CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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O'BRIEN, Elaine
Rooted and Routed: The Worlding of Contemporary Indigenous Art

Session 18 Media and Visuality


Rooted and Routed: The Worlding of Contemporary Indigenous Art
Elaine O’Brien, California State University, Sacramento

CIHA session 18: Media and Visuality

This paper draws attention to an alternative global art network: the "world wide web" of Indigenous artists, cosmopolitans rooted in tribal traditions and routed on global art circuits that intersect with but are separate from the mainstream network of global art shows. The paper draws upon the post-Europe remapping of culture flows and world systems by thinkers like Édouard Glissant, Paul Gilroy, Jace Weaver, and Epeli Hau’ofa and is inspired by James Clifford's important 2013 Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century. To present the world reach of Indigenous artists in the information age, it maps the exhibitions of two cosmopolitan Native Americans, Frank La Pena (1938, Nomtipom Wintu) and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (1940, Salish and Kootenai), who were politicized by the Pan-Indian Red Power movement of the late ‘sixties and ‘seventies. It then moves forward two generations to the world-spanning art of video and street mural artist, Spencer Keeton Cunningham (1983, Colville), whose social and environmental activist art appears on Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram, Tumbler and public walls worldwide. La Pena, Smith, and Cunningham, like many outstanding Native artists of the Americas and the Pacific Islands and Rim – translate pre-colonial Indigenous traditions and values for twenty-first century global audiences. They speak for re-emerging peoples who have never specifically located themselves ideologically, culturally, or geographically on any Eurocentric world system. Not of the “West” nor of the “East,” the art, ideas, and strategies of traveling, multiply located Native artists advance the revisionist aims of the Beijing CIHA Terms conference and the “Media and Visuality” session. This paper counters and complicates the notion that there is today one global art network, one homogenous and "commonly shared visual world."

O'BRIEN, Elaine   
Elaine O’Brien is a professor of modern and contemporary art history at California State University, Sacramento, where she offers a sequence of undergraduate and graduate courses in theory and criticism and the art of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Dr. O’Brien has lectured locally, nationally and internationally on global feminisms, global modernisms, and the work of under-represented artists. She is the lead editor of the 2012 anthology, Modern Art in Africa, Asia, and Latin America: An Introduction to Global Modernisms, published by Wiley Blackwell. O’Brien’s current research project situates art produced and taught in California’s new public university art departments in the 1960s and ‘70s within the global and local contexts of that era’s sociopolitical revolutions, a theme she explored as chair of two recent College Art Association sessions: Patron of Diversity: The Golden State, the People’s University and the ‘Rise of the Rest’ (2015); and Pacific Standard Time North: San Francisco Art, 1960-1980 (2016).