Visions of Our Elders: Anchises’ Roman Empire versus Postcommodity’s Future Majority

As I sit here on the Oval of the Ohio State campus after a day of teaching, I am thinking about a moment in Book 6 of Virgil’s Aeneid.

During his visit to the Underworld, Aeneas hears of the future heroes of Rome from the shade of his father Anchises. He also learns of the imperial domination of the Roman people over other nations, projected as an address to Virgil’s own Roman audience:

Remember, Roman, it is for you to rule the nations with your power,

(that will be your skill) to crown peace with law,

to spare the conquered, and subdue the proud.

I recalled Anchises’ chilling words today in its sharp contrast to the project by the Native American artistic collective Postcommodity in this month’s issue of Art in America magazine, a special issue dedicated to contemporary indigenous art. (I was so moved by this their words, that I recited it to my Philosophical Problems of the Arts class earlier today).

In a vision of the year 2043, when non-whites will be the majority of the US population, Postcommodity demand for a revision of art institutions around the concept of “capacity”, that is, a call for greater equity whereby we acknowledge the indigenous potential for steward relationships, respect and love, of the land and of people.

The shift from empire to stewardship is a timely one for the present moment, as well as the emphasis on the wisdom of the elder, that “requires us to be vunerable, disrupted and courageous” as we work towards the world of 2043, starting today.


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