Visual Disobedience: The Geopolitics of Experimental Art in Central America, 1990-Present

Thumbnail Image




Cornejo, Kency


Stiles, Kristine
Gabara, Esther

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



This dissertation centers on the relationship between art and politics in postwar Central America as materialized in the specific issues of racial and gendered violence that derive from the region's geopolitical location and history. It argues that the decade of the 1990s marks a moment of change in the region's cultural infrastructure, both institutionally and conceptually, in which artists seek a new visual language of experimental art practices to articulate and conceptualize a critical understanding of place, experience and knowledge. It posits that visual and conceptual manifestations of violence in Central American performance, conceptual art and installation extend beyond a critique of the state, and beyond the scope of political parties in perpetuating violent circumstances in these countries. It argues that instead artists use experimental practices in art to locate manifestations of racial violence in an historical system of domination and as a legacy of colonialism still witnessed, lived, and learned by multiple subjectivities in the region. In this postwar period artists move beyond the cold-war rhetoric of the previous decades and instead root the current social and political injustices in what Aníbal Quijano calls the `coloniality of power.' Through an engagement of decolonial methodologies, this dissertation challenges the label "political art" in Central America and offers what I call "visual disobedience" as a response to the coloniality of seeing. I posit that visual colonization is yet another aspect of the coloniality of power and indispensable to projects of decolonization. It offers an analysis of various works to show how visual disobedience responds specifically to racial and gender violence and the equally violent colonization of visuality in Mesoamerica. Such geopolitical critiques through art unmask themes specific to life and identity in contemporary Central America, from indigenous genocide, femicide, transnational gangs, to mass imprisonments and a new wave of social cleansing. I propose that Central American artists--beyond an anti-colonial stance--are engaging in visual disobedience so as to construct decolonial epistemologies in art, through art, and as art as decolonial gestures for healing.





Cornejo, Kency (2014). Visual Disobedience: The Geopolitics of Experimental Art in Central America, 1990-Present. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.