Good, Carl, and John V. Waldron, Eds. the Effects of the Nation: Mexican Art in an Age of Globalization

Article excerpt

Phìladelphia: Temple UP, 2001. 222 pp. ISBN 1-56639-865-7 (hardcover); ISBN 1-56639-866-5 (paper)

The ten essays collected in this volume use literature, history, and the visual arts in Mexico to study the effects which the notion of nation has over cultural productions and artifacts in an age of globalization. The indefinite article of the title is important in as much as it signals the prospective reader that the current trend to globalization is neither new, nor the only one the world has witnessed to date. In "Notes on Globalization as a Philosophical Issue" (Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds., The Cultures of Globalization. [Durham: Duke UP, 1998] 56), Jameson identifies four possible positions with regards to globalization: 1. that there is no such thing as globalization; 2. that globalization is nothing new; 3. that globalization is related to the world market as the ultimate horizon of capitalista and that this relationship is new in degree but not in kind; 4. that globalizatìon is an intrinsic feature in a new, multinational stage of capitalism. Of these four positions, the editors of The Effects of the Nation seem to subscribe, in part, to the second notion, that "something like globalism always has been at work. At the same time, following Jameson, the editors also acknowledge that this phenomenon, at present, has unique and new characteristics. Jameson defines globalization as "a communicational concept, which alternatively masks and transmits cultural or economic meanings" (Cultures 55). To the interaction between the local and the global, The Effects of the Nation adds the nation, which can be seen as being re-casted in globalism, at the same time that it is challenged by it. The essays in this volume inquire into and present the effects of the three terms in tension: the local, the global, and the national--in the cultural products and movements of a particular nation-state, Mexico.

Thematically, the essays follow a chronological order examining Mexican art and literature throughout the twentieth century. According to the introduction, the essays can be divided in two groups. Those of the first half of the book (essays 1 through 4) look back in time, concentrating on aesthetic and critical issues associated with modernism of the twenties and thirties. The second group (essays 6 through l0) looks forward to themes related to postmodernism and contemporary points of reference. The fifth essay "occupies a liminal space" (15) between both halves.

In the first chapter of this volume, "Mexican Art on Display," Olivier Debroise examines Mexican aesthetics and politics from the post-Revolutionary period to the Chiapas rebellion of the 1990s. Its focus is not Mexican art or art history but rather the depiction and production of the entity called "Mexico" as presented through art exhibitions both in the country and abroad. Debroise traces interesting parallels between the mestizaje in the visual arts and the modernization of crafts, the excavation of Teotihuacán and the rejection of neo-classical canons in aesthetic judgments from the 1920s onwards. The role that mestizaje or miscegenation played in the construction of a Mexican identity since that time was expressed in political terms illustrated in the peaceful coexistence of a modern nation built on an ancient past. The author finds a mixture of high-art and folk elements in Mexican visual production and, more importantly, in the visual display and presentations of Mexican art-works. The combination of high and folk elements meant that Mexican art was, and is, evaluated in sensual terms rather than intellectual or conceptual ones. The art was classified always as a mixture of modern and ancient myths and pre-Columbian aesthetic forms, not as a sophisticated manifestation of modern, urban, avant-garde movements. Debroise concludes with a pessimistic note, since even now-a-days, contemporary Mexican artists are still mixing both kinds of elements, thus perpetuating what the author calls "official clichés" (34). …