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The Radicant
Nicolas Bourriaud [see all titles]
Sternberg Press [see all titles] History, Criticism and Theory [see all titles]
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excerpt
 
Preface
(p. 7-8)
© Nicolas Bourriaud, Sternberg Press


This book was written between 2005 and 2007 in the places to which circumstances brought me: Paris, Venice, Kiev, Madrid, Havana, New York, Moscow, Turin, and finally London. Cities and places, rather than countries. Nations are abstractions I distrust, for reasons that will become apparent.

Indeed, it is a way of life that inspires this theoretical reflection on contemporary art, a reflection that responds less to existing texts than to lived experience. Too often have I had occasion to deplore the
absence of a vital link between critics and works—not to underscore the fact that this theoretical reflection is born of my nomadic life—in the course of which I have crossed paths with most of the artists whose work will be discussed here. The ideas expressed in this book arise, for the most part, from my contact with these artists and from assiduous observation of their work.

Multiculturalism; postmodernism; cultural globalization. Such are the key words around which this essay is organized: words that refer to unresolved questions. As is well known, certain generic notions, far from grappling with the cluster of problems they designate, settle for simply naming them. Thus, a nagging question constitutes the point of departure for this theoretical work: why is it that globalization has so often been discussed from sociological, political, and economic points of view, but almost never from an aesthetic perspective? How does this phenomenon affect the life of form?

In reflecting on the important role of the journey and on the iconography of mobility in contemporary art, I remembered a text I had published in 1990 in the journal New Art International, titled “Notes on Radicantity.” The present text simply develops and deepens this youthful intuition, which at the time was supported by only a few examples. Aside from a couple of chapters in Part Three, however, The Radicant is entirely new. “Under the Cultural Rain” was published in the Pompidou Center’s exhibition catalogue Sonic Process; a revised version appeared in Hz, on the occasion of an exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. “Artistic Collectivism and the Production of Pathways” served as the introduction to the exhibition Playlist, which I organized at the Palais de Tokyo in 2005.

An image, an idea: such is the rhythm I have sought to reproduce in this essay. My readings of Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille have taught me that the exposition of an idea through fragments, through a roving and disconnected type of writing, can sometimes better circumscribe its object than can a more linear approach. Moreover, this method corresponds to the subject I propose to treat. I have thus conceived this book as a kind of “PowerPoint presentation”: an image, an orientation. Or again: as a necklace whose elements are linked to each other by the prehensile power of an idée fixe, as a conceptual archipelago, which also corresponds to the central image of this essay. At the same time, The Radicant is composed of three distinct parts: the first approaches the subject in a theoretical manner; the second consists of an aesthetic reflection based on recent works of art; the third extends radicant thought first to modes of cultural production, then to modes of consumption and use. Finally, during the writing of this book, I have tried never to lose sight of an avid obsession: to look at the world through that optical tool that is art, in order to sketch a worldly and worldwide art criticism in which works are in dialogue with the contexts in which they are produced.
 
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