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This article, written by Elsa Flores for Fotografía anónima en Venezuela—the exhibition organized by Claudio Perna at the GAN (Galería de Arte Nacional) in 1979—is divided into three parts. In the first part, Flores discusses the origins of photography and its subsequent history. In the second part, she classifies anonymous photography in a general category and comments on this genre’s subject matter and iconography. In the third part, she explains the new meaning these photographs take on as conceptual works of art (or ideas) and as ready-mades when they are exhibited at a museum. Flores also ponders this genre’s potential as an introduction to a participatory aesthetic practice.
Fotografía anónima en Venezuela—the exhibition organized in 1979 by the Italian-Venezuelan photographer and conceptual artist Claudio Perna (1938–97)—was an unusual event by the standards of a museum like the Galería de Arte Nacional de Caracas. It consisted of a collection of ordinary family photographs of baptisms, children’s birthdays, weddings, and beach outings. It was an anonymous sample of “life events” documented in small, random photographs that Perna had found.
The catalogue essay—written by Elsa Flores, the Argentine-born critic who had lived in Venezuela for a few years—was an excellent source of information that helped the public to enjoy multiple readings of this project. It is an educational essay, written to inform the viewer about the origins, history, subject matter, and most common applications of this sort of simple photography. Flores explains what might be the most complex aspect of the exhibition: its role as a work of conceptual art. She also mentions the ironic and legitimizing significance of insignificant items, and of exhibiting these humble photographic images in the same museum that houses works by the great maestros of Venezuelan art, such as Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, and Jesús Rafael Soto.
This exhibition was one of the most original social and participatory projects ever created by Claudio Perna. It testifies to this artist’s wide-ranging talent and brilliant creativity, and to the acceptance of a more avant-garde form of art among Venezuelan museums.
One of the most interesting features of this essay by Elsa Flores is the question she leaves open at the end: could this humble yet universal form of photography, as practiced by ordinary people, help to introduce them to an aesthetic practice that has hitherto been the hobby of a privileged few? Flores underscores the importance of the creative expression in Perna’s exhibition, and stresses that “Latin America is anxiously seeking to affirm its cultural identity, and some theoreticians are looking closely at the art of the people.”
This essay appeared in Convergencias (temas de arte actual) (Caracas: Galería de Arte Nacional/ Monte Ávila, 1983), pp. 55?60, a publication that includes material written by Elsa Flores between 1978 and 1982.
For more information on Claudio Perna, see by Margarita D’Amico “1: Hoy es arte lo que no era” [doc. no. 1068360]; by Luis Pérez-Oramas “El autocurrículum de Claudio Perna, escultura social y novela hiperrealista” [doc. no. 1161917]; and by Roberto Guevara “Claudio Perna o cómo ser libre en la marginalidad” [doc. no. 1080814].