Center for Global Studies and the Humanities

Duke University

The Argument (as manifesto for decolonial aesthetics)

A transmodern world has emerged, reconfiguring the past 500 hundred 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 that have been introduced by the working group modernity-coloniality since 1998  are encountering the decoloniality of aesthetics in order to join different genealogies of re-existence in artistic practices all over the world.

Transnational identities-in-politics have inspired a planetary revolution in knowledge and sensibility. The creativity of visual and aural artists, thinkers, curators and artifices of the written word have affirmed the existence of multiple and transnational identities, reaffirming themselves in their confrontation with global imperial tendencies to homogenize and to erase differences. The affirmation of identities is tantamount with the homogenizing tendencies of globalization which are celebrated by altermodernity as the ‘universality’ of artistic practices. This notion chastises the magnificent diversity of human creative potential and its different traditions; it perennially aims at appropriating differences instead of celebrating them.

Decolonial aesthetics, in particular, 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). Muticulturalism promotes identity politics, while interculturality promotes transnational identities-in-politics. Multiculturalism is managed by the State and some affiliated NGO’s, whereas interculturality is enacted by the communities in the process of delinking from the imaginary of the State and of multiculturalism. 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 is 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 Eastern Europe and the global south  to former-Western Europe (today 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, it challenges 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 in decolonial processes within the matrix of modernity defeats the solitude and the search for order that permeates 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 been questioning the role and the name that have been assigned to them. They are aware of the confinement that Euro-centered concepts of arts 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 some 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, activist 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). The Bandung Conference 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 decolonial metaphor a ¨world in which many world would co-exist¨ implies pluriversality as a planetary project and demands the contribution of different notions of how an emerging global political society should feel, smell and look like. Decolonizing aesthetics to liberate aiesthesis has already been happening in all spheres of knowledge-production. We have been witnessing a continuation of epistemic shifts in the disciplines and the arts that have furthered the process of decolonization within and beyond the key elements of the colonial matrix of power.

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.

Alanna Lockward, Rolando Vásquez, Teresa María Díaz Nerio, Marina Grzinic, Michelle Eistrup, Tanja Ostojic, Dalida María Benfield, Raúl Moarquech Ferrera, Balanquet, Pedro Lasch, Nelson Maldonado Torres, Ovidiu Tichindeleanu, Miguel Rojas-Sotelo, Walter Mignolo

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011