Miriam Oesterreich: The ‘Folkloristic Modernity‘

The ‘Folkloristic Modernity‘ – Mexican Indigenism between Nationalidentitarian Definitions and Transregional Entanglements (1920-50)

Within the Mexican avant-garde bohème milieus, the Mexican-indigenous was considered a unique resource to establish an individual masterly status as well as to stage a modernist discourse well beyond national borders. Indigenism is mostly presented as a static national phenomenon which, in terms of a “belated modernness”, picked up European avant-garde as well as primitivistic art practices and further developed a specific Mexican art movement by means of the alleged ‘own’ indigenous element. This concept of modernity, correlating with myths of origin and discourses of authenticity and mastery, shall be questioned in the presented case study.  The hitherto mostly painting-related term of Indigenism shall be extended towards manifold artistic expressions. So, besides painting, graphic arts, and photography, also fashion, artistic self-staging and performance, architecture, exhibition practices and review design are shown as parts of the Indigenist ‘style’. As an example, the collecting and exhibiting of pre-Hispanic and folkloric artifacts will be shown as Indigenist practice forming part of a network of mutual and complex relations within a transnationally acting avant-garde movement. The paradigm of national-identitarian art in ‘Mexican Renaissance’ will be questioned in favor of demonstrating the practiced artistic pan-Americanism and cosmopolitanism. Hence, modernist Mexico can be understood as an interface of various discourses on modernity, the latter’s migrant potential also represents the basis for a renegotiation of established terminologies of modernism.

Miriam Oesterreich, PhD, works in the department of Fashion and Aesthetics with Prof. Karentzos as a Research Assistant at the Technische Universität Darmstadt (since 2013). Her current habilitation project focuses on the global entanglements of modernist Mexican Indigenism. She studied Art History, Spanish Literature and Ancient American Cultures in Heidelberg, Havanna (Cuba), Valencia (Spain) and at the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2015, she defended her PhD on historical advertising pictures dealing with ‘exotic’ bodies (supervised by Prof. Werner Busch and Prof. Karin Gludovatz, Freie Universität Berlin) which will be published as a book in the series Berliner Schriften zur Kunst, Wilhelm-Fink-Verlag. As she specialized on Latin American topics, she completed her studies with a Magister thesis on the Mexican painter and muralist Raúl Anguiano and his treatment of indigenous subjects in the 1950s. She was a Research Assistant in Transcultural Studies at the University of Heidelberg (2008-2011) and worked in the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum (Ludwigshafen a. Rh.) where she initialized and curated several exhibitions. In 2016, she was a participant of the Transregional Academy Modernisms – Concepts, Contexts, and Circulation in São Paulo/Brazil; and in the same year her current research project on the entanglements of Mexican avant-gardes was honored with the TU Darmstadt department prize for specifically innovative research.


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