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This report includes an extensive unsigned article as well as a number of important documents and photos. It begins by presenting the placement and positions of “the boldest artists of their country…and one of the most brilliant teams of the world,” that has achieved “a new synthesis between the political and the cultural.” Despite a few errors and exaggerations in the telling of events, the report is, without a doubt, one of the most accurate readings of the complexity of the course of 1968. The report denounces the silence of the international community regarding Tucumán Arde [Tucumán is Burning] owing to its distance from the art market. It is this latter characteristic that places the Argentinean artists in a similar position to Brazilian conceptual artists such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. The article recounts the Argentinean artists’ intension to overcome the old dilemma between pure inquiry and political action, within the context that intellectual speculation should not isolate itself “when the very idea of human relations is being questioned by the enduring humiliation and physical degradation that batters the most dispossessed people.” It also differs with that option of continuing to operate within the sphere of the museum. The alternative pertains to the socialist realist camp”: because “to exhibit from within the showcase is the same as being part of the showcase” and because “cuadro-slogan” [the slogan artwork] focuses a lesser, lobotimized, passive viewer. The article points out that “the contribution of the communications media is an essential principle for the Argentinean artists,” although it exaggerates the extent of their reach: “one million citizens have been made aware of this societal scandal and its causes, thanks to them.” According to the report, the revelation of this information would have an awareness-building effect regarding those interviewed at the location (Tucumán), as well as the reach of the denunciation at the national level. The simultaneous and concerted action on various planes (campaigns, trips) would, at the same time, make it possible “to create an event.” 


The article concludes by placing Tucumán Arde within the recent evolution of international art, within which three concepts would coexist: art as metaphysics, art as a reading of reality, and art as praxis. The Argentinean artists joined in this last movement: “they affirm that the concepts of movement, proliferation, the indeterminate quality of the artwork, its renown outside of the cultural sphere, the growing autonomy of the viewer— all these have dragged the artistic experience, in these most recent years, into an ambiguous territory where the social and the cultural intermingle. Emphasizing this process, they have again found themselves in the very heart of politics.” If over the course of three generations, the constructivists “have stripped artistic inquiry of its idealist notions” and “if they have proved that art is not dead,” then the new generations will exceed them and believe themeslves “to be not only the sons of Mondrian but of Marx as well.” It seemed that “the artistic world had a certain urgency to displace their field from “an icy axis”, or laboratory inquiry, to “a hot axis,” or real-life blast experience: namely the concrete struggle against imperialism.” Beginning with this type of artistic inquiry, “a geological fissure” would be opened between the art of consumption, between a merchandise civilization and its “art of having,” as well as the values of the “art of doing”: “massive and collective action, of no property, spontaneity, and the direct capture of reality.”


Within the framework of this praiseworthy reconstruction, the Robho article in Paris poses two limitations or points of discussion to the Argentinean artists: the first concerned the design of a work that left certain aspects free to be indeterminate; this resulted in the loss of some of its intelligibility. The second critique marked a certain distance from the position expressed by the Argentineans with regard to the experimental developments that preceded them: those they discredit as “shallow abstractions.”


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. Its immediate repercussions were vast; this can be verified through the numerous newspaper articles, both local and international that reported on the exhibition.  Both the circulation reached by the materials published in Sobre as well as the dispatch abroad of selected documents prepared by the Rosario authors between 1970 and 1971 gave rise to the publication of three reports in foreign journals; these latter were devoted to the Itinerario del ’68 [Timetable for 1968].


The most important report appeared in the French magazine Robho (nº 5–6, 1971), edited by Jean Clay. This same volume dedicates extensive space to the artistic proposals of Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. The documentary material included in the magazine came from Roberto Jacoby, who sent Jean Clay an edition of Sobre [Envelop] magazine. The two had met in Buenos Aires in 1968 when Clay had judged the competition “Materials: new techniques, new expression.” Along with the Sobre materials, Jacoby also included a letter assessing the experience which Clay later partially published as part of the report in Robho.
Ana Longoni
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Archivo de Graciela Carnevale, Rosario, Argentina.