The folllowing sample essay on Non Western Artists discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
Boundaries are swept away in the modern world, which slowly turns into a global village. People of art, who have always been lucky to live without boundaries inside of them can now enjoy the freedom of physical world. Such major changes on the word scene of art give a lot of opportunities for the non-western artists.
Race, origin, color of the skin, age, sex and nationality of an artist plays no role any more. “A local hero bids his motherland farewell, is tapped into the latest communication technology, raises his voice loud enough and suddenly he is a world artist. The artist as nomad, someone who picks up ideas just as easily in New York and Cape Town as in Sao Paolo or Stockholm“ (Mackay). Unfortunately, such a freedom and new opportunities very often turn to be a fake and artists from non-western countries still have to put enormous efforts to get the recognition on the world art scene.
Europe and North America put their hard requirements to the non-western artists, who want to present their art works in these countries. Here the artists face a difficult problem, which becomes a dilemma. It’s a conflict between their own identity and paying the tribute to the western world and globalization. Unique works of art do not pass sharp critics of western specialists and
Globalization is the process that we can’t stop today; it’s rapidly spreading around the world.
The phenomenon of globalization has both negative and positive sides and we can’t say exactly if it is good or bad. Just a few years ago we knew practically nothing about numerous artists from Africa or Asia nowadays we have a possibility to see their works of art and enjoy them. There works are really great and full of feelings and we can realize that just because we live in the epoch of globalization and the exchange of global information is a usual thing for us.
The process of globalization is the modern phenomenon but its appearance is determined by a lot of historical phenomena, such economical growth, urbanization, appearance of informational technologies, changes in the process of thinking and so on. “We are witness not to a new phenomenon called Globalization, but to the triumph of old, global power relations: Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, coupled with the illusion of a new, porous metropolis” (Mackay).
Western countries still know not very much about African and Asian artists who created their works in the year 1945 and earlier. A western person still can name minute amount of non-western artists even in the era of globalization.
The majority of non-western artists that live and work in the West still don’t have equal rights with native artists. Those, who work in their native countries, find themselves even in more difficult situation. Even such talented artists as Ofili and Shonibare are considered as rather successful artists but all in all outsiders because of their color. These artists, by the way, are British according to their origin. We can easily remark that even the remotest connection to Africa or Asia make the talented artists outsiders in the West. Non-western artists don’t have equal opportunities in the West, Globalization creates differences when, in fact, there is no difference. That is the bad side of this phenomenon. Non-western artists have to adopt to western way of life, norms and regulations in order to create works of art, which would be understood by western audience. They have to balance between the effort to keep national identity and reflect their origin in their works with the growing pressure created by the globalization and unification.
Nowadays it’s correctly to speak separately about African or Asian arts as we always used to do regarding the European one. We should analyze art not taking into account its continental belonging. Work of art is a masterpiece, art isn’t a characteristic of a given country, it’s global notion without boundaries and limitations. At the same time every work of art shows the peculiarities of its countries and reflects national identity, same as the individual features, added by the author. These peculiarities show the national identity and beauty of the work rather than put the pictures in a range according to the country they were created in. “Much as one is involved in this seemingly inescapable labyrinth of a discourse, one is nevertheless certain that we would all benefit more were everything to devolve to the level of the artist and what it is they are contending with in their work irrespective of where their parents were born.” (Araeen) Today the question of origin is a very important one because some people attack some artists who show their origin in the works and another group of people contends with artists who don’t because they are a herd. Here arises a question: is it necessary to show their identity for non-western artists or is it better to adapt to the so-called “western standards” and so come to the Western scene?
It’s a very complex question and we can not give an exact answer. The only thing I’m absolutely sure in is that non-western artists have their own original world that is mysterious and not always understandable for Europeans and the world must be seen it in the works of art.
Nowadays there is a trend in the West to consider African and Asian arts as just ethnic and that’s why they can’t take the same place as western ones till they don’t follow the formed standards. Such point of view is anesthetic, as non-western arts are as important and significant as the western ones. “Anesthetic” is “a loaded word that speaks to the variegated, multi-layered rules of the culture game, a great pun because the search for identity or the mark of ethnicity becomes an esthetic that inoculates–anaesthetizes–the art establishment in the West from dealing with those non-Western artists whose work would stand the rigors of the mainstream aesthetic.” (Araeen, 20)
So-called western standard system of arts now tries to create principles according to which this or that art would be accepted in this system and it’s a real problem of standardization nowadays. Every work of art is unique, no standards can limit it. A work expresses inner world of an artist and it’s impossible to prescribe inner ideas and thoughts of the creator. It’s a real problem for the non-western artist to save his identity in the modern world of standards.
From the other side non-western artists have to use ethnical marks in their works in order to correspond the requirements of the western audience and meet the requirement of “otherness”, showing the kind of art, which can’t be created by westerners. There is nothing wrong with the demand for ethical features in the works of artists. The problem arises when this demand becomes a “must” and the only pass for the non-western artists. Identity can be expressed in many ways, but Western audience perceive it only on the most primitive level and such an attitude can become a burden for the artists.
SO-called western tradition dominates in the world art even in the age of globalization. In reality the term globalization in art stands very close to westernalization and non-western artists have to make a difficult choice if they want to enter the world market and compete with Western artists. They have to choose between the loosing identity by adopting western standards in art and getting the status of second class or arte povera artists, if they refuse.
Digital revolution has changed the face of the world forever. The countries of the third world, separated by distance and informational barriers before can now make the decent part of the world community. New means of communication allow quick interaction among the people from different parts of the world and this gives an opportunity for changes in art. Hopefully, very soon not only western people will be defining the criteria of the world art and norms of generally accepted works. If the tendency to globalization develops and becomes more correspondent to its original meaning in contrast to adopting everything to western norms, non-western artists will have more chances for expressing their identities not like an exaggerated ethnic elements, which make the products more sellable, but will let them to express the depth of their national consciousness.
Unfortunately, it’s not people, who make a demand for the works of art nowadays. The market does. The meaning and values of the artwork lies in its uniqueness and singularity, not generality. But the market pushes artists to generality, creating filters for the works, which will be sold. The public is deceived by the works with “false identity” and adopts false standards. As David Byrne states, “In my experience, the use of the term world music is a way of dismissing artists or their music as irrelevant to one’s own life. It’s a way of relegating this “thing” into the realm of something exotic and therefore cute, weird but safe, because exotica is beautiful but irrelevant”. (Byrne, 1999)
The term popular art perfectly reflects the state of events in the modern world. There is nothing ban when an art becomes popular and reachable for the wide public. The problem arises when the world popular becomes synonym for low-quality and primitive entertainment. Art, which made people think and feel differently during the centuries uses its unique meaning at the age of globalization. “The artist is the one in charge of pulling the heavy human chariot forward and up… if art runs away from its task, this void cannot be filled. For no other power can replace art”. (Kandinsky) During the centuries the function of art was to elevate people to its level but nowadays we can see a sad tendency when the art descends to the level of average people. And it’s a sad truth modern artists have to deal with.
Western culture presents the pattern of success and prosperity and non-western people try to follow it. Same happens with the artists. Many non-western artists try to follow the success of their western comrades and forget about their origins and follow the patters alien to them.
Homi Bhabba uses the term “the third space” when talking about the new generation of Chinese artists. To his mind, they represent a unique combination of the carriers of national culture who meet the requirement of the western world at the same time. These artists don’t belong to western tradition, same as they don’t belong to traditional Chinese art. They managed to find a fragile balance between their national identity as they put all their knowledge of history and tradition in what they do, with the new challenges created by globalization. “The third space is replacing a concept of identity based on the traditional opposition between East and West. The invention of the notion of the third space itself is a cultural strategy. In general, western artists don’t see art activities as a kind of strategy related to the question of cultural identity, while nonwestern artists living in the West necessarily face the challenge of seeking their own places there.” (Hanru, Minglu,1991) A lot of critiques and specialists also speak about the same notion, using different names for it. Fumio Nanjo speaks about the third way Japanese and other non-western artists should follow. Two roads mentioned earlier refer to canonical western art and national art reserved in old traditions. He suggests that: “Japanese, and non-Western artists in general, therefore have to avoid both roads, which becomes a vital issue for an artist’s identity. I believe that for some years now, we have been progressing in the direction where the identity of an artist no longer refers specifically to his or her nationality, and a future is upon us when an artist’s personality and work will be difficult to define.” (Nanjo)
So, non-western artists have to deal with a serious task – they have to join incompatible things and they find different ways to do that. There are artists who use their background and national identity as the source of inspiration, expressing it in a way, understandable for Western audience. There is another group who use their national belonging as an object of speculation, using national peculiarities in their works as the way to attract admirers of everything exotic.