“Postdata,” by the essayist Adriana Valdés (b. 1943), was published in the catalogue for Estudios sobre la felicidad 1979-1981, the exhibition of works by the artist Alfredo Jaar (b. 1956), 18 years after the project was undertaken (1999). “Obra abierta y de registro continuo,” published in 1981, was a self-published document that had no images but included the text by Valdés and her account of the seven stages of this work that left its mark via submissions to art competitions in Chile.
The first and second stages consisted of a set of surveys conducted in public spaces in the city of Santiago, and a photographic record of the proceedings. This material was shown at the Segundo Salón Nacional de Gráfica (Pontificia Universidad Católica). The third stage consisted of interviews with several people; the interviews, called “Felices e infelices” (Happy and Unhappy), were photographed and videoed and recorded in writing. In the fourth stage Jaar photographed people who described themselves as happy or unhappy; this material was shown at the Sexto Concurso de la Colocadora Nacional de Valores. Stage five, a video installation of “Felices e infelices,” was shown at the Segundo Encuentro de Arte Joven (Instituto Cultural de Las Condes). The sixth stage involved placing advertising posters in public spaces in Santiago that asked: ARE YOU HAPPY? In the seventh stage the material that had been collected was shown at the Séptimo Concurso de la Colocadora Nacional de Valores. This project earned Jaar an International Grant from the Pacific Foundation, which included a trip to New York where he settled and established his international career.
Valdés discusses Jaar’s “exclusion” from the Escena de Avanzada, the name coined by the cultural theorist Nelly Richard (b. 1948) as an umbrella term for a group of artists and the neo-avant-garde works they produced in the mid-1970s in the wake of the Pinochet coup d’état. Despite Jaar’s exclusion, it is interesting to note that he maintained a relationship with the group; in 1982 his work was included in the unofficial submission to the 12th Paris Biennial, curated by Richard, and is mentioned on more than one occasion in Margins and Institutions. Art in Chile Since 1973, the book in which Richard first introduced her idea of the Avanzada. In 1985, Jaar showed his work at Cuatro artistas chilenos en el CAYC de Buenos Aires: Díaz, Dittborn, Jaar, Leppe, prompting Valdéz to write “Alfredo Jaar: Para América Latina espacios de reflexión” [see the ICAA Digital Archive (734782)], expanding on her original 1981 article. The Avanzada also developed a vogue for writing about artworks, an area in which Valdés was actively involved. [See her article about the Avanzada: “La escritura crítica y su efecto: una reflexión preliminar” (738636); on that subject, see also “Escena de Avanzada” (756828) by Justo Pastor Mellado; and the “Introducción” (738523) to Richard’s book, in which she presents her ideas.]