Jesús Martín Barbero
Interview with Jesús Martín Barbero (2002)
Jesús Martín Barbero is Spanish by birth, Colombian by adoption, and Latin American by vocation. He has been the president of the ALAIC (Asociación Latinoamericana de Investigadores de Comunicación; the Latin American Association of Communications Reaserchers), and is one of the founders of the Department of Communication Sciences at Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia. He is research associate of Universidad CES and Universidad Nacional de Colombia and is advisor of cultural policy at UNESCO and OEI. He is the author of Comunicación masiva: discurso y poder (Ciespal 1978), De los medios a las mediaciones (G. Gili 1987; translated to English, Portuguese, and French) Televisión y melodrama (Tercer Mundo 1992), Los ejercicios del ver, with German Rey (Gedisa 1999), Contemporaneidad latinoamericana y análisis cultural, with Hermann Herlingahus (Iberoamericana/Vevuert 2000); Coord. Imaginarios de nación, (Ministerio de Cultura 2001); Oficio de cartógrafo (F.C.E. 2002); coauthor of El espacio cultural latinoamericano. Bases para una política cultural de integración, (CAB/ F.C.E 2003).X
Diana Taylor: In performance studies, we work with exactly that aspect of life, of the body, of the person who sees, who reacts, who acts. What would be, maybe, the possibilities for thinking about performance studies in Latin America?
"Performance studies today is a theoretical, methodological, and strategic space in which to think through the multiplicities of conflicts that traverse the body."
On one hand, we attend to this idealization of corporeal beauty, and on the other to this enormous population of elderly people who remind us of the aging process of the body, like figures of death, like imminent death, as that which changes society most. So the body is this big metaphor of the contradictions in society, of the contradictions between its obsession with youth and its increasingly aged population. From these contradictions comes this search, at all cost, for immortality, for eternity, for all of these drugs that are going to permit us to live who knows how long, and on the other hand, this fear of death, this desire to retreat from death, to retreat from culture, to retreat from the gaze of children, et cetera.
We live in a permanent contradiction, between everything that medicine has accomplished and the human body, which is becoming everyday more and more vulnerable to everything around us. And, finally, this has a lot to do with the breakdown of the narrative. Now, we only have micro-narratives. This fermentation, this sedimentation of narratives, is, for me, a result of the breakdown of society, of the breakdown of the city that sees its own body more and more devalued. This has been a line that has continued since the beginning of my research on marketplaces.
In the center of my work on communication are cities. But these cities are in double play: on one hand, they have become computerized, and those who live within them escape because the cities have become insecure, aggressive, and people avoid cities. The studies we do in Latin America, show that, including Latin America, the majority of people use less and less of cities. There is a profound deurbanization of life. On the other hand, what matters in cities, is that they permit rapid transit; therefore, cities are becoming a pass-through, displaced to open bigger and bigger avenues, and land has value if it is close to an avenue. The city's ancient body becomes devalued. This body has no value. What has value is the speed with which one can traverse the city. And it is what gives value to all land surrounding a roadway. And the only things its inhabitants get are noise and traffic jams.
I would say that somehow performance studies has to be in charge of this multiplicity of metaphors through which today’s body has become a catalyst both for the biggest nightmares and the biggest hopes of human creativity.
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