Baroque was at the forefront of the Spanish colonial enterprise. Baroque is an art synthesis created as a Catholic response to the Protestant insurgency–a counter- reformation aesthetic and ideology. Since its incipience in the New World, Baroque was an instrument of colonization and it was vigorously implemented across the Spanish colonies. Masters like Sebastián López de Arteaga or the Italian Jesuit Bernardo Bitti in Cuzco, Peru, were brought to the Americas to train indigenous people to fulfill the need of disseminating religious art and also to create content for churches and other Christian institutions, such as monasteries and educational institutions.
But Baroque was an aesthetic form that worked in a contradictory manner allowing in its “horror vacui” (fear of empty space) the insertion of critique disguised in the image-saturated canvas. Baroque worked poorly as a colonizing instrument. Its visual and verbal forms are ample, dynamic, porous, and permeable. In the New World, it immediately began to incorporate the cultural perspectives and iconographies of the indigenous and African laborers and artisans who built and decorated Catholic structures. Cultural heresies often entered unnoticed.
“Finding Baroque” is a multidisciplinary project that takes as a departure point the Spanish colonial past of St. Augustine and the Baroque as a manifestation of the colonial system. We are engaged in the process of finding the Baroque experience from the past while considering how it translates to the present, ranging from the colonial past of the city to its post-colonial ramifications. We consider the notion of memory in the Southern United States, indigenous studies, and the empowerment of otherness.
Baroque is embedded in the cultural discourse of the Americas in various forms and aspects, expressed in daily rituals and as part of the institutional discourse from religion and vernacular experiences. Baroque began as a Western discourse that over time became a hybrid (mestizo baroque) that was able to expand the colonial and post-colonial discourse to include its own critique. In that context Baroque, as a marker of the encounter between civilizations in the Americas, defines an institutional Western moment in colonized spaces. Our goal is to use Baroque as a platform to explore contemporary resistance to exclusionary practices.