Transculturation and New Media History
This paper considers the application of the post-colonial concepts of hybridity and transculturation to the theorization of new media art as a dynamic site of exchange, in which the collision of simulation and the primacy of the body destabalizes modernist and Eurocentric notions of identity and space. Hybridity, as a term that migrated from the sciences to the humanities, is predominately used to describe the mixture of European and indigenous cultures in post-colonial art and literature. Serge Gruzinski's influential writing on hybridity as methodology for viewing how "human groups function with amorphous clusters of practices in perpetual movement," builds on the idea of transculturation, a concept coined by Fernando Ortiz in his 1941 book Cuban Counterpoint. Ortiz uses the term to account for a history of colonialism as the traces of a brutalizing process in which the simultaneous destructive and constructive creation of culture occurs. This paper takes up the conceptual framework of these authors in order to analyze how new media art functions as a hybrid site of cultural transformation. Examples of Canadian artworks will be used to contextualize the theoretical dimensions of the paper.