Letter of Resignation to Jorge Romero Brest
"Letter from Pablo Suárez to Jorge Romero Brest", Buenos Aires, May 13, 1968, distributed as part of Experiencias 68 at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, May 13, 1968
Mr. Jorge Romero Brest:
A week ago I wrote you letting you know about the work that I planned to do at the Instituto Di Tella. Today, scarcely a few days later, I already feel incapable of doing it on moral grounds. I continue to believe that it was useful, clarifying, and that it could come into conflict with some of the invited artists, or at least, call into question the concepts on which their works are based.
What I no longer believe is that this is necessary. I ask myself: is it important to do something inside the institution, even though it contributes to its destruction? Things die when there are others to replace them. If we know the ending, why even insist on making the last pirouette? Why not place ourselves at the limits? Just yesterday, I was discussing with you how, to my understanding, the work was disappearing materially from the scene, and how attitudes and concepts were being taken up that opened a new era and that had a broader and less vitiated field of action.
It is evident that, if moral situations are stated in works, if meaning is used as a material, the need to create a useful language is inferred from it. A living language and not a code for the elite. A weapon has been invented. A weapon only gains meaning in action. In a store window display, it lacks any danger.
I believe that our country’s political and social situation gives rise to this change. Until this moment I could argue about the activities that this institution carries out, accept them, or indict them. Today, what I cannot accept is an Institute that represents cultural centralization, institutionalization, the impossibility of evaluating things at the moment that they affect the environment, because the institution only lets in products that are already prestigious, which it uses when either they are no longer applicable or they are beyond reproach, given the degree of professionalism of their producers; that is, it uses them without running any risk. This centralization prevents the mass dissemination of experiments carried out by artists. This centralization makes every product contribute to the prestige, not of the one who has created it, but of the institution, which with this slight change appropriates the work of others as its own and everything that it implies, without risking a single cent and benefiting further from the publicity in the press.
If I carried out the work at the Institute, the work would have a very limited audience of people who brag about their intellectuality by the purely geographic fact of standing calmly in the main hall of the art house. This audience does not have the slightest concern for these things; therefore, the legibility of the message that I could state in my work would be entirely devoid of meaning. If it occurred to me to write LONG LIVE THE POPULAR REVOLUTION in Spanish, English, or Chinese, it would be absolutely the same. Everything is art. These four walls enclose the secret of transforming everything that is inside of them into art, and the art is not dangerous (it’s our fault).
What then? Then those who want to climb work at the Institute. I do not assure them that they will go far. The Instituto Torcuato Di Tella does not have the money to impose anything at the international level. Those who want to be understood must say it in the street or where they will not be distorted. To those who want to do well with God and with the devil, I remind you, “those who want to save their lives will lose them.” I assure viewers: what they are showing you is already old, secondhand merchandise. Nobody can give you a manufactured and canned version of what is happening at this moment. What is happening is Man, the work: the design of life forms.
This renunciation is a piece for the Instituto Di Tella. I think that it clearly shows my conflict with the invitation, therefore I believe I have fulfilled my obligation.
Translation by Albert G. Bork published in Mari Carmen Ramírez, Cantos Paralelos: Visual Parody in Contemporary Argentinean Art (Austin: Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin; Buenos Aires: Fondo Nacional de las Artes, 1999), p. 245. There is a transcript of the original published in Spanish in Ana Longoni and Mariano Mestman, Del Di Tella a Tucumán Arde (Buenos Aires: El Cielo por Asalto, 2000).