Radical leanings

Cultural production in Eastern Europe and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s shared certain characteristics, namely radical experimentation and a dissemination of ideas. There was also a marked scepticism towards authority, including artistic authorities and hierarchies. As such, there was an emphasis on creative production outside of the market. The parallels between cultural production in these geographically distant regions are explored in a new exhibition at New York’s MoMA.

At that time, anti-art magazines circulated and radical artists operated in underground collectives that were outside of the cultural mainstream. There was a proliferation in process-directed exercises, games, gatherings, walks, alternative music, and concrete poetry. Anti-art groups sprung up, like Gorgona in Yugoslavia, Aktual in Czechoslovakia, and El techo della ballena (The Roof of the Whale) in Venezuela.

A community of avant-garde artists operating in Argentina in that period is explored in some depth. The artists Oscar Bony, David Lamelas, Lea Lublin and Marta Minujín – who were all associated with the influential Instituto Torcuato Di Tella – confronted mass media communication. These politically-engaged artists emerged from a period of repression under the regime of General Juan Carlos Onganía.

Post-1968, a year which saw student uprisings across Europe, a new generation of politically-engaged artists emerged in both regions, where the emphasis now switched to video art and performance. Croatia’s Sanja Iveković, Cuba’s Ana Mendieta and Serbia’s Marina Abramović are among the artists from this period to feature in the exhibition. In the 1970s, artists turned more to displaying their work in public spaces, as seen in the work of Bosnia’s Braco Dimitrijević, whose work Casual Passersby I Met At consisted of oversized photographic portraits of anonymous people that he displayed on billboards around the city of Zagreb.

Photo: Oscar Bony. La Familia Obrera (The Working Class Family). 1968. Gelatin silver print. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund.