Walked out this morning
Don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home
The Police – Message in a Bottle
What do we know about our world? We don’t have to look far to find out who stars in American reality shows, about the latest scandal in French politics or about the hairstyle trends in London. Why should we care about all that? For those living in Romania, for example, global media coverage is unidirectional; there is rarely anything in it focusing on our realities. This poor representation is shared by other peripheral localities, which comprise more than 80% of the world’s population.
What do we know about the gallery scene in South Africa? How do Malaysian artists support themselves after art school? How do Mexican immigrants struggle to use their language in the predominantly English-speaking United States? If we are seeking perspectives that emerge from a shared world view or similar life experiences, perhaps those are the voices that we need to hear. When peripheral artists grapple with issues of identity, social location, representation or belonging, or when they simply reflect on the places that formed them, the resonance this has in our own lives can be a great inspiration.
The exhibition Local Municipalities seeks to facilitate the dialogue among artists located in peripheries, globally. This remarkable exchange enables cross-cultural conversations for artists who are often situated at the margins of their economic and cultural centres.
After open calls and personal invitations through Visual Kontakt’s network of artists and curators, we carefully selected entries from a rich diversity of geographies and topics. We compiled nearly 100 notebooks by artists from remote enclaves or migrants in alien territories who speak from their condition of difference. These works will surprise visitors with material that sits outside our usual frameworks. And the project continues after the exhibition, when participating artists will exchange notebooks to extend the cross-cultural dialogue.
Local Municipalities recovers the old tradition of travel notebooks, one of the few means by which the curious could discover distant geographies in an era prior to low-cost air travel, mass media or the internet. This time, however, the artists who create the travel books narrate about their homes. Instead of a protagonist from the centre translating a foreign world, these notebooks produce accounts for and by the periphery; it is an opportunity for the periphery to speak for itself. Local Municipalities reflects the provincialism that exists in the artist’s context. Let’s not be afraid to recognize ourselves in the works of others!