Staging the End of the Contemporary
Thinking Together – Workshop
- In English
This workshop with leading thinkers of Decoloniality aims at developing a radical critique of the temporality of modernity and the notion of contemporaneity in particular, vis-à-vis current decolonial practices in the performing arts. Decolonizing contemporaneity, they argue, is a necessary step in the opening of “a world in which many worlds fit.”
The contemporary has been a normative position within the arts since the second half of the twentieth century. The emergence of the “global contemporary” towards 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Havana Biennial and the “Magicien de la Terre” exhibition, opened a critique of eurocentrism in the field of contemporary art, but left the normativity of the contemporary untouched. What remained untouched and at the same time became globalized was the normativity of modern time.
Modernity as the civilizational project of the West imposed economic and institutional systems, modes of subjectification, and epistemic structures, but it also instigated and established a form of relation to the world regulated by the chronology of modern time. The metaphysics of modernity, the relation to the world and to the real has been mediated by a particular form of temporality; a temporality that upholds the present as the site of experience and contemporaneity as the now of history and as its most advanced stage. The contemporary in the arts became associated with novelty, with transgression, with rupture and the unexpected. In a way it is an expression of modern temporality that coincides with the cult of novelty so prevalent in the consumer society. “Novelty” as a form of futurity, as belonging to the now of history is what the contemporary normalized and regulated.
“Decolonial aesthesis” comes under the sign of the return. It presents a radical critique to the temporality of contemporaneity. Decolonial artists do not seek novelty, their focus is on the transformation of the present through the memorial as a radical contestation of what has been relegated to the pastness of contemporaneity and to oblivion. Decolonizing contemporaneity, including the global contemporary, is a necessary step in the opening of “a world in which many worlds can fit.”
The end of contemporaneity opens a different question to the one of globalizing the contemporary. It is not seeking the incorporation of the non-Western world into the present of contemporaneity; it is not seeking the recognition of coevalness. It seeks to undo the temporal normativity that has been exercised through the notion and the institutions of the “contemporary,” it seeks to humble modernity in its claim to be the totality of the present and in its affirmation as globality. The decolonial brings to the fore relational temporalities as a response to the confinement of experience in the empty present of contemporaneity, in the metaphysics of presence, in the field of assemblages and immanence.