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This text was presented by León Ferrari (1920–2013) for discussion at the Primer Encuentro Nacional del Arte de Vanguardia [First National Conference of Vanguard Art] (Rosario, Argentina, 1968); it proposed what he called an “arte de los significados” [art of meanings] as a new revolutionary aesthetic. The key to his argument about the strains of political art was that the artist’s commitment to and support for a revolutionary cause was not enough. It was said to be also necessary to produce artwork that was objectively revolutionary and that demonstrated the desire of its creator for change (political and aesthetic.) Ferrari states that “el triunfo de sus obras significó el fracaso de sus intenciones” [The triumph of his works signified the failure of his purposes]. He continues with a phrase that could be read as an implicit criticism of the works of Antonio Berni and Ricardo Carpani: “las villas miseria con latas pegadas se vendieron a muy buenos precios y los obreros revolucionarios con puños cerrados se colgaron en los salones de sus patrones” [the miserable shantytowns of glued tin cans were sold at very good prices and the revolutionary workers with closed fists were hung in the halls of their patrons]. Ferrari indicates a need to change both the medium and the public; he proposes incorporating the culture of the new public into the new work. In order to achieve this, it would be necessary to break with the language of the elite that had been developed by experimental art, “cuyas claves desconoce la mayoría” [whose codes were unknown to the majority of people]. Therefore the revolutionary weight of the work was not within its creator’s intention, but rather in the objective effectiveness of the work when it came into contact with the public Ferrari concludes by stating that: “El arte no será ni la belleza ni la novedad, el arte será la eficacia y la perturbación. La obra de arte lograda será aquella que dentro del medio donde se mueve el artista tenga un impacto equivalente en cierto modo al de un atentado terrorista en un país que se libera”, [Art is not beauty or novelty, art is effectiveness and disruption. Artwork is that which has an impact within the medium of the artist equivalent to a terrorist attack in a country that is being freed]. 



Within the 1968 Itinerary, that is the sequence of actions and definitions led by the Argentine vanguard in its accelerated process of artistic and political radicalization, the Primer Encuentro de Arte de Vanguardia is the greatest instance of self-reflection on the state of the break up of with artistic institutions. The artists of Rosario and Buenos Aires gathered together in Rosario, on the weekend of August 10th and 11th in a meeting that demonstrated the density of the process of elaboration and debate on the political and aesthetic ideas of the 1968 Itinerary, and that indicated the self-awareness of the artists regarding the situación límite” [point-of-no-return] in which they found themselves.

The intensity of the ruptures they were leading placed them outside (and even in opposition to) the modernizing circuit with which they had coexisted until that time. This displacement, the abandonment of known places and supports (physical, material, institutional) was lived by the artists with a very marked self-reflective attitude. This attitude could already be perceived in their writings (manifestos, flyers, and letters) that accompanied their actions throughout the 1968 Itinerary. But it was undoubtedly the Encuentro I that brought the collective together, as well as other important intellectuals, within a space for discussion and elaboration.

The Encuentro was characterized by the will to create a larger collective —beyond the groups, workshops, friendships, and affinities that already existed—that would unite the artists of the national vanguard. It also placed the artists within a space of production and elaboration based on theory, which was not customary within the arts field. They did not come together to create a work or organize an exhibition; they convened in order to evaluate their current place and the direction they should take. The four papers presented for debate at the Encuentro I had a common denominator: they tried to form alternatives within the framework for the debate on “el lugar del arte en el proceso politico revolucionario” [the place of art within the revolutionary political process] for artistic activity that would make effective contributions to the outright transformation of reality. This defense of art and formal experimentation not only contrasted with the variants of political art and the depoliticized or playful vanguard components that then existed in Argentina, but above all, it was an alternative (ephemeral to be sure) to the option that was imposed within the same vanguard just a short time later, when the space occupied by the political dimension did not allow for the possibility of intervening in the public sphere with methods and logic of the artistic vanguard.

Ana Longoni
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Courtesy of the personal archives of Alicia and León Ferrari, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Archivo Graciela Carnevale, Rosario, Argentina.