In this article Clemente Padín (b. 1939)—an exponent of Mail Art and a poet, editor, and performer—reviews the history of performance art in Europe and in the United States.
The burgeoning social awareness and unrest of the 1970s was reflected very directly in the arts. Many emerging artists eschewed the elitist concept of “art” and broke with established ideas concerning the traditional value of the art object, thus attacking the market for their product. Art became a vehicle with which to express the close relationship that existed between art and life; artists experimented with “action art” to create new interpersonal connections and new forms of social communication. In the Río de la Plata region, happenings were all the rage in the 1960s; these performance events encouraged audience participation in what were mainly playful interactions, although they were also designed to stimulate critical thinking on the social problems of the day. In his article, Padín not only describes the concept of “performance” and puts it in context; he also tries to explain its importance in Latin America by relating it to the continent’s geographical and cultural diversity, the history of the different peoples, and the region’s political instability and traditional patterns of migration. The author now sees “performance art” as an instrument that can be used to create new subjectivities as part of a trend of political reflection based on human rights.
[As complimentary reading, see these other articles by Clemente Padín in the ICAA digital archive: “Arte postal en Latinoamérica” (1240703), and “Dictadura o clamoreo en el Uruguay” (1240688)].