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.
The text presented by Juan Pablo Renzi at the Primer Encuentro Nacional de Arte de Vanguardia [First National Encounter of Vanguard Art] is defined as an “attempt to bring about the grounds for the proposed agenda” and presents a framework for the discussion. The purpose is to “extract our point of view from the direct experience we have all gone through during these most recent times and which has made us consider a “situation at full stretch.” In order to do this right, Renzi believes it is important that the “discussion establish the basis of, not a general theory of art, but a theory that specifically guides and clarifies our future action.” His theoretical-political reference is Marxism. The text defines his “conviction that the general theory of Marxism, with its modernizations and derivations, the materialistic and dialectic conception of history and reality... is the best possible form of interpreting reality.”
Renzi points out that the revolutionary character of the artwork is not in the subjective intention of its creator, or its message, but in the effectiveness of the work in the milieu where it is produced and the public to which it is addressed. He also believes that the rapid succession of experimental trends is a voluntary resource of the emerging vanguard artist groups to avoid being absorbed by institutionalized art. Besides, Renzi points out that “the vanguard’s conception as a disquieting insertion in the bourgeois cultural schemes inevitably collides with an until-now historically irreversible phenomenon...the loss of virulence...and the sure absorption and consumption of these products by those who were intended as the targets of the attack.”
Therefore, it becomes inevitable for the group to split with “the brokers” and with the institutions of the “bourgeois culture,” so that it is necessary for them to find an alternative space to develop the new art. It is considered that it is only outside of the scope of artistic institutions that the experimental vanguard may be able to maintain its revolutionary character. In addition, the political characterization that the triumph of the revolution is imminent and inevitable drives Renzi to state that—upon the definite severing of ties with the “bourgeois culture”—a phase of “transition works” will be opening, since “a new social context will provide shelter for our works of art.”
Upon considering this phase an imminent revolutionary resolution, the question about the type of relations that the vanguard groups should establish with artistic and non-artistic institutions is brought forward. The answer establishes several phases in a sequence that includes from the rupture with the prestige mechanism and the institutions with which the bourgeois control the cultural phenomenon, to the conscious incorporation to the group work of political actions and class struggles. There is also the definition of the function of intellectuals within society, from when they become conscious of the impossibility of remaining outside the course of history, up to the definition of whether they want to be “for or against the revolution.”
As to the characteristics that will describe the new work, Renzi proposes the search for “a work that, assuming that ideological enunciations are easily absorbable, will transform ideology into a real fact, beginning from its own structure.” It will be about “a type of work that produces similar effects to a political act,” and for that purpose, it needs not be limited to the presence of pre-determined contents. In order for the work to effectively affect the consciousness of its receivers, it is unavoidable for it to resort to repulsive, perturbing and even a violent treatment of the material employed in the work.
The references to armed struggle are not only metaphorical. Renzi is very explicit in that respect: “the future social change to which we aspire can only be reached by an armed popular revolution.” This is not only about political definitions, but also an artistic program that adopts “violence as an aesthetic language.”
Among the actions and definitions of the emerging Argentinean vanguard groups in their Timetable for 1968, the Primer Encuentro de Arte de Vanguardia [First Encounter of the Vanguard Art] stands out as the occasion on which these artists demonstrated the greatest self-reflection regarding their position after their rupture with artistic institutions. The artists from Rosario and Buenos Aires convened in the former. Throughout the weekend of August 10–11, a meeting took place that shows the density of the discussion process regarding the aesthetic and political ideas proposed by the Timetable for 1968, in which the visual artists express self-consciousness regarding the “situation at full stretch” in which they find themselves at that time.
The intensity of the ruptures in which they had a leading role placed them outside of—or even in opposition to—the modernizing circle with which they had co-existed until then. These artists display a markedly self-reflective attitude regarding their displacement, as well as the abandonment of the venues and lack of support (physical, material, and institutional) on which they had counted to produce art. This attitude is perceived in the writings (manifestos, fliers, and letters) they included in their interventions throughout the Timetable for 1968, but it is most evident in the scope of discussion at the group’s Primer Encuentro event, a discussion in which other important intellectuals would join.
The Encuentro evidenced the groups will to organize greater collective action, surpassing the existing groups, workshops, friendships, and affinities, through which the country’s emerging vanguard artists’ groups could be reunited. Indeed, this implies the set up of artists in a specific position of producing theory, something unheard of in the visual art’s milieu. They did not gather in order to carry out a work of art or to organize an exhibition; they gathered in order to evaluate where they stood and what direction they should take in order to direct their efforts.
The four texts presented in the Primer Encuentro [First Encounter] discussion share a common denominator: to debate about art within the context of the revolutionary political process, all attempt to formulate alternatives to effectively transform reality included. Their defense of artistic specificity and formal experimentation stands in contrast to both the variants of political art as well as with the depoliticized and playful sectors of the vanguard groups in Argentina. Above all, it is an alternative (ephemeral, of course) to the option imposed among the members of the same vanguard a short time later. At that time, the political stance left no room for maneuvers either in the public sphere through a medium and trend to intervene or from the specificity of a logic arising from the avant-garde procedures.