Melanie Vietmeier: Echos from the Andes: National Imaginaries and Cosmopolitan Identities in Peruvian Modern Art and Textile Design

In this paper I investigate the multilayered interplay of modernism, national imaginaries and international entanglements in art and textile design in Peru in the first half of the 20th century. In this context, I focus on Peruvian female artist Elena Izcue (1889–1970), who played a decisive role in the rediscovery and revaluation of pre-Columbian art through her works of applied arts and her appropriation of a symbolic repertoire, which was to become a central element within a collective visual universe. The context of artistic modernization as well as the social, political and cultural concept of Indigenism will serve as a foil against which I will propose to read Izcue’s works as a counter model of Indigenism that suggests an alternative national aesthetic within the larger process of defining culture in modern Peru.

On a methodological level, these aspects will be analyzed in a larger context taking into consideration micro and macro levels of decolonization, postcoloniality and emancipatory identity politics. In regard to “national imaginaries” in Peru, this will also shed light on the complexity of the concepts of nation and culture in view of a plurality of localities, temporalities and traditions of different ancient advanced civilizations as the Moche, Paracas or Nazca, as well as the colonial past and contemporary transatlantic entanglements. In this framework, I also investigate the role of textiles in relation to questions of nation-ness and identity through an examination of the textile and fashion designs that Izcue produced in Paris and New York. The aim is to renegotiate textile design as an artistic strategy from a postcolonial perspective which draws on discourses such as hybridity, exoticism and authenticity. As spaces of a “contact zone” (Pratt), the interdependencies of textile design, “traveling fashion” (Karentzos) and art will also be placed in the context of mobility, migration and transculturality.

Melanie Vietmeier is a German Art Historian and Curator currently living in Nantes area, France. She studied Art History, British Cultural Studies and Economics at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany, and University of Reading, Great Britain. In 2018, she finished her doctoral thesis on the woodcuts of Wassily Kandinsky in the context of Material Studies at Leuphana University Lüneburg. As a curatorial assistant, she has been involved in several exhibition projects at Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. From June 2015 to March 2019, she was a member of the São Paulo-based research project “museum global” (2015–2017) and curated a microhistory on Brazilian modernism for the exhibition “museum global. Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism” at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (2018/19). Her current research interests include transcultural artistic practices and networks of encounter between Latin America and Europe in modern and contemporary art.


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