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In this document, the communicator Marco Antonio Ettedgui outlines his conceptual idea behind “Feliz cumpleaños, Marco Antonio,” an informative and body art event that he staged at the GAN (Galería de Arte Nacional), in Caracas, on December 14, 1980. Ettedgui claims the Arteología series—the events he produced in the garage of a lamp store in Caracas—as a precedent. He states that he intends to question the justification for his art within the context of the country’s socio-cultural situation, and that his work has become less about aesthetics or sensitivity and more about “the insipid socio-cultural environment.” He concludes that art can no longer “change people’s mood” and that “now the artist himself, with his physical presence and his space-time actions, must do it.” He ends his text by explaining his reason for celebrating his birthday in a museum such as the GAN.
In this document, the Venezuelan playwright, communicator, and performance artist Marco Antonio Ettedgui (1958–81) reports on his event Feliz Cumpleaños, Marco Antonio (at the Galería de Arte Nacional, in Caracas, on December 14, 1980). In addition to the information it provides, this document is important because it includes Ettedgui’s critical thoughts on the function of art. He explains that he has changed the concept of “the social function of art” to “the individual function of art for a social purpose.” He presented the performance piece Feliz Cumpleaños, Marco Antonio—to which he added the subtitle “Informational Marco Antonio Ettedgui Event inspired by the architecture of the Galería de Arte Nacional as a traditional artistic text”—at the group event, called Arte Bípedo, which he organized at the GAN and to which he invited other artists working in the field of action art, such as Carlos Zerpa, Yeni and Nan, Pedro Terán, Alfred Wenemoser, and Roberto Obregón, as well as a few stage actors and playwrights. This performance, with which Ettedgui celebrated his birthday, was one of the few that he presented at a museum. He actually had a very brief career as a body artist and performer (1975–81) because he died, tragically and accidentally, after being injured onstage when he was twenty two years of age.
This document is written in the first person, as a monologue, which was one of Ettedgui’s favorite genres. In addition to questioning the function of art, he unleashes some sharp critiques—laced with black humor, irony, and theatricality—of the politics, morality, “good habits,” and institutional structures that govern art, seasoning his text with frequent satirical send-ups.
The event called Arte Bípedo that Ettedgui organized opened the doors of one of the most prestigious museums in the country, the Galería de Arte Nacional, to actors and artists working in the field of action art. Ettedgui ironically states that just because he is presenting his work at the GAN on December 14, 1980, it does not mean that he has quit his day job. “On the contrary,” he says, “I am happy because I have never celebrated my birthday at a museum before. How much more artistic can I get than celebrating my twenty-second birthday in a static space?” He adds, “Do we not continue to strive to make everyone look good?” He closes with this remark, “I can’t be bought, but I can be enjoyed by means of a visualizing medium which is similar to the one you use when you read a pornographic magazine.”
The complete text of “Feliz cumpleaños, Marco Antonio” was published in Ettedgui, arte-información para la comunidad (Caracas: Ediciones Oxígeno, 1985), the only book that includes the entire collection of this artist’s poetry and theatrical and performance writings.
For another text by Marco Antonio Ettedgui, see “Hospitalización por cálculo renal: evento informacional de la serie ‘Salones de Belleza’ llevados a la práctica por su artista favorito, Marco Antonio Ettedgui” [doc. no. 865734].