This essay was commissioned for the catalog Station to Station: Images of the World, Copenhagen, Danish Center for Culture and Development (DCCD), Denmark, 2000 The printed versions are in Danish and English both were censored into a short and depleted version. 58 referred to the 58 Chinese found dead in a refrigeration truck entering UK from Oostende in 1999-2000


58  ( dead ). How unfortunate. It's their fault, paying so much money to come here to die. The"snakeheads" (Chinese term for human traffickers) must be brought to justice. This is one of the realities of

capitalistic globalism. They the dead have followed the road to the "civilised world", the centre for progress and fame as propagated by the "chosen" (self, the

European). When the Europeans went out to rule/colonise the “other”, it was justified as providing progress in the fields of science, moral etc....But now when the converts and

followers have come to get a piece of the cake, the reality is no entry, this boat to “nirvana” is only for us the "chosen". This boat has now become "fortress

EU", into which only the "green card Indians" (Indian IT specialists from Bangalore for Germany) and the highly-skilled can come to provide fuel for our economy, but not refugees and asylum seekers.


Does not this reflect the mainstream public opinion in today’s modern Europe toward the “other”?  That we only want to enjoy the beneficial aspects and not want to deal with problems, in living with “others” in our midst. A continent previously active with colonising have now become a continent of active with immigration, to which masses of people from previously colonised countries and refugees flock, to start a new living in the metropolitan West.  This epochal change has introduced an unprecedented cultural and ethnic heterogeneity throughout European spaces, and arguably affecting the difficulty many Europeans experience in coming to terms with the presence of non-white and non-Western others amongst their midst, resulting in widespread xenophobia "reaching even usually peaceful countries like the Netherlands and Sweden"[1]. This  phenomenon is not restricted to western Europe alone, i was told that there has been more mosques being built in Turkey in the last 30 years compared with than the 300 years before that, which goes to show how globalisation can cause a retreat into fundamentalism when left unexplained.


This is the legacy of a history of exploiting colonization by European Imperialists that continue to today’s post-colonial predatory globalisation where societies and economies of the third world are eroded by a consolidating “Weltanshauung” of multinationals farming techniques backed by their political backers like IMF and WB. These are underpinned by the propagation of cultural

supremacy through  marketing strategies coupled with cultural sponsorship activities, like those at by Nokia, which does not sponsor art events in its homeland (till 1999), but sponsors the largest art event in Singapore, the Nokia Singapore Art show.


In the outer boundaries of Europe, cross- cultural activities, such as art activities act as vanguard to promote the “universalism” of Eurocentric art and cultural practices, supported by proxy or by so called non-profit key players like Goethe Institut, Alliance Francias and British Council. Others organise art projects, like the Himalayan[2] project by Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, to appropriate foreignness for  presentation at home to create a “multicultural”  feeling of interaction and goodwill, besides also “packaging” highly speculative[3] multi-cultural shows and circus acts such as  “Cities on the Move”  that toured various European cities with works imported from foreign artists. This modus operandi is clouded by practices and prognosis akin to predatory capitalism, the main trait in today’s globalised “take-over” culture[4] of the multinationals.


The question i want to put forth for reflection here is: if tourism is one of the offshoot of post colonialism, do cross- cultural projects act as extensions of cultural tourism, to appease the appetite to consume and to possess the "exotic", or as an elite pasttime? Or do they functions as moral tokens to compensate for predatory globalisation? as pacifier for the conscience, as an alibi to cover up some other act??


While in the inner boundaries, national cultural programmes such as like the  “Heimat Kunst” organisedby the House of Cultures of the World /Berlin mobilise foreigners living in Germany to use their heritage to renovate the images of the new Multicultural Society. "Heimat Kunst" will certainly only impart an at best shallow, if not fake/illusionary image of minority cultures in Germany. The events portrayed in the programme magazine under the various exotic notations and cultural vehicles[5] seem to imply that their authors (players) have been accepted into the status of “arrived” but they fail to understand that this so called acceptance occurs in a marginal space outside the general “mentality of the German”. Entertainment remains entertaining but the reality is quite another story[6]. i criticise strongly these artists who embrace the “trend” of “arrival” to peer status into the German culture for their naivety, and who take on the position to represent the many foreigners on the streets of Germany. This goes hand-in-hand with pretentious shows from mainstream art events such as the  Kunstwelten im Dialog - Von Ganguin zur globalen Gegenwart in the Ludwig Museum in Cologne in 1999/2000 - Global Art 2000[7]  and “Continental Shift” in various cities of the Benelux countries.

While labels are freely mounted, employing stereotypical and positive symbols denoting multiculturalism, invented by the dominant culture about the “other” as signs of successful multicultural integration, symbols such as the fast-food “doner kebab”, a dish that does not exist in Turkey becoming the germaned turkish product eaten by 95% of the dominant culture, similar to the invention of the Chinese dish, “chop-suey” coined and and created by the Americans.  The partaking of such foods become a simplistic cross-cultural manouver that supposedly show the willingness of the dominant culture to “connect” with other cultures, as reflected in remarks made during discourses on cross-cultural issues “I do participate in cross-cultural action, this week I had pizza and last week I was by the Thais”.

In Copenhagen, well intentioned organisers and engaged cultural activists, worried over the “angst” of fellow citizens over the rise of “otherness” in their Heimat and the fear of insecurity, in employment and safety, initiate “Images of the World”, inviting artists from “hybrid” backgrounds ala’ Bhabha[8] so that they could form a resistance from their hybridities to counter the rising anxiety within the dominant culture.


Or are they called upon to use the qualities of their exotic heritage combined with their present hybridity to show a way out of this dilemma, or to shower enlightment like the Dalai Lama, whose texts are in the numerous webpages on “Images of the World”. But we have to remember that the Dalai Lama is well-grounded in a philosophy based on over a thousand years of practice while these invited artists are only equiped with good intentions in using art for engagement with the society while their experiences are based on working in marginalised spaces. Through their concepts they still present their work as that which demands the viewer to enter into their highly elitist world in order to ‘withdraw’ their messages. Neither is there allowances made for sustaining a period of negotiation, in order to build a communication on same level between artists and audiences, and to give autonomy to the participants/audiences for a constructive feedback.


Or do these artist’s double identities ala’Stuart Hall, coming to the centre from the various peripheries, automatically equip them to speak for the marginalised and disposessed which has that instilled “angst” in to the general Danish folk? Do these artists share Stuart Hall’s refusal to perform in the expected circular route (returning to his homeland, crowned with the glory of the centre ) but instead chose to stay in the centre to reflect on how they have made it into the centre which the other 58 failed to enter. Did they manage to successfully learn the meaning of being a Bangladeshi, Congolese, or Peruvian, etc.... like Stuart learned to be a Carribean in Oxford and not in his country of birth[9]


Do the organisers and initiators believe that these artists have the double conciouness of the exile, and the immigrant, to see and feel the inside and outside of contemporary Europe/ Denmark. When these problems are solved, will it be a “western product” or is the present coquetry of multi-cultural matters a leady a copyright of the west? Are these artists’ participation/work in Denmark to be re-exported or recycled as high-profile, high-moral, high-end products?

The reality is that many artists are called upon suddenly/overnight, to be more Korean or Chilean etc. than they have ever been, once or only after they have arrived into the centre of the peripheries they came from. Suddenly due to the curiosity and the rise of xenophobia of/within the main culture towards them, and in their interaction with other “others” they feel the need to articulate/assert their own identities. This is a tendency that will reveal itself under scrutiny in any intercultural and interactive projects that operates with transparency and accountability. This realisation or acknowledgement of the situation may bring forth further real understanding on the workings of xenophobia and fundamentalist sentiments if we allow greater openness and honesty in dealing with the issues at hand.


In Germany, a person with a migration background ( i quote Paul Mecheril, a psychologist living in Germany of Indian origin ) is permanently exposed to the gazes, the attention, the interests, the hostility and attacks of the Germans. The perception of who a “foreigner” is normally based on criteria of appearance, i.e. anything of darker “physicalnomisch”(physical norm ), the same set of criteria that are used to make assumptions about ethnic group affiliations and cultural differences.


The social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein has concluded that a modern capitalistic global economy is organised under an unusual concept that: “You shut people out, by including the people”. This may sound at first paradoxically charming, yet when you observe the economic situation of these foreigners/guest workers and their descendents in immigrated countries, then this statement is confirmed to be true. After migration, the migrants become conscious of the limitations working against them and with their consent become included in the employment market where they are allocated positions (as cheap, seasonal labourers, or in jobs of lowly status unwanted by the dominant culture). These factors at the same time and in a certain manner exclude them from other positions. All in all this becomes a process of exclusion through inclusion in the economic as well as in social structure of the society.


The headscarf worn by the women of minority groups in Germany is always seen by the dominant culture as a sign of premodernity. This adherence to traditional values is seen as a sign of inferiority and as an obstacle to successful integration, the policy whose success, according to the criteria of the dominant class, would be based on physical appearance and adaptation, where the “other”, if/when they are there, should render themselves “invisible” and not disturb the commonplace/ordinary scenario. In reality, the headscarf in the form of the “turban” is worn as a positive identification of an international, modernised concept of emancipation, very popular with young, highly educated Muslim women in Germany and is very different in form and style of tying from those worn by women in a country like Turkey, or from those worn by their mothers.


The view of the “other” is invested with diverse attributions. Of course it is speculation to compare the prosaic control of derivatives with explicit racist attack, but appearance, language, names,  etc.... serve as informal permanent borderposts of the “genuine” national society. In reality, it is a form of “alien theater” even for a fully integrated person, who continuously undergoes situations where he/she is ‘reverted’ to the status of a “foreigner”.[10]


These forms of exclusion, through appearances, allocation of economic positions and limited contacts with the dominant society, lead to physical and mental ghettorisation and force the minority to retreat into forming plight/distress communities in the subculture. The clubs and associations that arise from this become an easy target and bed for growth of fundamentalistic and nationalistic ideology. Therefore the dominant culture are responsible for the creation of these subcultures that do not come to life on their own.


This is not to say that projects like Images of the World will not succeed in alleviating the alienation/phobia towards others in our midst, but what I am arguing for is an understanding of the positions represented. These artists may or may not be spokespersons for their ethnicity, but they are individuals who are making individual contributions to building inroutes in addressing the problems. So what i am arguing for is a relook at the complexities of the work at hand, and let’s not be swept away by grand narratives. We have to realise that just as this exhibition uses the strategy of trying to “explain” otherness, i mean to make it seem “less foreign”, “less other”, to addresses problems of  multiculturalism in translative contexts, there are other events on the same theme in which participating artists and critics are arguing against translation, according to their own vision of equality, of acceptance. They are precisely arguing that it is the very “foreigness” the very difference which needs to be acknowledged and played up, not played down, but yet to call for the understanding that “foreign” does not equate “uncivilised” and that difference is not necessarily a bad thing. The issues of translation and that of intranslability -- two strategies to address same issue - one calls for gravitation towards the centre, the other of resistance and decentering, the viewers have to change their position, get out of their own comfort zones and habitual knowledge in order to successfully address the issues at hand.


But the artists and cultural activists must also bear in mind the the art world is a somewhat marginalised part of the community. The usage of coded language and elitist thinking of conventional object centric[11] and speculative art events must be left behind. As we know, an art work using coded art language based on the showing of emotional anxiety can never match the realities of Bosnia, Kosovo, etc. nor can the superficial interactive involvement in interactive art projects achieve more or compete with the work of a social worker.


A platform should be created for communication with the public that is based on the process of negotiation where the artists can employ the aesthetic interpretation  of production, hearing and listening [12]with the participants.


The differences in the privileged status between parties involved in a negotiation  and ownership of/accessibility to resources all play a part in determining how the negotiations should be conducted. These are issues that need to be understood by artists and participants in events which seek to educate the public. The public in this sense is not that ignorant as to not be able to differentiate between a superficial attempt to compromise them into an action that will only serve to profit the artist.


So if the concept of one of the artists is  to go into towns and  villages within a period of  7 days to communicate using a methodology/language that is understood only by a marginal group, i hope the artist spends enough time with the people that he interacts with, for them to understand his position as a sponsored artist, his interests/agenda, and to build relationships with them and not make the participant feel that he/she is only a statistic in  achieving the objectives of  a certain art project with a well-intentioned agenda.


While the part of this project that takes place in the Central Station deserves credit for taking place in a public nodal point of short and long journeys, relevant and irrelevant encounters, appearances and disappearances, competition with the surrounding mass media elements come into play. Will it then become another decoration that will be assimilated into the world of colourful cacophony like the “Pink man” that could easily be mistaken as an advertisement for gay rights or gay consumer products, rather than a coded attack against consumerism.


In the Pink Man performances, the artist (Manit) receives the honours and is named in the various shows around the world for this work, whereas the performer, his collaborator, Somphong Tawee, is usually not mentioned at all, except in Graz[13]. In real life he is one of the most prominent poets of Thailand and an emerging and promising performance artist. Just because of his inability to speak a single word of English, poor Khun ( polite term of address in Thai similar to ‘Mister’) Sompong Tawee is not mentioned in any documentation. Is this not a case of discrimination or lack of accountability from the artist and organiser? Do we not have to be careful about the essentials( small parts ) before going to the complex bigger picture?


I hope that this show will generate various levels of discourses that are conducive to bringing about changes as part of the dynamic process of democracy in Denmark, and serve as an example and motivation for intellectuals and activists in the west to move to the peripheries to ponder and solve the problems associated with illegal immigration and “otherness”. Perhaps it may then intervene with the supply of humans to tragedies like that of the 58. 



[1] Therborn, G.- European Modernity and Beyond, 1995, pg 242, London:Sage

[2] Taken from the English website( www.kiasma.fi ) of Kiasma, Museum of Modern Art/Helsinki, “Observation and Environment / Himalayan Trekking”. A group of artists from different cultural backgrounds spent October 1999 trekking in Nepal. The exhibition is based on materials collected during the journey and processed afterwards, including individual and joint  views and ideas. Reports/writtings of all the participating artists appear in the issue of the Kiasma 7-2000, vol.3 under the title “6 Routes to Himalayan”  and Concordia 2/00, “Balancing..” which sounds more like a conventional tourist report to promote a trekking tour to the Himalayas.

The project started with many good intentions, for example to raise environmental awareness and to redress certain exploitative actions like collecting

the rubbish left behind by travellers from "privileged" countries like where the artists


But I feel that the project is lacking in its failure to question, or to explain, why this project, supported by Kiasma, should be carried out in the Himalayas and not in Finland or in Europe. Are these same problems and issues not present in the neigbouring turf? Do the actions of the artists eventually not resemble those of thousands of tourists who visit Nepal to contribute to the environmental disaster  that has accumulated in the Himalayan social and environmental scene? Comments made by the artists about this project resemble common touristic remarks. Is this project meant to be a self-therapy in this particular art community, to promote team work and to overcome personal shortcomings, for the highly renumerated international artists from multicultural backgrounds. A

qoute from the Kiasma’s art journal states that the 6 artists from different background/cultures have different feelings. How does this substantiate, diferentiate or account for this project? Is it to say that till now, results or feelings have been similar in art shows/events involving artists  from different backgrounds?

The chosen artists, due to their object/result-centric method of working that they are used to, lack the capabilties to carry out crosscultural process based work, and cross cultural interactive work, which takes various factors into consideration, like autonomous participation from locals. They also did not consider how does their work benefit the culture that they are appropriating, which I think is a crucial consideration for cross-cultural projects like this, making it into a clear example of cultural exlpoitative art, and of the predatory capitalism that accompanies todayís globalisation. Their statements confirm the primitiveness of the Himalayan region and hardship in trekking. I would like to ask: are there other mountain ranges in the world that are not primitive and good for easy walking? Or is Nepal not known as a 3rd world country with all its accompanying social hardship and problems that we need these “artists” to remind us.

[3] In the flyer and catalogue of “Cities on the Move” in Kiasma, questions were put forth on the future outcome(solutions??) to the problems faced by the various Asian societies in the fields of culture, economic and politics, which have accompanied the Asian crisis from 1997, giving the impression that the artists and curators of this show are competent to be the privileged spokespersons of Asia and the show becoming a surogate platform to negotiate the various identities of  Asians in the future. Furthermore in Helsinki, exposure to other cultures is minimum, if compared with a more cosmopolitan city like London, and the majority of the audience will more easily accept without questioning  the lop-sided propaganda on display.

[4] In my conversations and discussions with various curators and directors of international mainstream art organisations, i find that their behaviour resemble those of  globe-trotting executives of multinationals as well as of  tourists on one of these packaged convenient tours which covers 14 cities in 9 countries in 11 days.  Holding a handed down list of names of artists whom they will visit, on the recommendation of similar minded colleagues and allocating less than 3 minutes to talk with each artist ( as reported by various Asian artists during my networking in Asia, although these artists themselves did not demonstrate  their disatisfaction through any action, for example, by not taking part in the shows initiated by these visiting cosmocrats ). Attempts to upgrade the visiting pretentious shows with local matador, like the attempt to upgrade the ÑCities on the Moveì exhibition in the Hayward Gallery, London in collaboration with John Latham from “O+I” (Organisation + Imagination, formally known in the 70’s and 80’s as APG-Artists Placement Group ) failed. I think it is John Latham’s integrity and experience which made him turn down the offer of Hans Ulrich Obrist. The settlement of this invitation was on my agenda as the Asian consultant of  “O+I” during my working stint in London, in Autumn 1999.


[5] My birthplace is Japan, the land of the sun goddess Amaterasu, my residence is Germany, my homeland is the Art ( backcover of “Heimat Kunst” ) and the title of an article in “HK” pg 10, “In the middle of the heart of german Kultur”, an interview with Ismael Ivo.

[6] Berliner Zeitung, 13/14 May 2000, pg 2 –“Berlin ñ Zuhause, Wohnort, Versteck”, interviews about foreigners with problems.

[7] In english, Artworlds in Dialogue ñ from Gauguin to the Global Presence, part of the pretentious art millienium project “Global Art Rheinland 2000” in Cologne, Bonn, Dusseldorf and Duisburg. Marc Scheps, chief curator of the show and former director of Ludwig Museum, Cologne, in an interview by Stadt Revue in November 1999,  admitted that most cultures of the colonised countries are destroyed by the history of colonisation which has led to the practice of Euro-centric modern art in these countries today. Then in the same breath he continued ro say that artists from the non western world can follow the easier alternative of doing western art and not the difficult path of the tradition because of their absence. Concluding that the show does not follow or put priority on any point. Then where is the dialogue? He carried on to say that he is only interested in the works of interesting artists dwelling between the borders( between western and non-western cultures), from the beginning in this century, like Picasso and Gauguin to the presence important contemporary artists( he did not give names )are western originated artists( having residence in the west ), even when he refer to artists from non-western origin( like Rasheed Araeen and Chris Ofili ) as examples of  artists who have “arrived” in the western art scene, whom i believed are assimilated and act as alibi for the continuation of this Euro-centric, predatory capitalistic culture and not as trojan horses which will bring changes to the coded language of western art as Marc Sheps would like to think.

[8] Homi Bhabha's "hybridity" is not simply a descriptive  concept, it denotes  the effects of the hybridisation of different cultures in a colonial context. He attempts to re-read the historical records of an event which happened in Delhi around May 1817, using the concept of hybridity to capture the form of the struggle against colonial authority. Hybridity reverses the formal process of disvowal so that the violent dislocation of the act of colonisation becomes the conditionality of colonial discourse. The colonised can still use the coloniser’s language to insert denied knowledges and traditions into dominant  discursive space, and in turn, the coloniser’s unfamilarity with this whole set of cultural codes puts the coloniser in crisis and hence undoes his authority.( successful strategic intervention? )

Bhabha’s discourse  also points to a strategy of resistance, in [which he observes how hybridity

operates under] notions such as ambivalence.  Its discursive level moves through cultural forms,

colonial conditions, subjectivities, forms of resistance, and even to the level of political strategy and ethics. On the one hand, the colonised operates within a colonial system of representation and always reproduces a pre-existing frame of relations. On the other hand, the colonised "politely" contests the coloniser even when not being noticed by the latter.( unsuccessful strategic intervention?? ) taken from “Trajectories,  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies” 

Kuan-Hsing Chen, Pg 23, Routledge, NY 1998]]

[9] Refer to the dialogue between Stuart Hall and Naoki Sakai, March 1996, Tokyo / printed as - A Tokyo dialogue on marxism, identity formation and cultural studies in Trajectories,  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Pg 360, Routledge, NY 1998

[10] translated from German, “Migranten”, Mark Terkessidis, Rotbuch 3000, Hamburg, 2000

[11] “The object here remains the primary carrier of aesthetic significance, whether in terms of a formal analysis or in terms of a speculative phenomenology that attempts to re-construct a postulated viewer’s interactions with it.” - Grant Kester, Variant nr.9, vol.2, UK, winter 1999/2000

[12] “The Art of Listening (and of Being Heard): Jay Koh's Discursive Networks“ – Grant Kester, Third Text – Summer Issue 1999, UK

[13] “Visual Culture: Tourist Industry”, Stadtpark Forum, Graz/Austria, June 2000 curated by Eva Ursprung and co-curated by Jay Koh