Art as expanded rationality

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Western rationality tends to interpret, tame and solve (the problems of) reality. Science, capital and entertainment drove colonial and globalizing processes that defined Western Modernity. In this civilization (currently contaminating the whole globe) there is no place for the unknown and the unresolved. According to this conception, as capital grows and science evolves, the world will one day be fully understood and dominated.
As an alternative to the Anthropocene and Capitalocene, Donna Haraway (2016) proposes the Chthulucene model as a non Western-centric and human exclusivist interpretation of the Present. By accepting the chaotic nature of Reality, the Chthulucene includes the uncertainty dimension that Western cultures tend to abject. Such dimension characterized by the intertwinement of art, magic and ritual is, on the contrary, very present in the epistemologies of the South (Sousa Santos, 2014), marginalized and devalued by Western domination. Magic, ritual and art expand human rationality (Gil, 2018), by creating space for the unknown and the unresolved in the understanding of the Real.
This paper intends to discuss how several artistic practices have challenged the conventional art theory based on the hermeneutics of the object and auratic approximations to art. Such critique can be extended to Rationality. The practices analysed, such as those of Ana Vaz, Kader Attia, Joseph Beuys or Karrabing Film Collective, tend to involve the body as a means of knowledge, and to foster a ritual and magic understanding of art. They challenge Rationality, as they question the dichotomies of subject/object, artist/work of art and work of art/beholder.
This overview aims to describe how contemporary artistic practices revalue and recenter the knowledge of the global South. By centering the artistic focus on the body rather than objects, by recreating rituals and magic artifacts and by documenting cultures that resist (or re-exist) against Western domination, these artistic practices engage uncertainty, irresolubility and the unknown.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Centre-periphery relations
  • Expanded rationality
  • Indigenous epistemologies
  • Decolonization
  • Chthulucene
  • Radical art history
  • Southern hemisphere
  • Anthropocene


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