A new term has started and I would like to take the opportunity to outline some of the projects that are ending and some that I will be starting.
Last term I studied colonial art of Latin America, which let me explore the idea of hybridity (more in an introspective sense), the idea of belonging to a determined community, yet somehow not (which I saw in Casta paintings. This idea continued on in my study of Latin-American literature. Through my readings, and what ended up being my final project, I again worked on this idea of a “hybrid” cultural. I looked at the poems of Nicolás Guillén (Cuban, négrismo poetry) and Langston Hughes (U.S., Harlem Renaissance poetry). What really captured my attention is not the notion of a split-identity, not just the personal experience and its interpretation through art (literature, paintings, music), but also the experience represented in the community itself. However, it’s not just the experience of this mixture, of something other than what is “normal” in a community. The transference of cultural elements has occurred in the meeting of any two cultural groups, whether they are neighbouring groups, or ones divided by an ocean.
To elaborate on why this interests me:
It’s the moment when I began to reflect at my inability to distinguish when I was reading English and when I was reading in Spanish, it’s a moment that mirrored when my mother speaks to me in Spanish in public, I look to my friend waiting for a response to my mother’s comment and realize that they don’t understand her, they are English speakers So how does this tie with the notion of hybrid? It’s my own experience with it, it’s the idea that those moments when I can’t distinguish, when both languages are received at the same speed and the same way, and I have the moment that I am neither a English speaker nor Spanish, I am somehow in between. I understand and therefore expect all others to understand the same thing as me (in language that is) and find that I’m stuck in the middle. This led me to think of things like, can I distinguish my own take on certain traditions from a Canadian perspective, or Colombian, do I always join both views together when looking at a situation, or do I give priority to one over the other in different situations? This, what I call, “inbetween” is what I see in the paintings and poetry, and sometimes music itself. Of course, this is my first instinct, and I could very well change my mind. I could go on forever. It’s one of those things I think about and I could spend hours thinking about making an argument, rejecting it, modifying it, rejecting it again, making a new argument, contradicting myself etc. etc. etc.
So what does any of this have to do with the issue of transference of cultural elements? Well, because I have unconsciously accepted a lot of different cultural elements from either side (Canadian and Colombian) without realizing it. My way of looking at the world changes, the way that it is presented, the messages that are received are interpreted differently.
This leads me to my new projects (I’ll talk about my new courses at a later time, because what I’m about to say ties in to my previous piece).
I have been working with Rubens most this past term, and I have been reading a lot of articles and books on the transference of his prints to Latin America. There are a lot of different types of research done on him (obviously as he is the biggest painter of his time, and if he was here today, I’m sure he could teach us a thing or two about monopolizing the artistic market), his history, why his paintings were transferred rather than those of other painters, how the prints were being used and manipulated by colonial artists, their function in colonial society etc. The paintings themselves provided the vision of Europe as it was during his life, the religious elements in his paintings are blatant, his cultural references are understood by those in Europe and his rise to fame and style of paintings go hand in hand with the contextual history (the Counter-Reformation). However, imagine the impact when a flood (literally) of prints are shipped to a virgin and emerging culture. The “new world” is still trying to learn how to walk, yes there was a somewhat established infrastructure in terms of policies and politics etc. but culturally it was still developing. The troubling part I found about my readings was how centralized they were on the European aspect. That is, that I could hardly find works done on the perspective of Latin American. Although it is important to understand the foundation of this transference of paintings, however, it is equally as important to understand those that received the paintings.