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5 Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin America Throughout this book, my theorization of decolonial aesthetics has been grounded upon a need to revisit seemingly dissimilar and disjointed socalled “populist” artistic expressions, some of which failed to receive much critical recognition in their time, while others have become part of the canon of cultural texts that get taught and written about in academic circles. Precisely due to their alleged “populist” agenda and presumed alignment with Marxist, communist, or socialist ideologies, the poets, musicians, and filmmakers studied here were often dismissed on the grounds that their works belonged to a low type of art that lacked formal qualities and aesthetic value. Returning to issues related to high and low art is necessary to engage in alternative modes of thinking that dismantle disciplinary boundaries, while questioning what is worth exploring or knowing. In this vein, decolonial aesthetics becomes a type of “low theory” that can be at once “a mode of accessibility, but we might also think about it as a kind of theoretical model that flies below the radar, that is assembled from eccentric texts and examples and that refuses to confirm the hierarchies of knowing that maintain the high in high theory” (Halberstam 16, emphasis in original). According to a certain sector of the academic establishment, cultural critics, right-wing governments, and apolitical audiences of the time, art forms defined as low did not display artistic merit worthy of critical attention.1 On the other hand, these artworks also produced a fear among elite sectors and governments across Latin America that if the general public were to consume such popular or ideologically based artworks, communist or socialist values coming from Cuba and the U.S.S.R. would spread like wildfire and ignite cultural and x 188 · Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin American Arts social revolutions. As a result, often, artists such as Roque Dalton, Víctor Jara, Raymundo Gleyzer, Jorge Sanjinés, Mario Benedetti, and others faced political persecution or obstacles that made it difficult for them to produce such art in their respective countries. In extreme instances, as was the case with Jara and Gleyzer, rising political dictatorships (in Chile and Argentina, in their cases) made it a point to “eliminate” contentious voices emerging from the arts. In other instances, artists faced self-exile and often gravitated toward Cuba or other countries with less-repressive governments than those of the mid-1970s in the Southern Cone and Central America. Given the debates about the nature of culture in Latin America, from the Manichean binaries of civilization vs. barbarism or Ariel vs. Caliban, as succinctly illustrated toward the end of chapter 1, “Sensing Otherwise,” I see antipoetry, nueva canción, and New Latin American cinema as articulations of the arts seeking to challenge such binaries. While the focus of this book falls upon antipoetry, nueva canción, and New Latin American Cinema as particular expressions of art that sought to contest established and accepted notions of what constituted poetry, music, and cinema, I also seek to draw attention to some of the heterogeneous positions and artistic/aesthetic propositions within these movements. Many of their poets, musicians, and filmmakers shared common points in their aesthetic propositions, but there were also divergent approaches to challenge the hegemony of a specific definition of what constituted culture in Latin America, particularly around a canonical or elite perception of culture. What binds these three articulations of art is the desire to decolonize a perception of what constitutes valid art/culture by presenting radical departures from established aesthetic models, inserting a political dimension into artistic production, and seeking to reach and communicate with audiences in more effective and horizontal ways in order to collapse the traditional hierarchical relation of intellectual/artist and audience. In the case of musicians of nueva canción, for instance, it is true that most, if not all, incorporated folk elements into their music. As an example , Violeta Parra renewed an interest in autochthonous Chilean rhythms and incorporated them into a movement that aimed to revive and conserve such traditions, while also making it available to a wider public. While many people identified with such musical innovations, as a musical Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin America · 189 movement, nueva canción became emblematic of connecting working classes from urban centers to the countryside. While poetry had been dominated by poets of polished poetic language and form (e.g., Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Nicolás Guillén, José Lezama Lima), many of whom were part...


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