Artist initiatives worldwide: exchanging ideas

April 2004 -

Visual artist Folkert de Jong explains how he used the colour orange during a workshop in Mumbai, India. A lively discussion commenced, because in India orange is the colour of the extreme-right Hindu movement. Can this type of cultural connotations of images be translated? What is the relationship between art and politics, between art and activism? These and other answers are included in the book Shifting Map. Artists' platforms and strategies for cultural diversity.

Shifting Map is a publication by and about RAIN, a network of artists' platforms in Africa, Asia and Latin American. The book was initiated by former residents of the Rijksakademie voor beelden kunsten in Amsterdam. In Shifting Map the artists' initiatives describe their birth, experiences and ideas. The artists answer questions about social engagement in the arts and comment on the responses from other platforms.

Each platform also contributed images for the book. Photos of performances, machinery and video art give an impression of their activities. But projects of this type are difficult to portray in a photograph. Shifting Map is more about the theory than about the individual works of art. At the same time, the function of theory is questioned: does it contribute to the artists' activities?

In addition to texts by the artists' platforms, articles written by Argentinean philosopher Reinaldo Laddaga and by curator Charles Esche, the new director of the Van Abbemuseum, are included. Laddaga's article is particularly interesting because he questions the meaning of the artists' initiatives as described. He asserts that these are not peripheral phenomena but signs of a new artistic culture, with different roles for the makers and the public. An increasing call for democracy is manifesting itself in the arts.

Laddaga compares the artists' initiatives to laboratories: areas where experiments are performed, described and analysed. Reading Shifting Map is also somewhat like visiting a laboratory. It is not immediately clear what type of experiments are being performed. But once you comprehend their implications, they become interesting and even exciting.

The book will be presented on 12 May in the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, with presentations by Charles Esche (UK) and Geraldo Mosquera (Cuba) as well as artist presentations. For more information, see