Local worlds: spaces visibilities and transcultural flows

mel-jackson-gps.jpgLocal worlds: spaces visibilities and transcultural flows open to the public in Lagos Portugal (until September 9 2008) [1] presents the two projects commented here: Oranges by Inês Amado and Global Positioning System by Melanie Jackson. Both reflect the intricacies of the global flows, following the trajectories of particular objects, relying on an archaeological approach of everyday items that follow the routes of global imperialism/capitalism. Jyotsna G Singh in her Companion to the Global Renaissance suggests similarly an archaeology of “local “knowledge (following Certeau and Foucault), that relies on “a micro-historical perspective on globalism by tracing the exchange and movement of material objects — artworks, spices, silks, pigments, metals, and cloth — in order to understand the trajectories of the east-west encounters.’ [2]
With Laranjas (2008), Portuguese London-based artist Inês Amado fills one of the spaces at the Fortaleza Pau da Bandeira [3] with oranges as a gift to the visitors. Presented on the floor, the oranges are surrounded by a soundscape of a journey on the river Thames produced in collaboration with London-based artist Dave Lawrence that evokes the long journey of the fruit around the world. In the installation, the orange becomes a relational object, a fruit that symbolizes the journeys of terrestrial globalization and the cultural hybridization resulting from the food exchanges occurring in colonial journeys. [4]
As Inês reminds us, oranges arrived in Portugal from Arab countries (the bitter orange), followed by the Chinese orange trees (which resulted in the sweet orange) brought in by Vasco da Gama the navigator, and the third wave of the oranges already exported by the Portuguese into the world. Used to work with food (her long-term project Bread Matters is dedicated to the study of bread [5]), in this project Inês departs from the orange to reflect on the fact that Portuguese culture is not monolithic and results from complex processes of hybridisation. If on one hand, the orange’s spherical shape evokes the globe, it is also a fact that internationally the orange symbolises Portugal. Several countries that imported orange trees from Portugal, started giving the oranges varied names derived from the word Portugal, such as Portokale (Albania), Portughal (Kurdistan), Portugaletto (Piemonte) and Portugales (Greece).
The predominance of contemporary panoptic society, with means of controlling borders and people in an uneven way results that paradoxically commodities circulate much more easily than people that are kept in place through tight border regimes. This vision of technology is one the driving forces behind the animation work A Global Positioning System (2006) by American, London-based artist Melanie Jackson.
The animated film charts the journey across the globe of the GPS unit, as a reverse journey from a promotional brochure selling the benefits of the handheld GPS to an urban western audience to the varied components of its production. Breaking down the GPS manufacturing workflow is made out of two movements: on one hand panning across the world, from the global centres of consumption into the factories in China and further afield into the mines of Congo or the rubber trees in Sri Lanka; and on the other hand, a zooming in process, going from the macro-scale of the global economy into the most intimate gestures of manual production and the microscopic components of the gps unit. Melanie presents this journey as a way of depicting the material process of production and challenges the disjunction that capitalism operates between things and their image. From images of miners working in the sandpits of Congo, she uses drawing as away to develop connections with the more abstract level of high tech glossy consumer technology.
As the voice over narrates: this GPS contains materials that come from the following places: Guinea, China…India…Germany, England, Zambia…Brazil, Australia, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain, …Mexico, Chile, Philippines, USA, Argentina, Portugal, Japan, Korea…South Africa…Angola, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Namibia, Venezuela…
Paula roush , co-curator Local Worlds
[1] for more information on the project visit http://www.localworlds.org/
The complete version of this text is available at http://www.localworlds.org/en/theory/
[2] Jyotsna G. Singh ed., A Companion to the Global Renaissance – 1550-1660: English Culture and Literature in the Era of Expansion. Michigan State University. Forthcoming, available at: http://www.msu.edu/~jsingh/publications.html [Accessed May 11, 2008].
[3] 17th century fort built between 1679-1690 (according to the stone inscription over the main door), by the sea, as a defence fortress against naval British, Spanish and pirate attacks, acquired by the municipality of Lagos in 1983, and converted into exhibition space related to the history of the discoveries and local modern art. http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortaleza_de_Lagos [Accessed May 4, 2008].
[4] For further information on the relationship between the age of ‘the discoveries’ and food cultures, see Gupta, A., 2006, Movimentações globais das colheitas desde a ‘era das descobertas’ e transformações das culturas gastronómicas, in Manuela Ribeiro Sanches ed, Portugal não é um país pequeno. Contar o “império” na pós-colonialidade. Lisboa: Edições Cotovia, pp. 193-214.
[5] For more information visit the project’s site: http://www.breadmatters.org/BM/ [Accessed May 4, 2008].