Experiences 68 was cancelled when the police censored Roberto Plate’s piece and the rest of the participant artists destroyed their works in sign of protest. See p. 288 of the present anthology.
Notes from “Experiencias 68,” a lecture at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires
For the third time, I am trying to talk about the exhibition Experiences 68, and as you know, three strikes and you’re out. I am so sorry I had to cancel the talk twice for different reasons, but it’s an ill wind that blows no good. The Experiences are over and it will be easier now to refer to them with serenity. Then, too, we will go on with these “Experiences”. . . .1
With these Experiences we are continuing those of last year. Many of the artists are the same, and some new ones have been added, resulting in a certain sense of commonality between them. There are also differences, particularly with regard to certain political allusions, and a sharper insistence on the experiential. Of course, this does not apply to all of the works, and I should characterize them more precisely. The most authentic “experiences” are those of Roberto Plate, Oscar Bony, Margarita Paksa, Juan Stoppani, and Roberto Jacoby. Those of Antonio Trotta and Azaro still have the character of traditional artworks. Delia Cancela and Pablo Mesejean’s proposal was incomplete for unavoidable reasons, while that of Alfredo Rodríguez Arias was perhaps too hermetic to be considered an “experience” as such. With regard to Pablo Suárez, his was not a proper “experience” in itself, but rather a declaration and an incitation to one. 2 However, all of these collaborated in the creation of a particular atmosphere that announces if not the end yet, then at least the beginning of the end of a period that, if we extend the consequences, covers over a century in the short chronology and many millennia in the long chronology.
Of course it was a presentation of polemical situations not so much because of the contents, which were obvious in most cases, but because of the attitude they reveal. Here we have a group of artists who deliberately abandon the established framework for artistic creation, entering into territories that are unfamiliar for the arts but that are common elsewhere. This leads me to ask why these artists do not want to produce works of art. I can only answer this question by analyzing what artworks have been in the past, and particularly in the recent past that is still the present for most creators. In other words, the artwork as a representative image.
Once we approach the issue from this angle, we can see that artworks have always been intermediaries between people, and that they have been used to freeze situations between them until they become symbols. This is the reason behind the unity of art for millennia, not to say eternity, and the reason why it is an instrument of alienation. It is also true that art has provided mankind with the potential for dealienation through creation or contemplation, but this dealienation is relative, and in recent decades, particularly with abstract art, it has almost prevented it, given the dislocation between the real world and the imaginary world. (Idea from Marcuse.)
There have always been “experiences” but they have been limited by the characteristics of the work of art: materials, subjects, symbols, corresponding to the dislocated existence of mankind, which becomes clear when we focus on sociological or psychological aspects. For this reason, experience was always accepted as a starting point, while the transposition of this experience into a transcendent or transcendental field was seen as the final stop.
The “experiences” of these young Argentine artists try to overcome dislocation by eliminating the intermediary. In other words, they try to compress the distances between the people who propose situations and those who create them. This process has often been called the bringing together of art and life. However, this bringing together implies the abandonment of art as the specific task of certain creators and its insertion into life itself, with an awareness that life has its own meaning, a purer and more authentic one as it is free of intellectual or political ideologies.
[“Experiences” are important because of their social resonance.] [sic] Also, because they force us to see the past differently, discovering the subtle threads that bind the works through a search for freedom. On the other hand, they respond to a certain trend within culture that they are helping to form, characterized by an overcoming of traditional antinomies: subject and object, individual and social, existence and essence, ethics and morals.
I want to underline the antinomy between ethics and morals, given that we can find the root of these “experiences” here. These are artists who, in their search for freedom, overcome the rules of morality as a fixed cultural product in favor of a search for the freedom that can emerge from morals. The result is that art—the corollary of morals—dissolves into aesthetics, the corollary of ethics. However, I do not think that ethics and aesthetics are the same thing, despite what Wittgenstein wrote in Tractatus. As Kierkegaard stated in an otherwise forgotten book, to live is to choose oneself rather than to know oneself. If this choice can only be ethical, so too is to choose oneself in the realm of the imaginary, where everything is possible. How else could we move from need to freedom? In my opinion what these “experiences” propose is no less than an explicit realization of this process: to integrate the concrete and therefore relative aspects that characterize aesthetic attitudes with the abstract and therefore absolute aspects that characterize ethical attitudes.
Of course this is only a beginning and therefore only those who feel the need for change and are ready to support it can accept these “experiences” and my ideas. Don’t we always speak of the need to change the structures of life?
See Suárez’s “Letter of Resignation” on p. 290 of this anthology.