Authentic Primitive Art and Indigenous Global Desires between Reality and Hyperreality
In the 1980s, the anti-evolutionary turn of humanities and the “vanishing” of primitive cultures and their crafts provoked what Shelly Errington terms as the “double death of authentic primitive art.” In more recent times, Errington continues, the increasing postmodern blur of high and low art have further disconnected the notions of “authentic” and “primitive” from art. In this paper, I contend that the current topicality of these notions in reference to art within the dynamics of the Art Zone, that is, the zone of negotiations between the different (f)actors involved in the art market. To support my argument, I take into examination one of the most iconic art traditions of this category, that of the Asmat of West Papua (Indonesia). By retracing its process of art formation, I investigate the current state of the art of the multifaceted notions of “authenticity” and “primitivism” both in the reality of Asmat land and the hyperreality of the theme park of Taman Mini “Indonesia Indah” in Jakarta. This combined exploration of Asmat art will provide a reassessment in emic terms of the paradigm of authentic primitive art as well as a sketch of the complexities and ambiguities that characterise the Art Zone.
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