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Testimonios de Latinoamérica


Testimonios de Latinoamérica, September 20, 1978


Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA), Mexico City



This exhibition includes alternative, visual communications produced by artists of Latin America and is presented at the Alvar y Carmen T. de Carrillo Gil Museum (INBA) in México City from September 19, 1978.

In 1973, the Beau Geste Press/Libro Acción Libre (Free Action Book), founded by the undersigned during his stay in Great Britain, launched a call to all Latin American artists, inviting them to send works to the magazine Schmuck, which would dedicate an issue to Latin America.

The response was enthusiastic and almost two hundred responses were gathered for publication.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the control of our small editorial staff, the ambitious project was suspended indefinitely, and all the works were carefully archived and transferred to Mexico.

Five years and many events later, the recently founded Cooperativa Chucho el Roto (Chucho was Mexico’s Robin Hood at the turn of the twentieth century), formed in Mexico by artists of various disciplines, took up the editorial intention of Libro Acción Libre’s editorial project to design a program of activities committed to the socioeconomic and cultural reality of the countries of Latin America.

As is to be expected at the beginning of any project with such an agenda, financial problems interfered with our overly ambitious plans: this meant that certain projects, impossible to delay much longer, had to be restructured.

The publication of the anthology planned for Schmuck, which, given the importance of its content, was the most pressing project, would earn new breath thanks the interest of the National Institute of Fine Arts, and especially of the Alvar y Carmen T. de Carrillo Gil Museum, an affiliate of INBA’s Visual Arts Department.

Work of the kind comprised by the collection presented here has no expiration date, and so the time that transpired between now and the original call for works has not been in vain. This is noticeable in the formal and conceptual developments of cultural workers throughout the continent. More importantly, though, new voices have emerged.

This is why, to enrich the exhibition sponsored by the INBA, it was decided to extend the time frame of the invitation, which, besides specifying certain technical limitations, declared:

“Latin American Schmuck will be a collection of the most recent, unclassifiable, and committed work by Latin Americans . . . All material received will be published without alteration . . . Send texts, photos, documentation, instructions, notes, and news . . . ”

With the additional submissions received thanks to the extended time frame, the public will be able to study some five hundred testimonials produced by more than sixty artists from all parts of the Latin American continent, including Chicanos.

It is worth emphasizing the fact that the common denominator in all these works is a radical separation from the canons of orthodoxy that until now have dominated formal literary and visual production: that is, these are not “beautiful” works. In many cases the artists’ rejection of beauty has allowed them to formulate propositions—in form as much as in content—that stand in opposition to cultural dependence. Thus, all the works embody most fortunate alternative forms of visual communication.

Possibly the only Latin American organizations to have recognized this type of production thus far are the Center of Art and Communication (C.A.Y.C.) of Buenos Aires and the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo, thanks to the visions of their directors, Jorge Glusberg and Walter Zanini, respectively.

In this regard, a highly significant fact must be noted: the production of alternative forms of communication has spread over the last five or six years not only among visual artists; it has also been evident in experimental literature, such as imagist and concrete poetry, which has enriched visual communications and made them interdisciplinary.

Moreover, this type of production manages almost entirely to escape the commercial structures that condition the visual and literary arts in Latin America. This is explained by the nature of the work itself—its modesty in its use of materials, its extreme mobility (almost always by airmail), and its intimate relation with the media of mass production.

Thanks to the patronage of the INBA, this publication is produced on newsprint in so large an edition as to have no precedents in its category on this continent (and without a doubt, anywhere else in the world). It is a catalogue far removed from the prestigious and “aestheticizing” appearance typical of today’s art publications.

In other words, this catalogue corresponds effectively to the proposals offered by the artists participating in the exhibition.

Finally, a grievous difficulty emerged during the review of the collection for its publication and exhibition: as mentioned, most of the materials in the show were submitted in 1973, and many of the artists continue to live in countries whose governments have grown, since then, increasingly intolerant of any art that questions repressive regimes. Others have managed to go into exile, but at least two outstanding artists whose work is presented here have fallen victim to the brutish fury of dictators: in Uruguay, Clemente Padín, arrested along with Jorge Caraballo, has been imprisoned since September 1977. Though Caraballo, Amnesty International informs us, has just regained his freedom, after almost a year of detention by the dictatorship.

To protect the precarious freedom and lives of other artists, we have had to omit mention of their names.

We deeply lament not being able to exhibit the entire collection: this absence, this silence, is also part of our show, which attempts to be representative of Latin America.

Mexico, August 12, 1978

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