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Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Home was curated by, and held at the Art gallery of Western Australia for the 2000 Perth International Arts Festival. It aimed to encourage us to consider how the notion of home is constructed at a time of globalisation of culture. Not an especially new idea, and one that even Perth has seen in local (or should that be domestic) variations for a number of years. What distinguished this particular 'at home' was the global breadth of its guests. Artists from Europe, Africa, North America and one from Singapore all contributed images and objects to help stimulate a dialogue about that most sacrosanct, and so often despoiled, of places.
Given the scope of the artists' work the contextualization of the show was broad, but the idea of 'home' and its inferred antonym 'global' would have repaid closer definition. The problems that cultural institutions have in avoiding the role of authoritarian didact are evident, but here there needed to be an examination of cultural and conceptual contexts beyond the exhibition format itself. In this case, the artists were presented as if they had cultural equivalence. It is indeed democratic to have artists from the majority of the world exhibiting alongside their 'first' world colleagues, but it was not the case that their voices had the same authority. Sarah Morris's imagery of an urban United States was easily (we see it almost daily in the mass media), if not always accurately, read. Its familiarity militated against a reading of her work as a critical text. This ease of legibility became exaggerated, and exacerbated, by its comparison with other filmic evidence of what is to most Australians still cultural exotica-Dijibril Diop Mambety's images of 1970s Senegal, and lgloolik lsuma Productions' representations of lnuit culture. This is not to presume an audience is simply a lumpen mass and needs to be introduced to ideas as, for example, an ideological configuration of the world was presented in the old
Soviet institutions, but to acknowledge that the Art Gallery itself is not a neutral space, and that artists in different cultures work from different initial premises. This is news to no one, least of all to the curatorial staff of this wide-ranging show, and is a difficult thing to do, but it remains an important issue. Whose globalisation are we seeing? The decline of the nation state and national culture is an issue that interests those smaller cultures whose home life and means of expression are being transformed far more than their powerful neighbours who are responsible for the transformation.
Antonio Gramsci argued forcibly against the adoption of Esperanto as the language of the Socialist international at the beginning of the twentieth century. He argued the supposition that a neutral artificial language could eradicate the difference in power relations between powerful and less powerful language and cultural groupings was a reflection of a cosmopolitan desire to be able to consume culture, rather than an internationalist need to understand cultural differences. Home acted a little like an Esperanto analogue, its structure (not necessarily its conceptual intention) suggesting that we were looking at a series of free-floating equivalent aesthetic phenomena, equally consumable and comprehended.
The benefits of the even handed, open presentation of the show was of course that it was possible to see the lie of this if we were prepared to look hard enough, and were already in possession of enough cultural capital. The political, and emotional deadpan intensity of Zwelethu Mththewa's photographs of the domestic interiors of South Africa's urban poor-wallpapered with the ephemeral detritus of a consumer society, ironically including soupcan labels-was a world away from the earnest agit-prop of Lucy Orta's symbolic tent city refuges for the European urban dispossessed. The pin sharp focus of David Goldblatt's ruthless photographs of ruthless architecture examined the way in which the built environment both reflects and shapes a culture's ideology, and was a rigorous counterpoint for the measured incoherence and deliberate fatuity of Rodney Glick's installation.
Home was an intriguing show, with a fascinating contradiction at its heart reflecting the most profound of issues related to globalisation and art practice-how do we interpret transculturally? Perhaps this was best exemplified by Matthew Ngui's work. On one hand the artist asserted that 'a singular view can be false and incorrect' and then constructed a witty, complex, multi -layered installation, one aspect of which only made sense when the viewer adopted a position from which a single point perspective linked the pieces together ...