Raphaelle Occhietti: Raw Materials and Cartographies in the Arts Since 1975

Geolocating the Economy: Raw Materials and Cartographies in the Arts Since 1975

This research project explores how raw materials as artistic media constitute a meaningful theme with which to track and observe the meanings and manifestations of mobility in the contemporary world system. Raw materials are intrinsically mobile; at the same time, they confer a precise identity to territories. They unite heterogeneous regions – as corn does for Latin America in Neruda’s Oda al Maiz. However, raw materials also become global when they enter international trade flows. Latin American artists make outstanding use of raw materials to articulate manifold and layered forms of commentary on the global economy. In many Latin American artworks, raw materials not only allude to historical colonial routes and to transregional contact and cultural reshaping; they also remind us that they themselves can become volatile assets in today’s financial flows. In that sense, sugar, coffee, corn, lumber and bananas become means for artistic practice to demonstrate the contradictions at the heart of what is commonly termed “free trade.” Raphaelle Occhietti believes that raw materials’ presence in art can offer a powerful common theme to examine how the multiple facets of mobility – artistic, geographic, political and economic – are intimately intertwined. In the same way, raw materials offer a common framework with which to consider artistic practices from across the world.

Raphaelle Occhietti is a PhD candidate in art history at the Université de Montréal (Canada) and the Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po Paris (France). Her research focuses on the intersection between art and the economy. More precisely, she is interested in the ways in which art highlights the persistency of imperial and colonial economic models in the contemporary world system. Her MA thesis revealed a new interpretation of a masterpiece by Francisco Goya, The Junta of the Philippines.


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