From art to ethnic politics
In the first issue of Third Text, in 1987, Rasheed Araeen published an article called “From primitivism to ethnic art”, where he claimed that the notion of ’ethnic art’, in relation to the contemporary art scene at that time, was no more than a new label for institutional primitivism in Britain.340 Since then, the struggle of New Internationalism has led to a situation where contemporary art is naturally considered in a global perspective – as the development of Documenta over five decades demonstrates – although confusions between the artist subject and the work of art still occur.
This final chapter will argue that the success of New Internationalism within art institutions that understand themselves as working according to the intentions of New Internationalism has led to a situation that not only goes further than originally intended, but also in some respects marks a return to the ethnic focus that the discourse originally sought to move beyond. This situation has developed out of a double move: first, a move from ‘contemporary (new international) art’ to ‘political art’, and second, from ‘political art’ to ‘ethnic politics’. In many respects Documenta 11 manifested this development, as we shall see in the following.
Documenta 11, in 2002, is particularly interesting when investigating New Internationalism, due to its curatorial concept, its reception by art criticism, and its chief curator. The chief curator of each Documenta exhibition is appointed about four years prior to the exhibition, by the Documenta supervisory board, and the board’s appointment of the critic and curator Okwui Enwezor as the leading curator of Documenta 11 aroused a great deal of attention among critics, due to the fact that Enwezor was the first ‘non-European’ Documenta