The decades following the 1970s were characterised by the crises of newly independent nation-states around the world. This was further complicated by the implementation of structural adjustment and neoliberal policies prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, eventually leading to the privatisation of the public sector and educational systems. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, these policies resulted in enlarged security apparatuses, vicious cycles of military coups, internal ethnic strife and civil wars, and, in some cases such as in Somalia, a total collapse of the state.
In the arts and culture arenas, the post 1980s period marked a rising interest from western museums as well as private and public institutions in exhibiting and collecting works by contemporary non-western artists. However, this trend unfolded within a xenophobic environment shaped by anti-immigration legislation, the closing of borders to non-western people and the criminalisation of solidarity with the legitimate struggles of dispossessed communities in the Global South. This continued in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the total disregard for lives lost in the mass exodus of non-western people crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Panelists will assess this paradox in the context of the mushrooming of biennials and contemporary art forums in places like Havana, Dakar, Sharjah, Kochi, Singapore, and Gwangju, that have served as alternatives to western-oriented platforms such as the Venice Biennale and documenta. Speakers will discuss the implications of such paradoxical phenomenon for the writing of new art histories and more inclusive narratives.