It could not have been a worse time to begin a transnational collaboration between six art institutions from the opposite ends of Europe. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century the era of globalization was pinned between the negative polarities of personal insecurity and environmental degradation. The early promises of pulling the global masses out of poverty and opening up cultural exchange had been punctured by a resurgence of neo-nationalism and economic precarity. Democratic principles and cultural values were increasingly subordinated to the ultra-competitive policies and economic priorities of neo-liberalism. In the cultural sector there was growing despair that the Enlightenment principles had not only failed to address the complexities of universalism, but could no longer define the directions of a national project. Even the foundations of the European project as a cooperative venture were collapsing. Everywhere the sovereignty of the nation state, as the primary mechanism for organizing society and representing culture, was in ruin. It was, in this time of crisis, that a small group of museums and contemporary art institutions began a conversation on “rethinking our European heritage”. This group grew to become the confederation of six museums that called themselves: L’Internationale.

Nikos Papastergiadis is the Director of the Research Unit in Public Cultures, based at The University of Melbourne. He is a Professor in the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne and founder - with Scott McQuire - of the Spatial Aesthetics research cluster. He is Chief Investigator on the ARC Discovery Project ‘Precincts and cultural participation in networked public space'. Prior to joining the School of Culture and Communication, he was Deputy Director of the Australia Centre at the University of Melbourne, Head of the Centre for Ideas at the Victorian College of Arts, and lecturer in Sociology and recipient of the Simon Fellowship at the University of Manchester. He has been both co-editor and author of journal Third Text and his publications include Modernity as Exile (Manchester University Press 1993), Dialogues in the Diaspora (Rivers Oram 1998), The Turbulence of Migration (Polity Press 2000), Metaphor and Tension (Artspace 2004) Spatial Aesthetics: Art Place and the Everyday (Rivers Oram 2006), Cosmopolitanism and Culture (Polity Press 2012), Ambient Perspectives (2013) and Ambient Screens (2016).

Part two of the three-part Aesthetics and Cosmopolis series.


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