Monday, May 25, 2009

Hispanic Neo-Baroque

This post is inspired by the sessions on Hispanic Neo-Baroque I am participating in today.

Main principles:

  • There is a common Neo-Baroque space (which is cultural, artistic, and ideological) shared by Spain and Latin America.
  • It represents a peculiarly Hispanic approximation to modernity.
  • It is an improvement on the Enlightened worldview since it manages to bring together the modern and the pre-modern, the mythic and the scientific, etc.
  • Neo-Baroque inspires a culture of questioning and resisting neo-liberalism.
  • It also poses a challenge to the English-speaking Protestant imperialist and hegemonic ideology of the US.
  • The Baroque has been historically marginalized in its capacity of an Occidental discourse, so now it is capable of giving a voice to subaltern groups.

My critique:

  • There is nothing more Baroque than neo-liberalism and nothing more neo-liberal than the Baroque.
  • Instead of giving a voice to the marginalized groups, it makes the representation of these groups more palatable to the affluent consumer of the 1st world. Novels by Garcia Marquez, Almodovar's recent films, Brazilian City of God cutesify painful realities of the Hispanic world in order to make them less threatening to a US consumer. The inhabitants of the favelas, the horribly abused Latin American women, etc. are prettified and voraciously consumed by the jaded Western readers and viewers. I have yet to see ANY liberating potential in these cultural products. If anybody can provide me with examples of how this art and/or ideology can be liberating, I would be very grateful

Reasons for my critique:

  • As I wrote before, I completely disagree with the male-chauvinistic belief in the failure of the Enlightened project. Offering any alternative to it, especially one as politically toothless as Neo-Baroque, bothers me.
  • I specialize in Peninsular literature and I simply do not believe that today Neo-Baroque art is either prevalent or mainstream in Spain. There are some feeble attempts to work with the Neo-Baroque but they belong, for the most part, to those who want to transplant peculiarly US cultural phenomena into Spain (Rosa Montero's Temblor is one example.) By theorizing Hispanic Transatlantic Neo-Baroque we, in my view, theorize something that does not exist. And this is profoundly unscientific.
  • In spite of the liberating agenda we might attempt to ascribe to the Neo-Baroque, the only kind of cultural products it has created so far are the products that mark an extreme degree of conformism. The Neo-Baroque art's greatest originality lies in how inventive and creative it is in coming up with more and more ways to conform to the system of world domination that has been and remains especially oppressive towards the Hispanic people.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Clarissa.

Clarissa said...

Thank you!! I think many people want to hear these things because we don't need yet another monolythic discourse appearing :-)

Anonymous said...

The Neo-Baroque, which is supposed to challenge the Enlightenment's metanarratives of liberation and progress, is yet another metanarrative. A metanarrative of pointlessness and critical impotence.

Clarissa said...

Or, as I like to call it, "pajeo mental" (mental masturbation).

Anonymous said...

OK I am way late to this discussion and don't even know how I got to this page, but YES. And I'm so glad you included CITY OF GOD. I had a crisis, I mean a real crisis over that film this semester because the students wanted to watch it and I couldn't face seeing it one more time.

Also: people want to call anything complex "neobaroque."