press release

Multiculturalism is easy to dismiss. For the right, it poses a threat to tradition and national identity. For the left, it often means food festivals, post-Marxist culturalism, or reactionary community spokesmen. As in discussions on globalization, perhaps the jist of the problem lies in the tools at our disposal, the critical terminology, which is awkward at best, dangerous at worst.

Following the government declaration of "2006: Year of Multiculturalism", we looked to theorists and practitioners with a talent for challenging standard terminologies and reassessing their critical potential. If a prominent example is the recent notion of the ”multitude”, as formulated by Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt, keynote speaker Timothy Brennan’s use of “cosmopolitanism” is a reconsideration of an older concept to critique new developments in academia and the cultural industries.

Another example is that of "Ethnic Marketing", as used by organizer Zolghadr, which allows the host country (in this case Sweden) to be viewed as a specific "ethnic" populace with a specific buying power and demand - for a specific type of multiculturalism to begin with. One of the very aims of this festival-inspired seminar is to discern what this Swedish brand might be. Does it play with universalist aspirations, or does it share the more fashionable notions of “Other but Equal”?

One vital critical discourse regarding multiculturalism is that of Postcolonial Theory, the academic trend which surfaced in the 1980s, and which, among other things, analyzed the complicity of Western intellectual traditions with various forms of colonialism, old and new. In the course of its swift institutionalization, has this movement spawned a newer, updated version of that complicity? What are the perils of academic engagement, and other top-down gestures of goodwill?

Finally, what can the artworld contribute to this debate? Is it enough to critique the streamlined government decrees? Are there possibilities of being more cooperative, or is the artworld at odds with mainstream engagements? The instrumentalization of the visual arts has been decried by critics for decades, and the boom in art & culture events dubbed “international festivals”, for one, seems to confirm this suspicion. But does a festival necessarily result in a crude reduction of subject matter, or does it possibly harbor critical potential? Again, when addressing these facets of multiculturalism here and now, it is crucial that the actual language of the debate - the bedrock of the internationalist conundrum - be examined once again.

Addressing the Swedish Government Decree of “2006: Year of Multiculturalism”
Konzept: Maria Lind & Tirdad Zolghadr

Künstler: Timothy Brennan, Loulou Chérinet, Peter Geschwind, Jonathan Harris, Edda Manga, Philippe Parreno, Kate Rich, Hito Steyerl