Redes Intelectuales: Arte y Política en América Latina is a product of the support given by 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 a network of 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 and thus, the project is concerned with the way the arts and politics were related and treated under such intellectual networks.

Historically, most of art’s history and criticism written in Latin America was executed by political and literary figures, and thus, there has been an ample debate within the literary criticism about this subject. Many of the subjects of study that we propose through our project 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 matter that still should be looked at more in depth from the perspective of the History of Art. Therefore, we opted to pay close attention to the way aesthetics became a common ground to discussions amongst the 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 the times where ideas of avant-garde and conceptualism had 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, as migrations became prominent in culture and then, central to the development of new perspectives such as allowing the flow of new ideas between different hemispheres and making the world acknowledge Latin America in a special way. As intellectuals travelled from one place to another, they started developing working links and so both of our world and theirs became greater and grew more interesting. Latin America was especially strongly influenced by the Russian and Mexican Revolutions and the expansion of the leftist ideology in the continent. Many of Latin American artists went to Europe (especially Italy, Spain and France) in the decades of the1920’s and 1930’s to evidence such influence as: 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. And many other foreign intellectuals also arrived to Latin America from Europe and established new working relations were: Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Jorge Manach, Waldo Frank, Blaise Cendras and Marinetti.

In the 1970 this trend of thought gained new life with the Cuban Revolution, the repercussions of May 1968 and Tlatelolco in Mexico; all of them also fired up by the Vietnam War and Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress program. Such 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 mention a few.

To conduct our survey we organized the subject of discussion in modules:

1. Reviews

This module dealt with publications that encouraged the conversations between different countries of Latin America by inviting a participation of different intellectuals and also, by promoting the circulation of these publications if not by direct distribution, by the different travels of their editors.

2. Platforms of representation

This module dealt with meetings that impacted greatly the construction of what we consider today Latin American art. Events like La Habana 1971, Bienal de Artes Gráficas de Cali, Bienal de Sao Paulo, Bienal de Puerto Rico, and the Bienales de Medellin are just some examples of events that raised important questions on the need to build scholarship and different intellectual networks from within the continent. Groups like “El techo de la ballena”, “Taller cuatro rojo”, and “Movimiento Surrealista Internacional” are some examples of the groups that were conformed by artists and art critics in different areas of Latin America which invited scholars and special figures to engage in intellectual discussions about their contexts and to question what it meant to produce art in Latin America at the time.

In general terms through these research topics we aimed to detect and study specific links between intellectuals across the continent. Such 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 would have been looked at by individuals as isolated cases. Also, it has allowed us to revisit the primary sources and make public other kind of reflections and their analysis, based on the exchange of ideas between people and thus, take further the state of the field.

Mechanism of discussion:

  • Group meetings (at Bogotá, Los Angeles, and Buenos Aires)
  • Virtual meetings (through skype)
  • Virtual tools (as Wiki and data base, designed and implemented by William Lopez and Andrés Burbano.)

Expected outcomes

The products of this project will be, first, the building of a new scholar network that will compromise to continue working together after the first stage of the project has finished. Also, there will be an international conference in May 2013 at Universidad Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, and a bilingual publication of the outcomes of different meetings and seminars. Lastly, an exhibition presenting the documents and works that were important to our subject of research.