Sacred Exchanges

Images in Global Context

Robyn Ferrell

Columbia University Press

Sacred Exchanges

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Pub Date: March 2012

ISBN: 9780231148801

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: March 2012

ISBN: 9780231504423

192 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£47.00

Sacred Exchanges

Images in Global Context

Robyn Ferrell

Columbia University Press

As the international art market globalizes the indigenous image, it changes its identity, status, value, and purpose in local and larger contexts. Focusing on a school of Australian Aboriginal painting that has become popular in the contemporary art world, Robyn Ferrell traces the influence of cultural exchanges on art, the self, and attitudes toward the other.

Aboriginal acrylic painting, produced by indigenous women artists of the Australian Desert, bears a superficial resemblance to abstract expressionism and is often read as such by viewers. Yet to see this art only through a Western lens is to miss its unique ontology, logics of sensation, and rich politics and religion. Ferrell explores the culture that produces these paintings and connects its aesthetic to the brutal environmental and economic realities of its people. From here, she travels to urban locales, observing museums and department stores as they traffic interchangeably in art and commodities.

Ferrell ties the history of these desert works to global acts of genocide and dispossession. Rethinking the value of the artistic image in the global market and different interpretations of the sacred, she considers photojournalism, ecotourism, and other sacred sites of the western subject, investigating the intersection of modern art and postmodern culture. She ultimately challenges the primacy of the "European gaze" and its fascination with sacred cultures, constructing a more balanced intercultural dialogue that deemphasizes the aesthetic of the real championed by western philosophy.
Sacred Exchanges is beautifully written. One of its main strengths lies in its nuanced, interdisciplinary, and comparative approach. It skillfully negotiates among different cultural perspectives and theoretical approaches to art and politics, ranging from indigenous studies, feminism, and postcolonial studies to psychoanalysis and philosophy. Equally at home in all of these modes of interpretation, Robyn Ferrell at the same time exposes their limitations in the context of intercultural encounter with Western and non-Western art forms. This book strikes a felicitous balance between innovative theoretical analysis, the engaging interpretation of particular artists, and timely discussions of specific legal cases regarding the recognition of aboriginal rights. Ewa Ziarek, State University of New York, Buffalo, and author of An Ethics of Dissensus: Feminism, Postmodernity, and the Politics of Radical Democracy
Through the lens of the Australian Aboriginal art movement Ferrell confronts the reader with some surprising truths about the world we live in and the myopic and murderous callousness which makes us inattentive to these realities. Joshua Paetku, Evening Haze
Acknowledgments
List of Photographs
Writing on Art
Art
Utopia
Dreaming
Abstraction
Striking Color
The Real Power of Color
How Painting Began
Culture
Global Art, Local Knowledge
The Idea of the Museum
In Translation
A White Thing
Image Logic
Photojournalism
Gender
Stolen Culture
Litte Children Are Sacred
Mum's the Word
Crisis in Representation
Race and Gender
Law
Common Law
Feeling for Justice
Apartheid
Discovery
Radical Difference
Emily Inc.
References
Index

Read an excerpt from the chapter, >Art.

About the Author

Robyn Ferrell is a research fellow in the Gender and Cultural Studies Department at the University of Sydney and has taught at the University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, and the University of Tasmania. She has also held visiting research positions at the London School of Economics and the University of Western Sydney and is the author of Copula: Sexual Technologies, Reproductive Powers, Genres of Philosophy and Passion in Theory: Conceptions of Freud and Lacan.