Artists Unite is now hosting the project TransAction. You can read about it and see the first piece of the project here.
June 14, 2007
June 1, 2007
on the human value of globalization
by Peter Ferko, May 2007
Globalization is hailed as a key progressive element of the 2000â€™s and a great boon to the nations of the globe. The nature of the benefit is typically described in economic terms. I propose that this description is inadequate; that the true value of globalization is in interchange between members of various cultures. This kind of interchange has been occuring in the arts for centuries, and has been a thrust of numerous organizations in the past decades.
This essay elaborates on this concept, and describes a means of bringing to light the non-economic value of such interactions. Like most manifestos, it speaks the language of idealism.
It borrows other vocabulary from the world of business. It postulates a non-economic “trans-action” — an exchange of value between members of different nations in the “global” world.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the nations of the former Soviet Union have been engaged in an evolution of economic systems from Soviet-style communism to capitalism. At the same time, Western European countries have moved more and more under the influence of the multi-national corporate mindset. Latin American nations have been in a continuous cycle of favor/out of favor with the U.S. as the U.S. values not the culture and people but the economic benefit of these nations as trade or strategic partners. China has ended its isolation through snowballing trade. As this evolution progresses, the economic model of capitalism more and more strongly posits one version of value: economic value as determined by the marketplace.
This model, while virtually undisputed in the United States, is of dubious rational evidence. For instance, does our civilization really consider school teachers of less importance than fashion models, or Presidents of less importance than basketball players — as the compensation provided by the marketplace does? Is the top-priority reason for interacting with members of another culture selling a carbonated beverage, sneakers, or blue jeans?
This project considers the alternative: that there is another reason for interaction; another value to globalization beyond that of product sales and the homogenization that globalization is currently tending toward. The challenge considered by the project is that there is no structure for setting the value of such an interaction, nor is there likely to be one given the dominant mindset among nations. Nonetheless, using the arts as an arena to explore an alternative, there is significant evidence that the interaction among members of different countries carries other, non-economic, value. Cultural tourism provides a well-established example of valuing interaction (beyond simple curiosity). The internet provides numerous examples specific to the arts. Blogs receive uncompensated comments from international readers, and online projects attract international participants. Web sites like YouTube receive participation without regard to location or compensation. In the non-virtual world, residencies attract artists who establish lifelong connections with artists, dealers, and collectors internationally.
Sadly, while one of the most exciting aspects of an international artistic exchange is the interaction between the artists about art per se, the only measurable outcome of the exchanges to date is economic, i.e. is the visitor offered an exhibition by a dealer, does work sell, are there grants available to allow further travel, etc.
Unlike the former Soviet nations, where cultural policy was decided by the government and art received some due as having a value to society, in the new economy, art must fend for itself in the same marketplace as everything else, where transactions are based on market value. I pose the following question: What would a different kind of transaction look like? What would be a trans-action — or action across borders — between artists? (more…)