Can We Save the Future?
is like arguing against
the laws of gravity…
Kofi Annan (?)
In recent years, we have observed a clash between the universal and the individual. Can a harmonious global culture exist without erasing various local traditions? Can we still present the variety of cultures and traditions for the future?
I remember having an exciting children’s book about the differences in celebrating winter holidays around the world. This year, changing Ukrainian Christmas' date to December 25 makes me think about globalization, using the Ukrainian example toward an abstract Coca-Cola Santa. In the era of digital connectivity, we are changing the way we perceive and consume art. International collaborations, virtual galleries, and much more remove limits but, at the same time, threaten us with losing individual and local differences.
How does art cope with it?
Keeping a focus on Coca-Cola, we have to start with the way Andy Warhol popularized pop art, criticizing consumerism as part of globalization. In multiple works, he challenges us to reconsider our relationship to everyday objects and the homogenizing impact of multinational corporations. His work not only mirrored the visual language of advertising but also questioned the commodification of culture, offering profound commentary on the interconnectedness fostered by globalization. Warhol's impact invites us to closely examine the ongoing influence of mass-produced icons in our continually globalizing world.
Another artist, Ai Weiwei, confronts us with similar topics. In his work "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn" (1995), he provocatively drops and smashes a valuable Han dynasty urn in a picture. With this action, he challenges notions of cultural heritage, iconoclasm, and the impact of contemporary actions on historical artifacts.
Olafur Eliasson urges us to reconsider the cultural impact of globalization and its ecological footprint. "The Weather Project" (2003), presented in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London, raised awareness about our relationship with the environment and the impact of human activities on climate change. "Ice Watch" (2014), presenting large chunks of ice from Greenland at public spaces, served as a tangible representation of climate change and global warming. These projects aim to challenge us to explore the intersection between art, culture, and the environment.
Alighiero Boetti challenges the conventional boundaries of artistic authorship. His collaborations with artisans from diverse cultures stand as a testament to the interconnectedness of our world. In his "Mappa" series, Boetti created world maps in which each country was filled with the national flag made of carefully embroidered and colorful patterns. It raises questions about the fluid nature of identity and the collaborative spirit needed to navigate the globalized reality.
Other artists include more of their own heritage and possible traumas linked to globalization in their art. Shirin Neshat focuses on gender, identity, and cultural displacement in the context of her Iranian heritage. In her immersive video installation "Land of Dreams" (2019), she addresses the theme of cultural displacement in the United States. Through a narrative that weaves together dreamlike sequences and real-life experiences, Neshat captures the complexities of identity and the impact of globalization on the Iranian-American community.
Kehinde Wiley's canvases focus on power, race, and globalization. His unique approach to placing contemporary black individuals within the iconic poses of traditional European paintings transcends mere homage, becoming a transformative act that challenges established narratives. Portraits become a dynamic medium through which to explore identity and resilience in the face of cultural shifts on a global scale. In "Judith and Holofernes" (2012), Wiley reimagines the biblical story with a Black woman as the central figure, challenging traditional representations of femininity and power, providing a contemporary perspective on historical narratives. The global resonance of the biblical story is reframed through Wiley's lens, addressing themes of identity and resilience. Each artwork challenges established narratives and invites viewers to reconsider the historical canon through a lens that celebrates diversity and contemporary perspectives.
The works of Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu explore femininity, race, and global consumption. In her multimedia works, Mutu delves into the visceral and the surreal to offer nuanced commentary on the intersection of individual experiences within the broader context of global dynamics. In the large-scale collage and sculptural installation "The End of Eating Everything" (2013), Mutu features a fantastical and surreal depiction of a hybrid female figure. The work addresses themes of environmental degradation, consumerism, and the impact of globalization on both the planet and the female form. The work prompts viewers to reflect on the interconnectedness of individual experiences within a world undergoing rapid transformation.
What does the future hold?
We can argue that globalization may lead to a homogenization of artistic expression, removing unique cultural identities. But at the same time, there is still a need to preserve the diversity of the world's artistic heritage. Can we find a balance between the universal and the individual, between global influences and the preservation of cultural identity? While we may be inevitably bound for a globalized world, we can actively engage with and support art that transcends borders while honoring local roots. Anyway, it is uncertain how our cultural future will look like. Do we all end up with the only Saint, Coca-Cola Santa Claus?
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References and further reading:
Johnson, R., & Lee, M. (2017). Digital Connectivity and Artistic Expression. Journal of Contemporary Art, 25(3), 123-145.
Ryu, T. (2023) The Positive Impact of Globalization on Art: Circulation, Styles, Identity, and Consumption, IJSRC Volume 11, Issue 9 Sept
Smith, J. (2005). Globalization and the Arts. Routledge.