Outposts, Global borders and national boundaries at the Glucksman.
The exhibition Outposts at the Glucksman is part of a season that “invites you to consider the cultural, social and political borders that map our contested world.” It is a show dominated by photography. There is something about photography that still links it to notions of truth and authenticity, though of course we all know that a picture can always lie and it’s just easier to point and click than bang out those thousand words. Works in other media consequently stick out more strongly here.
Brian Maguire exhibits four portraits of women painted in a neo-expressionistic style. To the right of each of these paintings is a text that gives information about the deaths of these young women who were murdered in Mexico during the ongoing wave of femicide. Maguire has used his position as an artist to try and give visibility and backing to the families of the murder victims who are trying to obtain justice for their deceased loved ones. He showed paintings from this series Femicide/Juarez in 2012 at an exhibition in the European Parliament in Brussels. This was a lobbying strategy whereby he used his prominence as an artist to try and exert influence beyond the art sphere.
Interesting counterparts to Maguire’s work are the posters by prominent contemporary artists and designers that were part of the British Remain campaign. These pieces were made as part of a propaganda drive, they were not made as artworks. Are the viewers supposed to admire them for their aesthetic qualities, or to read them in relation to the other works in the show? These artist cheerleaders for neo-liberalism don’t reflect on their own positions. The increase in the globalized art circuit and the proliferation of galleries is a reflection of continually expanding economic inequality. They still seem to be under the illusion that a shiny surface along with the ‘representation’ of diversity is in some way progressive. They applaud the image while the EU in practice has an enormous arms industry (as does the UK) that exports death and mutilation worldwide. Trump’s tweet about global ‘shitholes’ is an honest reflection of how the West treats the rest. Bomb, but have ‘respect’ for diversity, religion and culture. The pontification about the benign nature of the EU could be undercut by a modicum of research. Just like in the 19th century Imperialism outsources its slaughter. The EU is for peace and justice except of course when it comes to refugees trying to escape to ‘Fortress Europe’.
This exhibition is most interesting when the border between the art sphere and politics is troubled.