The Politics of Camouflage in Artistic Practices from the 1970s

On October 28th at Columbia, The Politics of Camouflage in Artistic Practices from the 1970s, with Irene Small, Sergio Bessa, Michael Asbury, Nicolás Guagnini and Judith Rodenbeck,  moderated by Alexander Alberro.


This day-long symposium will explore the development of artistic practices as a result of political oppression in Latin America and internationally during the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout this era, artists dealt with politically complex issues in their artistic production through a variety of styles and media. These aesthetic explorations include the “New Objectivity,” geometric abstraction, socially-engaged art, media-related and investigative projects, and, finally, conceptual, body, and performance art.

The first half of the symposium will explore ideas around the question: “In what ways were these new modes of expression uniquely suited to address times of political oppression?”

The symposium will explore Latin American artists (and artists worldwide) active in the 1960s and 1970s who maintained an innovative form of aesthetic resistance in the context of political repression. One particularly relevant example of such resistance is Antonio Manuel’s 1970 naked performative intervention at Rio de Janeiro’s Museu de Arte Moderna, which prompted Brazilian art critic Mário Pedrosa to coin the celebrated term “Experimental Exercise of Freedom.” Frederico Morais, an art critic who referred to artists who stayed in Brazil during the dictatorship as “Barbarians of a new race,” linked their practices to tactics from the modernist anthropophagic movement. Experimentation, innovation, and resistance were intrinsic elements related to this period in the national and international arenas.

The latter part of the symposium discussion will investigate the question “How did artists camouflage politically salient art to comply with the constraints of an era defined by dictatorships all over Latin America and by the Vietnam War in the United States?”