CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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JONES, Caroline
Occupying the Global Village

Session 18 Media and Visuality



Prefiguring the current “global” art world was the expansive international art world of the 1960s. Bloc politics and Cold War strategies rearranged hemispheric alliances, and emerging telecommunications industries seemed to promise a “global village,” as media theorist Marshall McLuhan called it.  Artists from Latin America, however, were exquisitely aware of just how lumpy globalization could be, particularly when they were invited to participate in exhibitions such as MoMA’s 1970 Information show. This paper examines the case of Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica, living in exile and producing his multi-media works as “proposals” to be activated in specific situations, one of them at MoMA, another at London’s Whitechapel Gallery.  Out-conceptualizing the dominant group of New York Conceptual and Minimalist artists, Oiticica’s performative model repurposed the specifically Brazilian theory of “anthropophagia” (a kind of cultural cannibalism) in very fruitful ways that continue to be influential for contemporary global artists.  In my reading, Oiticica will be seen to have turned McLuhan’s theory inside out --“occupying” the global village with hybrid encampments, and forcing the dominant discourse of art writing into a negotiation with cultural difference.


JONES, Caroline  

Professor, History of Art

History, Theory, Criticism Program

MIT School of Architecture and Urban Planning

Cambridge, MA 02139 USA