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Subversive Practices: Art under Conditions of Political Repression

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Wí¼rttembergischer Kunstverein,
May 30, 2009 - Jul 02, 2009
Stuttgart, Germany

Subversive Practices
by Sol Henaro

Neutralization is ready to take effect immediately, like an instant anti-body, wherever a spot of restlessness, the symptom of a subversive spirit, or the slightest movement of rejection arise. (1)
M. Traba, 1972

In the nineties the global flow of contemporary art started to place special kind of relevance on the art market, so countless depoliticized works began filling galleries, museums, biennials and the other well-oiled cogs in the art system. This speaks to a great extent of the interests and attitudes of an art generation that -"by and large - "views art as an independent satellite in which local and international realities are often left on the sidelines and treatment of issues that are mostly endogamic to the art system are common. Few proposals cast a critical glance at the plural realities that affect us and even fewer curatorial exercises review or activate prior productions in order to point out, in them and through them, the dark entanglements of our immediate past.

What was it that led to the radical artwork that characterized the sixties and seventies in different parts of the world? Why were artists more engaged to the social and political events that directly affected them? It would seem that in previous decades there were more extreme reasons to react, that the deceptions of modernity were more strongly discussed, and that despite any oppressive reality being experienced, one’s own field or medium - art production in this case - was the starting point for expressing dissent, frustration, rejection, despair. There was also the defense of the territory of art as a haven of freedom. This moment has hardly been a panacea: abuses may have changed names, but continue to take place with equal violence. Conflicts have shifted or expanded to other territories, surreptitious mistreatment has reached more subtle (or brazen) levels, and yet most art production has increasingly settled for a sort of neutralization or indifference in the glittery bonanza of contemporary art and the bubbly fiction of the art market. Was it disillusion that foreshadowed our generation during the nineties? Is it that taking a position beyond immediate concerns is considered meaningless, or could it be that it doesn’t even figure in the concerns of the majority? Fortunately there are numerous exceptions among producers of knowledge who view their professional medium as a collective act of reflection that differs from the docility and apparent comfort of the artistic/extra artistic system, and instead focus on exercising micro policies, as evidenced by the exhibition Prácticas Subversivas, arte bajo condiciones de represión polí­tica (Subversive Practices: Art under Conditions of Political Repression).

The exhibition came to life following a meeting of Vivid Radical Memory (VRM) (2) , an interesting initiative that brought together a series of researchers and institutions “committed to the geopolitical sphere” (3) (Mercader, 2007) to act as a network for the recovery, study and dissemination of different materials dealing with openly socio-political conceptual practices of the sixties, seventies and eighties both in South America and in Eastern and Southern Europe. With the support of Barcelona University, the Wí¼rttembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart (whose idea it was to hold and house the exhibition), the C3 Center in Budapest and Arteleku in San Sebastián, they held meetings to collectively tackle the socio-political issues of those decades, study the type of subjectivities that took shape and the way they were expressed in art production, at a time when censorship and fear were everyday instruments of control. Work meetings were held during 2007 in Barcelona (May), Stuttgart (September) and Budapest (October) and attended by researchers from Peru, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Catalonia, Hungary, Rumania, the former German Democratic Republic and the ex- Sov

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