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"Baltic Babel: Avanto – Helsinki Media Festival, Copenhagen Free University, Factory of Found Clothes, Foksal Gallery Foundation,  Involved, Make it Happen, Valie Export Society, Primitive/art bureau OPEN"
2002-09-20 until 2002-11-17
Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art
Malmo, , SE

Baltic Babel is a large-scale group project about art and the new Baltic society that might now be in development. 9 independent, innovative organisations, groups or activities have been invited from the watershed Baltic cities of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, St Petersburg and Warsaw. These organisations are concerned with art and culture though they could also be involved in other independent political, or social activities.

Such groups of artists have emerged as the key force in art making as artists have developed alternative strategies to negotiate a different basis for making institutions, questioning the relationship between art and society and reflecting the position of art in relation to globalism. The huge political changes that have occurred around the Baltic in the past 12 years have effected art and its possibilities. Young artists want to instigate independent alternative spaces so that they can continue to exist in the places to which they are committed without leaving for the presumed centres or being dominated by the market and central institutions. This development is a very beautiful metaphor for the power of negotiation between globalised economic power and all kinds of effort to provide alternative solutions and local responses.

Independent galleries, artists’ groups, alternative film festivals, office based urban projects and research organisations will be shown in a series of different architectural structures in the main Rooseum hall. They have each determined the content of the structure themselves, at times inviting other collaborators or artists with whom they have already worked. These projects will vary from documentary films, a music market, a shop, a bar, a magazine wall, slide and video presentations as well as curated exhibitions and performances. The idea for the presentation takes its lead from the design of the 2002 Gwangju Biennale in Korea, where groups from all over Asia and Europe were invited. For a smaller geographic area, we hope Baltic Babel will create the same sense of energy and capture something of the specific atmosphere of each city.

The idea is to bring to the Öresund region models for independent action connecting art and society and to offer our audiences a chance to view regional visual culture through the eyes of people based in those locations. We might imagine that the emotional ‘map in the head’ that Malmö citizens carry with them could ultimately shift, reflecting a geographic reality that Warsaw or Tallinn are closer to us than Paris or London.

The exhibition will also explore the nature of interregional politics and begin the development of a serious network across the region. It should be an invitation to re-imagine our region in the light of its visual culture and to see what and how the differences across the region add creativity to its complexity and support or challenge the possibility of a new Baltic 'union'. It will also be a compellingly instant trip to specific cities in the region, using the visual as a point of entry into widely different local cultures. In the microcinema downstairs, we have also made a selection of films and art videos made by individual artists from the region that focus on social history and the urban environment in different cities.

Baltic Babel will question the meaning of cultural globalism and suggest interchange - exchange between equal partners - as a more compelling and relevant model. It will provide a ready-made network for the region to build on in the future as well as link various local organisations together for the first time. Given some current political and cultural trends in our region, its cultural institutions have a responsibility to promote the fundamental value of cultural and linguistic difference for all societies. Only on the basis of mutual respect can we expect globalisation to describe anything other than an exploitative economic system.

The mix of organisations include various models of practice. They will all be grounded in visual cultural practice in its broadest sense and will bring the energy of difference and discourse to the whole exhibition.

For the visitors to Baltic Babel, we hope that the experience of the exhibition will encourage a reassessment of our international outlook from the Öresund region. The ancient Tower of Babel was built to reach heaven and resulted in the apparent curse of human linguistic diversity. This Baltic Babel is a more horizontal proposition. It is a way of celebrating differences while trying to reach another level of mutual understanding - ambitious not to reach heaven but to meet each other. Baltic Babel is part of Kulturbro 2002, A Biennal of Art and Culture in the Øresund Region.

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