Cities: schizophrenic agglomerations of grids or a place for citizens to fully engage with each other and perform creative expressions of culture?

Posted by: | March 23, 2009 | Comments Off on Cities: schizophrenic agglomerations of grids or a place for citizens to fully engage with each other and perform creative expressions of culture?

On “Hybrid Culture, Oblique Powers” by Néstor García Canclini, 1995.
The development of urban concentrations fascinate me in its capacity to, simultaneously intertwine and fragment, peoples, places, and cultures. Cities are a strong representation of the contradictions of humanity and the paradigm of culture and power. Looking at the discontinuity and mixtures of high and popular culture in the urban scenarios of Latin America, much of the influences of international modernities in the tendencies and production of popular culture can be seen. The classification of art becomes unachievable and unnecessary, as hybridization occurs in forms that can perhaps only be generally called postmodernism.
Canclini raises interesting points such as the imaginary bond between the rural and the urban realities through the ever increasing access of mass media communications throughout nations. In fact, drawing from my own experiences of travels to remote places in Brazil while living in São Paulo, I perceive this dialogue and unfolding of modernization and changes in language, dressing habits, and even aspirations, being somehow connected to the influence of Brazilian influential television broadcast, TV Globo.
Going back to the urban reflections, the author takes examples from monuments to exemplify the ways in which history interacts with modernity through creative expressions in the streets. While, pieces of art and folk that are displayed at the museums are kept in the atmosphere of high culture, monuments and public spaces are the arena for contestation. In my opinion, Canclini proposes an interesting look thorough the lenses of popular culture in its representations that are juxtaposed and contesting the public areas that are usually kept around monuments such as the example on page 213. In the very last paragraphs of the chapter, Canclini makes clearer the contention between the lack of public action, disconnection from political issues, acknowledging the symbolism or these art forms to perform a limited task on civility and action.
The very spatial aspect of urban concentrations in Latin America perform various influences in the ways in which civilians act their voices and opinions. I realize through this reading the capacity of control by the mass mediation of information, as well as the characteristics of “living for a job” so common in cities. Concentrated in the myriad of slums, business districts, skyscrapers, long avenues, and the usual urban fuzziness, becomes easier to reduce peoples’ lives to the never-ending consumerist desires. I often think of how the agglomeration of people in urban spaces actually influences less intimate and truthful social bonds, than in smaller towns in the countryside– in its very individualistic survival and anonymity.
As a last comment, Canclini touches on the importance of the urban art graffiti and how its movement allows for images to be transformed, recreated and visually distort the reality. Similarly, comic strips use a humorist approach to speak of the predominant forms of domination and orthodox views. In this way, popular culture become a place of citizenship assertion and ideological contestation, even though its capacity for transformations in the political sphere for more democratic societies remains to be seen.


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