Landscape and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica

Landscape and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica

Landscape and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica

Landscape and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica

Synopsis

The authors of this volume investigate the meaning of Ancient Mesoamerican space, specifically, how the elements of urban landscape were related to each other, and to other fundamental aspects of Ancient Mesoamericans. Essays in this volume highlight the importance of performance, poetics, and politics in the construction of meaningful space and its deployment in performance.

Excerpt

If states and culture ought to exist for the well-being (an esthetic condition) of their members, then society cannot preexist its arts, which determine the forms of expression by which a society is known. (George Kubler 1991:13)

Knowing Pre-Columbian societies through their arts, their architecture, and their humanmade landscapes is a goal uniting the several parts and contributions of this book into a collective effort. Some of the authors go at the task of Grafting new knowledge of the pre-Columbian past with some conceptual tools that are new to me, terms such as cultural poetics and aesthetic trope. the editors go to considerable effort in the introduction to make these terms accessible, and therefore useful. Let me give just a couple of contemporary examples that make sense to me. the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C., is a sacred space charged with emotional power. Its design is a culturally specific poetic layering of scales and meanings, beginning with the 58,191 individual names inscribed upon its polished black stone panels. the viewer initially moves through the monument by descending, echoing the process that each casualty of the war went through at interment. Later the viewer must ascend as she exits the monument. This fundamental movement references the basic scaffolding of narratives of death and rebirth in many cultures as well as the cultural meanings attached to actual burial rites.

Descent followed by ascent is a fundamental part of the dance of the afterlife—the poetical scaffolding on which many human belief systems are hung. in this way the monument materializes an aesthetic trope that . . .

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