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Synopsis

This declaration presents a series of definitions upon which the Tucumán Arde [Tucumán Is Burning] exhibition was founded. It defines it as “a collective work that, as it employs new channels of communication and expression, empowers the creation of an alternative culture that becomes part of the revolutionary process” (underlined in the original). A denunciation of General Juan Carlos Onganía’s government follows, in response to the strong repression exerted over university-student and labor-union movements, which had spilled over to the vanguard art circles. It also presents the situation of the “revolutionary artists” who refuse to be absorbed into the social spheres of bourgeois culture and who produce a “new revolutionary aesthetic based on creative action, using the reality of society as a raw material, with the goal of modifying its structure in its totality.”

The declaration describe’s the group’s efforts as operating within “a series of voluntary aggression acts” against bourgeois culture institutions, among which the boycott to the Braque Prize (French Embassy in Argentina, 1968) stands out. It presents Tucumán Arde as a “denouncing operative” against the government’s official Operativo Tucumán plan, which masks the profound social consequences of the closing of the sugar mills in the northern Argentinean province. The artists denounce the government’s concealment of what they call the “Operativo Silencio” [Silent Operative], an agreement between the government and the free press to silence news about the grave situation in Tucumán.

The declaration asserts that in order to carry out the “Tucumán Arde” Collective Work, already being called the Primera Bienal de Vanguardia [First Biennial of Vanguard Art], the artists must “assume the role of propagandists and activists within the social struggle going on in Tucumán” and generate an alternative culture that will wear out the official system while supporting the political actions of the opposing labor unions. The Primera Bienal de Vanguardia “Tucumán Arde” marks the first time in the history of Argentine art in which an alliance between the working and the artistic classes takes place. It consists of three phases: 1) the exploration of the Tucumán reality by various technical means; 2) the display of graphic and audiovisual material in the headquarters of the CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo) de los Argentinos; and 3) the creation of an over-informational circuit that appealed to the media.

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.

This second declaration from Rosario, dated October 1968, partially reformulates the basic ideas behind the group’s collective production, which had been briefly outlined in the document titled “El Grupo de Plásticos Argentinos de Vanguardia...” [The Vanguard Argentine Visual Artists Group]. 

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”; yet after they merged with artists from Buenos Aires, who did not have a collective name, the group used various names, such as 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.