Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This text is a detailed report prepared by the Tucumán Arde [Tucumán Is Burning] organizers that informed the press about the exhibition’s objectives, sent out briefly before the show’s inauguration at the CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo) [General Confederation of Labour] in Rosario. In it, the artists explain the four phases that make up the structure of the work. The first consists of the gathering together of documentary material about the Tucumán situation. The second compares this information to the research performed by the same artists in Tucumán, and cites the beginning of the counter-information operative by means of two press conferences that took place in the Tucumán capital. The overt purpose was to unmask the link between economic power and cultural superstructure. The third phase consists of the exhibition that took place in the headquarters of the CGT de los Argentinos (opposing labor union) in Rosario, and later in Buenos Aires, where the materials gathered in the previous phases were mounted in an exhibition. The fourth phase—the closing of the over-information circuit—is announced as the compilation and publication of all the results.  

Later on, the Tucumán Arde artists reviewed the results of their research, which was performed on site, about the critical situation of the Tucumán population after the closing of several sugar mills. The economic impoverishment caused by monoculture, the concentration of land ownership, and the use of obsolete technical equipment by the mills are indicated as the main factors that fostered the crisis. The report also points out that two years after General Juan Carlos Onganía’s dictatorship launched the so-called Operativo Tucumán—which proposed to open alternative industries to create new job opportunities and alleviate the economic crisis—this palliative attempt had achieved minimal results.

The report goes on to describe the unsanitary situation caused by endemic hunger, poor working conditions, and poverty. The absence of basic services, high rates of school desertion, the disintegration of family units caused by the exodus, and other hardships are explained in great detail. 

In contrast, the sumptuous cultural consumption and artistic patronage of the Nougués family (owners of the San Pablo Sugar Mill) is emphasized. Lastly, the document mentions different lines of thought (combative or conciliatory) held by the province’s most important labor union, the FOTIA. The report also points out that these conclusions will be "turned into media, into visual, sound and acted images" in the exhibition that the Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia was preparing as part of Tucumán Arde.

Annotations

Tucumán Arde  [Tucumán Is Burning] is the most famous collective production of emerging vanguard art in Argentina, both in Buenos Aires and Rosario, and it took place at the turning point of the artists’ political and artistic radicalization in 1968. Its design implied a complex process of research and counter-information as well as a mass-media campaign. Given the fact that they were an integral part of the investigation, many artists (mostly from Rosario) traveled to Tucumán for a second time in October 1968. It was in that province that, with the support of trade-union members, journalists, and other collaborators, the artists developed an underground registry of work pertaining to the social situation of sugar mills (closed by then), schools, hospitals, and so forth, seeking information that would evidence the official campaign’s deception respecting the so-called Operativo Tucumán. A variety of media was used, including recordings, photographs, and films. In order to prevent the obtained information from falling into the hands of law enforcement agents, the artists sent the results to the city of Rosario on a daily basis, where a group of collaborators would process them. 

This document is a detailed report of the four phases that make up Tucumán Arde (the last of which never came to completion because of the closure of the exhibition in Buenos Aires) and of the conclusions they reached regarding the crisis in Tucumán after their investigation. It was prepared for press release. 

The artists signed Tucumán Arde documents using various names. Since 1966, the Rosario group had maintained the denomination “Grupo de Arte de Vanguardia de Rosario”; after they merged with the artists from Buenos Aires, who did not have a collective name, they used various names, including Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia, Grupo de Artistas Argentinos de Vanguardia, Grupo de Plásticos Argentinos de Vanguardia, Comisión de Artistas de la CGT de los Argentinos, and even Comité Coordinador para la Imaginación Revolucionaria. Some documents are signed with one of these generic names; others were not signed at all; and some of them contain a large list of first names. 

Researcher
Ana Longoni.
Team
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Location
Archivo de Graciela Carnevale, Rosario, Argentina.