Feb 13, 2020 in Informative

Multiculturalism in Art

Art has always reflected the surrounding reality, so is not only an aesthetic phenomenon but also a cultural one. As for the situation in the 20th century, globalization has not only changed not the economy, politics, and social institutes but also has blurred the boundaries between high and low, central and marginal spaces in the world art. It happened because it became much easier it was much easier to exchange experience and establish joint projects for the artists. In other words, globalization has proposed the concept of multiculturalism as the idea of cultural collaboration in one space, saving the unique content of each of them. This position does not allow the existence of a dominant culture as well as does not propose a dominant course in art. Hence, multiculturalism has opened new opportunities for the artists from different cultural backgrounds, bringing the little-known and forgotten aesthetic practices, ideas, and traditions. This essay proposes that multiculturalism in art appears as a form of communication between different cultures within the same aesthetic discourse, increasing the local content in the global context.

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Multiculturalism in art tries to discover forgotten narratives of the past, breaking the hegemony of the Western stories and history in general. The multicultural artists are particularly sensitive to the stories and myths of their national culture, so it is not a nostalgia for the past, but also a way to describe the modern challenges: “The discourse of decline around multiculturalism, while rhetorically paving the way for an imagined future, at the same time, consolidates particular narratives about the past”. For example, the Australian artist Gordon Bennett explores the historical past of the Australian aborigines, trying to understand the traumatic colonial experience of his culture. In this case, multiculturalism in art refers to the postcolonial discourse since the artist not only tries to remove the hegemony of the West, but also to revive the forgotten or lost cultural content as well as “the cultural history of Australia”. For example, his most famous work Possession Island explores the traumatic experience of history when the British colonialists used the Aboriginal people as slaves for their needs and economic profit.

The artist draws attention to the uncomfortable and taboo subjects because it is actually part of the story is glossed over England. He portrayed a slave in the center in bright red dress, when the colonialists are at the background. Consequently, he wanted to show the Aboriginal culture as the most significant thing when the colonizers should stay in the shade. On the one hand, the artist used typical bright colors to draw attention to the main topic. In this sense, he is very similar to the abstract expressionists, who wanted to explore the potential of the cultural unconscious through the bright chaotic strokes. On the other hand, it was equally important to convey the conflict of cultures in the past and the necessity of multicultural compromise for many nations. Therefore, Bennett’s work is a reconstruction of cultural heritage in Australia, referring to the brutal colonial policy. In other words, the logic of multiculturalism in art has changed people’s attitude to the natives, so the artist’s work is also a political manifesto.

The main feature of multiculturalism in arts is that it abolishes the dominant narrative, actualizing the importance local stories and practices. It expresses its liberal intention since liberal multiculturalism rejects unequal power relations within cultural space. In such a way, the artists try to get rid of the vertical hierarchy that has existed in the Western culture for centuries. This ensures that the African, Asian and colonial motifs became no less significant than other narratives in art, revealing it from different unexpected perspectives. This trend began with the works of Paul Gauguin, who visited the island of Tahiti and presented this culture as equally important in his works. For Eglinton, multicultural art is fundamentally related to the formation of non-Western art, and, therefore, associated with overcoming the Western hegemony. This position is valid but it does not always reflect the modern trends since the definition suggests the opposite dominance, not the idea of equal functioning in the same aesthetical field.

Following this, multiculturalism updates the various local narratives as an important legacy of cultural heritage in the late 20th century, inscribing it the modern cultural context. For example, Ramiro Rodriques reflected this trend in his Chris Crossing since he transported the global issues in the local cultural context. He painted a father who carries his little son on the shoulders across the river. The artists depicted this work in black and white, and it gives dramatic tones and distinguishes among other multicultural works in such a way. The viewer can see the water full of oil barrels that refer to the problem of pollution. However, for Rodriques, it was important to convey the theme of migration, which is particularly important for the Latin countries, namely México. Nevertheless, the work contains the internal energy of its culture, expressing the attitude to parenting and family values. Moreover, the artist actually creates a new mythology in his work, representing the ancient archetypes in the modern industrialized world. This intention is also important for multiculturalism, which does not only synthesize the old and new traditions but tries to rethink to the current order of things through the concept of equality and freedom.

The fundamental element of the multiculturalism policy is the idea of equality between different cultures for building the cross-cultural competence, and art also tries to be a part of this strategy. The international art becomes a dynamic phenomenon that can absorb all sorts of practices and trends, even those that were tabooed. For instance, Bartolome Acosta in his Virgin De Negra y Virgin De Caridad describes a special Catholic theme, namely the emergence of the Black Madonna. However, the artist depicted the Virgin Mary in color, rethinking the canon. Acosta synthesized both African and Cuban motifs, creating a decorative history of human interaction with wonder. This eclectic manner is typical for many multicultural artists that depict the traditional scenes in bright colors. It is important also that the artist refers to the ancient rituals that are important to modern immigrants in their efforts to preserve the authentic culture.

In conclusion, the multicultural art exists as a form of communication between different cultures in a single semantic field, overcoming the differences between them and discovering their aesthetical potential. The artists try to rethink the cultural past of their people, appealing to old myths and constructing new narratives. The postcolonial experience is also significant in this case, so the aim of multiculturalism is to show the original art in Africa, Asia, Australia and other colonial regions. In this regard, for the multicultural artists, one more task is to rethink the hegemony of the West, deconstructing them in the modern cultural context. However, globalization does not only allow them to open the old cultural practices but also to create a completely new space, synthesizing different types of cultures. Therefore, the artists often combine different narratives in their words, which are based on their biographical and historical backgrounds. As a result, multiculturalism in art goes beyond a single aesthetic or cultural discourse, offering different, but still equal stories as a way of describing the surrounding world.


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