The Postcolonial Sentimental:

Imagining Cornelio

in the International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 5, with presentation at the International Journal of the Arts in Society Conference, Venice, Italy, in conjunction with the 2009 Venice Biennale.


From Oscar Wilde to Susan Stewart to Nicolas Bourriaud, does the notion of sentimentality persist as a perceived negative criterion in contemporary art? Does today’'s remix, global culture allow for a re-examination of sentimentality as a concept and even make room for its influence in contemporary art? Filipino American artist René Marquez considers these questions in a metaphorical remembrance of his paternal grandfather Cornelio, a figment of diasporic conjuring and imagination. Through the figure of Cornelio, Marquez questions the Western intellectual thought that casts sentimentality as a suspect non-structure for ordering knowledge. Cornelio offers a postcolonial re-evaluation of emotional attachment, remembering, and imagination that binds nomads of contemporary days to home bases.

Marquez’'s postcolonial take dubs a transgressive sentimentality onto modernist-inspired ontologies. He argues that the “creolization” of globalized culture that Bourriaud describes must necessarily allow the romantic and idealized imagination. Through constructing the figment that is Cornelio, Marquez explores the possibilities of sentimentality as a transformative and radical force in contemporary artistic practice.