Viewing four centuries of art and architecture anew through the lens of cosmopolitanism, this pathfinding book explores how Mexican visual culture presents an ongoing process of negotiation between the local and the global.
Since the colonial era, Mexican art has emerged from an ongoing process of negotiation between the local and the global, which frequently involves invention, synthesis, and transformation of diverse discursive and artistic traditions. In this pathfinding book, María Fernández uses the concept of cosmopolitanism to explore this important aspect of Mexican art, in which visual culture and power relations unite the local and the global, the national and the international, the universal and the particular. She argues that in Mexico, as in other colonized regions, colonization constructed power dynamics and forms of violence that persisted in the independent nation-state. Accordingly, Fernández presents not only the visual qualities of objects, but also the discourses, ideas, desires, and practices that are fundamental to the very existence of visual objects.
Fernández organizes episodes in the history of Mexican art and architecture, ranging from the seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth century, around the consistent but unacknowledged historical theme of cosmopolitanism, allowing readers to discern relationships among various historical periods and works that are new and yet simultaneously dependent on their predecessors. She uses case studies of art and architecture produced in response to government commissions to demonstrate that established visual forms and meanings in Mexican art reflect and inform desires, expectations, memories, and ways of being in the world—in short, that visual culture and cosmopolitanism are fundamental to processes of subjectification and identity.
Chapter 1. Vernacular Cosmopolitanism: Sigüenza y Góngora's Teatro de Virtudes Políticas
Chapter 2. Castas, Monstrous Bodies, and Soft Buildings
Chapter 3. Experiments in the Representation of National Identity: The Pavilion of Mexico in the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris and the Palacio de Bellas Artes
Chapter 4. Of Ruins and Ghosts: The Social Functions of Pre-Hispanic Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century Mexico
Chapter 5. Traces of the Past: Reevaluating Eclecticism in Nineteenth-Century Mexican Architecture
Chapter 6. Visualizing the Future: Estridentismo, Technology, and Art
Chapter 7. Re-creating the Past: Ignacio Marquina's Reconstruction of the Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlan
Chapter 8. Transnational Culture at the End of the Millennium: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Relational Architectures"
Cosmopolitanism in Mexican visual culture appears here in a series of case studies taken in historical slices from the seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth century. Cosmopolitanism is understood here as an evolving complex of power relations with material, social, ideational, and affective manifestations, which unite the local and the global, the national and the international, the universal and the particular. To associate cosmopolitanism with power is to suggest its compatibility with violence. I propose that in Mexico, as in other colonized regions, colonization generated and structured power dynamics and forms of violence that persisted in the independent nation-state.
In visual culture cosmopolitanism entails juxtapositions, amalgamations, and translations of visual materials from various cultural traditions, which have the purpose of bringing home aspects of the outside world and projecting elements of the vernacular outward. Patrons, artists, and publics assign to these products certain values, frequently linked with hierarchies of economic and political power, which often reify and perpetuate forms of knowledge that constitute the subaltern subject as Other or what Gayatri Spivak calls epistemic violence. Consequently cosmopolitanism must be theorized in the light of geopolitics. Literary theorist Walter Mignolo already recognized the need for the development for a "critical cosmopolitanism," a reconception of cosmopolitanism from the perspective of coloniality—that is, cosmopolitanism understood historically from the sixteenth century until today.
Inspired by Walter Benjamin's and Jacques Derrida's writings on translation, these case studies demonstrate that, as in the translation of literary and other cultural material, the adoption as well as the rejection of established visual forms and meanings in Mexican art can be understood not only as the products of naive imitation but also as the results of informed selection, for translation entails a double movement in the creation of a work that is simultaneously new and indebted to its predecessors. The inability of a visual object to fit within discrete temporal, geographic, and stylistic parameters because of a surplus of referents is linked to cosmopolitanism.
Take a work of art that you think of as quintessentially Mexican, dating from the sixteenth century onward, and attempt to argue that the work is exclusively Mexican or Latin American. It could be a representation of a local icon such as the Virgin of Guadalupe or a portrait of a historical person, one of Diego Rivera's murals, a pre-Hispanic revival building, or the reconstruction of an archaeological site. The difficulties that you might encounter demonstrate the impossibility of explaining many of these works within the framework of the nation-state or from the perspective of regional geography, models that have been influential in art-historical studies. Rather than exemplifying "non-Western art" as it is currently categorized in universities and professional associations, the history of Mexican art could be described as an ongoing process of negotiation between the local and the global. Mexican visual culture frequently involves invention, synthesis, and transformation of diverse discursive and artistic traditions; it reflects and informs desires, expectations, memories, and ways of being in the world. In short, visual culture and cosmopolitanism are fundamental to processes of subjectification and identity.
This book focuses on Mexico not only because of the country's long history and former role as the seat of a viceroyalty but especially because in scholarly literature it is best known for its nationalism and its vernacular forms of expression. Several essays in this volume demonstrate that nationalism need not preclude cosmopolitanism; rather, it frequently presupposes it. My investigation centers on art and architecture produced in response to government commissions in order to challenge the widespread assumption that modern nationalistic projects are exclusively involved in nostalgic recuperation of the vernacular. I demonstrate that the categories of the local and the cosmopolitan are mutually constitutive through time. The definition and validation of the local inevitably conjures the cosmopolitan. I show that in Mexico the production of the local through reconstructions of antiquity and the exaltation of vernacular traditions predates the modern nation-state and was never divorced from other world artistic and intellectual traditions. A secondary but related theme in the book is the rationale for the classification and evaluation of works of art in areas categorized as "marginal" in relation to the traditionally acknowledged centers of artistic development.
The first two chapters of this volume concern Mexican cosmopolitanisms that emerged during the colonial period. Some scholars describe the Spanish conquest of Mexico as a cataclysm that turned the world until then known to the indigenous inhabitants on its axis. The new era engendered dramatic shifts in population, social organization, distribution of resources, religion, and ways of thinking, knowing, and making. Amid this chaos, the seeds of cosmopolitan visions and practices originating in Europe took root in the New World, adapted, and cross-pollinated with surviving ideas and practices from indigenous cultures and imported African and Asian traditions.
According to the sociologist Armand Mattelart, one of the objectives of empires is to homogenize differences in forms of communication to facilitate the management of people and resources. This interpretation is consistent with the theorist Fredric Jameson's description of globalization as a communicational concept that alternately masks and transmits cultural or economic meanings. Spanish institutions initially strove to establish a common culture between the colonists and the indigenous inhabitants through language, through religion, and by the dissemination of European forms of expression. This process stimulated the generation of cultural forms that were both uniquely local and cosmopolitan. In other words, colonialism enabled the development of specific forms of cosmopolitanisms, and colonialism affected cosmopolitanism in particular ways. While the union of the cosmopolitan with the local implies indistinct boundaries between the local and the outside, the relation of colonialism with cosmopolitanism infuses the notion of cosmopolitanism with violence.
Regardless of how we choose to explain it, as "conquest," "encounter," or "invasion," the colonization of the Americas was a violent event. The population of the Valley of Mexico at the arrival of the Spaniards has been calculated at about 1 million. In the short period between 1520 and 1570, this region lost at least two-thirds of itstotal population; the losses by the early seventeenth century have been estimated at 90 percent. Epidemics of diseases such as smallpox, measles, and typhoid fever, nonexistent in America before the arrival of the Europeans, were the primary causes of death, as indigenous peoples had no natural defenses against them. War, brutal mistreatment by the Spanish, excessive work, and starvation added to the number of casualties.
Under these demoralizing circumstances, the conversion of the natives began. Twelve Franciscan friars arrived in 1524, followed by the Augustinians and Dominicans in the 1530s. Because of the priests' zeal to destroy all remnants of indigenous religions, the art forms believed to have religious significance were obliterated. The Spaniards built their cities and churches on top of the ancient buildings to indicate the victory of Christianity over paganism. The territory that we know as Mexico became the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
The New Spanish dominion was conceived as two republics, the "republic of the Indians," which elected its own officials to report to the Spanish government and deliver tribute, and Spanish towns with their own governance. This organization notwithstanding, during the colonial period the two cultures shared the Spanish language, the Catholic religion, and European forms of visual expression. Informal sexual unions between Spaniards and natives were common. Marriage occurred more frequently between Spaniards and Aztec nobility. The society of New Spain became more complex as enslaved Africans were brought to replace or oversee native laborers and Asians began to travel to the Americas after Spain's occupation of the Philippines and the initiation of trade between this region and the Spanish New World dominions in 1573. From the mid-seventeenth century an intricate social hierarchy developed, based on the Spanish hierarchical classification of various groups: European Spaniards, called gachupines by other groups, American Spaniards or Creoles, blacks, Asians, indigenes, and persons of mixed racial heritage who were collectively called castas. European Spaniards and Creoles ranked at the top of the social scale, the people of mixed races in the middle, and Native Mexicans at the base. New Spain's diversity was by no means exceptional, as European cities also assembled a variety of peoples. As subsequent chapters show, the ways in which this diversity was perceived, categorized, and managed were unique to Mexico and had long-lasting implications for visual culture.
Spanish colonization inserted Mexico and the rest of the Americas in an irreversible confluence of local and imported cultural traditions. At the end of the fifteenth century Europe, and within it Spain, manifested a variety of artistic and architectural idioms. The Spanish colonists introduced to the Americas a variety of artistic styles traditionally identified as Romanesque, Isabelline, Gothic, Renaissance, and mozarabic, among others. Although much has been written about the development of "Amerindian" arts during the colonial period, most scholars now recognize that by the seventeenth century the dominant artistic vocabularies in the viceregal capitals of Mexico City and Cuzco were predominantly Western European. The consolidation of a dominant visual language did not prevent the evolution of different idioms. Concurrent with the establishment of European forms of expression, artists sporadically attempted to translate or adapt indigenous themes to new visual genres resulting from cultural exchanges of America not only with Europe but also with Asia and Africa.
Early colonial builders in New Spain joined medieval and Renaissance structures with decorative details from varied origins and experimented with the Greco-Roman classical canon. Architectural innovations, such as the much-discussed open chapels, reflect a variety of possible influences from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Although the name suggests a single building type, which functioned as a setting for congregations of parishioners and ritual performances held in open air, open chapels exhibit multiple designs. The Capilla Real of the Franciscan Monastery at Cholula, for example, rises on a square plan with multiple parallel bays inspired by the Mosque at Córdoba. By contrast, the open chapel of the Franciscan monastery at Tlahuelilpa, Hidalgo, consists of a presbytery under a single arch placed on a second story adjacent to the nave of the church. Motifs from medieval, Renaissance, Moorish, and Portuguese traditions merge in the sculptural decorations of the church, façade, portico, and posa chapels at the monastery of San Miguel, Huejotzingo, Mexico. The intricate fresco cycles at Malinalco and Ixmiquilpan illustrate the convergence of Renaissance and indigenous pictorial themes and conventions. The Malinalco murals include depictions of Mexican flora and fauna, Aztec song scrolls with glyph-like symbols, grotesques, and religious heraldry often seamlessly integrated. At Ixmiquilpan Roman and indigenous warriors wearing Aztec regalia engage in battle against an exuberant background crowded with grotesques.
The dissemination of prints, an inexpensive medium, effectively cosmopolitalized the arts. Christian missionaries used printed images to explicate biblical narratives; thus prints served as agents of diffusion for European culture and Christian values even among those who could not read. Artists used prints as bases for compositions and designs, drawing on multiple European models often from varied geographical regions and periods. This resulted in heterogeneous works with extemporaneous elements. Printed images affected not only traditional European media such as painting, sculpture, and architecture but also newly developed visual forms such as feather painting. The crucial point here is that after colonization Mexican subjects increasingly were formed in relation to multiple kinds of European knowledge and forms of visual expression. Spanish political, religious, commercial, and educational structures functioned as channels, concurrently limiting and allowing for the confluence and convergence of diverse traditions. A nascent capitalism reinforced with religious utopianism powered these cultural flows. The study of visual culture thus makes it evident that colonialism was a condition of possibility for modern cosmopolitanism.
Developing at a distance from the daily life of the colonies, the history of art conventionally favored specific European and North American art and relegated the art of other regions and most mixtures of European and non-European art to derivative status. Artistic canons were constructed to encourage imitation (thus the assessment of artists from the rest of the world as "derivative"), for referencing Western canonical works is inconsistent and effectively illustrates the lasting effects of colonial power structures in the production and reception of visual art.
In the opinion of both Clara Bargellini and Jonathan Brown, the practice of copying contributed to the devaluation of the art of New Spain in Europe and its areas of intellectual influence, as it contrasted with Europeans' valorization of originality and genius. While there is truth in this assertion, copying may have inadvertently contributed to the uniqueness of the art of New Spain. Some of the singularities of artistic compositions, especially in architecture, could be attributed to the practice of creating a design based on a variety of prints. Although seldom intended to determine the final product, copying also is a long-established part of European artistic education. Copying from prints as a learning exercise, for example, was customary in Spain, where some of the artists who later migrated to New Spain acquired their training.
Far from passively absorbing and naively imitating European trends, Mexican cosmopolitanism in the visual arts manifests as active exchanges: adaptations, translations, innovations, and deliberate contestations of European hegemony. Although many scholars have investigated issues of agency and subversion in relation to specific works of art and even entire movements, such as the literary reception of literary futurism in Latin America, to my knowledge this is the first study that explores these processes in Mexican visual arts under the rubric of cosmopolitanism.
Cosmopolitanism in Theory
The literature on cosmopolitanism includes few investigations in visual culture. Yet images, actual and virtual, are amply recognized as important elements in the production and dissemination of cultural knowledge. While widespread agreement exists on the connection of cosmopolitanism with globalization, definitions of cosmopolitanism range from a political commitment to world peace to elite consumption practices. Because of the diversity of understandings of the word, the only consensus may be that there are a multiplicity of cosmopolitanisms. This makes cosmopolitanism an elusive term even within specialists' circles, yet the word's frequent usage in popular culture makes its meaning seem commonsensical or "already known." To avoid confusion, and because my work is theoretically informed, I briefly summarize the scholarly positions relevant to my own propositions here. My discussion does not aim to cover the entire historiography of cosmopolitanism, as the literature on this topic is extensive, multidisciplinary, and constantly proliferating.
Many contemporary debates on cosmopolitanism arise from the historical evolution of the term. In eighteenth-century Western Europe it involved aspects of internationalism without being synonymous with it. In Immanuel Kant's frequently cited and much-critiqued essay "Perpetual Peace," cosmopolitanism had moral and political connotations. Convinced that humankind must find means other than war to secure peaceful coexistence, Kant proposed the formation of a global federation of states united by universal principles of right protected by a common international law. He believed that this would lead to the development of an enlightened form of world citizenship unrestricted by geography or culture. As Kant lived before the great colonial European expansions of the nineteenth century, he envisioned commerce as the foundation for a peaceful sociability in this new world culture. Multiple scholars have critiqued Kant for his assumption that a European commercial model would be suitable for humanity as a whole as well as for the homogenizing mission implicit in his project, but his association of ethics and commerce with cosmopolitanism remains foundational to some discussions of cosmopolitanism.
In John Stuart Mill's Political Economy of 1848, cosmopolitanism was linked with freedom of circulation. The author asserted that capital was "becoming more and more cosmopolitan," meaning that the flow of capital was independent from the control of any one country or government. In the second half of the nineteenth century cosmopolitanism became associated with affluence, as formal education, travel, and leisure enabled a person's appreciation of diverse cultures and cultural forms. Cosmopolitans were regarded as uprooted and frequently wealthy persons with no attachment or loyalty to country. Accordingly, cosmopolitanism became understood as the antithesis of patriotism and nationalism. Because of its association with wealth, cosmopolitanism also was linked to taste and elite consumption of products from diverse cultures, including cuisine, fine rugs, liquors, and cigars. "The parochial person, tied down by the narrow confines of 'local' life and therefore simply not interested in different people and customs," was characterized as the opposite of the cosmopolitan. As a result, in cultural production the vernacular was understood as the opposite of the cosmopolitan. These ideas informed the traditional portrayal of the West as cosmopolitan and the rest of the world as traditional and indirectly influenced the scholarship of Latin American art. The conviction that the art from this region, in contrast to European art, should be categorized as either rural or urban, for instance, is still strong in the field.
Recent theorizations of cosmopolitanism in diverse fields of the humanities and the social sciences have concentrated on investigating, elaborating, and countering the previous characterizations. In current scholarship cosmopolitanism is seldom conceived either as an ethical position or exclusively as vacuous consumerism. It is neither the opposite of the vernacular nor geographically restricted. It transcends its traditional associations with urban settings and wealthy classes and in some instances includes the rural. Because of the complexity of the notion of cosmopolitanism, no study covers all the dimensions of the term.
Many scholars investigate the political and ethical aspects of cosmopolitanism, often critiquing and expanding Kant's vision, but their theories seldom address cultural production. In the opinion of the anthropologist Ulf Hannerz, cosmopolitanism has two primary and perhaps unrelated valences, one aesthetic and the other one political: "In its aesthetic and intellectual dimensions, it can become a kind of consumer cosmopolitanism, a cosmopolitanism with a happy face, enjoying new cuisines, new musics, new literatures. Political cosmopolitanism is often cosmopolitanism with a worried face, trying to come to grips with very large problems." These kinds of cosmopolitanisms can occur independently and sometimes overlap. Although he identifies four more aspects of cosmopolitanism, Hannerz's concerns remain anchored in Kant's association of the cosmopolitanism with politics, ethics, and commerce and do little to explain cultural products.
Departing from the study of literature, by contrast, the scholar of South Asia Sheldon Pollock challenges the traditional opposition between the vernacular and the cosmopolitan and proposes that the two differ primarily in extension: the cosmopolitan is a communication that travels far, whereas the vernacular travels little. The cosmopolitan assumes universal intelligibility and applicability, whereas the vernacular conventionally refers to a very particular and underprivileged mode of social identity. Taking the vernacularization of Sanskrit and Latin as examples, he argues that there is an ongoing dialogical relation between the two concepts. In Pollock's opinion, the vernacular as a "primeval autochthonous" exists only in mythical representation. It is created over time and is not always restricted to the underprivileged classes. Similarly, he suggests that cosmopolitanism is not limited to elites and proposes to understand cosmopolitanisms as a set of practices rather than propositions. This means that cosmopolitanism has a habitual and lived aspect, which may be divorced from an individual's conscious cosmopolitan affiliations. Pollock's theorizations mobilize the notion of the vernacular across geographical and class boundaries; because his theories are based on the study of literature, he adds a creative, cultural dimension to the study of cosmopolitanism. His discussion also has important implications for understanding local cultures. If like the cosmopolitan the vernacular is not bound to a specific location, how are we to conceive of the local?
The anthropologist James Clifford and the theorist Homi Bhabha, among others, posit that processes associated with globalization (such as travel, migration, and displacement) foster the development of nonelite, radical cosmopolitanisms. Clifford coined the phrase "discrepant cosmopolitanism" to refer to diasporic forms of expression resulting from violent displacements and transplantations. He is less interested in cosmopolitanism, however, than in theorizing notions of dwelling through travel. For him, both travel and dwelling are constitutive of "cultural experience." Culture is as much a site of travel encounters as a site of residence, "less like a site of initiation and inhabitation, and more like a hotel lobby, urban café, ship or bus." Albeit in passing, Clifford recognizes the impact of modern technologies in the constitution of cosmopolitanisms, noting that oil pipelines and radio and television signals traverse and interconnect multiple sites. This suggests that technologies enable articulations among cultures, a proposition explored later in this book. Neither geography nor class restricts Clifford's theory of travel. Like Pollock, he contributes to disengage the notion of cosmopolitanism from its traditional social and geographic moorings. This displacement is relevant our study, as it may help to understand how someone may develop a cosmopolitan consciousness without necessarily moving. For example, peasants living in a rural setting can travel without ever leaving their community. Through various contacts and media such as print or television, they may be exposed to ways of life different from their own, which they then integrate with their own experience and imagination. Like Pollock's proposal to think of cosmopolitanism as practice, Clifford's theory of travel implies that a person may partake of cosmopolitan trends without necessarily being conscious of his cosmopolitanism. Like Pollock, Clifford leaves open the significance to individuals and groups of locality and community, notions heavily invested with affective and political power.
Cultural theorist Homi Bhabha coined the term "vernacular cosmopolitanism" to refer to a marginal space in which a strong sense of community can be articulated and multiple contradictions, including patriotism and universalism, can be negotiated. Bhabha envisions vernacular cosmopolitanism as a space of translation between "here and there, private and public, past and present," in which discourses resulting from a precarious sense of survival provide a "moral measure" against which transnational cultural claims are evaluated. This theorization is reminiscent of his previous and extensively critiqued conceptualization of hybridity as forms of articulation that subvert colonial authority by exposing its contradictions. The assumption that, like hybridity, vernacular cosmopolitanisms are necessarily subversive is open to question; indeed, some of the criticism that Bhabha has received pertains to the applicability of his theory to elite cultures outside the West that have a high degree of mobility. Although Bhabha is primarily concerned with migrants to traditional imperial centers, his concept of vernacular cosmopolitanism is useful for understanding cultural dynamics in colonial Mexico even if it is not wholly applicable. Spanish Americans born in the colonies were marginal to Europeans and dominant at home. These conditions led them to struggle against European discrimination, while indigenous and African peoples had to contend with marginalization by both Spanish Americans and Europeans. We could argue that by virtue of colonization and slavery New Spain functioned similarly to the marginal space that Bhabha envisions, where claims to universality by dominant powers and a multiplicity of contradictions were evaluated and contested, and where the local became a focus of affective attachments, mobilized to political ends. Although Bhabha's work on cosmopolitism involves the legacies of the colonial era, colonialism is not the focus of his argument.
After the Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel, the literary theorist Walter Mignolo regards coloniality as "the hidden face of modernity and its very condition of possibility." Hence he argues that theorizations of cosmopolitanism must be reconciled with the history of colonialism. Unlike postcolonial theorists such as Bhabha, whose discussions of colonialism concern European dominions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Mignolo begins his theorization of globalization and modernity in the Spanish and Portuguese colonial ventures of the late fifteenth and sixteenth century. For him the development of a "critical cosmopolitanism" is urgent, for it entails the creation of "new forms of projecting and imagining, ethically and politically, from subaltern perspectives." Without such a commitment, he maintains, there is nothing inherently liberatory about cosmopolitanism: historically, cosmopolitanisms can either support or resist global designs. From this perspective, the power of critical cosmopolitanism would consist in its ability to look simultaneously to the past and to the future while ethically inhabiting the present. Mignolo shares with Bhabha a commitment to memory for living the present and imagining the future. Unlike Bhabha, however, he does not examine the notion of cosmopolitanism in the context of the modern nation-state.
The relationship of cosmopolitanism to nationalism continues to be fraught with contradictions, as some scholars equate loyalty to country with loyalty to the state and most regard patriotism as incompatible with cosmopolitanism. Kwame Anthony Appiah has proposed a "cosmopolitan patriotism" or "rooted cosmopolitanism," which reconciles commitment to the homeland with interest in the outside. A "cosmopolitan patriot" is simultaneously attached to her home with its own cultural particularities, takes pleasure in other places and peoples, and respects the free will of individuals who choose to leave their place of birth. In Appiah's view, nations and states matter. Nations matter because people are attached to them, and states are important because they regulate people's lives. A true patriot holds his community and the state accountable according to specific moral standards. The relationship of the nation to cosmopolitanism is thus individual and affective. According to Appiah, it is affect that differentiates patriotism and cosmopolitanism from nationalism. The first two are "sentiments," whereas the latter is an "ideology." In other words, nationalism is associated with the state and is mandated from above, whereas patriotism and nationalism are personal and voluntary. In reality, it is extremely difficult to disentangle the three. How, for instance, can we argue cogently that nationalism excludes sentiment?
The scholar of religion Peter van der Veer regards cosmopolitanism and nationalism less as opposites than as results of the emerging capitalist system in a continuous dialectical relationship. Like Mignolo, he bases his theories on the history of colonialism, for in his opinion the cosmopolitan openness of colonial modernity to other civilizations was fueled with a desire to bring progress and to spread the morality of the modern nation-state. In contrast to Bhabha, who assumes that vernacular cosmopolitanisms reveal the inadequacies of the nation-state, van der Veer sees cosmopolitanism as the engagement of the nation-states with significant others in the colonial context.
Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins incorporate many of the preceding theories and propose that, rather than being an abstract ideal as in Kant's philosophy, cosmopolitanism consists of "habits of thought and feeling shaped by specific collectivities, that are socially and geographically situated." This located cosmopolitanism is disengaged from travel, as people often form connections to places that they have not visited and perhaps have seen only in movies or on television. Cheah and Robbins theorize a cosmopolitanism that is multiple: European and non-European, weak and strong, underdeveloped and privileged, yet always located and embodied. Despite their emphasis on the importance of habit and embodiment for understanding cosmopolitanism, none of the essays in their collection explore these subjects. Hence the notion of habit remains abstract in their work. This is perhaps because they seem more interested in an analysis of the nation inspired by systems and complexity theory.
For Cheah, specifically, postcolonial nationalism and cosmopolitanism are not contradictory, as the nation-state is always inscribed in a cosmopolitan force field. He describes postcolonial national culture as "a double agent that grows out of, resists and can also be pulled back into the processes of neocolonial globalization." After Appiah and in distinction to Bhabha, he believes that some recourse to the postcolonial nation-state and to nationalism might be necessary for global transformation to occur. Cheah's visualization of the postcolonial state within a cosmopolitan force field is apt to describe independent Mexico, as the nation was never apart from a vast field of connections, attractions, and repulsions.
The essays in this volume borrow from all these theories to present cosmopolitanism less as a descriptive than as a relational term. It is more than a pattern of consumption or production or a set of describable characteristics of visual and material forms. It is also a complex of attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, desires, visions, memories, and projections to the past and to the future. Like subjectification, it is only conceivable within power relations; and like the concept of identity, it emerges and develops in relations between the self, ethnic group, or nation and others. Cosmopolitanism is thus best conceived as a fluctuating complex of relations, material and virtual, in which power plays a cohesive and yet unstable role. Several of the studies in this book illustrate the relationship of cosmopolitanism to violence, which has been understudied (although evident in the work of theorists such as Mignolo), especially in the realm of cultural production. I demonstrate that the criticism and scholarship of visual culture often replicate and advance cosmopolitan discourses, which perpetuate epistemic violence.
In this work, the universal, the global, the international, and the cosmopolitan are related in "extension" (to use Pollock's descriptive term) but differ in value. The global and the universal both denote extreme diffusion and applicability, but the universal connotes superior value: it presumes to be rooted in nature and as a natural category assumes unquestionable authority. The international is of variable extension; but unlike the universal, it depends on human-made political geography and thus belongs in the realm of culture. Like the international, the cosmopolitan is associated with culture and has a variable extension; but unlike both the global and the international, it is highly invested with cultural values. These categories are not always clear cut. For example, the universal can subsume the cosmopolitan and invest it with natural values; aesthetic styles believed to be universal are also cosmopolitan. All of these processes are to varying extents marked by the local, for all are products of specific milieus. Finally, the category of the local here is understood to be as mutable as the notion of the cosmopolitan but attached to specificities related to place, which can be actual, historical, and imaginary.
Cosmopolitanism in Contemporary Latin American Art History
Few art historians and critics have approached the notion of cosmopolitanism in Latin American art theoretically or historically. As the frame for an ongoing project on comparative modernities including Latin America, the British scholar Kobena Mercer proposes a model of multiple modernisms that entail a two-way traffic between the traditional imperial centers and the peripheries. Departing from Clifford's "discrepant cosmopolitanism" and Raymond Williams's characterization of European avant-gardes as immigrant formations, he advocates "a migrant perspective" that perceives and values multiple affiliations rather than reifies cultural differences in the manner of multiculturalism. Mercer calls for a recognition of artistic style as a mediating factor among relevant contexts of material production, insisting that it provides "a conceptual bridge to the aesthetic dimension of the art object that cannot be reduced to matters of representation." In contrast to theorists such as Fernand Braudel, Mercer understands modernity as beginning in the nineteenth century and extending to the present. While his theoretical framework based on migrant perspectives opens up the study of modern art, it is inapplicable to much of Latin American art in the modern period if taken literally as a worldview developed through migration. Furthermore, if considerations of style and aesthetics are to ground future art-historical investigations, new theorizations of these two subjects, traditionally dominated by Western European perspectives, will be necessary.
In studies of contemporary art, the cosmopolitanism of Mexican and other Latin American art is assumed but seldom overtly discussed. Jacqueline Barnitz's survey book Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America, for example, includes a chapter titled "The Avant-Garde of the 1920s: Cosmopolitan or National Identity?"; but she does not explore the concept of cosmopolitanism. In a groundbreaking essay, the art historian Natalia Majluf discusses the reception of the painting The Indian Potter by Peruvian artist Francisco Laso in the Universal Exhibition of 1855 in Paris to illustrate the demands for difference and authenticity that the international art world routinely places on Latin American artists. Contrary to Bhabha and other theorizations that privilege the cultural expressions of migrants, Majluf argues that Latin American art has been primarily the product of cosmopolitan artists since independence and uses the word "cosmopolitan" in the traditional sense of elite traveler: "Young Creole Americans traveled to Paris, London, and Rome, not as exiles or émigrés but as cosmopolitans, as participants in a world culture. Whether in commerce, science, or the arts they sought inclusion and equal participation in an international community." According to Majluf, these artists thought of themselves as international sophisticates and only became aware of their paradoxical position as "marginal cosmopolitans" upon their arrival in Europe. For Majluf the marginal cosmopolitan is a figure of "absolute sameness," which the demands for difference seek to efface. She explains: "Latin American cosmopolitans are expected to have an 'other' language or an 'other' culture, different from the culture of the modern West; but these cosmopolitans have no other culture nor can they speak in another tongue." In her opinion, the production of difference reaffirms international hierarchies in which the art of Latin America is placed on the margins—outside or beneath the culture of the West.
Although Majluf's essay concerns the criticism of Latin American art in nineteenth-century Paris, her argument illustrates dynamics operative in other periods. Writing at about the same time as Majluf, the Cuban critic and curator Gerardo Mosquera discerned similar contradictions in the reception of Latin American art in the United States in the late 1990s: "the media tends to regard with suspicions of illegitimacy art from the periphery that endeavors to speak the 'international language.' When it speaks properly it is usually accused of being derivative; when it speaks with an accent it is disqualified for its lack of propriety toward the canon. Frequently works of art are not looked at: they are told to present their passports, which tend not to be in order for these works are responding to processes of hybridization, appropriation, resignification, neologism, and invention as a response to today's world." Mosquera's mention of "passports" alludes to the production of difference that the art world requires of artists from the so-called peripheries.51 After Mosquera, the art historian Lowery Sims views the periphery as an active participant in international culture and not solely as a reservoir of tradition. Sims's work concentrates on artists of the Harlem Renaissance and on the influential work of the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam, who lived most of his life in Europe and participated in some of the most important international artistic movements of his time yet is seldom acknowledged in the canonical histories of modern art.
The preceding discussion indicates that in the first decade of the twenty-first century there has been growing recognition and interest in the dynamics of globalization and cosmopolitanism in the contemporary art world. This direction also is evident in recent studies of colonial Latin American art. The symposium "Asia and Spanish America: Trans-Pacific Artistic and Cultural Exchange, 1500–1850" held at the Denver Art Museum in November 2006 and the exhibition The Arts in Latin America 1492–1820 that opened in December of the same year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art include the work of numerous scholars currently investigating connections between Latin America and the rest of the world. The participants in both of these events eloquently discussed historical and formal aspects of Latin American art in a global context but abstained from any theorizations.
In his book The Mestizo Mind, the French scholar Serge Gruzinski explains cultural mixtures that transhistorically characterize cultural production in terms of a model derived from chaos theory. Although not specifically addressing cosmopolitanism, Gruzinski's work impinges on the subject because he theorizes cultural heterogeneity in the contexts of colonization and globalization. He uses the word "mélange" to refer to a diversity of phenomena including cultural mestizaje and hybridization, while recognizing that like the concept of "hybridity" this term assumes an original mixture of pure, uncontaminated elements. According to Gruzinski, mélanges have "become an everyday reality, visible in our streets and on our screens. Multifarious and ubiquitous, such mélanges combine individuals and images that nothing would normally unite"; thus they are in need of explanation because of their strangeness.
In Gruzinski's work the term "mestizo" designates mélanges that occurred in the Americas in the sixteenth century, whereas "hybridization" characterizes mélanges that occurred within a single civilization or historic ensemble such as Christian Europe or Mesoamerica and between traditions that often coexisted for centuries. He critiques the use of the term "syncretism" to describe cultural phenomena because of its generality but concedes that his own terminology is haunted by the same threat: "All things considered, perhaps reality as a whole is syncretic, which would make the concept of syncretism so general as to make it superfluous . . . The terms mélange, mestizo, and syncretism create the same sense of confusion or even doubt and rejection." Gruzinski proposes a scientific model based on the science of chaos as the most apt for understanding mélanges, hybrid, and mestizo phenomena because, like other natural and social phenomena, these are characterized by complexity, unpredictability, and randomness, implying a chaotic dimension.
Gruzinski's discussion oscillates between considerations of complex processes and his focus on cultural production in sixteenth-century Mexico in accordance with his belief that our resistance to abandoning the idea of linear time is an impediment for understanding mélanges. He defines an "attractor" as an element or combination of elements material or virtual, which allows disparate components to fit together by organizing them and lending them meaning. In sixteenth-century Mexico he assigns this role to the complex of signs formed by classical European mythology and ornamentation (grotesques and glyphs). In his view, an attractor does more than link worlds in space and time; it triggers movements of conjunction and disjunction:
From tiny details to overall ensembles, these incessant movements seem to stretch the space between motifs, then fold them back onto one another, only to disconnect them once more again . . . The alternate stretching and folding therefore creates a "mélange." This blending motion, this oscillation, explains all the complexity and diversity. A series of folds needs merely to approach and reinforce one another for the Amerindian dimension to become practically indissociable from the European dimension.
Despite the theory's apparent abstraction, Gruzinski insists that mestizo mechanisms are political and not simply "cultural" because they depend on power relations.58 Throughout the book he performs his transhistorical theoretical model by inserting vignettes of contemporary films by famous directors in his discussions of the sixteenth century, continuously folding his narrative from past to present and back to the past.
Gruzinski's arguments and methodology resonate with the work of the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who from the 1960s until his death in 1995 incorporated scientific theories of emergence, indeterminacy, irreversibility, and self-organization in his philosophy, expanding scientific theories of complexity to social, linguistic, political, and economic realms. In his book Difference and Repetition (1968) Deleuze rejected the idea of linear time and consequently traditional history. He argued:
Time is constituted only in the original synthesis which operates on the repetition of instants. This synthesis contracts the successive independent instants into one another, thereby constituting the lived, or living present. It is in this present that time is deployed. To it belong both the past and the future: the past in so far as the preceding instants are retained in the contraction; the future because its expectation is anticipated in this same contraction. The past and the future do not designate instants distinct from a supposed present instant, but rather the dimensions of the present itself in so far as it is a contraction of instants.
Deleuze further developed these ideas in Anti Oedipus (1972) and Mille Plateaux (1980), both written in collaboration with psychoanalyst and activist Felix Guattari. The two authors envisioned the world as matter-energy in constant flux and textually performed a reconceptualization of history as an open system or more precisely a "nomadology," which is the antithesis of history.
Like Gruzinski's attractors, a "singularity" in Deleuze's work is "the point of departure for a series which extends over all the ordinary points of the system, as far as the region of another singularity which itself gives rise to another series which may either converge or diverge from the first." For Deleuze as partially for Gruzinski, the components of a system may be ideas, physical particles, genes, or phonemes. While Gruzinski does not explain the relationship between the real and the virtual, for Deleuze the virtual, the realm of possibility, is part of the real: "The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual . . . Indeed, the virtual must be defined as part of the real object—as though the object had one part of itself in the virtual into which it plunged as though into an objective dimension." In his subsequent book The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque Deleuze, departing from G. W. Leibniz's concept of the monad (a soul, "a state of One, a unity that envelops a multiplicity"), views the whole world as an infinite series of folds and stretches of organic and inorganic life, the material and the virtual. Gruzinski's vision of systems of signification contracting and expanding through time and space is compatible with Deleuze and Guattari's theorizations. Gruzinski's performative methodology, especially his disruptions of linearity by inserting contemporary film images into his study of sixteenth-century phenomena, brings to mind Gilles Deleuze's discussion of the disjunctive quality of narrative, image, and sound in New Wave cinema of the 1960s and '70s, a development that he contrasted with a previous era of cinema characterized by organic cohesion. Judging from his citations, Gruzinski's theories are based directly on the work of scientists such as the Nobel Prize laureate Ilya Prigogine and the scientist and philosopher Isabelle Stengers. The parallels between Gruzinski's work and Deleuze's philosophy, however, demonstrate that, far from being an eccentric thinker, Gruzinski's concerns are part of an influential European intellectual tradition.
In the field of colonial Mexican art history Gruzinski's work provides scholars with new tools to investigate visual culture. This is an exciting development. Their generative and innovative potential notwithstanding, Gruzinski's theories leave some aspects of cultural interaction unexplained. Even though he maintains that mestizo phenomena are inherently political, in his study the politics remain unspecified. Despite his rejection of traditional historical models and his assertion that mestizo phenomena "appear to be mobile, unstable, swiftly uncontrollable," his book presents the reader with a development that has an origin (the sixteenth century) and an end. In respect to the interaction of ancient American and European cultural motifs, he asserts: "We know how the battle ended, of course. The dynamics of Western influences, constantly reinvigorated over the centuries, would finally win out." In this denouement mestizo phenomena are no longer open and fluid but become only manifestations of a finite struggle in which the stronger side wins. Gruzinski's conclusion might be contested by scholars such as Walter Mignolo, who in his most recent work portrays indigenous American worldviews as fountains for innovation and renovation in contemporary politics and culture.
Cosmopolitanism in Mexican Visual Culture
While I admire Gruzinski's experimental method of writing history, I have opted for a historical framework to discuss the ongoing relationship between the global and the local. This is due in part to the various times in which parts of the book were initially written and partly because I am as yet unprepared to abandon a linear model of history—if arranging the material consecutively by century implies a linear reading. There are practical advantages to studying the seventeenth century before the eighteenth and the nineteenth before the twentieth, such as to assess possible relations between earlier and later social and artistic developments even if a linear temporal order is as unsustainable scientifically as the cohesiveness of a brick. While I accept complexity theory as an overarching model, my study is arranged in chapters that discuss specific examples or issues within a chronological continuum. I suffer, if you will, from an ambivalence similar to that which characterizes the work of the Deleuzian theorist Manuel de Landa, who constructs a historical theory based on complexity along a thousand-year time line.
In this study, cosmopolitanism explores the imbrications of power relations with visual culture. Accordingly, the book is not only about the visual qualities of objects but also about discourses, ideas, desires, and practices fundamental to the very existence of visual objects. Some of the chapters are concerned less with aesthetics and semiotics than with the conceptual apparatus and with the invisible practices that render the objects visible and assign them value. Consequently formal analysis, the primary method of art history, does not always perform the same necessary function. Historical studies of cosmopolitanism are transdisciplinary and hence must improvise methodologies. They offer no certainty (proof) or definitive closure. If disciplinary faithfulness is lost, these endeavors yield new interpretive possibilities and understandings that envision history and theory not as mutually exclusive fields but as simultaneously inside and outside each other. While theory helps to make sense of relational dynamics beyond what is accepted or self-evident, the study of history is required to identify the singularities of specific cosmopolitanisms.
The studies in this book draw ideas from a multiplicity of sources, an approach indebted to poststructuralism and cultural studies without attempting to replicate the work of any one theorist or scholar of visual culture. Because the book is a collection of essays written over a twenty-five-year period (1982–2007), the chapters vary methodologically. Some are more historical and others more theoretical, often depending on the date when the text was written. Although most of the historical material was original when the essays were first written, my intention now is less to contribute new facts than to propose interpretive alternatives and possibilities for subsequent research.
As in Mignolo's and Cheah's theorizations, cosmopolitanism in my work concerns movements of integration and disjunction of regional with international tendencies. Rather than specifying a single political orientation, cosmopolitanism refers to a field of interactions. I claim that colonialism, cosmopolitanism, and nationalism are intimately related. Through a variety of means, colonialism brings together diverse peoples and cultures, resulting in cosmopolitan formations. In the colonies the relational patterns that Homi Bhabha first theorized as "the ambivalence of colonial discourse" are central to the development of subjectivity, identity formation, nation building, and nationalism. All of these processes are predicated upon the trauma of colonialism. This implies that violence is fundamental to some forms of cosmopolitanisms and consequently is an integral and often neglected aspect of visual culture. Signifying practices in the visual arts emerge in conjunction with social, political, and economic processes whereby visual elements are vested with specific cultural value. The consumption of cultural products from distant lands as well as the integration of local and international expressive tendencies in regional visual cultures may function to reaffirm the power of either the local or imperial cultures.
After Mignolo, I believe that in the modern era cosmopolitanism begins with colonial ventures of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but I recognize that cosmopolitanism also can aptly describe a field of material and ideational exchanges that occurred in previous eras through trading, warfare, conversion, and imperialism. Pre-Hispanic cultures of the Americas manifested their own forms of cosmopolitanism. The Mexica Aztecs, for example, constantly integrated other cultures into their empire. This resulted in distinctive synthetic art forms. Like later Mexican ruling elites, the Aztecs used visual culture to associate themselves with preceding civilizations and with significant contemporaries. The concentration of the essays in this book on later periods need not obscure earlier phenomena.
The cosmopolitanism that interests me is concerned with more than the international or the universal and is less invested in erasing local histories and vernacular expressions than in reinventing and disseminating them. In contrast to the presumed political detachment of cosmopolitans, Mexican cultural history demonstrates that many cosmopolitan artists and intellectuals were politically invested in the local. They were cosmopolitan patriots in Appiah's sense. As in Cheah and Robbins's model, my investigations demonstrate that the Mexican postcolonial state is necessarily cosmopolitan: by virtue of its economic dependence it operates in a global field of power relations and material, cultural, and scientific production.
In this study cosmopolitanism is detached from travel. As Clifford, Cheah, and Robbins suggest, people's ideas and attitudes about places can be stimulated through experience with diverse media. In the course of the sixteenth century Spain initiated intercontinental trade routes between Europe, Asia, and the Americas. These made possible the travel of peoples and goods. Printed material, texts, and images linked European centers and the colonies in the realm of the imaginary. Prints were vehicles for the dissemination of aesthetic and moral values. In this sense, the print culture of the colonial era can be considered a nascent network, although there was no organized structure for the dissemination of information comparable to today's transnational media. I reject the idea that cosmopolitanism entails primarily the consumption of elite products, as inexpensive objects from distant lands have always enjoyed widespread diffusion. Often such objects replicate elite tastes in affordable form. Prints and textiles, among other media, served this function in the colonial period. In our own era, examples include imitations of Persian rugs, plastic replicas of ancient Greek sculptures, copies of famous paintings in poster form, and so on.
I use the word "universal" to refer to phenomena construed as such, like the classical tradition in architecture, which I endeavor to interrogate here. The word "global" refers to widespread systems and networks such as capitalism and media. I use the words "international" and "cosmopolitan" interchangeably to refer to the extension of a phenomenon beyond a singular locality or nation, with the proviso that the cosmopolitan always exceeds the meaning of the international as it refers to relations, qualities, and aspects of behavior beyond the strictures of political geography.
Most scholars refer to Mexico's indigenous inhabitants as "Indians." Many use the terms "Indian," "Native Mexican," and "indigenous [person]" synonymously. Because these words do not have the same cultural valence, I have opted for the terms "indigene" (in Spanish indígena), its synonym "native" to mean originating from a place, and "Native Mexican," with the understanding that none of these names designates a purely racial category or escapes power relations. As discussed above, mestizaje was frequent during the colonial period, affecting indigenous communities to varying extents. After independence individuals were identified as "Indian" if they lived in indigenous or rural communities, but this designation was linked primarily to culture and class rather than exclusively to race. Indigenous peoples seldom referred to themselves as "Indians" during the colonial period, and few do so now. In fact, many groups reject the name because it continues to affirm the Spanish colonial hierarchies. Mexican indigenes, however, do refer to themselves as indígenas in addition to using specific ethnic names. The term "Native Mexican" is used mostly by North American scholars and seldom by Mexicans.
Each chapter in the book examines a different set of issues involving both the local and the global and often overlaps with other chapters. In the first two studies the classical tradition of art and architecture constitutes a cosmopolitan current, which in the last six chapters is overtaken though not entirely replaced by modern science and technology. These flows mobilize not only material products such as artworks or specific technologies but also ideas, values, and future projections, individual and collective. Several of these studies demonstrate the insistence of the local through intellectuals' and artists' iterations of the Aztec past from the seventeenth century until the present day. Many of the works discussed in the book actually performed important aspects of critical cosmopolitanism by simultaneously envisioning the past and the future to shape the present. Missing from some of these examples, however, was a dimension of ethical responsibility that contemporary critics and artists are now engaging, as Chapters 4 and 8 suggest.
The book is loosely divided in three parts, corresponding to the seventeenth and eighteenth, the nineteenth, and the twentieth century, respectively. Chapter 1, "Vernacular Cosmopolitanism," on ephemeral architecture, focuses on a triumphal arch designed by the scholar Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora for the reception of the Spanish viceroy Don Manuel Antonio de la Cerda y Enríquez, Conde de Paredes, to Mexico City in 1680. The work survives only through a textual description and explanation written by Sigüenza. No period illustrations of the original building exist. According to Sigüenza, twelve paintings illustrating the virtues of good government constituted the core of the monument's decorative program. Rather than relying exclusively on textual and visual models of classical virtues as was customary, Don Carlos used the Aztec rulers as examples. In this manner the Teatro elevated local antiquity to the universal status of Greek and Roman classical antiquity. In other worlds, it cosmopolized a regional history. Further, it suggested that the viceroy, the representative of the Spanish king in the Spanish dominions, should learn the arts of government from local and not exclusively European examples.
I argue that this arch contributed to the creation of a Creole Mexican identity, which became manifest during the second half of the seventeenth century. This identity rested to a large extent on the Creole elites' appropriation of indigenous history to create new narratives that allowed them conceptually to separate themselves from Spain. Sigüenza's arch was influential for future representations of the Mexican nation. For the next three centuries numerous governments referenced local antiquity for official representations of collective identity.
In the second chapter, "Castas, Monstrous Bodies, and Soft Buildings," I investigate analogies among international discourses on architecture and representations of racialized bodies in texts and casta paintings in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Mexico. I show that educated Mexicans simultaneously adopted and resisted reigning European discourses on both architecture and the body, indicating an ongoing tension between local Creole pride and internationalism. This chapter foregrounds my discussion of nineteenth-century architecture: I suggest that the fixation on purity and legibility evident in discourses of the body in the eighteenth century inflected later classifications and criticism of architecture. The essay thus investigates the epistemic violence perpetuated in the discourses of architecture history.
In Chapter 3, "Experiments in the Representation of National Identity," I demonstrate that official representations of national identity in the architecture of independent Mexico were constructed from both inside and outside in parallel with the nation's industrialization, which relied primarily on foreign capital. Focusing on the Pavilion of Mexico in the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris and more briefly on the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, I show that images of the local and the cosmopolitan can both be founded on ideas imported and adapted to fit specific political, cultural, and economic agendas. Divergent in style, both buildings exemplified aspects of Mexico that local elites wanted to project. While the pavilion's pre-Hispanic revivalism advertised Mexico's cultural uniqueness, the classicizing Palacio de Bellas Artes represented Mexico as already modern. Both buildings united interpretations of international architecture with visual markers of both the pre-Hispanic past and modern materials such as glass, iron, and a variety of modern machines. The designers' attention to the technological aspects of the project suggests that technology, like architectural style, had acquired semiotic values. The conflation of these diverse elements constituted a localized or vernacular internationalism that became the standard for subsequent government commissions of architecture in the twentieth century.
In the nineteenth century pre-Hispanic ruins became sites of interest for travelers, scholars, and the popular press. The Mexican government funded programs to restore and reconstruct ancient buildings, and images of pre-Hispanic antiquity began to figure in literature, painting, sculpture, and architecture. In Chapter 4, "Of Ruins and Ghosts," I show that the appropriation and revitalization of the ancient past was part of an effort to define Mexican culture in terms of both ancient Mexican civilizations and the scientific culture of modernity. Taking the site of Teotihuacan as an example , I demonstrate that the construction of an archaic local within this cosmopolitan field often involved violence against indigenes and rural peoples. The cultural valorization of the past was to a large extent dependent on the destruction of living indigenous cultures. Drawing from both history and theory I discuss possible affective implications of such violence and argue for the necessity to imagine an ethics of visuality.
My discussion of nineteenth-century Mexican architecture would be wanting if it were severed from an examination of its critical reception. Because of its stylistic diversity, this architecture is widely recognized and derided as eclectic. Scholars have attempted to classify it with little success, as the buildings consistently elude traditional stylistic classifications. In Chapter 5, "Traces of the Past," I question the grounding for architectural criticism based on homogeneous concepts of style and argue that eclecticism characterizes cosmopolitan architectures rather than exemplifying aberrant architectural phenomena or indicating naive imitation of European and American models. I suggest that in architecture criticism the portrayal of eclecticism as anomalous is indebted to the centrality of notions of purity and consistency to the concept of style as well as to discourses of colonialism and nationalism that often permeate the aesthetic evaluation of buildings but are seldom acknowledged.
Generally scholars assume technology to be an intrinsic aspect of modernity, yet the relationship between the two is seldom investigated. Like discussions of cosmopolitanism, traditional scholarship on modernity was limited to Europe and North America. In the last ten years studies of alternative and comparative modernities have called attention to the geographically and historically contingent nature of modernity as a construct, but the relation of modernity to technology remains largely unexamined. Unlike modernity, technology is yet to be investigated as an expanded field of action on the world stage.
Influenced by Fernand Braudel, Michael Foucault, and Bruno Latour, who respectively find imprints of the past in the penal system of the Renaissance, insane asylums in the nineteenth century, and the dairy industry in the twentieth, I view modernity as a heterogeneous construct conflating elements from various periods. Artists and intellectuals in Mexico continuously sought affirmation in a glorious past and simultaneously reached for a modernity yet to manifest. I contend that in contexts such as Mexico, where high-end technology is scarce, imaginings of the modern are as important as material actualizations of modernity. The Italian and Russian futurist movements that became emblematic of aesthetic modernity, for example, both arose in technologically impoverished environments.
In Chapter 6, "Visualizing the Future," I investigate visions of modernity through technology focusing on estridentismo, which scholars regard as Latin America's first vanguard movement, and with attention to select murals. Technology appears here as a global domain, indispensable to modernity and subject to reimagination and reconstitution from a variety of perspectives. I view modernity as an evolving virtual and actual complex in which projections and desires play a catalyzing role. In contrast to scholars who dismiss estridentismo as socially irresponsible, I argue that the estridentistas' attitudes to modern technologies were manifestations of social concerns shared by other artists of their time. Estridentista literature, especially, addressed the way in which technology would change society and the human psyche. These concerns were social but not easily readable as local. I maintain, however, that estridentismo developed more as a response to Mexican nationalism than as a blind imitation of European vanguards and hence was rooted in local conditions. Although international vanguard movements such as futurism were important as sources, the estridentistas carefully filtered aspects of those movements to advance their artistic goals in the specific cultural and political context of postrevolutionary Mexico. My emphasis on the imaginary dimensions of technology and modernity sets this essay apart from other studies of Mexican modernity.
In Chapter 7, "Re-creating the Past," I analyze the reconstruction of the temple precinct of Tenochtitlan, designed by the Mexican architect Ignacio Marquina. In the mid-1940s the Mexican government commissioned Marquina to design an architecture model to be exhibited in the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Despite the existence of other reconstructions of the precinct, Marquina's reconstruction was used almost exclusively as an illustration of the site in both popular and scholarly settings during the second half of the twentieth century. Marquina monumentally represented the architectural achievements of the Aztec past using classical building proportions and a plan familiar to a Western-educated observer. I propose that it was the reconstruction's cosmopolitanism, not only its accuracy, that allowed it to become and to remain the favored representation of the site even after the excavations of the temple precinct in the late 1970s and 1980s revealed its shortcomings.
In Chapter 8, "Transnational Culture at the End of the Millennium," I discuss a selection of public works of the Mexican/Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer from an ongoing series entitled "Relational Architectures," which I interpret as evidence for the emergence of a technologically compatible biopolitics. Issues of identity, subjectivity, space, surveillance, the body, architecture, and technology as well as the multiple expressive valences of light have been consistent interests in the artist's career. I argue that the works' active engagement with the body of the participant, technology, architecture, and the city stimulates viewers to imagine alternative physical, architectural, and urban bodies. Because of their abstraction, Lozano-Hemmer's "Relational Architectures" preclude nationalistic identification; because they are available to a wide public and are often staged in different locations throughout the globe, the works simultaneously internationalize and deterritorialize the local. Even when the works address specific political issues, they refuse a single aesthetic or political narrative and suggest that political art in our global age, rather than taking a merely oppositional stance, might cultivate more complex and elusive tactics.
These essays illustrate different forms of cosmopolitanism. Some are self-aware, meaning that works or objects are designed with the goal of integrating regional themes and idioms into international visual languages. Others are what I call "tacit cosmopolitanisms" in which habits of design, manufacture, or aesthetic value engage the local with the global without necessarily entailing a premeditated intention to do so. The Mexican Pavilion in the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris exemplifies the first kind of cosmopolitanism, whereas Marquina's reconstruction of the temple precinct of Tenochtitlan illustrates the second.
Unlike Gruzinski, I do not offer an end to this story. Various cosmopolitanisms continue to emerge, often in unexpected ways. Despite Mexico's economic underdevelopment, Mexican art and culture are now integrated with the global at all levels, from cheap Mexican artesanías (crafts) and food stands to international high art in many cities of the globe. Cosmopolitanism in Mexican visual culture continues to be a colossal, continuously evolving open work.
“The sweep of Fernández's study is ambitious, and her ability to navigate discourses and archival materials from so many periods and in several languages is impressive.”
Latin American Research Review