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The Public Sphere and Liberalism in Mexico from the Mid-19th Century to the 1930s  

Pablo A. Piccato

Free speech was a greater concern for Mexican politicians, legislators, and intellectuals during the 19th century than electoral democracy. This can be easily verified by looking at the large number of laws, decrees, trials, appeals, and polemics provoked by contradictory efforts to guarantee the right to express reasonable opinions, formulated since the 1812 Cádiz Constitution, and the concern to limit that freedom for the preservation of stability, morality, religion, and honor. Mexican public men spent considerably more energy reading and arguing about written words than counting votes. Yet the historiography of Mexican liberalism has, for the most part, stressed the history of frustrated attempts to expand representation and thus consolidate sovereignty. This article looks at the public sphere as a space for but also of contention. Politics, as was understood by most political agents of the time, took place in that virtual space, and a good part of political conflict revolved around the right to speak on behalf of public opinion. The broader arc to be described here starts with the contentious and romantic decades since the 1857 Constitution consecrated free speech and press juries and moves through the taming of the press using legal reforms and politically motivated prosecutions under Porfirio Díaz, to the consolidation of a new order in which a diverse and prosperous press struck an understanding with the post revolutionary regime to constrain the possibilities of political debate, around 1930.

Article

Rock Nacional in Argentina during the Dictatorship  

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.

Article

Contemporary Art in Brazil, 1960s and 1970s: Forging the “New”  

Elena Shtromberg

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.

Article

Violence and Sex in the Work of Armando Bó and Isabel Sarli  

Victoria Ruétalo

Director-producer-actor Armando Bó made films featuring nude appearances by the voluptuous star Isabel “Coca” Sarli that challenged the social constraints that were taking hold in a more restrictive and violent Argentina. The period from the fall of Juan Domingo Perón in 1955 until the end of the “Guerra Sucia” or Dirty War in 1983 marked a volatile time in the history of Argentina, with ever-increasing acts of state violence. It coincided with a parallel in the film industry: the state began to intervene in production and exhibition practices through laws that limited what was seen on the screen, until censorship was formally legalized. The work of Bó and Sarli falls perfectly within the historical period of onscreen and offscreen violence. The enterprise began in 1956, and their final film was released in 1984 (after the end of the dictatorship and the death of the director). The couple produced films that suffered from the aggressive effects of censorship—through the cutting of specific scenes that displayed the female body—and reflected the growing violence in everyday life. Films like Carne (Flesh, 1968) and Furia infernal (Ardent summer, 1973) tell simple stories of seemingly weak females and aggressive macho males. A closer look at their narratives, however, reveals a more complex femininity and masculinity, one where violence begets violence. Throughout the twenty-seven films they made together, Bó and Sarli consistently revealed sexuality and gender issues at a time when these were invisible in Latin America.

Article

Documentary Photography and Protest under Chile’s Dictatorship  

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.