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By Djie Tjianan
Chairman of the CP Foundation

Difference is No Constraint to Similarity

At the beginning of the 1990s, Klaus Schwab, a Swiss economist, the director of World Link magazine and president of the World Economic Forum, stated the opinion that globalization can be understood only if viewed through art and culture. At that time, this opinion sounded strange because, up to that point, discussions of globalization had always been related to economics and industry, and spoken of in the context of the expanded operations of multinational companies and the ongoing revolution in the communications sector.

Globalization, at the beginning of the 1990s, was understood as a sign of the growing uniformity in all aspects of life throughout the world. This uniformity, which was observed in, among other things, consumerism-oriented lifestyles, was read as being the impact of unbridled capitalism. It is therefore understandable, if, at that time, connecting the ideas of globalization and culture was unimaginable. These two things seemed to be on totally opposite poles.

At it has turned out, however, Klaus Schwab's statement has proven to be an apt prediction. In the mid 1990s, the word "global" slipped ever more frequently into the framework of thought and discourses on culture, replacing the term "international" in references to world issues. The term "global" was perceived as being more neutral than "international," the understanding of which had been formed and solidified as "uniformity in modern life," whereas, in actuality this "uniformity" existed only in thinking and theory. An international tendency toward uniformity was never a reality.

Along with the shift away from using "international" toward the utilization of "global" came the tendency to question the idea of uniformity. The perceptions and thinking behind this shift tended thus to seek out differences. Some thinking and analyses of global issues and also of globalization indicated that globalization has not actually impacted all aspects of life. It has turned out that the concern that globalization would make all aspects of life uniform throughout the entire world populace was exaggerated.

The strength/force of exclusive local cultures, as it turns out, is still highly apparent in the global era. This is particularly true in relation to the aspects of life most influenced by tradition and culture. The process of globalization has not eliminated these local forces even in the ways of life of people in Europe and America. In the developing nations of Asia and Africa, these local forces play a major role in the formation of perceptions about various realities. This awareness has given rise to slogans such as "think globally, act locally," which are meant to pinpoint adaptation within the process of globalization.

The emergence of the issue of urban life in the contemporary art exhibitions occurring over the past five years can be seen as a continuation of the discussion on the impact of globalization. It is not difficult to observe the fact that the way of life of urban communities worldwide, particularly in the cities labeled metropolitan, is heavily influenced by the process of globalization. These analyses of urban peoples in international exhibitions were immediately shadowed by the awareness that the similarity apparent in urban communities worldwide carried with it specific issues based in local matters. The phenomenon of urban migration, which clumps around economic issues and causes cities worldwide to swell into mega cities, seems to carry different socio-political issues in each and every urban community. For example, the socio-cultural problems that have caused migration to Los Angeles, making it a multicultural city, are not the same as the socio-economic issues behind the migration that has caused the city of Bandung in Indonesia to become one of the most densely populated urban centers in the world.

It is understandable that the urban problems dealt with in international exhibitions over the past five years have unearthed the similarities in the urban communities existing worldwide - urban planning, limitations of space, alienation, and cultural clashes within life in the city. This tendency can be read as an effort to build bridges of communication among the peoples of the world. The awareness of the brotherhood of man has always been noted as having positive influences. It is the awareness of the global aspects of human communities worldwide that has caused the global populace to pay closer attention to the matter of the environment towards creating a global/worldwide movement for the preservation of the ecology of the Earth.

Since its establishment in Washington D.C. in the year 2000, CP Foundation has been working toward the development of global communication through art-related activities. However, since its inception, CP Foundation has also been aware that improved communication can be achieved not only through similarity. Communication can be expanded even with the existence of differences. The awareness of the presence of differences makes it easier to understand the global aspects of modern life. Previously, before these differences were explored, when modern life existed only in theory and frameworks of thinking, the global phenomenon was very difficult to understand.

The CP Biennale, which is an important part of the CP Foundation agenda, adheres to the vision of the CP Foundation. Therefore, the theme Urban/Culture explored in the 2005 Biennale reflects the efforts to understand modern life as a reality and not only as theory and thought. Whereas the international exhibitions with urban themes of the past five years have tended to seek out similarities in urban cultures worldwide, the theme Urban/Culture in CP Biennale 2005 tends toward analysis of differences.

Through emphasis on works that represent urban lifestyles in developing nations, CP Biennale 2005 attempts to present urban issues, which exhibit local forces at work. Besides widely varying traditions, shifts in ideologies concerning the modern world, as well as historical developments among the various peoples of the world, constitute local forces.

As can be seen from conditions existing in the Indonesian society, the urban communities in developing nations represent only a miniscule segment of the entire society. Because of this, any discussion of urban issues in developing nations must take into consideration the various problems existing in the development of any given society as a whole. Urban communities in developing nations have their roots not only in the history of the given city, but also in the overall history of the entire populace and the nation.