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Book Review: Joaquín Barriendos' Geoesthetics and Transculturality
by Magaly Espinosa

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Comments on “Geoesthetics and Transculturality…”Dismantling the current politics of representation.

“Walking with the devil”is a plausible strategy in today’s globalized, post-Colonial, post-Cold War and pre-Sino centric world. Naturally it is not without obstacles, and challenges and contradictions abound…”

-Gerardo Mosquera

The eighteenth Premi Espais a la Creció i a la Critica d’Art of the Fundación Espais d’Art Contemporani of Girona, Spain, was awarded to the book Geoestética y Transculturalidad. Polí­ticas de representación, globalización de la diversidad cultural e internacionalización del arte contemporáneo (Geoesthetics and Transculturality: The Politics of Representation, Globalization of Cultural Diversity and Internationalization of Contemporary Art) by the essayist and art critic Joaquí­n Barriendos. This is a brief, concentrated book, published in both Catalan and Spanish, thorough in its approach to its subject and its extensive bibliography, and ambitious, since its analysis strikes at the core of cultural exchanges between developed countries and those euphemistically named developing countries.

The book’s logic does not follow the methodology of studying a process from the specific to the more general, but instead describes and interprets the links and functions behind cultural exchanges and the representational politics that implement them. The author divides the study into three parts: the first refers to the double circumstances that affect cultural diversity when it is globalized; the second delves into the post-Colonial condition that subjugates all and everything, and the third examines transcultural representational politics. This last part ranges from the political understanding and aesthetic representation of reality --as noted in the table of contents-- to transcultural representation and political resistance.

The book stresses the way cultural exchanges flow, thus giving rise to specific transnational strategies aimed at representing difference; the author points out that this process calls for a new aesthetic to orchestrate, on a multidisciplinary basis, the equally new approaches to the internationalization of contemporary art.

A multidisciplinary approach implies examining the links between the fields that study culture around representational politics that govern cultural transfers and the art system as a whole. This is all the more necessary given the need for a critical approach to respond to the avalanche of concepts and categories involved both in art production and the cultural subjectivities that foster it.

One of the main tasks of the disciplines that study art is to remodel their own approach regarding the use of categories and concepts that invade other areas of human activity and that, due to the broadening of the field of art, have been incorporated into the art world and influence its structures, functions and values. Trans-disciplinary issues should therefore be researched to try to unravel the nature of that broadening, which is also subject to a new mapping of the globalized geopolitics of the art process.

This book explores those issues through a methodological approach that is ambitious, since it involves covering different fields of knowledge, which is an appropriate means of grasping the current nature of cultural domination and the ways art can counteract it. This explains why the issue of transcultural representational politics is at the core of Barriendos’ study, an issue that becomes a two-way street inhabited by the different components of the art world when legitimization processes, negotiations and strategic repositioning intervene within and outside that world.

Transcultural representational strategies have enabled the multicultural element to come to the fore as a process of aesthetic content. This is one of the factors on which the book focuses, since it is on the basis of the “acceptance of Otherness”, the globalization of “difference”and the international environment in which art production flows that “the symbolic colonization of cultural imaginaries”is strengthened through an emphatic “rhetoric of integration”.

Barriendos takes particular interest in shedding light on the “cultural consequences of the new internationalization of aesthetics”, by looking at the modern colonial tradition, the path paved by post-modernity toward a post-Colonialism, which as Catherine Walsh points out should be understood as de-Colonialism.

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