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Master of Fine Art International Practice

University College for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester
(formerly Kent Institute of Design - KIAD)
Canterbury Campus Fine Arts Student: Laury Dizengremel

Writing Assignments


Essay Two

KENT INSTITUTE OF ART & DESIGN
Master Fine Art
1st Year - Essay Two - 7 March 2005
Laury Dizengremel

ISSUES OF INTERNATIONALISM IN THE CONTEXT OF MY MFA PROJECT ENTITLED 'FACES OF THE WORLD: THE CHALLENGE OF PORTRAYING HUMANKIND'

Due to a number of factors (parents of different nationalities, upbringing in several countries), when I initially enquired at KIAD to enrol for an MA, the Fine Art Department course leader Richard Davies, himself an artist practicing at an international level, recommended that instead I consider applying for the MFA International Practice degree course. Clearly, in view of those factors and my own active international career as an artist to date, this was a more appropriate route to select.

By way of an introduction, it seems a good idea to define "internationalism".

Internationalism, n (definition)

1. The condition of quality of being international in character, principles, concern, or attitude
2. A policy or practice of cooperation among nations, especially in politics and economic matters.

(source: http:// dictionary.com)

However, here is one of my favourite interpretations of it offered by sociologist John Guiggan in an article on his website (http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2003/04/02/word-for-wednesday-internationalism-definition/) : Internationalism is not a political movement like social democracy or neoliberalism, nor is it a central term in a body of argument, like globalisation. Rather, it is a general aspiration. So I'm going to offer my own definition, and try to tease out its relevance to our present problems. As opposed to globalism, internationalism accepts the reality and legitimacy of national governments. This legitimacy arises in part from acceptance of the idea of the nation-state, that particular groups of people (nations) are bound together by ties of common history and language, and are natural units of governments.

I go back now to my own upbringing. My French father was born in Japan and later raised in Greece. My Dutch mother was raised in Indonesia, ended up spending 4 four years there in a Japanese concentration camp before studying at Berkeley University and then dancing under Martha Graham in New York. She then worked in France where she met my father. I was born in France, moved to the USA with my parents as an infant, returned to France when I was six, went to live in the USA from the age of 19 until 28, then spent three years in France and have now resided in England for the last seventeen years…

All of which amounts to a life nurtured by different nationals and lived, so far, across many national boundaries. Growing up, I skied in Italy and Switzerland, visited England, Germany and Spain, spent holidays in the Netherlands - and as an adult artist, I travelled widely for private and public commissions, with extensive stays in a wide range of countries including Malaysia, China and Vietnam, Honduras, Canada, the USA, Germany, etc.

For self-study purposes, taking in many museums and in the company of other professional artists, during the last three years I have also visited Italy, Demark, Israel and Thailand. Across the boundaries of culture and language I have forged intensely strong bonds with people (other artists, colleagues, friends, clients) from vastly different and sometimes intensely nationalistic backgrounds.

This could be seen as the characteristic of an "internationalist" (not that I needed another label in addition of those we garner through our lifetime!); of a strong advocate of internationalism in so far as it is defined as relationships between nations, between people of different nationalities.

My mother in particular raised my sister and me to think of our selves as "world citizens"; to adopt different viewpoints; to respect, to fully embrace and appreciate the cultural, social, religious and political differences of others.

"Internationalism", as I conceived of it for most of my life, was therefore to me a natural and familiar notion.

However as a result of a recent lecture at KIAD by Dr. Judith Rugg on the subject, backed by my own research into the word and its myriad definitions on the Internet, I have come to realize that "internationalism" now means many things in different circles (political, social, economic, artistic, environmental) and poses a perplexing range of issues (exchanges, globalisation, tourism, the pitfalls of cultural "imperialism", pervading American influences throughout the world, homogenisation, corporate branding, etc.).

Factually, from Saigon to Beijing, from Tel Aviv to Bangkok, I have seen streets lined with the same American style chain restaurants and visited malls in both the Orient and Middle-East that are depressingly similar to those of Chicago or Los Angeles! Side by side with dwindling local shopping venues that are both traditional and familiar (old marketplaces or small shopping streets) and are certainly possessed of their own individual aesthetic, we find these amorphous, gigantic and culturally bland temples to consumerism.

But why attempt to ascribe this to "internationalism" when clearly the cause is more obviously advances in modernization, just as the revolution of industry transformed working processes around the world? Rapidly increasing migrations and exchanges of people and their customs, of products and their consumption patterns, of processes and their implications, of data and its wide-ranging effects - all of these have both positive and negative aspects on societies across the globe's nations.

The greatest and most challenging "issue" of internationalism is how to be global citizens while remaining national, local citizens, and without losing our local identities. Neither in the past have people been, nor are they today, free of a sense of "difference" - as is made abundantly plain by wars being conducted in the name of a variety of pretexts ranging from religion to economics.

Just as a debate can be conducted about internationalism versus nationalism, there can also be a debate about internationalism versus globalization. I came across this very interesting statement by Australian author Joseph Smith in the intro page of a chapter entitled The Failure of Internationalism in his book "The Remorseless Working of Things", (1992):
...let's look at the potholes in the streets. There are potholes all over the civilised world, but is that any reason for setting up a global pothole authority to fix our potholes. Would the potholes be filled sooner if we globalized the problem? The moral is surely obvious: never globalize a problem if it can possibly be solved locally. It may be chic but it is not wise to tack the adjective global onto the names of problems that are merely widespread - for example, "global hunger", "global poverty", and "the global population problem".

My project has nothing to do with globalization: it is about a local earth issue - that of humanity. It is a celebration of our differences, and a call for unity as people belonging to the human race as a whole. It investigates the ethnic pluralism extant in the world and our attitudes to "humankind". It seeks to achieve an international, multi-ethnic, multi-age, multi-gender representation of the humans who inhabit planet Earth. After travelling around the world to research, identify and document individual representatives of groups, I aim to feature as many groupings of humans as possible within any single piece of artwork.

Coming back to issues of internationalism - I feel quite strongly that while they are constantly evolving, they are not new. Since man started moving across the face of the Earth, there have been settlements, exchanges within settlements, with resulting social, cultural and other evolutions due to the contact with "others".

In my recent research in Honduras into the various ethnic groups extant in this Latin American country of Mayans, Amerindians, Spanish and even African descendants, I came upon an interesting passage in a small book entitled "The Garifuna Story" (p.50) by Guillermo Yuscaran written in 1990:
In addition to Spanish, the Garifuna speak a unique dialect and maintain customs and traditions which represent a merging of African and Indian influences. The dialect itself, though its origins are hotly debated, is certainly a mosaic of other tongues, among them Arawak, French, Yuroba, Swahili and Bantu. The Garifuna has come to define not only the language but the people who speak it, differentiating these Caribbean blacks from those who speak English, such as the Jamaicans.

As a further comment upon internationalism, it is interesting to note that the author's name as it appears on the book is not his real one (William Lewis, a PhD from the University of California of Santa Barbara!) In his book which contains both Spanish and English versions of his research text, he relays that there are a quarter of a million of these Garifuna people living in 51 separate villages from Belize to Nicaragua along the north coasts, most of them in Honduras, with a very individual culture of music and dance. What is the Garifuna then but a perfect example of centuries old internationalism breeding a unique people?

Fireworks and paper came to Europe, the Americas and eventually Australia and New Zealand from China. Electricity came from the New World to the Old. Spaniards settled in the Americas, as did many English and French. Migration and diasporas are far from being new concepts. Italian composer Lulli wrote operas for the French court. Mexican artist Diego Rivera painted in New York. American writer Hemingway penned books in Paris. Polish born Joseph Conrad wrote all of his works in English. Gauguin ended up in Tahiti. Internationalism has been around forever when you dig into the subject.

What is most pertinent then to my current research is what lessons from the past and even present can be drawn from the interactions of one nation to another - one set of people to another.

Whilst the setting up of nations is a very arbitrary fait accompli, and a necessary one (world government may be a utopian's dream, but it spells a veritable nightmare for anyone who realizes that bureaucracy becomes unwieldy past a certain size, and that local problems can never be satisfactorily solved by remote government), the breaking down of barriers between humans can only be a positive endeavour. It is when people fully accept each other's differences that they cease to tear each other apart. This applies to two members of a family; to friends, to colleagues within a work place; to various groups within a nation; to one nation towards another.

Some who speak of "internationalism" today in a socio-economical and political context uphold it against the old notion of "nationalism". I do not think it is wise to forget that excessive nationalism has contributed to the advent of wholesale genocides - but neither do I think that complete internationalism is possible or desirable with respect to issues of economy, politics or any except the global environment. Spiritually, I hunger for a sense of fraternity of the human race as a whole, but I also realize it can only be achieved if humans manage to set aside any differences perceived as "alienating".

It is interesting to note that when artists of a similar discipline from around the world meet at an international event, they find they share a common language - that of aesthetics and their specific art - and that this language transcends all usual "language barriers". I have seen an Iraqi Muslim sculptor on the friendliest terms with a Canadian Jewish colleague - and a Cuban sculptor exchanging technical carving tips and drinking tequila with an American one!

According to Jean Leymarie (in the preface of "Art Since Mid-Century: The New Internationalism", 1971) :
… It is for this reason that the most conscientious artists, seeking to be in direct contact with contemporary reality, and whose field of experimentation is sociology, concern themselves less with the creation of works, in the material sense of the word, than with actions, events and environments. The latter cannot be hung on the stultifying walls of galleries, but go out into the street and transform life itself….

His remarks are all the more pertinent in the context of exchanges between artists. Since most artists can work across social, linguistic, political and religious barriers, they are natural "ambassadors" for their own countries and are therefore capable of generating for the latter a great deal of goodwill and understanding in foreign lands.

One of my greatest concerns with internationalism is that aspect of "cultural imperialism" that seems to be an intrinsic factor of modern development in the world today. It is sad to see third world countries adopting Western attitudes that enlightened people (active environmentalists, feminists, etc.) in Western countries themselves reject. It is even sadder to see that while we point the finger at the newly burgeoning industries of third world countries creating environmental hazards, we ourselves first learned that lesson the hard way before beginning to - literally - clean up our act!

Also - while the advertising boards of companies who pride themselves on attracting customers without distinction to race do often feature people from different races, I have yet to see in the Western world overarching guidelines that call for anything other than a rather hypocritical and often unrepresentative 2 to 1 ratio (two whites for one black or asian). Just ask the citizens of Washington D.C. (a predominantly black city) what they think about that!

So this brings me back to the challenge I set myself for this project - the creation of artwork in a number of different media, featuring people from around the world in what attempts to be a truly even ratio, and celebrating the differences rather than emphasizing them with an alienating attitude.

A good yardstick to see whether I have accomplished the above will be how distinctive (imbued with local flavours) rather than bland (tinged with ethno-centric or imperialistic homogenisation) the works will be!

Bibliography
GUILLERMO YUSCARAN
The Garifuna Story (1990) Tegucigapa, Honduras. Nuevo Sol Publicationes (1990)
HAFTMANN, WERNER
Art Since Mid-Century: The New Internationalism, Volume 1 - Abstract Art. - Preface by Jean Leymarie. Greenwich, Connecticut, New York Graphic Society (1971)

Other Sources
http://www.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/internationalism.html
SMITH, JOSEPH WAYNE The Remorseless Working of Things. AIDS and the Global Crisis: An Ecological Critique of Internationalism. Kalgoorlie Press, 1992
http://www.developmentgoals.org/ http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/


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  1. Original Description of MFA Project
  2. Research Methodology Chart for MFA Project
  3. Action Plan 1 -
  4. Action Plan 2 -
  5. Final Description of MFA Project
  1. Essay One 10 January 2005
  2. Essay Two 7 March 2005
  3. Critical Evaluation 1 8 April 2005
  4. Critical Evaluation 2
  5. Critical Evaluation 3
  6. PG Dips - Research Paper for Viva
  7. Artist Statement for MFA Final Show Sept. 2006
  1. Sculpture
  2. Photography
  3. Video
  4. Installation
  1. Personal bibliography
  2. Travel links
  3. Artist and art websites
  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. List of professional commissions executed , works purchased and works exhibited during course period Sept. 2004 to Sept. 2006
  3. List of professional engagements (symposia, lectures, etc.) during course period Sept. 2004 to Sept. 2006

E-mail: sculptures@sculpture-design.com

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