Friday, May 18, 2012

Introduction to Decolonize This
Exhibition „Decolonize This“ is the first part of critical research that is focused on geographical identity politics in the context of East-Europe, departing from postcolonial theories on East-Europe and tries to apply decolonial thinking that aims to distinguish and eliminate layers of coloniality of certain geographical spots and sets up questions at what is left afterwards.
The aim of decolonial thinking is to disconnect from dominating ideology, the Western epistemology and universalism. „Decolonize This“ doesn`t reach this aim and it`s doubtable if such disconnect is possible in a positive sense. In this context, the problems related to the exhibition are the representation (contemporary art discourse and exhibition format) and the context of artistic research – such problems are not explicitly reflected by the exhibition, which rather uses the colonial condition as communication channel and public space, to focus on certain social matters. Representation matters will be hopefully solved in the final, theoretical part of the research as a reflection of my own practice.
In the context of artistic research i find it important to develop a critical position, aware of the presumptions and consequences of artist activity, that are critically reflected. Linda Tuhiwai, author of „Decolonizing Methodologies“, with Maori background, considers in her book the term „research“ a dirty word, coming from European imperialism and colonialism. It is totally excluded that East-Europeans can be considered colonized Maori-like nations. Such misleading beliefs can be observed in understanding the poem „We Have to Walk Very Quietly" (written by Estonian author Jaan Kaplinski, with an intention to speak about American indians) as allegory to Estonian nation, colonized by Russians. I presume that after decolonizing Estonia from imperialism, occupation, neocolonializm and self-colonization we will face a certain kind of organic matter that is colonized by Occidental thinking after very first steps of reflection. According to David Chioni Moore[1] there is no square meter in the world that is uncolonized. Therefore the postcolonial theories are, in principle, applicable everywhere. I find it problematic that the totality of such statements refers to Western universalism that tries to colonize every such square meter with postcolonial theory, bringing the new space under control of Western intellectuals and postmodernism as the basement of postcolonial theories. In the context of East-Europe the postcolonial theories may seem unreliable as such theories that are focused on spaces related to the Soviet Union derive from failed discipline of American sovietology that was unable to predict the collapse of the empire and is now trying to rehabilitate and renew itself by rearticulating its old materials and positions.[2] East-Europe may need new postcolonial theories that won`t depart from models coming from overseas, but would be based on a more sophisticated and hybrid local situations, distinguished by imperial difference. It is not necessary that such new approach would be named as postcolonialism. There should be a critical position towards Western modernism and postmoderism, global capitalism and neocolonialism, using the Socialist experience as an advantage, as something outside the Western experience. Therefore i find decolonial thinking, represented by Walter Mignolo and Madina Tlostanova, to be a suitable position in the East-European context. Exhibition „Decolonize This“ is an introduction to decolonial thinking in the area of interest of postcolonialism. The exhibition is based on artistic research – theoretical preparation and decolonial practices, such as distinguishing the colonial layers, contextualizing the local identity politics with colonial matrix of power, that has certain consequences in the sensitive East-European landscape. Identity politics, organized by institutional position of power, that creates the spatial consciousness and identity spaces (like Estonian nation state, North-Europe, the Baltics, etc), also shapes the general human freedom and identity models, which leads to the topic of biopolitics. There are ready-made constructions for self-determination in terms of belonging, gender, sexuality, etc and for understanding the surrounding world, the organic matter, life as such. „Decolonize This“ views such matters of identity politics through decolonial hypotheses and set of questions, through reflections of personal experience and abstractions. Informativity and communication play important role in the exhibition – certain geographical spots and their meanings that are marginalized by certain processes of identity politics and remain outside the public attention and spatial consciousness are introduced to the audience. Thereby the exhibition intervenes the local social context.

[1]„Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique“; translated by Anne Lange; Methis nr 7, 2011  
[2] - As speaks Epp Annus in her article „Postkolonialismi pealetung post-sovetoloogias: kas paradigmamuutuse künnisel?“; Methis nr 7, 2011