HOW TO BECOME A GOOD REVOLUTIONARY (Within the - Parkettкод для вставки
From America IN EVERY EDITION OF P A R K E T T, TWO CUMULUS CLOUDS, ONE FROM A M E R I C A , T H E O T H E R F R O M E U R O P E , F L O AT O U T T O A N I N T E R E S T E D PUBLIC. THEY CONVEY INDIVIDUAL OPINIONS, ASSESSMENTS, AND MEMORABLE ENCOUNTERSвЂ”AS E N T I R E LY PERSONAL P R E S E N TAT I O N S OF PROFESSIONAL ISSUES. HOW TO BECOME A GOOD REVOLUTIONARY (Within the Museum) GABRIELA RANGEL The negative truth contained by modern art such as Venezuela. By contrast, contes- has always been a justified negation of the tation is seemingly even more problem- society that surrounded it. atic when evoked in highly developed вЂ“ Guy Debord, вЂњSituationists and the societies where anti-artвЂ™s negativity is New Forms of Action in Politics or ArtвЂќ tautologically equivalent to capitalismвЂ™s negativity. As Tom McDonough has Guy DebordвЂ™s idea of the avant-garde observed, the type of contestation pro- as contestation and his confidence in moted by Debord and the members of this means of вЂњrecuperatingвЂќ the politi- Situationist International (SI) in the cal potential of art through dissidence early 1960s overlooked the fact that seems to be challenged when contesta- avant-garde artвЂ™s negative force eventu- tion is encapsulated by the space of the ally became the radical flux that kept the cycle of production and consump- museum in less developed societies Los Disidentes, No 1, 1950, cover / G A B R I E L A R A N G E L is curator and Umschlag. tion running in late capitalism.1) Thus, long before Venezuela be- critic of contemporary art. She is director came the latest model for recovering of visual arts at the Americas Society. the ethos of revolutionary struggles 185 P A R K E T T 7 9 2 0 07 after the downfall of socialism, two art occurred, in particular, in a country Although Los Disidentes was produced forms of dissidence were tested in dif- in which the patriarchal nineteenth- far away from its primary cultural ferent historical moments through the century Enlightenment figure SimГіn context, both the content and focus artistic avant-garde. Notably, Pamela BolГvar is dominant and still continues of the editorial line were strictly limit- Lee commented on her interest in the to shape all forms of public conscious- ed to topics related to the arts in World Social Forum meeting that took ness. Accordingly, when the Venezue- Venezuela. Paradoxically, the periodi- place in Caracas on January 24, 2006: lan avant-garde group Los Disidentes calвЂ™s provocative name Los Disidentes I attended the meeting for various inter- (The Dissidents) launched a magazine was followed by a colophon that indi- mingled reasons: political sympathies; a in March 1950, its members seemed cated its editorsвЂ™ regional awareness desire to witness a leftist turn in South overly concerned about the precarious and scope of ambition: to circulate in American politics (the rise of ChГЎvez in situation of the arts in an underdevel- Latin America. However, with produc- Venezuela, the election of Evo Morales in oped country rapidly changing as a tion restricted entirely to No. 1 rue Bolivia); and a critical engagement with result of an economic boom. It is not TrГ©taigne, the magazine hardly circu- the visual dimension of the eventвЂ™s worldly accidental that the first issue of the lated beyond a few Venezuelan Г©migrГ©s imaginings.2) magazine featured a polemical article, living in France and, typically, served On one hand, in the 1950s a group вЂњBolГvar, Nosotros, AhoraвЂќ (BolГvar, the instrumental purpose of promot- of young artists declared their dissi- Ourselves, Now), by J.R. Guillent PГ©- ing the ideas and prestige of its mem- dence as a strategy for consolidating a rez, which embodies what Luis Castro bers, including many modern figures local project of modernization that Leiva aptly identified as a вЂњhistorical from Brazil and Argentina who were entailed a radical transformation of art tensionвЂќ that equates the South Ameri- also living in Paris. institutions. On the other, in 1962 an can emancipatorвЂ™s thinking with conthinking 4) In order to understand the groupвЂ™s urban guerrilla faction commanded by temporary processes of and urgency to operate from abroad, it will students robbed five modernist paint- functions as a national doctrine textu- be useful to be aware of the dynamics ings, on loan from French museums to ally sanctioned.5) of Venezuelan politics since the 1930s. the Museum of Fine Arts of Caracas (Museo de Bellas Artes), in order to trade them for political prisoners, voicing their anti-bourgeois dissidence to the world. Encouraged by the originality of this action, Guy Debord praised the Venezuelan studentsвЂ™ activism for resolving the dichotomy between art and life, theory and action, and thus not only materializing the aspirations of вЂњthe highest moments of revolutionary uprising in the last century [but going] even further.вЂќ 3) Although these events were not directly interconnected, both were framed by and located at the Museum of Fine Arts of Caracas, the oldest and at the time the only Venezuelan institution dedicated to the arts. Curiously, the shift from dissidence as a belligerent artistic tactic to dissidence as a form of political action that involves Los Disidentes, No 3, 1950, cover / Umschlag. 186 The death of Juan Vicente GГіmez in 1936, a brutal caudillo who ruled Venezuela for nearly 30 years, led to rapid demographic growth and concomitant urban development: the first symptoms of a brisk process of modernization after years of isolation and political repression. The completion by architect Carlos RaГєl Villanueva of a neo-classical building in 1938 to house the Museo de Bellas Artes aroused many expectations of change in the generation of young artists who were later associated with Los Disidentes. A number of political parties and organizations such as trade unions were founded during the brief post-dictatorship period, under the influence of social movements informed by the political landscape of Europe (i.e. Miguel Ar royo modeling a sculpture with Har r y Abend at the Galia Worshop, Univer- socialism and Christian Democracy). sidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas / Miguel Ar royo und Har r y Abend modelierend, Nonetheless, it took more than a Galia-Workshop, Zentral-UniversitГ¤t von Venezuela, Caracas. decade to implement substantial trans- (PHOTO: PAOLO GASPARINI, COURTESY OF ALESSANDRO BALTEO) formations in a rural, de facto feudal society that suddenly developed into a rich modern nation-state on the verge of industrialization and the related formation of an articulate civil society. Due to the lack of infrastruc- PerГЎn Erminy, and J.R. Guillent PГ©rez, tive geometric modality via Mondrian. ture and resources, young artists from to name a few. Utilizing an abrasive And perhaps this fact led Los Disidentes the incipient middle class that began to jargon inspired by the pre-war avant- to consider an institutional model for a emerge with new oil wealth traveled to gardes, the editorial statement of the modern Venezuela shaped from the Europe, especially to France, seeking a magazineвЂ™s first issue criticized both mythical perspective of postwar Paris, better education. New art salons made the precarious art institutions and the the waning cultural capital of Europe, possible a number of private grants local cultural agents. The virulent tone and even tied to the ideas of SimГіn and fellowships that allowed artists to was also in tune with the need to set up BolГvar, who became an icon of region- support their studies abroad. a radical programmatic platform for al liberation struggles and of the Marx- The first issue of Los Disidentes fea- the inception of abstract art as a ist political dissidents of the 1960s. In tured on its cover the names of many universalist vector linked to cultural the essay вЂњBolГvar, Ourselves, Now,вЂќ young artists and critics who sub- development and progress. Venezue- Guillent PГ©rez, the groupвЂ™s intellectual sequently became prominent in the lan artists did not have the same oppor- spokesman, examined the notion of Venezuelan arts scene and, to some tunity to avail themselves of a primary colonization as a driving cultural force extent, became known in Latin Ameri- source, such as Torres GarcГa, as and an attribute that determined pres- can international modernist circuits: Argentine artists did; their project was ent-day relations between Latin Ameri- Alejandro Otero, Mateo Manaure, Car- to introduce modernist art through ca and the West. For PГ©rez, BolГvarвЂ™s los GonzГЎlez Bogen, Miguel Arroyo, abstraction, in particular a non-figura- thinking was mystified by his national 187 Ger t Leufer t and Miguel Ar royo in front of an emblem that was par t of the exhibition вЂњVisibilia,вЂќ Museum of Fine Ar ts, Caracas, 1966 / Ger t Leufer t und Miguel Ar royo vor dem Emblem, das Teil der Ausstellung вЂњVisibiliaвЂќ war, Museum der schГ¶nen KГјnste, Caracas, 1966. (PHOTO: COURTESY ALESSANDRO BALTEO) veneration, which overlooked a more same architect who designed the Mu- tions and private collections. At the complex colonial dimension. вЂњBolГvarвЂ™s seum of Fine Arts of Caracas, invited time Miguel Arroyo, a former member usefulness for us today may be found, a number of prestigious avant-garde of Los Disidentes who also collaborated in principle, in his rebellion against members to collaborate with local in the Project of the Integration of the what is colonial. We should imitate artists in an enterprise that was called Arts, was the museum director and the him вЂ¦ To do so, we may need to create into question internationally as it was exhibitionвЂ™s organizer. A few weeks a BolГvar for the arts, a BolГvar for being dictatorial after the opening, on January 16, 1963 thought, a BolГvar for economics.вЂќ6) regime.7) In spite of these objections, a group of young political dissidents, Although Los Disidentes was short- the project legitimized abstract art with students from the Universidad Central lived (only five issues all published in works of such renowned artists as Hans de Venezuela, broke into the museum. 1950), its editorial strategy proved suc- Arp, Alexander Calder, Fernand LГ©ger, According to Miguel ArroyoвЂ™s report: cessful. Shortly after it went under, the Naum Gabo, Antoine Pevsner, Sophie artists and critics affiliated with the Taeuber-Arp, and Victor Vasarely. promoted by a вЂ¦at 3:15 pm approximately fifteen individuals, including two women, broke magazine returned to Venezuela and A decade later, on December 21, into the museum armed with heavy weapons participated in the Project of the In- 1962, President RГіmulo Betancourt and pistols вЂ¦ The outlaws asked the stu- tegration of the Arts at the Central opened the exhibition вЂњA Hundred dents and general public attending the University of Venezuela, an influential Years of Painting in FranceвЂќ at the exhibition to stay inside the galleries, and state commission in which public art Museum of Fine Arts in Caracas, fea- after completing an operation that lasted was integrated with modern structural turing more than fifty masterpieces exactly fifteen minutes, they took the follow- design. Carlos RaГєl Villanueva, the from important French state institu- ing paintings: THE BATHERS by CГ©zanne, 188 STILL LIFE by Paul Gauguin, FLOWERS IN with a provocative manifesto. The Ven- chase of a portrait by CГ©zanne for A COPPER VASE by Vincent van Gogh, ezuelan newspaper El Nacional pub- the museum, making the dichotomy STILL LIFE by Picasso, and STILL LIFE lished the entire document signed by between social and political issues and WITH PEARS by Georges Braque.8) the Armed Forces for National Libera- the autonomy of art all the more evi- In spite of the spectacular media tion, informing the public and the dent. Guy Debord was probably right in impact of the robbery in both local and French authorities of the plight of his belief that вЂњeverything that the French newspapers, FranceвЂ™s Minister political prisoners under the rule of a world offers us today as positive can of Culture AndrГ© Malraux and Presi- repressive government. The document only serve to recharge limitlessly the dent Charles de Gaulle supported the also predicted the return of Bolivarian negativity of the currently sanctioned Venezuelan social-democratic govern- thinking and the emancipation of the forms of expression,вЂќ10) but what hap- ment by keeping the exhibition open country by the Venezuelan Armed pens when the avant-garde appears in a to the public until further notice. An Forces for National Liberation. As pre-capitalist society? urban cell of the Communist Party might be anticipated, it was well under the nom de guerre of Fuerzas received at the Parisian left bank by the Armadas Situationists since it conveyed a power- de LiberaciГіn Nacional (Armed Forces for National Libera- ful tion) issued a message in which they between human life (political prison- exchange-value correspondence explained the political nature of the ers) and artworks (modernist paint- robbery and assured that the paintings ings). Guy Debord described the myth- were unharmed. During those years, ical robbery: the Cuban revolutionary experiment The forces of order recaptured the paint- was at the height of its prestige, gaining ings after a gun battle with Winston strong sympathies in the entire re- Bermudes, Luis Monselve, and Gladys Tro- gion, while BetancourtвЂ™s administration conis. A few days later, some other comrades employed systematic repression against threw two bombs at the police van trans- the guerrilla movement, outlawing the porting the recovered paintings. Unfortu- Communist Party and other radical left nately, they did not succeed in destroying it. organizations, including the cell that This is clearly an exemplary way to treat the organized the robbery. Given that the art from the past, to bring it back into play Communist party was instrumental in for what really matters in life. Since the ending PГ©rez JimГ©nezвЂ™ dictatorial re- deaths of Gauguin (вЂ�I tried to establish the gime in 1958, the prohibition created right to dare everythingвЂ™) and van Gogh, disagreements their work, recuperated by their enemies, has between Venezuelan intelligentsia and the government. Remarkably, a number of important Venezuelan artists and critics from probably never received from the cultural world an homage so true to their spirit as the act of these Venezuelans.9) diverse ideological tendencies, includ- There is a bittersweet irony in the ing former members of Los Disidentes, originality of the robbery of five mas- agreed on the art historical expertise terpieces undertaken by political dissi- of the thieves, who had selected the dents in the same museum that had best pieces in the exhibition. The been targeted, a decade earlier, by rocambolesque episode of the robbery institutional dissidents to вЂњrecuperateвЂќ concluded with the capture of three it as a space for modernization. More- individuals by the police when they over, in 1959 one of those dissidents, were driving to return the art works to Alejandro Otero, spurred a nationwide writer Arturo Uslar PietriвЂ™s residence polemic regarding the possible pur189 1) Tom McDonough, вЂњIdeology and the Situationist UtopiaвЂќ (introduction), in Tom McDonough (ed.), Guy Debord and the Situationist International, Texts and Documents (Cambridge/London: MIT Press, 2002), pp. IXвЂ“XX . 2) Pamela M. Lee, вЂњThe Revolution Must Be Televised,вЂќ Artforum International (April 2006), pp. 109 and 112. 3) Guy Debord, вЂњSituationists and the New Forms of Action in Politics or Art,вЂќ in Tom McDonough (ed.), Guy Debord and the Situationist International, Texts and Documents (Cambridge/London: MIT Press, 2002), p. 162. 4) Luis Castro Leiva, вЂњDe la Patria Boba a la TeologГa Bolivariana,вЂќ in Obras Completas (FundaciГіn Polar, 2005). Castro Leiva was a professor at the University of Chicago who devoted his research to a study of the Bolivarian ideology and its secular religion. 5) Ibid., p. 40. For Castro Leiva, this feature is synthesized in three central propositions: 1) whatever BolГvar thought should and must be carried out; 2) all that is to be done (politically and morally) may be found within BolГvarвЂ™s ideas; and 3) we should be devoted and responsible to him (BolГvar). 6) J.R. Guillent PГ©rez, вЂњBolГvar, Nosotros, Hoy,вЂќ in Los Disidentes No.1, 1950, p. 15. All translations are mine. 7) The president, General Marcos PГ©rez JimГ©nez, was part of the military junta that took over the government in 1948 with a coup dвЂ™Г©tat and ruled the country until 1958. 8) Miguel Arroyo, letter published in El Nacional, January 17, 1963, p. 35. 9) Debord, op. cit., p. 161. 10) Debord, op. cit., p. 165.