Redes Intelectuales: Arte y Política en América Latina is happening thanks to the support of the Getty Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Universidad de Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires.
This project departs from the conviction that the concept of Latin America cannot be undertaken unless it is thought of as the network relationships established between intellectuals from the different countries. It is really from these intellectual exchanges that the geopolitical, epistemic and aesthetic idea of Latin America can be established, and thus the project is specially concerned with the subject of the relation between the arts and politics in the region.
Historically most of art history and criticism in Latin America was done by political and literary figures, there has been ample debate within the literary criticism about this subject and many of the sources we propose have been cited in these debates, however there has been scarce work on the subject of how these discussions affected and molded the art of the continent. The idea of intellectual networks, exchange of ideas and collaboration between counties is a subject that still has to be looked at more in depth from the perspective of the History of Art. We found it was necessary to pay more attention to the way in which the aesthetic became a common ground of discussion amongst strong diverting political and ideological positions.
We chose to review initially but not exclusively the decades of 1920 and 1970 because they represent in Latin America times where the ideas of avant-garde and conceptualism affected the intellectual and artistic production of our countries.
The decade of 1920 is of particular significance in the international context of post World War I. The subject of migrations becomes central to new developments; the movement of people between Europe and Latin America not only made us aware of new ideas but also made us better known to the rest of the world. As intellectuals travelled from one place to another they started developing working links and both our world and theirs became greater and more interesting. In Latin America especially there is a strong influence of the Russian Revolution, the Mexican Revolution and the expansion of the leftist ideology in the continent. Some examples of Latin American artists that went to Europe (especially Italy, Spain and France) in the decades of the1920’s and 1930’s are: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joaquín Torres García, Emilio Petorruti, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Malfatti, Rafael Barradas, Emiliano di Cavalcanti and Juan del Prete. Some examples of intellectuals that arrived to Latin America from Europe and established working relations are: Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Jorge Manach, Waldo Frank, Blaise Cendras and Marinetti.
In the 1970 this trend of thought gains new life with the Cuban Revolution, the repercussions of May 1968 and Tlatelolco in Mexico. All these also fired up by the Vietnam War and Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress program. These events were turning points for artists and art critics working at the time like Adelaida de Juan in Cuba, Marta Traba in Colombia or Ángel Rama (1926-1983) in Uruguay.
To conduct our survey we organized the subject of discussion in three modules that I will describe briefly and my colleagues will talk more about it in a minute:
This module deals with publications that encouraged the conversation between different countries in Latin America by inviting the participation of its different intellectuals and that had somehow a way of circulating if not by direct distribution by the travels of its editors. Platforms of representation This module deals with meetings that had great impact in the building of what we consider Latin American art today. Events like La Habana 1971, Bienal de Artes Gráficas de Cali, Bienal de Sao Paulo, Bienal de Puerto Rico, Bienales de Medellin are just some examples of events that raised important questions about the need to build scholarship and intellectual networks from within the continent. Groups El techo de la ballena, Taller cuatro rojo, Movimiento Surrealista Internacional are some examples of groups conformed by artists and critics in different countries of Latin America to encourage intellectual reflection about the context and what it meant to produce art in Latin America. They often invited scholars from other countries to participate in their discussions
In general terms through these research topics we aim to detect and study specific links between the different intellectuals across the continent. The network is not only the subject of our study but also our methodology. The project has given us the rare opportunity to share and work as a team on documents and information that otherwise had been looked at by individuals as isolated cases; it has allowed us to revisit the primary sources and make public other kind of reflections and analysis of them based on the exchange of ideas between people and thus take further the state of the field.
The products of this project will be first of all the building of a new scholarly network that will continue working after this first stage of the project finishes. There will be an international conference in May 2013 at Universidad Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, a bilingual publication of the outcome of the different meetings and seminars and an exhibition with documents and works that are important to the subject of research.
Maria Clara Bernal