Strategic Materiality: A Transcultural Aesthetics?

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What is the relationship between the widespread artistic practice of appropriating found, readymade global materials and new notions of cultural hybridity? This brief talk proposes that much contemporary appropriation practice, is a kind of transcultural aesthetics in which artists strategically assemble materials in such a way that competing meanings and histories are forced into negotiation with each other. I will discuss how strategic materiality operates in the work of a number of emerging including Mark Bradford, Julio Cesar Morales, Jean Shin, Michael Arcega, and Maile Andrade. These artists, included in such shows as One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now and Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement, make work that represents the complexity of dealing with transcultural identity in the “post-hybrid” era – when labels such as Asian American, African American, Latin American, or even Pacific Islander don’t do as much as they once did to problematize the historical complexity of subjectivity in the global age. The practices of these artists, in which combinations of materials destabilize the many metaphors embedded in their chosen media, helps to present a more complicated notion of transculturation that is always in flux. Michael Arcega, for instance, creates maps of Spam (these words are anagrams of each other) as material metaphors for the capitalist imperialism of the 20th century and its effect on cultural identity in the Pacific region. He allows the material itself to speak humorously about the dynamics of power and enculturation. Ultimately, this work demonstrates the ways in which artists meet the challenge of globalization by cannibalizing its materials and rearranging them into a syncretic, multiplicitous, visual poetics.


Keywords: Materiality, Appropriation, Local, Globalization
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Jaimey Hamilton

Art and Art History, University of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI, USA

Jaimey Hamilton is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Hawaii. Her research generally concerns the intersection of subjectivity, commodity culture, mass media, and the visual arts in a global context. Currently, she is working on a book about “strategic materiality” in the history of contemporary art. The book focuses on a number of postwar artists who use assemblage, bricolage, and appropriation practices to come to terms with global capitalism. Her recent publications include: “Arman’s System of Objects,” in Art Journal vol. 67 (Spring 2008):no.1: 54-67; and "Making Art Matter: Alberto Burri's Sacchi" October 124 (Spring 2008): 31-52.

Ref: A09P0369