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esse arts + opinions

Numéro 76, automne 2012, p. 74-75

L’idée de la peinture / The Idea of Painting

Direction : Sylvette Babin (directrice)

Rédaction : Sylvette Babin (rédactrice en chef)

Éditeur : Les éditions esse

ISSN : 0831-859X (imprimé)  1929-3577 (numérique)

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To Reject Playing the OtherThe Mythical Work of Marigold Santos

Chantale Potié

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To Reject Playing the Other: The Mythical Work of Marigold Santos Chantale Potié Artist Marigold Santos interprets the word “haunted” to mean “inhabited or frequented by ghosts; preoccupied, as with an emotion, memory, or idea; obsessed.”1 Resident diasporas in Canada, many of which fall under the term “visible minorities,” are often inhabited by ghosts of their past culture and ancestry when physically dislodged or unsettled. However, through Santos’s suggested language, would it not be appropriate to categorize the nation of Canada itself as being haunted? A nation preoccupied with guarding a national identity far more imagined than truthful, Canada clutches to the memory of what Canada ought to be, while neglecting the needs and demands of an ethnically diverse contemporary nation. Artists who question and contradict this haunted national identity — what Benedict Anderson calls an “imagined community,” one that creates and imagines its own nation where a nation does not exist and is “conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship” despite exploitation and marginalization2 — are often ghettoized by being categorized as creating culturally specific work. When work is segregated under a blanket term such as “culturally specific,” artists of visible or language minorities are typically encouraged and expected to create work that fits under this designation. (This can happen both intentionally and unintentionally.) How is an artist to provide a voice when consistently categorized as Other, as apart from the Western hegemonic culture? This is the postcolonial dilemma of culturally specific work that many immigrants and ethnically diverse artists attempt to divert (or even tackle directly). Legislatively, Canada is multicultural;3 however, in practice, multicultural communities must still integrate themselves into the established vision of what Canada essentially is: a nation founded on Western European ideals of modernism, colonialism, and conformity. Postcolonial scholar Igor Maver indicates that in addition to multiculturalism, which many agree to be ineffectual,4 critical concepts utilized to combat the effects of colonialism include “polyvocality, hybridity, and (post-colonial) mimicry.”5 An artist who immigrated to Canada as a child, Santos attempts to utilize precisely these techniques to counter the expectations of thorough integration while also ultimately planting herself in Canada. By employing hybridity, polyvocality, and mimesis, Santos is able to speak of her ghosts while never fully segregating herself into a culturally specific category. Writing on the hazards of curating from a position within cultural-specificity, which is to say, in subalternity, Alice Jim advocates and investigates working with subalternity6 as a way to “activate resistance against the dominant historiography’s ‘apparatus’ both conceptually and formally.”7 Indeed, the work of Santos is conceptually and formally tackling issues of subalternity and the grounding (or rooting) of oneself. In Personal Mythologies (2012), an exhibition curated by Zoë Chan displaying the work of Marigold Santos and Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo at Montréal, arts interculturels (MAI), Santos showcases imagery that is deliberately imprecise yet fundamentally accessible, encouraging viewers to make their own associations and interpretations. This work comes from her own remembrances and recollections while accepting and simulating outside translations from said imagery. In the piece Secret Signals 1 (2011), Santos employs hybridity through theoretical and aesthetic means, mixing together folk tales passed down from generation to generation, mysticism, and childhood games. The amalgamation of personal and broader elements in Santos’s work speaks to the universality as well as the particularity that art can offer its viewers — communicating to a vast audience rather than a culturally specific viewership. Santos writes, “In many ways there is some cultural specificity [in my work], however, I am not interested in boundaries that limit the work, and instead prefer to think about hybridities between cultures, ideas, memories, theories [with elements] of ambiguity and open-endedness.”8 Secret Signals 1 depicts a woman making hand signals with severed limbs.

Auteur : Chantale Potié
Titre : To Reject Playing the Other: The Mythical Work of Marigold Santos
Revue : esse arts + opinions, Numéro 76, automne 2012, p. 74-75
URI : http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/67202ac

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