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KARACHI: Artist stresses art of resistance

February 09, 2003

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KARACHI, Feb 8: Witnessing the perpetually worsening socioeconomic and political conditions of most Third World countries since they achieved their independence after World War II, I have reached a point in my life when I could no longer justify my position as an artist or see any significance in art that does not take into account this change and respond to it critically, said Dr Rasheed Araeen, editor of London-based Third Text.

He was delivering a lecture on “The art of resistance: towards a theory/ manifesto of nominalism” on Saturday here at the newly-established Contemporary Arts Resource Centre.

Introducing the scholar, the honorary secretary of the Foundation for Museum of Modern Art, Jalal Uddin Ahmed, said born in Karachi, Rasheed Araeen was a civil engineer, artist, writer, inventor, founding editor of Third Text and founder director of Black Umbrella (formerly Project MRB), an organization set up in 1982/84 to research and promote the work of artists of Afro-Asian origins whose modernist work had been institutionally ignored.

He said: “Frustrated by his experience as an artist with the art establishment in Britain, in 1975 he turned to writing which focused on the racist and imperialist legacies that still prevail and haunt the mainstream of art discourse in the West. In 1978 he founded an art magazine, Black Phoenix, but produced only three issues. However, he resurrected and relaunched this magazine as a theoretical art journal as Third Text, which is now in its 14th year and has produced 56 issues.”

Dr Araeen first presented his ideas briefly with the help of a slide showing what he calls the “Trajectories of modernism in the 20th century.” Reading out his lecture, he said: “It is unnecessary for me here to go into the historical causes of this human predicament, but with globalization the situation is getting worse. As for the ruling classes of the Third World, most of them have capitulated to the power of global capitalism and what they now all want is to share some of its spoils - even when they know full well that this is causing unbearable misery for most of the people.

“The position of most of the artists, critics, historians and curators from the Third World is no different. They are now part of the global art scene, and though they perform as functionaries of the system in pursuit of their careers in the West, it would be unfair only to target them for a special criticism. With globalization, the idea of the Third World offering an ideological opposition to Western imperialism has totally collapsed. What has remained now is hollow rhetoric of Westernized middle classes whose sole object is to embarrass the liberal conscience of big bosses so that they could extract some more benefits from them for their vulgarly affluent way of life.”

“The workers of advanced industrial nations, having more resources than the rest of the world, can actually play a very productive role in the development of a global network of resistance and struggle,” he said.