For the curatorial discourse of this Triennial, we propose to say ‘Farewell to Post-Colonialism’. This represents the theoretical basis from which we hope to explore our critical vision. ‘Farewell to Post-Colonialism’ is not a denial of the importance and rewards of this intellectual tradition; in the real world, the political conditions criticised by post-colonialism have not receded, but in many ways are even further entrenched under the machinery of globalisation. However, as a leading discourse for art curatorial practice and criticism, post-colonialism is showing its limitation in being increasingly institutionalised as an ideological concept. Not only is it losing its edge as a critical tool, it has generated its own restrictions that hinder the emergence of artistic creativity and fresh theoretical interface. To say ‘Farewell to Post-Colonialism’ is not simply a departure, but a re-visit and a re-start.
2008 will be forty years since the heady days of 1968. In four decades, waves of new social movement and multi-cultural theories have woven tapestry of rich and clashing colours out of the world’s changing social realities. International contemporary art has also benefited from the attention to socio-political issues surrounding identity race, gender and class. But over the years, revolutionary concepts have also transformed into leading discourses safely guarded by ‘political correctness’. Post-colonial discourse’s analysis of the power structure within cultural expressions has triggered a series of cultural resistance, as well as guided the construction of the self as a Subject in relation to the Other. However, these forms of analysis and construction have also adversely developed an institutionalised pluralistic landscape (a multicultural ‘managerialism’) that has today turned into a new form of stereotyping. In this Triennial we wish to draw attention to the ‘political correctness at large’ that is the result of the power play of multiculturalism, identity politics and post-colonial discourse. Urgent issues facing curatorial practice today are: How do we establish an ‘ethics of difference’ within the framework of difference in cultural production? How do we prevent a ‘tyranny of the Other’ without sacrificing the grounds already gained against the power status quo?
For some years major international contemporary exhibitions around the world have worked towards building up ‘discursive sites for a cacophony of voices’ and ‘negotiated spaces of diverse values’, emphasising ‘correctness’ in cultural politics; these have inadvertently triumphed to the neglect of independent pursuit of artistic creativity and alternative imaginative worlds. Concepts of identity, multiplicity and difference are now slowly losing their edge to become new restrictions for practice, succumbing to the phenomena of ‘false representation’ and ‘multicultural managerialism’. In response to this, the curatorial project of the Third Guangzhou Triennial centres of mulling over multiculturalism and its limits within the larger perspective of ‘Farewell to Post-Colonialism’.
The ‘Farewell’ calls for the renovation of the theoretical interface of contemporary art, in order to depart from its all pervasive socio-political discourse in an endeavour to work together with artists and critics to discover new modes of thinking and fresh analytical tools for today’s world. The curators hope this Triennial will be a process of discovery for ourselves, and not just the fleshing out and illustrating of readymade theories and preconceived ideas. In trying to explore what this Triennial ‘is’, we wish to carry out a parallel inquiry into what it should not be. In this Triennial may be understood as a locus of questions for all of us involved in the international art world, starting with an Exercise in Negative. We hope to uncover, with the help of artists and thinkers, elements of the paradoxical reality veiled by contemporary cultural discourse, to make contact with realms that slip through the cracks of well-worn concepts such as class, gender, tribe and hybridity. We hope to think together with artists and critics, and investigate through their practices and projects to find what new modes and imaginative world are for art beyond those already heavily mapped out by socio-political discourses.