Saturday, September 15, 2007

Miwon Kwon's Comments on Nomadism

From Miwon Kwon's "The Wrong Place." Art Journal > Vol. 59, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), pp. 32-43.

It occurred to me some time ago that among many of my art and academic friends, the success and viability of one's work is now measured in proportion to the accumulation of frequent flyer miles. The more we travel for work, the more we are called upon to provide institutions in other parts of the country and the world with our presence and services; the more we give into the logic of nomadism, one could say, as pressured by a mobilized capitalist economy, the more we are made to feel wanted, needed, validated, and relevant. It seems our very sense of self-worth is predicated more and more on our suffering through the of always traversing through elsewheres. Whether we enjoy it or not, we are culturally and economically rewarded for enduring the "wrong" place. It seems we're out of place all too often.

But what is a "wrong" place? How does one recognize it as such, as opposed to a "right" place? What do we really mean by these qualifying adjectives? Is being in the wrong place the same thing as being out of place? And what are the effects of such mis/displacements for art, subjectivity, and locational identities? In light of the intensified mobilization of bodies, information, images, and commodities on the one hand, and the greater and greater homogenization and standardization of places on the other (which, by the way, facilitates the smooth, unimpeded mobilization and circulation of these bodies, information, images, and commodities), I continue to wonder about the impact, both positive and negative, of the spatial and temporal experiences that such conditions engender not only in terms of cultural practice but more basically for our psyches, our sense of self, our sense of well-being, our sense of belonging to a place and a culture.

Finally to work on the expat book. Post your comments soon if you'd like to be included. See my Friday, July 20, 2007 post for more info.

1 comment:

gmdunn said...

Wonderful selection Joelle.

I find myself at an expatriate crossroads, confronted with the dilemma described by Miwon Kwon -- what is a "right" or "wrong" place? The word that Miwon does not use, and which I believe to be central to my frustration, is "community". I think a sense of community is ultimately what determines if a place is right or wrong, be that place geographic or cerebral.

Indeed, I think a community must be a place and a collective, common state of mind. The geography of place must provide the community with topography, the features which allow a community to define its position. A true nomad always has such a known, familiar destination. I am not sure if such a community is even attainable for the expat.