Sacred Exchanges by Robyn Ferrell

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The term title has multiple senses--as a claim to identity or social status, as an assertion of rights, as proof of ownership, as a designation of a work of art. In Untitled Robyn Ferrell contrasts these associations so characteristic of the first world with the status of indigenous peoples. She uses as an example a school of Aboriginal Australian womens art that has achieved significant international success in the contemporary art world. The work bears a strong superficial resemblance to Abstract Expressionism, yet, as Ferrell shows so beautifully, to see it in the guise of comparative aesthetics is to miss completely their widely divergent ontologies, logics of sensation, and relation to politics and religion. Ferrell also relates the Aboriginal case to other issues on the postcolonial agenda, including Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa, art and Inuit and South Pacific economies, and female circumcision in the first and third worlds. She uses contemporary theory as a means to explore the nature of the European gaze on the cultures of others, asking why it is so captivated by them and what in its own tradition is sacred. Without an understanding of the influence of the dominant European aesthetic of the real, she concludes, the possibility of intercultural dialogue, whether on politics or art (and in fact they are inseparable), is not possible.
Publication Date:
27 / 03 / 2012

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