The Third Guanzhou Triennial, which will run from September 6th to November 16 2008, has proposed to say ‘Farewell to Post-Colonialism’. This proposition denotes the theoretical basis from which the curatorial team and participating artists, intellectuals, critics and scholars intend to explore their critical vision in revising post-colonialism. Driving this undertaking is an observation that post-colonialism has become defunct as a critical tool in spite of its significance and incentive as an intellectual tradition that has been crucial in criticizing political conditions. Argued is that, “in the real world, the political conditions criticised by post-colonialism have not receded, but in many ways are even further entrenched under the machinery of globalisation.” As such, “as a leading discourse for art curatorial practice and criticism, post-colonialism is showing its limitations in being increasingly institutionalized as an ideological concept. Not only is it losing its edge as a critical tool, it has generated restrictions that hinder the emergence of artistic creativity and fresh theoretical interface.”
There is no doubt that the ever changing social circumstances of contemporary society, particularly of the post-colonial worlds, require updated critical tools. Required is a need for sharp and reflective critical consciousness necessary to dealing with oppressive regimes and the machinery of capitalist globalisation that affect lives of people in dehumanizing ways. Yet critical consciousness at the level of theoretical articulation is not enough without practical action, without pragmatic ends. In fact, artistic theory without practical ends is as useless as artistic productions that are self-referential, self-serving in their obsession with high theory, in their circulation within elitist institutions mainly accessible to and accessed by schooled classes.
I therefore ask, what is the role of visual arts in society? How can visual arts affect people’s lives in ways that create hope? What economies and agencies do visual arts have in dealing with the rapid pace of changing social, political and economical conditions in societies under the stress of inter-nationalisms and trans-nationalisms? Other poignant questions: what is the point of initiatives or events such as biennales and triennials to the meaning of people’s life in their everyday social practices? Is the role and impact of creative arts and intellectual thoughts effective enough to contribute practical changes for the betterment of peoples’ lives in society, and how so or in what ways? Are museums and galleries effective sites for such practical changes for the betterment of peoples’ lives, peoples who are not privileged to bourgeoisie or affluent lifestyle around which contemporary art revolves?