Kim Simon has directed my attention toward Nicolas Bourriaud’s The Radicant. This work begins with Bourriaud’s curiosity about globalization’s affect on aesthetics and will lead, according to the provocative back-jacket description, to placing a multiculturalist version of cultural diversity in question, “not in favour of a systematic universalism or a new modernist Esperanto, but rather in the context of a new modern moment based on generalized translation, the form of wandering, an ethics of precariousness, and a heterochronic vision of history.” Multiculturalism works to efface real differences, standardizing imaginations and forms to Western ideals via the economic globalization machine.

To move beyond the postmodern and its attendant machinations (multiculturalism, economic globalization), Bourriaud suggests four reconstituting principles: “a focus on the present, experimentation, the relative, the fluid. The present, because the modern (‘what belongs to its time,’ for such is the historical definition) is a passion for the current, for today understood as seed and beginning–against conservative ideologies that would embalm it, against reactionary movements whose ideal is the restoration of this or that time past, but also, in a manner that distinguishes our modernity from preceeding ones, against futurist prescriptions, teleological notions of all sorts, and the radicality that accompanies them. Experimentation, because being modern means daring to seize the occasion, the kairos. It means venturing, not resting contentedly with tradition, with existing formulas and categories; but seeking to clear new paths, to become a test pilot. To be equal to this risk, it is also necessary to call into question the solidity of things, to practice a generalized relativism, a critical comparatism unsparing of the most tenacious certainties, to perceive the institutional and ideological structures that surround us as circumstantial, historical, and changeable at will. ‘There are no facts,’ wrote Nietzsche, ‘only interpretations.’ This is why the modern favours the event over monumental order, the ephemeral over an eternity writ in stone; it is a defense of fluidity against omnipresent reification” (16).

Bourriaud proposes a new modernity based neither on homogenization nor divisiveness, but on being radicant, which he understands like this: “To be radicant means setting one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats, denying them the power to completely define one’s identity, translating ideas, transcoding images, transplanting behaviours, exchanging rather than imposing” (22).

I am excited by Bourriaud’s proposals for new ways of moving through the world (and the relocation to Toronto suddenly takes on a different hue). Harkening back to the conversation Juliann and I are having about multi- vs. inter- culturalism, here are some tools to use, albeit abstract, in experimenting with bringing about the world we want to live in. And I just don’t care if that sounds impossibly optimistic.


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