Why the critique (and possible end) of an entire field may be a good thing

Marie-Guillermine Benoist. “Portrait of a Negress” (1800). Wikimedia Commons

Denilson Baniwa presented a performance in the 33rd Bienal de Arte de Sao Paulo at the end of 2018, which is worth watching. Incorporating pajé-onça, a spiritual leader, Baniwa walks the entire exhibition. At some point, inside the bookstore of the event, he buys a copy of The Short History of Art, by Susie Hudges, some kind of richly illustrated quick guide to “essential” artworks and artists to know. In front of a huge photograph of two indigenous people, he begins to tear the book, page by page, claiming Roubo! Roubo! (Steal! Steal!). “Indigenous don’t belong to the past”, he…


Latin America’s queer history is scratching its origins

Images of Brazil by painter Albert Eckhout, circa 1641. Source.

Priests and friars accounts on indigenous people in colonial Latin America are definitely biased, for it’s the tongue of the violent coloniser who is speaking about the colonised. However, they may contain valuable ideas on the formation of the countries of the subcontinent. For example, queer scholars try to find on the crumbles of coloniser’s writings questions to rewrite a queer history in Latin America based on its roots, a.k.a. outside Western canon.

Why is that important? First, Latin America’s queer people and activists have the chance to search in their own roots traces of queerness, meaning that “being queer”…


Trapped inside square screens.

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Another normal day of work during the pandemic is composed by a screen divided in six or seven squares; in each one a face stares at me directly (or almost). The faces occupy practically all their tiny space inside the square, with a little of background to show behind the figure. I hear the faces speak, sometimes one at a time, sometimes two or three at the same time. Whichever is the case, it’s extremely hard to focus on what’s being said. Someone’s child can be heard on the background. …


How cultural appropriation became an insistent part of American culture

Dorothy Lamour. Wikimedia Commons.

Blackfishing needs no introduction. The white pop culture fixation with appropriating black and other minorities’ culture and aesthetics has come a long way. It has today a strong representation in singer, performer, and actress Ariana Grande and probably the entire Kardashian clan. By seeing Grande’s 7 rings music video or any of Kim Kardashian fashion editorials, we can see a good dose of white privilege on navigating racial and cultural ambiguity.

There is more in blackfishing: Grande or Kardashian can artificially look black, but the case is that they do not look too black. Or even Latina, but not too…


The image of the intellectual woman can be different from men, and that’s okay

Photo by Vladislav Nikonov on Unsplash

The very first time I saw a work of art made by Camille Claudel up close, I was teaching Modern Art History classes for art undergraduate students. The theme was mainly about the great French artist Auguste Rodin, the sculptor behind Le Penseur (The Thinker). However, I thought dividing his already established space with a lesser-known (and female) artist would bring a necessary dose of criticism to young, promising art students.

As many people know, Claudel had a terrible life. She was ignored by her teacher and lover, Rodin. She was locked into a psychiatric hospital by the request of…


What literature says about self seclusion, and how it helps to bare these hard times

John William Waterhouse. "A Tale from the Decameron", 1916, 102cm x 159cm, oil on canvas, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, United Kingdom. Wikimedia Commons.

Social distancing is certainly the most effective way to control the Coronavirus outbreak. Each country in investing in different forms of it, from complete lockdown to just prohibiting people gatherings. However, even if you are a convicted introverted, forced isolation is hard to endure. Being apart from normal acquaintanceship and looking at ghostly streets is somewhat too sad. We also were well too trained by science fiction and dystopia, so it’s easy to fall into an end-of-the-world interpretation of the crisis we are facing.

It does help, though, to look at the situation by other angles. If you are isolated…


The beautiful history of painted cotton fabrics that do not have a mother nation

Photo by Trang Nguyen on Unsplash

Yinka Shonibare Mbe, a British-born — of Nigerian family — artist, has a series of works of art that use as the main material a fabric named Dutch wax. One of the most powerful works of this series is one called The British Library (2014), a huge installation that traveled the world, and whose first house was the Tate Modern museum in London. In this work, Mr. Shonibare Mbe created a library with more than 6000 books draped up in Dutch wax. In the books, it is written in golden ink the names of important first and second-generation immigrants in…


Do we really need to find a meaning in everything?

art, art exhibition, art theory, understand art, read art
art, art exhibition, art theory, understand art, read art
Photo by Christian Fregnan on Unsplash

The elements were spread in a dark room, and I had to spy its components from a delimited place near the entrance door. From there, I could see there were small components of metal, concrete, sand and wood, among other materials, on the floor. There were also tiny lamps that illuminated the room. Although it was not clear what the components represented, they reminded me of some kind of camping, or spoils of a former battle scene, or maybe an abandoned construction site. It did not have a clear form of anything. …


Why I think equal marriage is an important political statement

equal marriage, same-sex marriage, LGBTQI marriage
equal marriage, same-sex marriage, LGBTQI marriage
Photo by Tallie Robinson on Unsplash

It was the 6th of July, last year, when I said “Yes” in front of the judge looking into the eyes of the love of my life. One of the few things that I remember from that precise moment, though, was the tender voice and placid smile of the judge, a blue-eyed white man in his sixties or seventies. He was so careful and joyful, that he made that day even more special than it already was. We felt embraced, loved, by a guy whose name I do not even remember (have I ever knew it?). …


Is this really happening?

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

I have a smart, feminist, and proud female friend with whom I started a distress a few months ago. It was the circumstance of Pink October, and all the campaigns targeting the important issue of breast cancer awareness were spreading through media.

I commented on something that I just realized this year: these campaigns are only targeted on cisgender, prevailing not-queer, women. Now, with the recent gender revolution, it would certainly be more inclusive to target all people with a biological female feature.

My friend looked at me confused.

"Men have breast cancer, too", she said with conviction.

Of course…

Vivian Castro

(she/her/ela) Art and dress historian, writer and teacher based in Berlin.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store