Lt / En
Binna Choi. Electric Palm Tree: Its Presence and Promise
18.00 Wednesday 7 March
As an established cultural icon, the palm tree stands for 'otherness', referring to either (post) colonialism or exoticism. In recent years, there has been a symptomatic mutation of this sign in the form of the global dissemination of the 'electric palm tree'. Made of florescent coloured plastic and lit with LED lights, these electric palm trees — blatantly artificial or even repulsive objects — radiate in the urban darkness. Used in holiday resorts aimed at western tourists, and on the rise in American and European cities, these electric palm trees have flourished above all in Asian metropolises.

The widespread use of electric palm trees in non-Western regions implies a new way of dealing with the colonial past, that isn’t, however, emancipatory. Perhaps these luminescent signs even strengthen new forms of colonialism inherent in the global capitalism. The pervasive logic of liberal capital blurs the line between the exploiter and the exploited, and the readymade dream of otherness — in which the memory of colonialism disappears into its own simulation. People are reduced to consumers of over-familiar signs, and collective imagination is curbed.

Let’s reclaim the electric palm tree as a signifier of an intercultural practice that moves beyond Virno’s 'virtuous but impotent multiculturalism'. We need to acknowledge the colonial [palm tree] embedded in its post-colonial successor; that is produced by, not just in relation to, an established world order. This new Electric Palm Tree signals the reawakening of a future-proofed multicultural dreaming; part paradise and part zone of resistance.

Binna Choi (b.1977, Seoul) is a curator, based in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Choi is involved in research directed towards: the (im)possibility of community, intercultural relationality, and alternative modes of social critique and empowerment. Recent projects include: 'Alone Again: Althea Thauberger' [solo exhibition, 2007]; 'Concerning Knowledge Production' [lectures, discussions & publication, 2006]; 'Unevenly: Haegue Yang' [solo exhibition, 2006]; Report (Not Announcement): Transitional Report on the State of Mobility [publication, 2006]; Allegoric Postcard Union [publication, 2005]; 'Flyer Project: This is Not a Love Letter' [publication & exhibition, 2004]. Choi is currently a curator at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst (Utrecht); and an intendant of cultural diversity projects for Fonds BKVB.
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