Thoughts on an Exhibition that Railed Against Globalism in the Best Possible Way
The destructive nature of globalism remains a present and insidious danger to every culture across the world. When even in small towns on the foothills of the Burmese mountains we encounter a Starbucks or McDonald’s, it’s clear globalisation has an iron like grip on the world. Like a cancerous organism it simply will not be stopped. It is for this reason that artists have a duty to capture and encapsulate the many vibrant and ancient cultures which still exist today, either on canvas or film, before they become a faded memory which will only exist in a few pages of history books.
After a conversation with a friend about globalism and its ruinous effects over much of the East and West, I remembered an exhibition which took place at Heist, Notting Hill, in 2015. Origins brought together a collection of some of the best and brightest photographers who had taken the time to explore some of the world’s diminishing cultural groups, from Kazakhs in Mongolia to Gypsies in India. Many of these tribes have retained their customs and traditions, passed down from father to son for generations. There’s both a rawness and magical overtone to each photo.
The photographers included Jimmy Nelson, whose project ‘Before they Pass Way’ was a mesmeric and intense visual journey. Portraits and landscapes highlighting differing peoples who have yet to encounter the globalist Goliath captured in Nelson’s distinct editorial style. He was able to capture the pride, dignity and ever present air of spirituality that emanates from such groups on the verge of disappearing.
Homogeneity is what pervades throughout the world in the second decade of the 21st century, far from being an age of creative innovation, we have entered a dystopian epoch, where unchallenged corporatism is turning generation after generation into hive minds, obsessed with the material world, all but abandoning tradition and especially the natural world. It feels as if the gulf between man and nature has widened so much that we have reached the point of no return.
Origins was a reminder that there is still unsullied beauty in the world. To look at these photos, particularly of the people, is to look into the eyes of human beings who understand the greatness of their forefathers, the crucial importance of their culture and extended tribal family. There is an order to their lives, a sense of harmony that in such a frenetic global culture has been hard for many to hold on to.
I have friends whose opinions sit within the left and the right sociopolitical arenas. They disagree with each other on many fundamental things, and I know some would disown me completely if they knew just what my other friends believed in politically, yet they never seem to look at what unites. All of them whether left-wing or right-wing have a core dislike of globalism, what it’s doing to the world, to the environment etc, and if they were to shed their heavy cloaks of political ideology they would be a force to be reckoned with.
The more I think about this exhibition, the more important it feels to promote such work, to encourage artists across the spectrum to look at what we are losing as this beast of the modern age grows ever more ravenous. Cultural uniqueness is to be encouraged, every culture across the world has something to offer, whether it be the Highlanders of Scotland or the Mingrelians of Georgia. What gives us true pride is knowing who we are and supporting Manchester United or being obsessed with the latest Apple gadgets doesn’t do that.