6686 - Topographies of transculturality in the art of religious orders in New Spain in the 16th century

Spatial imagination played a central role in the art of religious orders in New Spain in the 16th century. Images served here to evoke imaginary topologies like e.g. that of paradise or the Thebaid desert. These spatial fictions will be interpreted as an expression of dealing with the first globalization experiences in the Early Modern Age. The murals that came into being in the convents did not by chance pick up on themes that had proved themselves in the European context in dealing with alterity (e.g. Islamic and Byzantine visual concepts), and thus seemed to be virtually predestined for dealing with a new type of spatial perceptions at an imaginative level. In Zacualpan de Amilpas the visual motif of the Thebaid underlies a literal localization due to the integration of Mexican fauna. The depicted Thebaid receives a religious loading precisely through this marking as a space of alterity and is visualized as a place that serves to convey transcendency. Furthermore, as the hermitages are situated in a landscape scenery that did not arise in a perspectively applied method but rather additively and as the hills dominating the picture allude to one of the most important pre-Spanish genesis metaphors, the image space turns out to be simultaneously a negotiating space for cultural difference and the imaginary potential for movement in it as a mirror of the performative variance it provokes. In a recourse to Bhabha’s, Foucault’s and de Certeau’s theories of space these types of spatial concepts can be situated in the creative tension of delocalization and relocalization, as heterochronical counter-sites that are structured by a double negation, as concentrated variations of mental mapping. Not least due to their pictorial mediality, these portrayals represent what they at the same time intrinsically are: spaces of difference in which differing content-related spatial motifs, cultural ideas of spatiality and pictorial traditions of spatial representations interfere.          

Keywords: murals, mediality, transcultural spaces, concepts of space, imagination and visualization of spaces in pictures

Author: Kloss-Weber, Julia Weber (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany / Deutschland)


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