Professor Clive Barstow
Professor Clive Barstow is Head of School of Communications and Arts at Edith Cowan University, Honorary Professor of Art at the University of Shanghai Science & Technology China and global faculty member of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey USA. Prior to moving to Australia, Clive taught at Middlesex University in London and the Kent Institute of Art and Design.
Clive is a practicing artist and writer. His exhibition profile includes thirty years of international exhibitions, artist residencies and publications in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. His work is held in a number of collections, including the Musse National d'Art Modern Pompidou Centre Paris and the British Council USA and he currently holds executive membership of the Printmakers Council of Australia and the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools. Clive is also Director of the Open Bite Australia Print Workshop, which encourages the development of printmaking within a number of local indigenous communities.
His recent exhibitions include “Cultural Pruning” at the Meou Art Gallery Shanghai China and recent publications include “Encountering the Third Space: a study of indentity and hybridity through trans cultural artistic practice in Australia and China” Oxford University UK. In 2005 Clive was awarded the distinguished teaching award by the Australian Council for University Art & Design Schools, Australia’s peak body for creative arts teaching and research for his contribution to art education in Australia.
Mapping cultural incommensurability
Clive Barstow’s re-workings of maps and flags testify to the necessity of unlearning what we have learnt. Central to this re-configuration of knowledge is the emancipatory potential of a politics of difference, where incommensurability is negotiated as an inescapable facet of globalised multicultural co-existence. A continual rhetorical commitment to the sameness of people only ignores perpetuated structures of privilege and oppression. Correspondingly, it has to be acknowledged that the organic hybridisation of cultures that occurs within the multicultural nation-state will not necessarily guarantee the creation of a new consensual culture of synthesis or amalgamation. The process of hybridisation cannot afford to be envisaged as yet another version of the assimilatory ideal that seeks to absorb formerly marginalised groups into the imagined mainstream. As the history of Indigenous people has palpably demonstrated for example, group differences, cultural politics and ideological specificities cannot simply be bred out of the multicultural-hybrid equation. Hybridisation is a lived process whereby such incompatibilities or incommensurabilities are continually highlighted. In this respect, hybridity is an on-going site of interrogation and alteration, ultimately placing pressure on a necessary relativising of dominant national cultural values.
Barstow’s current artistic project goes some way towards imag(in)ing a transnational understanding of one’s history – and future – through heterogeneity, hybridity and incommensurability. The discontinuities and disjunctions in his maps and flags signify the incongruities of unassimilable differences. Disparate elements cannot simply be ‘jigsaw-ed’ together to form a coherent national or global picture. Harmony is seemingly only achievable through a disharmony of sorts, whereby stability or consensus is itself deliberately and permanently left open to contestation. Therein lie the possibilities for inscribing a condition of belonging without the fixity of policed national boundaries and standards.
Dr. Dean Chan 2002