Contemporary Art and Globalisation: Biennials and the Emergence of the De-Centred Artist

Mr. John Byrne
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The impact of Globalisation on contemporary art practice has been both obvious and disconcerting, apparent and subtle. Most recently, the world wide growth in 'Biennials' has provided the most obvious evidence of the radical changes which have been taking place in the global economies of contemporary art practice since the collapse of the Eastern Block. Globalisation has, as in many other areas of social relations and endeavour, both homogenised and fragmented engagements with and responses to the 'art world'. This has led to a kind of new, postmodern 'International Style' of works which, despite their differing quality, simply appear to be the same in any kind of location. In response to the blandness of such 'airport art', many Biennials have recently sought to encourage a direct 'engagement' with the 'cultural specifics' of their location. The result of this has been, perhaps predictably, a kind of 'parachute documentary art' produced by artist willing to make lightening fast responses to the possibility of a financially rewarding brief. However, in spite of this polarisation of the contemporary art world, into the glibly general and the impossibly specific, many artists have begun to produce works which are intentionally 'de-centred' - dispersed over time, space and location – simultaneously denying the possibility of their works post-biennial absorption into a globalised economy of commodified art objects and further de-stabilising the traditional relationship between artist and artwork. Drawing on the experience of researching Channel 5's programme on the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art 04, this paper will attempt to evaluate some of the significant shifts that are taking place in, and as a result of, the growth in the contemporary globaised art economy.

Keywords: Globalisation, Contemporary Art, Art Biennials
Stream: Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Contemporary Art and Globalisation

Mr. John Byrne

Senior Lecturer in Contextual Studies, Department of Contextual Studies Liverpool School of Art and Design, Liverpool John Moores University

John Byrne is a Senior Lecturer in Contextual Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. He has published widely on issues of art, technology and globalisation including 'Cybersublime: Representing the Unrepresentable in Digital Art and Politics' which was re-published in The "Third Text" Reader on Art, Culture and Theory. More recently, Byrne has participated in 'Press-Corps', the official press corps of Liverpool Biennial 04 and has undertaken research for broadcast including Channel 5's 'Tim Marlow at the Liverpool Biennial'.

Ref: H05P0631