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Tube-altermodern

Modernism, postmodernism, hypermodernity, supermodernity… and now altermodern. The latter is the title of the fourth triennal exhibition at Tate Britain. Curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, altermodern is defined as: “a language of global culture, social and technological networks facilitated by communication and travel lines.”  It is an exhibition that attempts to outline new trajectories that contemporary artists are taking.

So, how are artists responding to the globalised world in which we live? With what perspective are the artists working from? How do they manifest our current globalised cultures? The poster designed by M/M Paris already signals eclectic expressions through their use of fonts, which is echoed once you step inside the exhibition.

What happened to the original? Did it become corrupted? Is it a replica? A notion that stuck with me after seeing the show is the notion of ‘resolution’ in the sense of digital ‘resolution’; referring to a qualifier for an output, whether high or low. There is something about the patterns of repetition and processes of reproduction that our generation of artists are evolving. Whereas Walter Benjamin said that the technique of mechanical reproduction would diminish the ‘aura’ of the original, here each ‘generation’ or stage might be celebrated in its own right, like meta-levels, exemplified in Simon Starling’s work: Three white desks and Walead Beshty’s: FedEx sculptures. Both artists provide references to their starting points – ‘origins’, yet the actual journeys the projects take, both physical and virtual, and the transformations that occur during their travels become part and parcel of the works. What stands out are the processes that are conspicuously unfolded and displayed as an integral part of the work.

There are several portraits of personal trajectories. Navin Rawanchaikul’s presents a film Hong Rub Khaek, where he revisits his family’s origins, migrations and dispersals through the first generation migrant’s accounts. As a second generation Indian in Thailand his sense of national and racial identity is blurred and becomes more so when he explains in a touching letter to his Indian/Thai/Japanese daughter (third generation) why their cultural identity becomes confusing. Another work, Extramission by Lindsay Seers, is a more uncanny autobiographical documentary film portraying her life and memories as a camera and projector, leaving us confused as to what is reality and fiction.

 Rather than works fixed in time and space, Bob and Roberta Smith’s work evolves over duration of the show. Adding new statements and slogans, on boards or other scrap materials, that relate to the context they are in, as conversation pieces. One such panel said:

“What is an idea? A collision between a person and a place.”

 The remit of this exhibition proposes “an in-progress redefinition of modernity in the era of globalisation, stressing the experience of wandering in time, space and mediums”, which it does. Many works comes across as clever, savvy and can be perceived on multiple levels, from the personal and familiar to the conceptual and global. Yet, as a whole, the format of the exhibition lacks a bit of sensuality. It felt dry.

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