Hearings: A Reader
|T. J. DemosReturn to the Postcolony
Specters of Colonialism in Contemporary Art
In the wake of failed states, growing economic and political inequality, and the ongoing US- and NATO-led wars for resources, security, and economic dominance worldwide, contemporary artists are revisiting former European colonies, considering past injustices as they haunt the living yet remain repressed in European consciousness. With great timeliness, projects by Sven Augustijnen, Vincent Meessen, Zarina Bhimji, Renzo Martens, and Pieter Hugo have emerged during the fiftieth anniversary of independence for many African countries, inspiring a kind of “reverse migration”—a return to the postcolony, which drives an ethico-political as well as aesthetic set of imperatives: to learn to live with ghosts, and to do so more justly.
T. J. Demos places contemporary art within the context of neoliberal globalization and what scholars have referred to as the “colonial present.” The analysis is complex and provocative, both for an understanding of the historical material as well as for the contemporary theoretical discourse. Return to the Postcolony is one of the most ambitious, intelligent, and readable texts on contemporary art related to the African context that I have read.
—Alexander Alberro, author of Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity
The specters of colonialism continue to haunt the current global order. Far removed from universalist and ultimately empty demands for a “global art history,” T. J. Demos uses particular cases to explore the false universality of “globalization” as we know it. This is art writing at its best: determinate and determined.
—Sven Lütticken, author of Idols of the Market: Modern Iconoclasm and the Fundamentalist Spectacle
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