Academic journal article Postmodern Studies

CHAPTER 7: Temporal and Local Transfers: The Neo-Baroque between Politics, Religion and Entertainment

Academic journal article Postmodern Studies

CHAPTER 7: Temporal and Local Transfers: The Neo-Baroque between Politics, Religion and Entertainment

Article excerpt

Staging and question of display appear to be inherent to the baroque. Baroque religiosity, worship and the material side of religion are the visible face of the baroque that captures the admiration of its latter-day audiences. This is true even more so in the case of Latin American and especially Brazilian colonial art. Given the intrinsic role of theatricality in baroque style, the staging of baroque worship may be fruitfully analyzed by reflecting on a modernist, neo-baroque (re)staging of the Brazilian colonial baroque.1 The first part of this chapter will focus on the architecture, decoration, and other visual materials of the 20th century church Nossa Senhora do Brasil, one of the most well-known and impressive churches in São Paulo, which can be classified as neo-colonial neobaroque. After this, the notion of denomination (especially the relation between neo-colonial and neo-baroque) will be discussed. The church combines different elements that reflect a political, religious, and aesthetic project of Brazilian culture and history. It also reveals configurations within the discourse of the historical baroque and a transcultural and historical neo-baroque.

Built for the upper classes, Nossa Senhora do Brasil is situated in an upscale area of São Paulo and is famous for its wedding celebrations, which sometimes can be watched on national television. The architecture and decorations clearly reflect a relationship between Brazilian and European art history, especially with regard to the concept of a single, common baroque. The visual discourse of the church aims to establish a political, religious, and aesthetic position for the city with respect to its many and varied immigrant groups, which must also be seen as part of the Brazilian 'national project'. This chapter will analyze the architecture and decoration of neo-baroque churches in Brazil and their iconological transformations.

Prolegomena

In her works on the neo-baroque, film, art and cultural historian Angela Ndalianis compares media and entertainment culture of the 20th century (especially since the 1930s) with the so-called historical baroque of the 17th century. Paraphrasing Focillon, she defines a trans-historical and -cultural baroque, where the baroque form has shown dynamic and constant presence across centuries, sometimes with more and sometimes with less intensity. The phases that erupt with intensity are the most interesting to her. In her research, Ndalianis works predominantly with two concepts that are related to the trans-cultural concept of the neo-baroque: the "teatrum mundi" and the "Wunderkammer" ("Spaces and Experimental Design" 1, 5). This epistemological interest at the neo-baroque paradigm leads her to the historical relevance and effectiveness of the so-called conceptual baroque, which developed post factum in the second half of the 19th century. This was conceptualized against certain forms of 'high culture', and reappeared through the experiencing of contemporary entertainment culture. This baroque created a fascination (faszinosum) on the level of cultural discourse, as well as that of cultural practice.

Walter Moser also bases his cultural-theoretic studies of the neo-baroque on the hypothesis that the baroque was conceptualized as a rhetoric and esthetic efficacy (puissance), which was again actualized, and was used differently in different media in relation to its distinctive technical, political and social-economical contexts.2 These approaches analyze modern and contemporary entertainment cultures, allowing an understanding of the whole potential of a baroque aesthetic of efficacy. Considering the political aspects of this neo-baroque aesthetic approach, it can therefore be understood as a 'democratized Baroque' that both levels out hierarchical differences between so called high and popular cultures, and also radicalizes its trans-cultural mobility into a globalized paradigm. Thus the neo-baroque in Moser's trans-medialization recycles the baroque, his production of efficacy and his historical topoi for the contemporary mass culture. …

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