The term was coined by Nicolas Bourriaud on the occasion of the Tate Triennial in 2009. Altermodern is against cultural standardisation and massification, but also opposed to nationalisms and cultural relativism. As per the definition by Nicolas BourriaudAltermodernis an attempt at contextualizing art made in today’s global context as a reaction against standardisation and commercialism.In his manifesto Bourriauddeclares that “Postmodernism is dead” and our new global cultural era – the ‘altermodern’ has begun. artists position themselves within the world’s cultural gaps. Cultural translation, mental nomadism and format crossing are the main principles of altermodern art.
In his keynote speech to the 2005 Art Association of Australia & New Zealand Conference, Nicolas Bourriaud explained:
Artists are looking for a new modernity that would be based on translation: What matters today is to translate the cultural values of cultural groups and to connect them to the world network. This “reloading process” of modernism according to the twenty-first-century issues could be called altermodernism, a movement connected to the creolisation of cultures and the fight for autonomy, but also the possibility of producing singularities in a more and more standardized world.Altermodern can essentially be read as an artist working in a hypermodern world or with supermodern ideas or themes.
The altmodern artists View time as a multiplicity rather than as a linear progress, artists navigatehistory as well as all the planetary time zones producing links between signs faraway from each other. In many cases Altermoderncan be seen as ‘docufictional’ in that it explores the past and the present to create original paths where boundaries between fiction and documentary are blurred.
Altermodern can essentially be read as an artist working in a hypermodern world or with supermodern ideas or themes.
Commenting on Bourriaudsaltermodernism manifesto Ellie Harrison in her essay described it as side-kick of ‘the age of stupid. She argues that“not only does the vision for altermodernism fail to provide an alternative to the devastating path to the future down which ‘alterglobalisation’ is dragging us, but it also remarkably promotes the idea that we turn our backs on and ignore this future altogether. One of the paradigms for artistic approaches Bourriaud suggests is that artists look back in time rather than forward claiming that “history is the last uncharted continent” and therefore should be the focus of artistic attention.
There seems no doubt that Bourriaud’saltermodernism is the cultural side-kick of ‘the Age of Stupid’. To write a Manifesto of our times at such a crucial make-or-break point in the history of humanity and not to mention the possibility of an impending disaster or offer any suggestions as to what artists and society in general can do to combat it, is not just denial – it’s stupidity”
Ellie Harrison is an artist & activist based in Glasgow (UK). She works in diverse mediums from installations and performance / events, to lectures, live broadcasts & political campaigns. Through her workshe investigates, exposes and challenges the absurd consequences of our capitalist system: from over-consumption, inequality and alienation, to privatisation and climate change – and explores the impact free-market forces are having on our society, and our individual day-to-day lives.