Modernity and Folk Culture

Posted by: | March 2, 2009 | Comments Off on Modernity and Folk Culture

The first reading we had this week was about Mexican murals. Campbell discusses the controversial messages of Mexican murals, their decided place in the history of art, and the ways in which governments and modernization try to erase or modify them. The article begins by describing four distinct public images, the first couple of which are political, talking about the way politicians use Mexican murals to encourage their popularity, nationalism. The next is about modernization and the controversy over it in Tepito. The last is the most local-feeling one, where women from a vecinidad talk about the importance of the murals in their communities. In the high times of Mexican murals, the images were used to represent the people (the working class and the campesinos) the “serial extremes of state and society”, nationalism, and other national social and political issues, like modernization and poverty. Mexican muralism is recognized as a cultural form, but art historians believe it is a thing of the past, unchanging with time. Muralism has “died” for various reasons, including the disparity between muralists’ ideologies and the government’s ideologies, and the increase of urbanization and the reach of mass advertizing. Modernization has infringed upon this expression of folk culture, through the replacement of old traditional housing (which are homes to many murals), by “modern” housing. I realized how important muralism was to Mexico when the author talks about Arnold Belkin in 1961, when he talks about how “Mexican nationalism was an inspiration for the rest of the world” and he is trying to encourage its revival. It’s disappointing that modernization and dominating ideologies could suppress such a compelling art form. I think Mexican muralism was and is an important cultural form, as it expresses a lot of the day-to-day struggles/issues of the people, as well as monumental events that shaped the local and national histories. I think that muralism, when unmodified by government ideologies, is a very honest and raw depiction of the people. I don’t know enough of Mexican muralism to say whether I think it’s “dead” or not. It could be that muralism gave way to graffiti, an art form that has not been acclaimed as skilled or particularly “high-brow”. I think as long as there is some kind of easily accessible, street-level art form that is produced and consumed by the people (of all social, economic, and political standings) and that expresses their political and social ideas, it is a legitimate art form.

I got really lost with the next readings by Taussig. The author talked about different characters, including the spirit queen, the Liberator, el negro primero and el indio. This week’s topic has to do with modernity and folk culture, so, I’m guessing that these characters have to do with these subjects. The more “folk” characters of el indio, el negro primero, and the spirit queen embody folk culture, while the Liberator is shown as more modernized.  The stories have a lot to do with spirits, possession, and the worship of these spirits. I hope that the discussion of these readings by Taussig help me understand them better!!


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