The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This article by Juan F. Ballón is about the avant-garde revolution that took place in the 1930s in Peru, which he believes was inspired “by childish and propitiatory feelings.” He claims that despite its apparent utilitarianism, this movement is the fruit of the same seeds that produce all art: “a higher level of awareness and emotion.” In his opinion, the scarcity of information about the true goals of the artistic avant-garde confuses the public; right-wing movements then distort this and transform it into a pleasant form of art. The avant-garde attack on “false ways of life,” however, seeks to flatter the senses and stylizes reality as a way of fighting back. Ballón explains that, because they are new, these bold formal experiments mean nothing to the general public, which is why he warns of the need to communicate the goals of a movement that is the expected consequence of the new order.
Born in Arequipa, in his youth, the musician and writer Juan Ballón was an enthusiastic supporter of the avant-garde ideal of renewal. In 1929, he published “Carácter y tendencias de la revolución vanguardista” in Mundial, the prestigious Lima magazine, in which he underscored the links between avant-gardism and revolution. In his article, he suggests that some local artistic movements are in fact an expression of a progressive political outlook. A year later Ballón addressed the same subject under very different circumstances, following the overthrow of the Augusto B. Leguía (1919–30) dictatorship by the revolution led by Lieutenant Commander Luis Sánchez Cerro (1889–1933), who delegated power to a governing junta charged with calling an election. Leguía was a populist, tolerant regime, but his overthrow exacerbated social demands that included university reform, arising mainly from the Universidad de San Marcos (in Lima). Like many other intellectuals, Ballón saw this mood of social unrest and artistic renewal—associated, in his view, with a strictly nationalist agenda—as a prelude to political revolution. It was no coincidence that the election of the conservative candidate, Sánchez Cerro (who was assassinated two years later), coincided with the retreat or disappearance of the few local avant-garde movements. In fact, one of the first military directives of the new government was to close the Universidad de San Marcos (which did not reopen until 1935). [See the following article in the ICAA digital archive: “Acotaciones: la influencia revolucionaria en nuestro arte. Maestros nuevos y nacionalización artística,” by Juan F. Ballón (doc. no. 1151297)].