, gave the damaging impression that African modernism still doesn’t exist. Similarly, although the Yuendumu earth paintings made the show, it was not mentioned that, as the late Australian anthropologist Eric Michaels has described, they operate a creative video-production-and broadcast unit structured around aboriginal law. My contention is that ‘traditions’ are bound to a worldview, not to specific material processes, and for us to fetishise the latter not only reinforces our own nostalgic romanticism but blinds us to the subtle reinventions of language by which cultures seek to express their thoughts and feelings through a heterogeneity of representative codes and media. Some understanding of this appeared in the relation between the work of Nera Jambruk, from Papua New Guinea, and of Weiner. Jambruk’s structure was a tall ‘men’s house’ in the architectural style of his region; behind it stood Weiner’s fence, inscribed with both his and (presumably) Jambruk’s ‘graffiti’. Both works were constructed from corrugated metal sheeting, a building material common in the shantytowns on the edges of colonial cities, and hence at least suggestive of a collaboration with some political resonance.

Despite the curators’ well-intentioned desire to create such a two-way dialogue between cultures, the playing field remained far from level. What kind of dialogue can take place between affluent, gallery based western fine art and the folkloric object often made for a western touristic market, when the economic gulf is so huge? Or with the shamanistic or ritual object, when ‘other’ religious practices continue to be assaulted by Christian missions (points alluded to in the work of Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles)? Perhaps more dialogue would have been possible had the exhibition indeed given more space to artists who use transcultural codes. Then we might have seen how cultural invention in the contemporary world has multiple pathways – not a one-way traffic from the West to the Rest, or the insularity of ‘cultural authenticity’.

It seems as yet impossible to transcend a homogenising cultural vision that can do no other than represent its object in vague humanist terms. An exhibition cannot claim to be ‘world-wide’ – to speak in tongues – if the concerns it addresses are only those aesthetic values argued over in western centres among a privileged few to whom the real-life concerns of ‘others’ are no more than background colour to their own dramas. We need, like Bataille, to examine other constructions of the self based on principles of community, to understand more fully art’s productive role in the political and psychosocial dynamics of global society, rather than to remain trapped in an impoverished valorisation of a privileged western subjectivity. This is the lesson to be learned from ‘Magiciens de la Terre’, in spite of its failures. What the exhibition demanded was an acknowledgement of the non-rational gesture that precipitated the French and San Domingo revolutions – a gesture that momentarily made redundant all prescriptive theologies, one through whose terror and diabolical laughter the European world opened to the challenge of the other – both sacred and profane – in all its class, gender and racialised dimensions, and to which Bataille, L’Ouverture, Fanon, and the ‘Third World’ are heirs. As Fanon says in The Wretched of the Earth,

‘Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience. Look at them today swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration.’18

1 Georges Bataille, ‘Museum’ (1930), in October, 36, 1986, p 26.

2 Georges Bataille, ‘Slaughterhouse’ (1929), in October, 36, 1986, p 12.

3 Georges Bataille, Eroticism, Death and Sexuality, trans. Mary Dalwood, San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986, p 22.

4 Annette Michelson, ‘Heterology and the Critique of Instrumental Reason’, in October, 36, 1986, p. 116.

5 Ibid., p 124.

6 See C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins, London: Allison and Busby, 1989.

7 Benjamin H.D. Buchloh makes this suggestion in an interview with the show’s curator, Jean-Hubert Martin. See Buchloh, ‘The Whole Earth Show’, in Art in America, 77, no 5, May 1989.

8 Ibid., p 155.

9 Jean-Hubert Martin, ‘The First World-wide Exhibition of Contemporary Art’, exhibition statement, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, January 1989, pp 1-2.

10 In Buchloh, op. cit., p 155.

11 Ibid., pp 152-53.

12 Ibid, p 155.

13 Guy Brett, ‘Terre et musée – local ou global’ in Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no 28, Summer 1989, p 93.

14 ‘The Death of Art – Long Live Art’, unsigned exhibition statement, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, 1989, p 5.

15 Press release for ‘Magiciens de la Terre’, January 1989, p.1

16 Martin, op. cit., p 2.

17 Mark Francis, ‘True Stories, ou Carte du monde poetique’, in ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ exhibition catalogue, Editions du Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1989, p 14.

18 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Les Damnés de la terre, 1961), trans. Constance Sarrington, London: Penguin Books, 1985, p 251.

‘Magiciens de la Terre’ was held at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, and at the Grande Halle, Parc de la Villette, Paris, from May 18th to August 14th, 1989.

Published in Artforum International, September 1989.

Edited Postscript accompanying republication in Making Art Global (Part 2) Magiciens de le Terre 1989, ed. Lucy Steeds, London: Afterall and Koenig Books, 2013. Part of Afterall’s series ‘Exhibition Histories’.

I first heard of ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ when one of the adjunct curators asked me if I could suggest Native American artists as the exhibition organisers had realised, rather belatedly, that they hadn’t yet considered this constituency. I submitted a shortlist of names of artists that addressed their contemporary sociopolitical realities; however, the curators ignored these artists, providing the first clue to their understanding of the notion of ‘cultural authenticity’. At the time of the exhibition I was a reviewer for Artforum, and as such was provided with a list of possible exhibitions to cover. ‘Magiciens’ was not on its radar; but my unsolicited coverage of the exhibition was accepted and included at the end of their ‘review’ section.

During the mid-1990s, on a trip through Amsterdam, I passed a departmental store whose window display was based on South African Esther Malangu’s decorated house, one of the ‘other’, folkloric exhibits in ‘Magiciens’. ‘Magiciens’ was both symptom and institutionalisation of the trend towards the globalised supermarket display in which all difference is reduced to the equivalence of the collector – like a wunderkammer, which, in fact, was how the curator described his exhibition. ‘Magiciens’ demonstrated that there was market and entertainment value in others’ material cultures, generating a flurry of exhibitions in western institutions of ‘New Art from Elsewhere’, which were essentially interchangeable, having little impact on centre-margin power relations, museum structures or curatorial self-reflection. As the Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera often pointed out, such shows were usually framed by western scholarship and funding, so control remained in the hands of the western centres, disguising political and economic inequalities: there were ‘curating’ cultures and there were ‘curated’ cultures. Thus we had not yet extricated ourselves from the colonialist violence of subjecting ‘others’ to a discursive field not their own.

With the new millennium the prevailing art world rhetoric has been that the globalisation of art indicates a new inclusiveness: an abolition of boundaries and hierarchies. Undoubtedly, pressure from postcolonial debates forced an increased circulation of previously marginalised artists, and the incorporation of peripheral geographies previously excluded from an international art system centred on the North-North axis. Did this mean that the system was now free of cultural and ethnic bias, or merely that the range of actors had widened without substantially weakening the Northern axis’s control of value, decision-making and the art historical canon? In a study designed to test art world claims of ‘inclusiveness’, the sociologist Alain Quemin concluded that, despite some modest diversification, “while the discourse on globalization, cultural relativism and mixing has allowed for the emergence of artists from a wider variety of countries, and from the Third World in particular, their recognition by the market remains very slight, the market being pretty much controlled by westerners… In general, non-western countries play only a minor role and hardly ever have their say except, to a limited degree, in biennials of contemporary art.” (‘Globalization and Mixing in the Visual Arts’, International Society, 2006, 21, 522.) However, we have also seen re-emerging, notably in ‘peripheral’ geographies, artists developing alternative practices, networks, collectives and audiences that – at least in part – reject the market and its canonical terms of inclusion, and largely in disgust at neoliberal globalisation, which reduces all cultural expression to the commodity form.