Decolonial Aesthetics


Modernity-Coloniality Working Group of the Transnational Decolonial Institute

This FUSE article from issue 36-4 is available full-text online for your reading pleasure. 

A transmodern world has emerged, reconfiguring the past 500 years of coloniality and its aftermath — modernity, postmodernity and altermodernity. A remarkable feature of this transformation is the creativity in/from the non- Western world and its political consequences — independent thoughts and decolonial freedoms in all spheres of life. Decoloniality of knowledge and being, two concepts introduced by the modernity-coloniality working group in 1998, are encountering the decoloniality of aesthetics in order to join different genealogies of re-existence in artistic practices all over the world.

Decolonial aesthetics and decoloniality in general have joined the liberation of sensing and sensibilities trapped by modernity and its darker side: coloniality. Decoloniality endorses interculturality (which has been conceptualized by organized communities) and delinks from multiculturalism (which has been conceptualized and implemented by the State). Multiculturalism promotes identity politics, while interculturality promotes transnational identities-in-politics. Multiculturalism is managed by the State and affiliated NGOs, whereas interculturality is enacted by communities in the process of delinking from the imaginary of the State and of multicultural- ism. Interculturality promotes the re-creation of identities that were either denied or acknowledged first but in the end were silenced by the discourse of modernity, postmodernity and now altermodernity. Interculturality is the celebration by border-dwellers of being together in and beyond the border.

Decolonial transmodern aesthetics are intercultural, inter-epistemic, inter-political, inter-aesthetical and inter- spiritual but always from perspectives of the global south and the former-Eastern Europe. Massive migration from the former East and the global south to the former Western Europe (today the European Union) and to the United States have transformed the subjects of coloniality into active agents of decolonial delinking. “We are here because you were there” is the reversal of the rhetoric of modernity; transnational identities-in-politics are a consequence of this reversal because they challenge the self-proclaimed imperial right to name and create (constructed and artificial) identities by means either of silencing or trivialization.

The embodied daily life experience of decolonial processes within the matrix of modernity defeats the solitude and the search for order that permeate the fears of postmodern and altermodern industrial societies. Decoloniality and decolonial aesthetics are instrumental in confronting a world overflowed with commodities and information that invade the living space of consumers and confine their creative and imaginative potential.

Within different genealogies of re-existence, artists have questioned the role and the name that have been assigned to them. They are aware of the confinement that Euro-centered concepts of art and aesthetics have imposed on them. They have engaged in transnational identities-in-politics, revamping identities that have been discredited in modern systems of classification and their invention of racial, sexual, national, linguistic, religious and economic hierarchies. They have removed the veil from the hidden histories of colonialism and have rearticulated these narratives in spaces of modernity such as the white cube and its affiliated branches. They are dwelling in the borders, sensing in the borders, doing in the borders, they have been the propellers of decolonial transmodern thinking and aesthetics. Decolonial transmodernities and aesthetics have been delinking from all talks and beliefs of universalism, new or old, and in doing so have been promoting a pluriversalism that rejects all claims to a truth without quotation marks. In this regard, decolonial transmodernity has endorsed identities-in-politics and challenged identity politics and the self-proclaimed universality of altermodernity.

Creative practitioners, activists and thinkers continue to nourish the global flow of decoloniality towards a transmodern and pluriversal world. They confront and traverse the divide of the colonial and imperial difference invented and controlled by modernity, dismantling it, and working towards “living in harmony and in plenitude” in a variety of languages and decolonial histories. The worlds emerging with decolonial and transmodern political societies have art and aesthetics as a fundamental source. These artists are operating in what can be seen as the conceptual legacies of the Bandung Conference (1955).

Bandung united 29 Asian and African countries and was followed by the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, which included former Eastern Europe and Latin America. The legacy of the Bandung Conference was the possibility of imagining other worlds beyond capitalism and/ or communism, to engage in the search and building of a third way, neither capitalist nor communist, but decolonial. Today this conceptual legacy has been taken beyond the sphere of the state to understand creative forms of re-existence and autonomy in the borders of the modern/colonial world.

The goal of decolonial thinking and doing is to continue re-inscribing, embodying and dignifying those ways of living, thinking and sensing that were violently devalued or demonized by colonial, imperial and interventionist agendas as well as by postmodern and altermodern internal critiques.

Editor’s note: This text is an abridged version of the original, published and available on the website of the Transnational Decolonial Institute. The signatories of the manifesto are Raúl Moarquech Ferrera Balanquet, Dalida María Benfield, Michelle Eistrup, Marina Grzinic, Pedro Lasch, Alanna Lockward, Tanja Ostojic, Walter Mignolo, Teresa María Díaz Nerio, Miguel Rojas-Sotelo, Ovidiu Tichindeleanu, Nelson Maldonado Torres and Rolando Vásquez.

Image credit: The Soiled Queen (2010). Naufus Ramírez- Figueroa in collaboration with Proyectos Ultravioleta and Juan Brenner.

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