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© ISAST   LEONARDO, Vol. 51, No. 3, pp. 0–0, 2018 313 b o o k s For Folk’s Sake: Art and Economy in TwentiethCentury Nova Scotia by Erin Morton. McGill/Queen’s University Press, Montréal, Quebec, 2016 424 pp., illus. Trade; paper. ISBN: 9780773548114 ; ISBN: 978-0773548121. Reviewed by Jan Baetens. Email: . doi:10.1162/LEON_r_01621 Visitors to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are immediately and inevitably struck by the combination of two cultural facts: the apparent invisibility of contemporary art, whatever this term may mean, and the no-less visible ubiquity of kitsch, mostly in the form of Sunday painters and photographers , landscape paintings and pictures for sale in hotel lobbies and countless little galleries around the tourist venues. This colorful, naïve and relatively affordable mass production may be charming, at least in foreigners’ eyes, and it undoubtedly reinforces the marketable perception of these regions as untouched by certain excesses of urban and modern civilization, but what do these superficial observations on the art production and allegedly authentic taste of the common people actually mean? The challenging study by Erin Morton, professor of history at the University of New Brunswick, not only shows how deceiving these impressions are but also demonstrates that a better understanding of what really happens when folk art comes so much to the fore has much to tell about art, culture and politics in general. Morton’s book is indeed a meticulous examination of the larger framework and network that helps elucidate the many hidden aspects of the emergence of certain forms of popular culture as folk art. The theoretical basis of Morton’s book relies on two pillars. First of all, the author’s approach to art and culture is strongly determined by the idea of presentism, that is, the fact that present-day perspectives inform and thus change the representation and the interpretation of the past; this is a kind of bias that prevents us from seeing the past as something that is radically different from the present. In this case, the contact with folk art in today’s culture becomes part of a larger phenomenon of cultural nostalgia and its projection of modern longing and desires on cultural artifacts and practices that are misread and misunderstood. Second, Morton’s interpretation of folk art is systematically put in relationship with the history of capitalism, in this case the two most recent phases in the transformation of capitalism, which are “late capitalism” (well known in cultural interpretations thanks to Frederic Jameson’s work on postmodernism ) and “neoliberalism,” the former characterized by the dismantling of classic hierarchies, the latter by the increasing privatization of the public domain. In light of this double theoretical framework, economical on the one hand, historical on the other hand, Morton advances—and brilliantly illustrates—her main thesis that the emergence of folk art in Nova Scotia, long a very rural province, was not something that happened spontaneously but was the result of a complex set of converging historical, political and institutional changes that reshaped art and culture in the decade 1967–1977. These changes had to do with the growing entanglement of culture and tourism, the sudden public intervention in the field of art, the rapid modernization and technologization of all aspects of life in Nova Scotia, the unforeseen but highly editor-in-chief Michael Punt associate editors Hannah Drayson, Dene Grigar, Jane Hutchinson A full selection of reviews is published monthly on the Leonardo website: . leonardo reviews Reviews Panel: Fred Andersson, Jan Baetens, John F. Barber, Roy Behrens, K. Blassnigg, Catalin Brylla, Annick Bureaud, Chris Cobb, Giovanna Costantini, Edith Doove, Hannah Drayson, Phil Dyke, Ernest Edmonds, Amanda Egbe, Anthony Enns, Enzo Ferrara, Kathryn Francis, George Gessert, Allan Graubard, Dene Grigar, Rob Harle, Craig Harris, Craig J. Hilton, Jane Hutchinson, Amy Ione, Richard Kade, Valérie Lamontagne, Mike Leggett, Will Luers, Kieran Lyons, Roger Malina, Jacques Mandelbrojt, Florence Martellini, Elizabeth McCardell, Eduardo Miranda, Robert A. Mitchell, Michael Mosher, Sana Murrani, Frieder Nake, Maureen A. Nappi, Claudy Opdenkamp, Jack Ox, Luisa Paraguai, Jussi Parikka, Ellen Pearlman, Ana Peraica, Stephen Petersen, Michael Punt, Hannah Rogers, Lara Schrijver, Aparna Sharma, George K. Shortess, Brian Reffin Smith, Yvonne Spielmann, Eugenia Stamboliev, Paul...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Launched on MUSE
2018-03-26
Open Access
No
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