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<nettime> Francesco Bonami: Modern Incline Modern Decline.
Patrice Riemens on Sat, 19 Aug 2006 07:02:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Francesco Bonami: Modern Incline Modern Decline.

I liked this text very much, and not only because nettime was also born 
somewhere on the fringes of a Venice Biennale a few eons ago. Since I 
couldn't find it online, I did some digital monk(ey) work, and recopied 
it. The magazine it comes from I cannot recommand enough. Become Ambonese! 
as a sometimes brilliant but otherwise totally fucked-up acquaintance of 
mine used to say. And consider this a as a thank you to the rich Libanses 
'evergetes' (benefactor) who gave me a subscription - or otherwise: see if 
they sue.



Modern Incline Modern Decline
Francesco Bonami

>From BIDOUN Spring/Summer 2006

In December 2005 of 2005, I participated in a symposium organized by Bob 
Storr at the Venice Biennale with the appealing title: Where Art Worlds 
Meet: Multiple Modernities and the Global Salon. It meant what it said. 
There were "different art worlds" trying to become one big artworld, 
people talking about different versions of modernities, the global and the 
global salon itself. Like many other symposiums, it was an excuse to 
create meaning around an exhibition, and the level of incoherence was 
accordingly very high.

When the term postcolonial was said for the 7,487th time, establishing a 
record - surpassing the number of performances of the Phantom of the 
Opera, and even Cats, the two longest-running shows in Broadway history - 
I searched desperately for my 44 Magnum to randomly shoot a couple of 
speakers and a few nodding listeners. Unfortunately, I'd left the gun at 
home that day. So I decided that I no longer give a fuck about 
colonialism, precolonialism, post-colonialism, neocolonialism, 
hyper-colonialism, homemade colonialism, organic colonialism, low-fat 
colonialism or semi-colonialism. I really don't. Not to say the we cannot 
change the world we live in, but we cannot do so before accepting that the 
world we live in is just that - not some kind of fiction with multiple 

In fact, Venice, as a city and a former colonial power, is the perfect 
example of how power can eventually rot, molder and putrefy, how colonial 
hubris can be transformed into a mass rape of tourists. Venice is the best 
example of postcolonial malaise. Sustaining power requires modernity. A 
city needs cars, not gondolas; taxis, not a transportation mafia. 
(Amsterdam, the 'Venice of the North', has no gondolas, plenty of cars, 
and a taxi mafia second to none, or it must be Goa, India -- yrs truly) 
Yet modernity is only One; the plural that has been used and abused so 
often during the last decade is a delusion. One modernity, that's it. One 
fucked-up modernity, for sure, but one and the same. One could paraphrase 
the title of one of Matthew Barney's works here: a "modern incline" exists 
as well as a "modern decline." There are countries, institutions, artists, 
critics and curators who experience the incline of modernity, and those 
who live its decline.

There are other places, but no other realities, at least not in the 
artworld. Too bad Homi Bhabha declined his invitation at the last moment, 
preferring to stay in the golden cocoon of Harvard, the ultimate example 
of an auto-colonial, supermodern cultural organization. Whoever blames him 
for doing so is an hypocrite. The privilege of the last-minute refusal is 
a result of modernity. The only possibility of finding another way to be 
modern is to create a modern way to relinquish privileges, or to try to 
invent new modern institutions and organizations elsewhere - to detach 
ourselves from the modern center to which, in one way or another, we are 
all gravitating for accreditation, self-celebration and recognition.

As long as we haven't abandonned the idea that the postcolonial is the 
last surviving global underground, the last factory for a possible 
revolution of the mind, we will continue to sit around a long table 
farting theories on the Darkness of our Modern Hearts.  We are at best 
post-colloquial; we're no longer listening to anything but to our own 
theories. We refuse to cope with the fact that we are either in a modern 
world gone berseck or in a world that never succeeded in being modern in 
the first place. I care exclusively about art that speaks to the world - 
be it in the local, the marginal, the center or the bottom. Anything else 
is completely irrelevant. Bad art exists everywhere, for every reason. Bad 
taste, lack of ideas, colonialism, corruption, religion, incinerated 
modernity, stale modernity, whatever. Bad is bad, good is mostly good. 
Heraclitus was convinced that we become who we are. And so am I. A dwarf 
is a dwarf, Kate Moss is Kate Moss. And we cannot change any of the above, 
but we can make the best of it instead of conducting a "discourse" that is 
a cheap fiction. The Venice symposium was basically that: a fiction about 
and mockery of ourselves. Would you like to know where art worlds meet? In 
one and the same world, in the very same places, with more or less the 
same people. Multiple modernities? No way! And the global salon? 
Considering the mess going down these days, it's more of a Global Saloon, 
with swinging doors, the pianist, the good guys and the bad guys all 
playing poker together.

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