Cover image of the review
Shivanjani Lal, Aise Aise Hai (how we remember), 2023. Plaster, cement, turmeric, calcium hydroxide and brass, dimensions variable. Photo: Mim Stirling.

The National 4

22 Apr 2023
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), Carriageworks, Campbelltown Arts Centre 30 Mar - 23 Jul 2023

I teach a course on contemporary art and one of the earliest conversations we have together is about what it means to be contemporary. Often, students will argue for a logical, common-sense answer: contemporary art is all art that is produced now. Well, it is, and it isn’t. The problem with this insistence on “nowness”is that it permits a generic inclusiveness that glosses over the difficult histories and antagonisms that continue to structure the present. What if there is something specific about this historical moment that distinguishes it from all other times? Perhaps there is a wider appreciation for the slipperiness of nations, which are not reducible to a spot on the map, a passport, or a common language. Nations are cultural artefacts of a particular kind, or so says Benedict Anderson. And nation-states are acts of spatio-temporal manipulation that naturalise themselves as common law and logic. I think of them as forms of science fiction, appealing to scientific rigour to legitimate their own truth claims.

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