Modernity and the Landscape in Latin America

Aesthetics, Politics, Ecology (Swiss National Fund)

Dr Lisa Blackmore

Post-doctoral Research Assistant


Technés, blind spots and affective mediations: aesthetic modernity in mid-twentieth century Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela


El Bogotazo, 9 April 1948, Colombia. Luis Correa, Se llamaba SN (1978), film still. Patria Mirabal’s Garden, Dominican Republic.

Project Outline

The cultural and ideological capital attached to the idea of the modern —and its connotations of futuricity, progress and development— has led to a number of restrictive framings of the interface of technologies of space, visuality and modernity. The search for and construction of the modern in Latin America has evolved hand in hand with a series of limiting parameters based on a global hierarchy of centre-periphery, where the region has been imagined as a playground for modernist adventures “cannibalized” by locals; the desire for typical iconographies bound to the nation-state; and intermittent peaks of interest in pan-regional heritages of aesthetic modernism.

My point of departure in this research project is that such productions of the modern too often set aside the complexities of aesthetic modernity’s interface with political realities in the region. These are not contingencies; rather they fundamentally shaped and disciplined the body politic within dogmas of modernity as progress and development. With this in mind, my aim is to revisit modern landscapes as dialectical spaces, considering these spaces as projected ideals of a modern social body where discourses of aesthetic novelty do not replace instability, flux or conflict, but exist in tension with them in the terrain of affect and the body.

The research project works on the premise that a critical archaeology of aesthetic modernity will approach landscapes as sites of friction that can then be considered in the light of different conceptions of technology. This framework problematises hyper-visual strategies of place-making that conceive urban space as a formative technology and spectacular landscape for performing modernity. I propose to do so by exploring the simultaneous presence of blind spots within aesthetic modernity: spaces whose place-ness is negated. The working hypothesis thus suggests that monumental scenographic landscapes are apt to co-exist with the liminal: with spaces that are not inscribed within the remit of place-making and that are re-deployed via aesthetic strategies that seek to find a site for them within a more complex repertoire of the modern.

The proposed scope of the project acknowledges the ample attention that the Southern Cone has received from scholars with regards to issues of trauma and memory. This study thus directs attention to the interface of aesthetic modernity with totalitarian forces, repression and political violence in three distinct contexts during the mid-twentieth century: the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic (1930-61); La Violencia and the rule of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in Colombia (1948-58); and the regimes of the Junta Militar and Marcos Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela (1948-58). The aim is not necessarily to find similitudes, but instead to explore negotiations of the apparatuses of modernity through place-making, displacement, and re-mediations of contested modern terrains. The technologies of landscape, aesthetics, state power, and the social body, thus serve to consider the underpinnings of modern scenographies in authoritarian contexts and to interrogate how traumatic corporeal and political experiences have been re-worked aesthetically and spatially in the wake of violence.

El Bogotazo, 9 April 1948, Colombia.

El Bogotazo, 9 April 1948, Colombia.

Luis Correa, Se llamaba SN (1978), film still.

Luis Correa, Se llamaba SN (1978), film still.

Patria Mirabal’s Garden, Dominican Republic.

Patria Mirabal’s Garden, Dominican Republic.



After graduating in Modern Languages from the University of Cambridge (2004), I did an AHRB-funded Masters in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Cultural Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London (2005). From 2005 until 2013 I lived in Caracas, Venezuela, where I conducted archival research for my PhD thesis ¡Venezuela Progresa! Dictatorship, Spectacle and the Construction of Modernity with the support of a full-time AHRC (Birkbeck College, 2011). I have worked as a curator, translator and journalist, as well as teaching courses and organising lecture series on photography and visual culture. After receiving my PhD, I taught at the Universidad Simón Bolívar and the Universidad Central de Venezuela before returning to the UK in 2013 to take up the role of Teaching Fellow in Latin American Studies at the University of Leeds. I maintain two websites —Caracas > cultura visual and— and am a council member of the Visual Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) and Venezuela Research Network.



‘Watered down modernity: Iconoclastic fluids in Alexander Apóstol’s archival mediations’, Mnemoscape 1:1 (2014): 40-54

‘Capture life: the “document-monument” in Recent Commemorations of Hugo Chávez’, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 23:3 (2014)

‘Tecnologías visuales y el “archivo” de la desmemoria: el caso de Se llamaba SN’, Estudios 20:39 (enero-julio 2012): 127-156

‘Las imágenes eran crudas, imperfectas, rotas, pero igual eran imágenes,’ in FIA: XXII Feria Iberoamericana de Arte (Caracas: Feria Iberoamericana de Arte, 2013), pp. 173-209

‘Ángela Bonadies: la archon caprichosa’, in Ángela Bonadies, Las personas y las cosas (Barcelona: The Private Space, 2010), pp. 13-20

‘Haciendo sentido: tres premisas en obras de video de Terry Smith’, in Lisa Blackmore & María Elena Ramos, Moving Target (Caracas: Fundación Telefónica/Periférico Arte Contemporáneo, 2012), pp. 14-17