Folk culture and modernity

Posted by: | March 3, 2009 | Comments Off on Folk culture and modernity

As Campbell shows in his text, muralism is an important element of the Mexican culture: murals belong to the Mexican cultural patrimony. Muralism belongs both to folk culture and modernity.It is a part of folk culture in its form: an artistic creation not produced for the market and produced by a collective of people. Murals tell the history of the Mexican nation and are like urban prints which could been viewed by generations from generations. Murals are a kind of national legacy. As Octavio Paz said, « Mural painting belongs to what might called the wax museum of Mexican nationalism ».

Moreover, they also belong to modernity because they have been painted in a specific political context. As Campbell mentions in his text, one could divide muralism in different eras: the hegemony of the Mexican School mural arts from the 1920’s until the 1960’s which opens a new era, and the crisis of the official public sphere with the end of the State support of muralism and the apparition of graffiti as a form of unofficial mural practice not supported by the State.

Modernity means a creation of a political space, separation between the private and the public sphere. The actors of the public sphere are the rulings but also the ruled.The « tres grandes » participated in the creation of an official public sphere in order to strengthen the construction of the nation, they « open » this public space to the people because murals were in public space so they were accessible to everybody and also because it was not a written but a visual language. It was an « art public » whom one of its goals was to democratize the public institutions and try to make the people participate in the public sphere. The murals gave a concrete, territorial dimension to the official public sphere and incarnated the political struggles. It was also an open space because people were represented so they could feel concerned, it was « public for art ». By being represented on the mural Mexican people became visible on the political scene but it does not mean that they were active.

Moreover, as Campbell emphasizes, « Latin American societies evolved without developing most of the strong sectors of civil society that emerged in other countries. » The « tres grandes » were quite constrained, bounded (ex: they were not to represent too much the indigenous people) in their creation and had to undergird the official discourse of the State so it was also a « closed » public sphere insofar as murals had to suit to the State’s standards and be in accordance with the official discourse which promoted one particular kind of ideology otherwise the walls were destroyed. State imposed official limits in the painting of the murals so the expression of the civil society was constrained, bridled. The painters, predominantly communist tried to put a political message across their paintings so they combined traditional aesthetic with modernity insofar as their murals represented the present and not the past of Mexico though.

I didn’t really get the text by Taussig. I guess it was about the construction, legitimation of the State: how could we legitimate something which doesn’t physically exist? Taussig speaks about all the symbolism created around the State so it may be a way to show that the magic used in the myths and legends is the same that the symbolism used to legitimate the State: all this is based on believes.


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