Between 1968 and 1985, Uruguay experienced the twelve most tragic years of its history, due to the establishment of a civic–military dictatorship (1973–1985); such dictatorships came to power in various Southern Cone countries at that time: Brazil (1964), Bolivia (1971), Uruguay (1973), Chile (1973), and Argentina (1976). In Uruguay, the roots of political violence were present before the dictatorial period, though such violence was consolidated during this time (1973 to 1985). In 1968 a state of exception was established in the country through the implementation of what were called the Medidas Prontas de Seguridad and the pro-military actions of the Jorge Pacheco Areco administration (1967–1972). Subsequent years were characterized by the consolidation of the regime under the democratically elected president Juan María Bordaberry, who commanded the dissolution of the legislature on June 27, 1973. Due to the persecution, kidnapping, imprisonment, and disappearance of a large proportion of the population resulting from this, many Uruguayans went into exile. The experiences of a group of teatreros and teatreras, or theater workers, belonging to the El Galpón theater company, who went into exile in Mexico in 1976, are of particular interest. Exile interpellated this group of teatreros and teatreras in various ways, by examining the cultural context, the political context, and the material conditions in which the Galponeros lived in Mexico. It also takes into account that the experience of exile led to different forms of theater work for the group. Throughout, it is necessary to understand the relationship between “the national” and “the Latin American,” to distinguish them in some way, in reference to aspects that influenced the group’s theatrical production and construction both in Mexico and on its return to Uruguay. Similarly, members’ private lives are of interest, since the experience of exile, in addition to resignifying the theatrical work of the group, meant that the teatreros and teatreras experienced the rupturing of their daily lives and their “life world,” including the disintegration of families and their reconstruction in the countries of exile, in which the exiles formed new ties and family groups.
The history of exhibitions in Brazil during the 1960s and 1970s provides a key reference point for understanding how artistic vanguards and contemporary art unfolded in direct relationship to social and political contexts. The seminal exhibitions during these pivotal decades elucidate how the contemporary in Brazilian art stages and reframes conceptions of the “new” vis-à-vis the art object. The exhibitions in question trace the development of Ferreira Gullar’s não-objeto (non-object, 1959) and its path toward the idea-based artwork, an impulse that was prevalent throughout the 1960s in the United States and Europe as well. Inaugurated by the emergence of Brasília, Brazil’s new capital city in the formerly barren hinterlands of the state of Goiás, the 1960s witnessed a new model of artistic practice that pushed the boundaries between art and life, actively seeking out the participation of the viewer. This is most evidenced in the canonical work of artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. By the 1970s, challenges to the utopian undertakings from the previous decades had become imbricated with political activism, as artists and intellectuals alike pronounced a commitment to the quest for democracy after the military coup of 1964. The 1970s also witnessed heightened artistic engagement with new information and communication technologies, including the use of video equipment and computers. Constructing the history of Brazil’s contemporary art via the most important moments of its display will not only historically and politically contextualize some of the groundbreaking artists and artworks of these two decades, but also introduce readers to the challenges that these artworks posed to the more traditional methods of institutional display and the criteria used to interpret them.
Ángeles Donoso Macaya
An array of documentary photographic practices that emerged during the dictatorship in Chile (1973–1990) remain understudied, despite their political, aesthetical, and historical import. From the mid-1970s onward, these different practices served different purposes: some made visible the crime of disappearance and its disavowal by the repressive state; others stood as supplementary evidence that confirmed the legal existence of the detained-disappeared; some were a crucial force in denouncing state repression and demanding justice for victims; and some made it possible for independent media to simultaneously comply with and ridicule the censorship of images imposed by the dictatorship in 1984. These practices also helped to consolidate the expanding photographic field under dictatorship. They include the public display of ID photos and portraits torn from family albums; documentary images that relatives of the victims of repression pinned to their chests; the reproduction, compilation, and incorporation of these portraits into legal files and habeas corpus claims; the publication of countless photos of popular protests in independent media; and different photographic initiatives put forward by a group of photographers who established the Independent Photographers Association in 1981. Notably, the expanding photographic field under dictatorship engaged not only individuals and groups directly involved with photography but also ad-hoc human rights collectives and organizations (especially the Group of Family Members of the Detained-Disappeared and the Vicariate of Solidarity), as well as lawyers, judges, journalists, and everyday users of photography. Given the different arenas in which documentary images circulated, the transformations they underwent to resist repression and censorship, and the array of individuals involved in their (re)production and dissemination, a study of documentary photography under dictatorship in Chile cannot content itself, as has been the case, with surveying the practices that emerged within the artistic field. A study of the visual culture under dictatorship instead reveals both the different uses of photography in the public space and the transformations of documentary images in their successive circulations and disseminations.
Timothy Wilson and Mara Favoretto
In the 20th century Argentina experienced a series of dictatorial regimes of varying intensity, but the last dictatorship stands apart. The Process of National Reorganization or Proceso (1976–1983) was not only the most brutally repressive, “disappearing” 30,000 of its own citizens into concentration camps, but also the most ambitious in terms of ideological mission. Its campaign, officially called “the war against subversion,” was committed to the total eradication of leftist ideas from the political landscape of the country by any means necessary. This radical transformation was to be brought about not only in the torture chamber, but in the media as well. The regime planned an Orwellian redefinition of words: the systematic creation of a national vocabulary that would exclude certain ideas and parties. In order to achieve its overt project of the appropriation of language, the junta maintained obsessive control over the media, instituted strict censorship reinforced by terror, and bombarded the airwaves and newspapers with official communiqués. In the face of this repression, most journalists and writers and many artists could not express dissent of any kind. Yet singers of a new Argentine music genre that came to be known as rock nacional developed codified and oblique metaphorical expression in their lyrics that allowed them to evade censorship and to continue to criticize the military regime with relative impunity. Moreover, many Argentine youths found solace in the music and used it to create communities in which they could meet and express themselves. The regime had sought to deny young Argentines a forum for public speech; however, together artists and listeners created a rock nacional culture that provided community for the isolated and lent a voice to the silenced.