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The Culture Game

2003
Author:

Olu Oguibe

The Culture Game

An acclaimed artist and cultural provocateur reveals the hidden biases of the contemporary art world

In the celebrated, controversial essays gathered here, Olu Oguibe exposes the disparities of the treatment afforded Western and non-Western artists. Ranging from the impact of the West’s appetite for difference on global cultural relations and the existence of a digital Third World to the African redefinition of modernity, Oguibe’s uncompromising criticism provides a global vision of contemporary art and culture.

Olu Oguibe is searching to define a cultural position in the world—not so much as a social phenomenologist—but as an artist deeply committed to understanding the meaning of aesthetic consciousness. For Oguibe, the intersection with cultural politics is unavoidable in the process of making this happen. His message is that unless cultural difference is recognized and accepted, art is destined to continue the litany of promotional rhetoric that reflects a Westernized hierarchy of values. Oguibe’s essays not only affirm his position, with passion and intelligence, they offer insight into the dilemma of artists who come into the arena of Western culture from the outside. Oguibe’s argument urges the reader to empathize with the position of the Other. In doing so, we are encouraged to analyze more carefully the veneer of ‘the culture game’ as a means to see things as they are.

Robert C. Morgan, Ph.D., editor of Clement Greenberg: Late Writings

In self-congratulatory tones of tolerance and open-mindedness, the Western gatekeepers of the contemporary art world—gallery owners and museum curators, patrons and promoters—take great pains to demonstrate their inclusive vision of world culture. They highlight the Latin American show mounted “a few years ago” or the African works featured in a recent exhibition of non-Western artists. Non-Western artists soon discover that this veneer of liberalism masks an array of unwritten, unspoken, and unseemly codes and quotas dictating the acquisition and exhibition of their works and the success of their careers. In past decades, cultural institutions and the critical establishment in the West resisted difference; today, they are obsessed with exoticism. Both attitudes reflect firmly entrenched prejudices that prescribe the rules of what Nigerian-born artist, curator, and scholar Olu Oguibe terms the “culture game.”

In the celebrated, controversial essays gathered here, Oguibe exposes the disparities and inconsistencies of the reception and treatment afforded Western and non-Western artists; the obstacles that these contradictions create for non-Western and minority artists, especially those who live and practice in the Western metropolis; and the nature and peculiar concerns of contemporary non-Western art as it deals with the ramifications and residues of the colonial encounter as well as its own historical and cultural past. Ranging from the impact of the West’s appetite for difference on global cultural relations and the existence of a digital Third World to the African redefinition of modernity, Oguibe’s uncompromising and unapologetic criticism provides a uniquely global vision of contemporary art and culture.


The Culture Game

Olu Oguibe is a visual artist, writer, scholar, and curator. He is associate professor of art and art history at the University of Connecticut.

The Culture Game

Olu Oguibe is searching to define a cultural position in the world—not so much as a social phenomenologist—but as an artist deeply committed to understanding the meaning of aesthetic consciousness. For Oguibe, the intersection with cultural politics is unavoidable in the process of making this happen. His message is that unless cultural difference is recognized and accepted, art is destined to continue the litany of promotional rhetoric that reflects a Westernized hierarchy of values. Oguibe’s essays not only affirm his position, with passion and intelligence, they offer insight into the dilemma of artists who come into the arena of Western culture from the outside. Oguibe’s argument urges the reader to empathize with the position of the Other. In doing so, we are encouraged to analyze more carefully the veneer of ‘the culture game’ as a means to see things as they are.

Robert C. Morgan, Ph.D., editor of Clement Greenberg: Late Writings

Well reasoned, scholarly, and convincing.

Library Journal

The Culture Game

Contents

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Part I. Terrain of Difficulty

In “The Heart of Darkness”
Art, Identity, Boundaries: Postmodernism and Contemporary
African Art
Play Me the “Other”: Colonialist Determinism and the Postcolonial Predicament
Double Dutch and the Culture Game

Part II. Nation, History, Image

Nationalism, Modernity, Modernism
“Footprints of a Mountaineer”: Uzo Egonu and Black Redefi nition of Modernism
Photography and the Substance of the Image
Medium, Memory, Image
Represent’n: The Young Generation in African American Art
The Burden of Painting

Part III. Brave “New World”

Forsaken Geographies: Cyberspace and the New World “Other”
On Digital “Third Worlds”: An Interview
Connectivity and the Fate of the Unconnected
Notes
Previous Publications

Index