After the GRAV

After the GRAV

On the Dissolution of the GRAV

For quite some time, the group had been practically nonexistent. The efforts made at the beginning of the year proved to be insufficient.


There was a clear indecision around carrying out new initiatives. What little had been done in the name of the group, with neither the agreement nor the collaboration of all of its members, did not qualify as collective work. Because of this internal deficiency, the possibilities of collective work were scarce; the group therefore found itself (and its members in particular) assimilated into the art world. It was a complicit laissez-faire situation that was compensated neither by new experiences nor by the intentions described in the ‘position statement’.


A lack of will and ability with regards to collective work (naturally justified by some of us) made the group go along with the circumstances. Each new initiative carried along a dead weight, due to lack of determination, paralysing slowness, forced collaboration, fear of ridicule, forced acceptance refuted by the facts.


And the closed nature of the group made us ‘members for life’ and impeded renewal and naturally limited its range of action; thereby allowing the prestige of the group to be used with the minimum amount of effort.


Thereby, the new, and consequently risky initiatives such as ‘A Day in the Street’, required years of insistent requests so that it could finally be carried out. And even at the last minute there were still many uncertainties.


In May 1968, the group was practically nonexistent. It could not be counted on, it was not needed. Each one of us was taking a position and behaving in response to the events as we each saw fit. This situation highlighted the divergence between the group’s capacity for action and the demands of reality.


My experience within the group, during the eight years it existed, has been very positive. In spite of being in favour of its dissolution, I believe now more than even that collective work is the only valid way to try to disrupt the established values that we find throughout the art world. This commitment to collective work proves to be impossible within the group, due to its evolution, composition, and the demands of this extreme situation.


To clarify my position, see the text published in French in Opus International (issue 6).


Julio Le Parc, December 1968


Cultural Guerrilla?

Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Montevideo, São Paulo, Valencia, Caracas


After a four-month stay in a few South American cities (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Montevideo, São Paulo, Valencia, Caracas), and having attended the Symposium of Intellectuals and Artists of the Americas that was held in November 1967 in Puerto Azul (Venezuela); having had, in addition, on countless occasions, the possibility of conversing with many very diverse people, I felt, upon my return to Paris, the need to clarify and reaffirm certain aspects of my position.


In Paris, I shared my concerns with several people, including my friends from the GRAV and Robho. The latter asked me for an editorial for their forthcoming issue. So those were the circumstances behind this text which had been limping along since November (four months). I say this in a critical and self-critical manner. Because I think that it’s important to act. Act on every occasion. Act to create new situations in which a more concerted, more orchestrated action could be developed. Act even at the risk of getting it wrong.


During my trip, I’d done four exhibitions representa- tive of my research, with very broad public participation (Buenos Aires: 180,000 visitors in sixteen days).


I didn’t want the happy, spontaneous fairground atmosphere that could be seen among the visitors to my exhibitions (most of them initiates) to be assimilated to the attitude of the regular visitors to museums and exhibitions. I didn’t want a myth around my work and myself to develop either.


Whenever possible, I highlighted my intentions for change, for which this research occasionally served as a medium.


The role of the intellectual and the artist in society


To highlight the contradictions that exist within each milieu. To develop an action such that it is people themselves who bring about change. Nearly all of what is done in the name of ‘culture’ contributes to the conti- nuation of a system based on relationships between the dominant and the dominated. The persistence of such relationships is ensured by maintaining people in a dependent, passive state.


By assimilating new attitudes, society smooths out all the rough edges, transforming anything that might indicate the beginning of aggression towards existing structures into habits and styles.


Today, however, there is an ever-increasing need to question the role of the artist in society. We must acquire greater clarity and increase the number of initiatives; we are in the difficult position of one who – albeit immersed in a given social reality and fully aware of the situation – attempts to take advantage of the available possibilities in order to bring about change.


When people begin to see with their own eyes, when they understand that the mental patterns in which they are trapped are far from their everyday reality, the conditions are ripe for action to destroy these patterns.


Admittedly, the huge weight of the artistic tradition and the way in which it conditions us gives cause for doubt. Several times, we have turned our gaze towards the past, where we find the historical stereotypes and established values that attempt to propagate themselves.


It is easy to see two very different blocs within society. On one hand, there is a minority that totally determines the life of this society (politics, economy, social norms, culture, etc.). On the other, there is an enormous crowd that follows that which the minority has decided. This minority acts in such a way that things continue as they are, and even though appearances may change, the relationships remain the same.


If we position ourselves within this perspective, we can observe two very different attitudes in intellectual and artistic production. On the one hand, everything that – deliberately or otherwise – helps to maintain the structure of existing relationships, to conserve the characteristics of the current situation; on the other hand, scattered all over the place, initiatives that – deliberately or otherwise – try to undermine these relationships, destroy the mental schemas and beha- viours that the minority relies on in order to dominate.


These are the initiatives that we must develop and organize. It is a matter of drawing on professional ability acquired in the field of art, literature, cinema, architecture, etc., and – instead of simply following the path already laid out, that of consolidating the social structures – prefer to call the prerogatives or privileges inherent to our situation into question. It is a matter of awakening the potential ability that people have to participate, to decide for themselves – and to encourage them to make contact with other people to develop a shared action, so that they play a real role in everything that fills their lives.



It is a matter of making people aware that work, whether it is done in the name of culture or art, is only destined for an elite. That the schema through which this production enters into contact with people is the same as the one on which the system of domination depends.


The unilateral determinations in the art field are identical to the unilateral determinations in the social field.


Conventional artistic production is demanding with respect to the spectator. In order for them to appreciate it, special conditions are implied: a degree of knowledge of art history, special information, an artistic sensibility, etc. Those who can meet these requirements obviously belong to a very specific class.


So we are collaborating with a whole social mythology that conditions people’s behaviour. We find the myth of the individual thing, versus the communal thing; the myth of the individual who makes special things, versus the individual who makes communal things; the myth of success, or even worse, the myth of the possibility of success.


Everything that justifies a situation of privilege, an exception, bears within itself the justification of the unprivileged situations of the majority.


This is how, for instance, the myth of the exceptional individual (politician, artist, billionaire, devout, revolu- tionary, dictator, etc.) emerges and spreads, which implies its opposite: individuals who are nothing, the poor, the failures, the ignorant. This myth and several others are mirages that maintain the situation: each individual, at some time or other, is called on to adhere to it, since ‘success’ belongs to the scale of values underpinning these social structures. In our own milieus, we can call the social structure and its extensions into question within each specialty field. We can coordinate everyone’s intentions and create disruptions to the system.


One way or another, we are contributing to the social situation. The problem of people’s dependency and passivity is not a local but a general problem, even if it has various guises. It becomes more acute in centres where tradition and culture have more weight and where the social organization is more evolved.


Young painters who have been conditioned (through teaching, by being immersed in ideals that conform to pre-established patterns, by the illusions of success, etc.) can be stimulated by certain facts and can orient their work in a different direction. They can:


• Stop being unthinking and involuntary accomplices to social regimes in which the relationship is that of the dominant to the dominated.


• Become motors, and awaken people’s dormant capacity to take their destiny into their own hands. • Revive their powerful aggressiveness against the existing structures.

• Instead of seeking innovations within art, change, as much as possible, the basic mechanisms that condition communication.

• Recover the creative capacity of current working artists (generally involuntary accomplices to a social situation that maintains people in a dependent, passive state); attempt to create practical actions to contravene existing values and smash patterns; trigger a collective awareness and clear-sightedly prepare programmes that reveal the potential for action that people carry inside them.


• Organize a sort of cultural guerrilla warfare against the current state of things, highlight contradictions, create situations in which people recover their ability to bring about change.

• Fight against every tendency towards the stable, the durable, and the definitive, everything that increases a state of dependency, apathy, and passivity linked to habits, established criteria, and myths – and other mental patterns born of a conditioning that colludes with the structures in power. Systems of living that, even if we change political regimes, will continue to maintain themselves if we do not call them into question.


Henceforth, what is important is no longer the work of art (with its qualities of expression, content, etc.), but rather confronting the cultural system. What counts is no longer art, but the attitude of the artist.


Julio Le Parc, Paris, March 1968.

Demystifying Art

At Documenta, we observe once again that the main function of ‘cultural institutions’ resides in the sacrali- zation of art, consequently, mystification and its goal, the commercialization of cultural production.

It is hard for us, as artists, to escape this compromise in the current situation and we are aware of it.

We have therefore decided to definitively withdraw our artworks from Documenta, thus making our symbolic contribution to the collective awareness with a view to cultural revolution.


Enzo Mari, Julio Le Parc, Kassel, 26 June 1968.


What can an artist of my generation do in the current situation? An artist with an ambiguous situation like mine, compromised within the cultural system, and aware of this compromise? An artist like myself, who sees how easily the bourgeoisie assimilates every new thing that art produces? An artist like myself, who, despite having tried to transform the condition of the artist and the work, and their relationship to the viewer, remains clear-sighted with respect to the limited value of these efforts and the contradictions of this process within the art world? What can be done?


I have known for some time that our two-sided situation may correspond to a two-sided attitude. That, although receiving support within the cultural system (recognition, an audience, funding, etc.), it is possible to attempt to break through the rigid structures of the cultural system by creating conditions for the liquida- tion of this system.


This can be done in two ways. The first consists of highlighting the contradictions in the art world, the role of art in society, and our own contradictions. This is done via texts, manifestos, declarations, public debate, exchanges of ideas with other artists, and so on. Above all, the goal is to enlighten future generations, to show them the hidden aspect of art.


The second way involves attempting to transform, as much as possible, art’s essential elements, that is, the artist, his or her work of art, and the relationship between the work and the public. Since 1960, working in these two directions, I have developed an entire set of activities within the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel.


Currently, since the tidal wave of events in May and June in Paris, the conditions are completely different, even if the situation within the art world remains nearly identical to what it was previously. A form of conditioning so long endured cannot be undermined in two months of protests. Habits persist. Painters continue to produce their works, galleries and museums continue to show them, critics to critique them, dealers and collectors to assign a monetary value to them, and the ‘general public’, with good reason, remains as in- different as before. Indifferent and distant from ‘class art’, from art that is consumed – if that – only by the bourgeoisie, from art that reasserts within itself all of the privileges of power, from art that maintains people in a dependent, passive state. Despite everything, the experience of May and June created deeper doubts and has fostered a positive receptivity that may bring about new approaches. As always, it could be a race between the effort to get beyond the current artistic situation and, on the other hand, society’s ability to assimilate, integrate, and take advantage of this effort.


We must continue to carry out (as in May) a genuine devaluation of myths; myths that those in power use to maintain their hegemony. We find these myths within art:


The myth of the unique object, the myth of the one who creates unique objects, the myth of success, or worse – the myth of the possibility of success.


Like ‘democratic‘ or dictatorial political power, art shares the same situation in which a minority makes the decisions on which the majority depends. It intervenes in the creation of mental structures by determining what is good and what is not. Thus, it helps to keep people in their current situation of passivity and dependency, creating distances, categories, norms, and values. Every artist and those associated with the art world are implicated. Most are in the service of the bourgeoisie and the system.


Without the possibility of challenging the conditioning that the art world imposes on us, without the possibility of questioning all of the established values around art, without the possibility of carrying out a struggle, even of limited scope, against the extensions of the social system within art, without the possibility of creating a living relationship with social problems, the attitude of the artist can only be one of unqualified and unthinking support for the system, either that or it is reduced to an individualist activity that is allegedly neutral.


Currently, more than before, the artistic problem cannot be seen as an internal struggle of trends, but rather as a tacit struggle, very nearly declared, between those who, whether consciously or not, hold to the system and seek to preserve and prolong it, and those who, also consciously or not, through their activities and their positions seek to explode the system by seeking openings and changes. This struggle becomes more effective and more radical when we question ourselves. When we question our attitude, our production, our place in society, and thus avoid a split personality that allows for a progressive political position while maintaining individual privileges.


It is exactly this tacit refusal to bring the protest all the way into the artists’ studio – in the case of painters and sculptors who protest against the social system – that gives the illusion of contributing something, while avoiding seeing that we are part of that same system.


What is most effective for profoundly transforming the system as a whole (while also relying on mass movements) is seeking to make profound changes within each domain.


We can no longer hope that change will come about through external forces. Even in the art world, true change can only come from the rank and file, because it is the (socially conditioned) rank and file that, through its behaviour, accepts the system, and it is the rank and file that, by a change in its behaviour, can explode the system.


Thus, within the art world, it strikes me as ineffective to attack the cultural system by putting all the blame on something abstract, located who knows where, making it responsible for the state of art today – sometimes it is Malraux, sometimes art dealers, sometimes art critics, sometimes museum directors, but almost never the artists themselves. For example, to protest against the Salon de Paris, one says that the walls of the Musée d’art moderne are disgusting, that there is not enough space, that not enough was done to bring people in, etc. But it is very rare to hear the artists say that salons and exhibitions have no social clout because the basic product (the work of art) is itself without clout; that it is a marginal product, with nearly always a complicit neutrality, or else it wants to be both political and ‘artistic’. It is rare to hear them say that what these salons and exhibitions deserve is the indifference of the public that is its means of defence, or that all the effort that goes into a wider distribution of these cultural products (art in factories, etc.) only serves to maintain people’s mental conditioning by forcing them to again accept the decisions made by a minority. For us, the artists compromised within the system and aware of these problems, there is a task to be accomplished: by acting above all as mavericks, to make young people interested in art aware of the traps laid in the art world. The most urgent task is to question the privilege of individual creation.


This fundamental revolution is the task of future generations, who will have a vision different from ours, and who will be less mentally conditioned and less compromised by the system.


What is there left to do?


Preliminary work: creating the conditions that will make this cultural revolution possible:


• Highlighting the contradictions of the art world. • Creating progressive stages towards change. • Destroying the preconceived concept of the work of art, the artist, and the myths that they give rise to. • Making use of a professional capacity at every occasion when it could call cultural structures into question. • Transforming the pretension of making works of art into a search for transitional means that are able to highlight people’s capacity to take action.


• Turning our attention towards a transformation of the role of the artist, from an individual creator into a sort of activator to bring people out of their dependence and passivity.


• Envisaging, even on a limited scale, collective experi- ments that make use of existing means and that create others – outside of museums, galleries, and so on – not for transmitting ‘culture’, but as detonators for new situations.


• Creating, in a conscious manner, disturbances in the artistic system, using the most representative events. • Campaigning for the creation of groups in other cities with similar intentions and then exchanging experiences.


In this way, a parallel activity can come into being in the art world that, while protesting against it, attempts to have an action based in reality, and that will create the appropriate means on each occasion.


As far as I’m personally concerned, I see my attitude within the art world on three levels:


• 1. Continuing (until new possibilities arise) to make use of the economic means of this society with the minimum of mystification. As a transitional step, multiples may be the appropriate means.


• 2. Continuing to demystify art, and highlighting its contradictions as far as I am personally able, or by joining with other people and groups; by making use of a certain prestige that gives me access to existing means of distribution or by creating new ones.


• 3. Continuing to seek (particularly with others) possi- bilities for creating situations in which the behaviour of the public is an exercise for action.


It is highly possible that these three levels will be interrupted by the development of my activity and that they will present contradictions. But an activity that is based in reality and that seeks to change that reality must take advantage of existing possibilities by creating conditions for a more radical change. This activity can be neither dogmatic nor rigid.


Julio Le Parc, Carboneras, August 1968. Published in French in Opus International.


Several artists who had participated in the actions and running of the FAP, or Front d’artistes plasticiens (Artists’ Front), were asked a series of questions.

The various contributions were published in March 1975 under the title ‘Que se lève l’aube radieuse des artistes’ [May a Radiant Dawn Arise for Artists], in number 7 of the Bulletin paroissial du curé Meslier.

Here is my contribution to this work.


I am taking part in this exercise (one of Father Meslier’s initiatives) in the hope that the confrontation of opinions of the various participants will bring us towards a deeper mutual understanding and then to an actual meeting where the discussion can continue. I also hope that we will be able to draw out the shared fundamental elements likely to further the struggle against the arbitrary in the art world.


From the beginning I have supported the actions of the FAP, because at the time it was a driving force for artists. It is thanks to this organization that critical issues we face us have been raised. Obviously, its most noteworthy action was the mobilization against the Pompidou exhibition. I was invited to participate indivi- dually and as an ex-member of the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel; I refused to participate in both cases, in support of the artists’ refusal. The FAP’s challenging of the organization of the Pompidou exhibition was positive not only because of the physical, peaceful presence of opponents during the vernissage, which prompted the police crackdown, but also because of the critical analysis made collectively, so that at the time of the vernissage, each artist had taken their stance based on an informed decision. The system of individual solicitation that the exhibition organizers had used was destroyed, because the problem had become collective.


Another important aspect of the task furthered by the FAP was that of the ‘États généraux des artistes plasticiens’ [Assembly of Artists]. This had raised the issue of artists, their work, their relationship with culture, their social relationships, and especially their dependence on those holding power in the art world. Through these assemblies, artists had brought up the question of their relationship with authorities, but the latter had not sought to engage in any dialogue. They retained and still retain their position with its unshared power of decision-making: art critics are critics that in their publications never grant a right of response, salons with their prescriptive commissions make their choices without consulting exhibitors, so-called avant- garde official spaces – e.g., the CNAC (National Centre for Contemporary Art), and ARC (Animation, Research, Confrontation) – develop their exhibition programmes based on the desires of their directors, commercial circuits base their activity on economic profit, the CAVAR continues to track artists, and so on. Even though artists are left in the dark, so too is the public. Official exhibi- tions could be presented behind closed doors, without even seeking the alibi of the public, and with only art critics, dealers, collectors, and officials receiving an invitation, and the result would be the same.


As for initiatives that aim to create a parallel market, they are positive because they bring up the issue of the art market and because they are not seen as an absolute answer applicable to every artist. A different mode of circulation would make more sense if production started heading in a different direction.


We cannot effectively challenge the circulation and marketing of artworks if we cannot challenge artistic production that emerges out of a confrontation between painters about their own works. Every time these types of initiatives have occurred, difficulties have arisen. Generally, artists are not used to coming into confront- ation with the public; we passively await the verdict of art critics, dealers, collectors, art officials, etc.


As for my personal work, I cannot say that I am entirely satisfied with it, but I do it within the current context. It forms part of my individual research. This is my profession, and also the way I earn my living. In a different situation (a socialist society), I could imagine it would be a more interesting task, more collective, open to the masses.


However, this has not prevented me from continually fighting against the mystification that is created around art, both personally and ideally by joining with other painters; this struggle takes different forms – critical analyses of the role of the artist in society, individual or collective research regarding the relationship with the viewer by trying to create a direct connection, without a cultural intermediary and with controllable means, the use of professional services in favour of counter- information and social struggles, and works that are produced as a collective in particular. The most typical examples of these are the Atelier populaire d’affiches in May ’68 and América Latina No Oficial at the Cité Universitaire, which denounced oppression, repression, and torture, and demonstrated the social struggles taking place in Latin America.


The relationship may be questioned between my formal, individual, or collective research and my participation in collective works with figurative images (Salons de la Jeune Peinture) such as: mining, torture, labour, etc. I would reply that no matter how the works may differ, the approach is the same, featuring an exchange of opinions, collective analyses . . .


At the moment, there is not a single recipe for a revolutionary artist that suits everyone. And even productions, behaviour, and actions that are positive in one context may be negative in another. There is no absolute formula for salvation. There are artists who focus their production on political topics, but who do not remove themselves from the circuit of the art market, and who sell their (geometric) paintings at the same price as mine, all the while paying lip service to an art of denunciation, but while remaining isolated, in an individualistic attitude, and who never participate in collective actions against the arbitrary nature of the art world.


Given the dearth of positive initiatives in this milieu, related to these struggles, we cannot favour one to the detriment of the others. We must beware of sterile quarrels. When some groups become particularly demanding, they decrease; it is easy to be intransigent when one is acting on one’s own behalf, but this approach does not mobilize others, and has no effect on the art world. We must consider possibilities and realities.

Fifteen Questions on the GRAV

Seven years after the dissolution of the GRAV, a retrospective exhibition was held in Italy. A book on the GRAV was published on this occasion in 1975. In this book, the former members of the GRAV give their individual responses to questions formulated by Luciano Caramel, the exhibition organizer. Here are the fifteen questions from Caramel and my fifteen answers.


Luciano Caramel: For you, what were the most important reasons that led you, along with the other cofounders, to create the GRAV in 1960?

Julio Le Parc: To break out of isolation, seek permanent debate, share the adventure of research, attempt collective work, and demonstrate that it’s possible to have a different attitude to the one we’ve been conditioned by.


In your opinion, what was your specific contribution to the GRAV’s activity between 1960 and 1968?

My obstinacy to push the Group towards genuinely collective creations by distancing it from the idea that a group equals an addition of personalities.


In terms of your individual work, what were the main consequences of your shared activity within the GRAV?

Owing to debate, owing to a kind of emulation within the Group, I had elements of appreciation that were broader and my individual work had a more active evolution.


What were some, if any, of the most important criticisms that you addressed to the GRAV during its existence? What were some, if any, of the most important discrepancies between your personal position and the Group’s shared position?

The criticism that I addressed to the GRAV during its existence included: not enough collective work, not enough debate, not enough imagination and effort for collective concerns, a lack of boldness, too much fear of risk, too much fear of ridicule, too much respect for conventions, and too much tardiness, quite often being late for events that were transpiring.

What were my differences with the shared positions of the Group? I was supportive, from the outset, of all of the Group’s activities, all of its positions, all of its texts.


What do you now think were the real reasons for the GRAV’s dissolution? What is your view today concerning the dissolution itself and how it took place?
The reasons were given in the act of dissolution and in the texts by four of its members in 1968. In hindsight, the GRAV, prior to its dissolution, had become a dead weight that was out of touch with reality.


Broadly speaking, now, seven years after its dissolution, what is your assessment of the GRAV?
The same as it was at the time of its dissolution.

Beyond superficial evaluations from the critics and art historians, during its existence the GRAV was a positive experience within the social context and cultural milieu (despite its contradictions) and one that has subsequently been extended elsewhere.


By referring to your lived experience within the GRAV, what were, in your opinion, the most positive results of working together? What were the biggest difficulties? And the main limitations?

The most positive results were its written stances (‘Assez de mystifications’ [Enough Mystification, 1961 and 1963], ‘Propositions générales’ [General Proposals, 1961], etc.) and also the collective creations (Labyrinthes, Salles de jeux, Sorties dans la rue, etc.).

The biggest difficulties? Reconciling individual interests with those of the Group and trying to strike a balance between the differences of its members, differences in economic situations, availability, desire for collective work, invention, etc.

Its main limitations? Finding yourself falling within an aesthetic movement and not being able, directly, through expansion, to obtain a foothold within reality.


Nowadays, what do you think of group work in general? Do you consider it desirable? In what way? Within what limits? To what end?

I have always believed in group work and I still do.

Debate is desirable; discussion is desirable; pooling the ability to devise, create, and bring an approach to full fruition collectively is desirable; and above all it is desirable that group work falls within reality with the intention of changing it.

In the current social context and particularly in our milieu, we are not in groups as much as we might like and group work cannot be done individually. The immediate goal, whenever the opportunity presents itself, has been to get away from the individual isolation to which our milieu confines us and in which we can easily be manipulated by those who wield cultural power.


After the dissolution of the GRAV in 1968, what were the prolongations within your activity of the experience you’d had with the GRAV? In particular, have you continued with collective work? Of what sort? With whom?

At the time of the Group’s dissolution, I said: ‘Despite my agreement with its dissolution, I believe more than ever in a collective approach . . .’ In other words, I agreed to dissolve the Group to be able to work in groups. I hadn’t done that exclusively. I’d continued with my individual research. But since the dissolution of the GRAV in 1968 up until the present day, I’ve never stopped participating in collective approaches; either to deepen theoretical analyses, or to undertake shared creations, or to combat the arbitrary elements of the artistic milieu, or in actively supporting the struggle of Latin American peoples, and so on.

It has been seven years now and in this lapse of time, I’ve had more collective experiences than during the GRAV’s eight years of existence. To my deep regret, among these countless collective activities, approaches, and productions (it must be said that in most cases, the participation was anonymous), I have not found my former GRAV companions, except once, but unfortu- nately that time they (four of the ex-members) were on the other side, on the side of power.

Out of all of these experiences, with different motivations and people, I’ve drawn one very useful lesson that encourages me to participate every time a new opportunity for collective work crops up (that is, when the impetus doesn’t come from me).


After the GRAV disbanded, like other former members of the Group, you completely – or at least partly – ceased to be interested in Kinetic Art. Was that simply due to contingencies or was it a shift that, in light of the experiences you and others had had, developed and changed your mind as to the possibilities of movement in visual art?

When a certain amount of our research, distorted by certain art critics, becomes ‘Kinetic Art’ or ‘lumino-kinetic art’ and/or ‘op art’, etc., it’s natural to lose all interest in these classifications. As with all the other aesthetic classifications, they rely on appearances, setting aside the meaning of the approach, its origins, implantation within the artistic milieu, correspondences in the social realm, and extensions. Despite the fact that in some cases, the appearance of my creations (individual or collective) is no different from what they call ‘Kinetic Art’, I feel that they have a very narrow connection in the manner of approaching a problem, analysing its possibilities, situating its variations, drawing conclu- sions, and progressing.


What meaning and goal do you assign to the GRAV era, to the artistic operation per se? In particular, what possibilities and functions do you think it might have within the social context? Today, seven years after the GRAV experience, have your opinions changed? If so, in what ways, predominantly? And, if so, what reasons do you attribute to your change?

Through our intention to demystify art, to decompose its modes of operation, and to theorize our work, we posed quite a few problems. Our starting point was ourselves, since we were conditioned in order to make art, in a certain way and within a given milieu.

At the time, our ideas were refused. Nowadays, they are commonplace and in most cases, devoid of their initial content. They have been developed positively all the same, without needing to assume an aesthetic aspect necessarily. In that sense, and without over- stating our importance, you could say that even in the contradictory situation in which we were debating, the GRAV played a particular role, one that was rather unknown until now.

My opinions as to the GRAV’s role during its existence were useful for setting out a certain number of problems concerning the artist within today’s society, through analyses, attitudes, and artworks.

They haven’t changed. They’ve evolved with new situa- tions, with a militant approach taken within our milieu, non-existent at the time of the GRAV; with a more political and realistic overview of the current situation.


In your opinion, what were the relationships between the GRAV and the constructivist and concretist tradition like? What were the most substantial points of contact? And the most noticeable differences?

Prior to the foundation of the GRAV, the movements called constructivist and concretist were losing speed. It was the reign of informalism, tachisme, lyrical abstractionism, etc. Movements encouraged by the mystification of the milieu (critics, historians, dealers,

art officials, etc.). It had reached such a level of obscurantism and exaggerated proliferation all over the world that for us, the constructivist or concretist movements, with their specific research, struck us as being a base, a point of departure.

Personally, for me the points of contact had been – already in around 1945 in Buenos Aires – the knowledge of the activities and production of the Concrete-Invention Art Group that proclaimed their dialectical materialism and that had raised problems by working with simple geometric shapes and pure colours. Subsequently, the most useful contacts for me were the writings of Mondrian, his œuvre, that of Albers, the knowledge of the black-and-white work of Vasarely, his texts and my personal relationship (though sporadic) with him as well as with Vantongerloo.

The discrepancies came very quickly as soon as we set to work seriously. We criticized, in a constructive way, all of the constructivist artists for not taking the detachment with the artwork produced far enough, for being overly attached to the organization of the surface as a basis for a more or less free composition, and that, in the last instance, with geometric forms, the ‘creator’ behaviour was the same as that of the other artists working with irregular forms.


What were the results of your relationship with the other research groups working in the field of visual art in the 1960s and with the other artists operating within the New Tendency?

The results were positive; the relations were amicable but not always easy. Within the New Tendency, the experience was highly stimulating. There was a recog- nition and mutual and somewhat fraternal affirmation of our existences and our research; which was not the case with the other Kinetic artists in and around 1955 (Agam, Tinguely, Soto, Bury, etc.). We’d tried to take things a step further on the basis of permanent debate and democratic decision-making between the participants of NT. There was no shortage of projects, but we didn’t get any further than the presentation in Paris at the Musée d’art décoratif. The museum was directed at that time (1964) by M. Faré, who let us organize the NT exhibition as we saw fit, which was unheard of at that time.

As with other activities, this event, rather extensive and representative of NT, came too early, within a very Parisian, hostile, and retrograde artistic milieu.


Can you establish a comparison, by highlighting the affinities and discrepancies between the methodological principles of the group’s work concerning the GRAV and those of the other groups operating at the same time?

The most significant affinity, I believe, was with the Gruppo T of Milan, the make-up of which was rather homogeneous and who developed research with new elements (water, air, etc.) by incorporating movement and light. The Gruppo N of Padua was also quite close to us but more attached to the theoretical side. Equipo 57 comprising Spaniards working anonymously in Paris, developed research on surface and volume according to an organizational system characterizing it; the differences with them came from the fact that we gave priority to the visual aspect of our research, relegating the conceptual system to the background a bit, which for us was quite an important basis for control. The group ZERO wasn’t really a working group, the number of its components varied from exhibition to exhibition and, overall, it was more a state of mind that brought them together than shared research.


Do you have any other remarks that seem useful to add, for this first retrospective exhibition of the GRAV?

I agreed with the creation, after its dissolution, of this first ‘historic’ exhibition of the GRAV, provided that the organizers obtained unanimous agreement from the former members. Given that the GRAV no longer exists, a few former members cannot forcibly exhibit those who do not want them to, via the alibi of a historic exhibition of the GRAV, let alone exhibit their artworks and claim to represent the GRAV as a whole. Anyone, even those with flimsy claims to honesty, can understand that. At the time of the GRAV, with the basic majority system, each member weighed in on the decisions and if we didn’t agree with the majority, we could abstain or develop our idea on an individual basis, or, if it came to that, resign. Currently, none of the former members can retrospectively resign from the GRAV. Each one of us can provide our vision of the GRAV but without claiming that it is the only genuine perspective. It is for this reason that I insisted that on this occasion, the brochure prepared by the GRAV about the GRAV in 1968 would form the foundation of this publication. Similarly, I agreed that through this questionnaire, each one of us could now give, seven years after its dissolution, a few personal observations about the GRAV and its problems.


I have one regret: that on the occasion of this exhibition it is not possible – due to opposition from certain quarters – to reconstitute one of the collective experiments of the GRAV and that we remain a sum of individual research paths.


What does Duchamp represent for you today? Does he belong to the past, to the history of art?

Duchamp, along with others, contributed to the foundations of my training as a painter. For me, he did not block out the horizon.

He was there, in books on art, where, as usual, ‘experts’ had done their tidying and had found him a place in the history of modern art. Should I have devoted more time to his works? Should I have left Duchamp and others prisoners within those pages?

Was looking at reproductions sufficient?

In order to understand Duchamp, should I have adapted my gaze by filling my head with those explana- tions and analyses, by this one-upmanship of specialists?

Duchamp questioned the cultural institution by revealing the decisive role of those who have the power to decide what is, or is not, ‘art’ (museum directors, art fair directors, dealers, art critics, collectors, etc.).

Initially he provoked them; for example, by sending a urinal to the New York Society of Independent Artists in 1917. This provocation was then raised to the rank of an ‘artistic act’; and the urinal as an object of art has since been sanctified by the cultural world.

The mystification of Duchamp that took place sixty years ago is still very much alive today.

An act of provocation, if it is not followed up by anything other than individual statements, can easily be assimilated and neutralized by those who wield cultural power.

However, if it is broadened – by breaking down the cultural milieu, by pointing out the various interests of this milieu, by indicating the presence of a dominating power and the manipulation of those dominated, by creating conditions for collective awareness, and by establishing connections with social reality and struggles on various fronts – this act can have true impact, and it can be difficult for upholders of cultural power to appropriate.


Julio Le Parc, October 1976. Reply to Connaissance des Arts.

Collective Work

l have always been inclined to work as a group. When I was a student, l actively participated in advocacy movements and fought against the arbitrary system of teaching; analysing along with my fellow students our education and our situation in relation to modern art, etc. Later, living in Paris, l participated in the formation of the GRAV and in everything that the group did collec- tively. After its dissolution, my belief in collective work did not faIter; on the contrary, it increased. Collective work carried out with different groups varied depending on circumstances, objectives, and modes of execution. In many cases, participation was anonymous.


1. Collective analysis of the current role of the artist, group discussions, public debates, meetings organized among artists such as the one in Havana or those orga- nized by the FAP (Plastic Artists’ Front), etc.


2. Joining the struggle within the cultural environment and mobilizing artists, such as: boycotting the São Paulo Biennial in 1969 when repression in Brazil intensified. ‘No to the Pompidou exhibition’, in 1972, where many artists (regardless of whether or not they had been invited to participate) denounced the manipulation of artists by people holding public offices related to the arts in order to gain prestige for those in power, which culminated in police repression at the failed inauguration of the exhibition, condemning the blackmail carried out by CAVAR (CAVAR is a sort of pension fund that chases artists, forcing them to pay dues, sometimes confiscating their work supplies and giving nothing in return) and occupying official exhibition spaces in order to demand that they be eliminated.


3. Using professional ability, be it in support of local struggles (public poster-making workshop, Secours Rouge des peintres [Painters’ Red Cross]), either to support the grassroots struggles in Latin America (‘Amérique Latine Non Officielle’ demonstration, etc.) through graphic work or by organizing exhibits that condemn oppression, repression, and torture in Latin America. Also, in other cases, using the prestige and recognition of my work.


4. Carrying out collective work such as:


- An experiment developed along with Fromanger and Merri, in which the spectator becomes an artist, through their imagination and the elements placed at their disposal (drawing material, paper, newspapers, magazines, scissors, etc.). Postcards to be sent to public figures, or not, from around the world (Nixon, Mao, girlfriend, professor, son, Pius XII, political prisoners, Cassius Clay, etc.). These images were projected in large format as they were being produced at the game room of my exhibit in Düsseldorf.


- A collective work based on a family album belonging to the widow of a miner who died in an accident, along with 15 other miners, at the bottom of the mine in 1970. As in many other cases, the cause was not a fatality, but rather the demands made for maximum productivity in order to obtain a maximum profit, neglecting the safety conditions of the miners. This collective work included: the photo album printed in offset and another larger one in silkscreen, as well as a group of sixteen paintings. The participants in this collective work were: Aillaud, Arroyo, Biras, Chambaz, Fanti, Fromanger, Gradas, Le Parc, Mathelin, Merri-Jolivet, Pancino, Rancillac, Rieti, Rougemont, Sarrazin, Schlosser, and Spadari. The work was exhibited in Paris in various venues and in the mining region in northern France.


- Several collective works with students from the Fine Arts Department in 1973–74 when l was a visiting lecturer. Some works were done directly on the walls of the Art Department, with themes related to the Art Department’s internal life and to the ongoing struggles at the time. Another piece in two parts, on the subject of work, one part including sixteen black-and-white paintings that traced the vicissitudes of a worker’s life and struggle, and another part with five paintings on the dehumanization of work (hands in white, black, and grey). These works were exhibited in Paris and in other parts of France, notably at the CFTO conference (Workers’ Federal Democracy Confederacy).


- Collective work in 1972 by the Grupo Denuncia (Gamarra, Le Parc, Marcos, Netto) on the subject of ‘Torture’ which included seven paintings in black, white, and grey measuring 2 x 2 metres that were used to support the campaign launched to condemn the use of torture as a method of government in Latin American countries.


- Collective works were carried out by the International Brigade of Painters Against Fascism constituted in 1975 in Venice and made up of: Balmes, Basaglia, Boriani, Eulisse, Cueco, Gamarra, Le Parc, Marcos, Netto, Nuñes, Perusini, Pignon-Ernest, and Van Meel. The three works by the Brigade were: a 12-metre long collective piece in the Port of Venice supporting the dock workers’ boycott of maritime services headed for Chile, which was ruled by Pinochet; a second collective piece in Athens within the framework of the International Congress of Solidarity with Chile; and a third collective work in Paris, 20 metres long, commissioned by the Salvador Allende Resistance Museum.


- Collective works by the Antifascist Painters’ Collective included: At a PSU (Unified Socialist Party) gathering, themed: ‘A world to be destroyed, another to be created,’


we made, in situ, a series of moveable panels that the members of the collective carried around the gathering; the great 10-metre-long banner collectively made in May 1976, based on the Pompidou Art Centre that the members of the collective brought to the May 1st workers’ day parade in Paris. The collective’s members are: Bézard, Bouvier, Brandon, Colin, Counil, Derivery, Dupré, Fromanger, Lazar, Le Cloarec, Le Parc, Matieu, Netto, Perrot, Picart, Riberzani, Vegliante, Vignes, Yvel, and Dego.


AIl of these types of collective works require willing- ness, availability, and a capacity for work that is not always so easy to obtain and this brings up the issue of each person’s relationship to personal research and work.


Collective work in itself does not guarantee excellent results, but within the monotony of the artistic pano- rama, where the struggles among aesthetic tendencies and individual drives to succeed are common, collective work serving a positive purpose is comforting, despite its many deficiencies and difficulties.


A whole series of problems arise through collective work: the relationship between social reality and the reality of carrying out collective work and its insertion into reality. It brings up all the other aspects related to the way one understands collective work, each partici- pants’ share, the system for making decisions, jointly producing, choosing the subject matter, the opportunity to intervene, how the result is used, how it is received, the accomplishment of the objective or lack thereof, etc.


Julio Le Parc, Paris, November 1976.


Questions - 1

Can we go on today with the myth of art as a kind of religion with an elite of initiates; with the myth of freedom of expression, without seeing the narrow limits within which an artist works; with the myth of the artist as super-endowed; with the myth of the work of art as a unique, overvalued product that defies time; with the myth that the public is ignorant, incapable of appreciating the art of its time?

Is it no longer possible to believe in the creative act, resulting from a sudden illumination, a sudden inspi- ration that puts the artist in a trance, so that with his useful messages he conveys imponderables?

Is it possible that the creative act is not just the normal act of looking into one’s self, querying one’s self, but rather a confrontation with daily reality and the social sphere in transformation?

Is it logical, as is often affirmed (not without a degree of cynicism), that artists today should spend fifty percent of their professional time producing their work and the other fifty percent promoting themselves, trying to win over that small nucleus of decision-makers in art?

Is it not possible that the internecine quarrels – without real confrontation – of movements within art are just maintaining artists’ proverbial individualism, pitting some against others, leaving the field open to those who have the power to decide what is or isn’t good in art?

What hides the accelerated succession of fashions in art that elbow one another out?

Should a young artist join art movements’ frantic search for the new, the original at all costs?

From which international centres, via which media, and with what vested interests are the new fashions in art disseminated around the world as though they were slogans? And why are they reproduced locally?

Why does the public opinion exist that contem- porary art, avant-garde art is deceptive, confusing, incomprehensible?

Are new forms of expression, new techniques any guarantee of a new art?

Is it possible that artists as a group are a shapeless, manipulable mass from which the cultural powers- that-be extract, for their own survival, what is useful to them, ignoring the rest?

Can ‘official’ cultural circles go on thinking that artists are such individualistic and obtuse creatures that it is dangerous to incorporate them collectively into the sphere of cultural management?

Is it acceptable for artists today (especially young artists) to find themselves completely dependent on all things related to the diffusion and comparison of their work, whether in private or official exhibition spaces or in the media?

Is it fair that artists always become debtors when they obtain something out of the ‘goodness of the heart’ of the gallerist, collector, museum director, art critic, radio or television broadcaster, etc.?

Can the history of art that is said on a daily basis to be ‘objective’, ‘impartial’, ‘informative’, and without abusive interpretations or valuations be defended?

Who are the people in charge of selection in the art world? What are their criteria? What are their vested interests?

Why is an artist who sells, valued higher, considered better, than one who doesn’t?

Can we accept the criterion used by some art galleries that a good picture is a picture that sells?

Can we accept that in the last instance it’s the person with money who decides what’s good and what’s not in art?

Should artists today aspire to having their work be overvalued by the art market, to having it be worth millions, and to having purchasers confine it to their private living rooms when not in some vault somewhere?

Is it possible that imbued with that attitude, many artists conceive their works with that obsession: make it sellable?

Does a close relationship between official organizers, artists, and the public and other social categories not seem necessary?

Can we not imagine that those new relationships might make possible a different situation for the artwork, for its diffusion, and for the way it is received?

Could we not put into practice other methods of selection for exhibitions, cultural activities, official commissions and purchases, etc., than those used by ‘specialists’, so that a real collective responsibility, shared among all interested parties, might emerge?

Can we imagine a cultural policy that ignores the models radiating out from the international centres,

that is not in competition for international supremacy, that is not influenced by governmental pressures, that cares little for the interests of the art market, that is not sustained solely by the aesthetic judgments of its executors, etc.? That is, a non-elitist cultural policy based on information about contemporary creation that is non-partisan and as objective as possible?

Would a cultural policy implemented in that way not make possible a cultural flowering, assuming that cultural richness is the feverish heterogeneity of many artistic conceptions and tendencies in constant confrontation and in direct relation with the public?


Questions - 2

Can we still say...
• That Ibero-American art is one and indivisible? • That it is the historical art of the pre-Columbian

• That it is the art of today that employs signs taken

from those civilizations?
• That it is the art created by some communities in

artisanal ways?
• That it is the art represented by the aboriginal

• That it is the art that manages to be seen

• That it is the art that tells the history of the struggles

of the people?
• That it is art that sells well?
• That it is the art that joins a conflict?
• That it is the art that locally reproduces the models

of international trends?
• That it is art that attempts to reflect the industrial,

technological world?
• That it is the art that triumphs abroad?
• That it is the art of the naïve painters?
• That it is art that respects academic rules?
• That it is that art that creates its own avant-garde? • That it is the art that certain indigenous tribes yet to

be discovered in Mato Grosso produce?
• That it is art that upholds established values? • That it is the art that seeks a different form of

communication? • Etc.


It is not easy to outline what lbero-American art is today, and the result will always be partial or imprecise. Is it possible to consider Ibero-American art as some- thing fixed, like a corpse to be dissected and analysed by doctors in a laboratory, at a certain distance and from a neutral point of view?
Though somewhat imprecise, in flux and full of contradictions, Latin American art is what it is: the reflection of the convulsive reality of a continent where oppression, repression, and torture are the dominant systems of government.

Is the reality of current Ibero-American art something abstract, removed from us? Is it not the joint product of the social reality and of what we ourselves have created? We, the artists, art critics and scholars, official or private administrators, etc., that constitute this conference.

Can we shirk this responsibility? Every one of us here today at this meeting has been and continues to be responsible for what Ibero-American art is today. And we are especially responsible for what it will become in the future, since many of those here today hold key positions that control the art world. And it is these key positions that decide the value, make selections, praise certain tendencies, and ignore or condemn others.

Is it false to say that through the administration of artistic activities in our cities, the schemas that are being reproduced are the same as those of the imperialist international centres?

In the big cities of our continent, haven’t we all seen retrograde art administrators defending academia, opposed on principle to anything new; the avant-garde administrators who, while travelling through Europe or to New York, act as a bridgehead for the dissemination of these international centres, creating around themselves a small court of artists to promote, so long as they re- create on the local level the international avant-gardes;

or the most recent phenomenon: administrator-tutors who manipulate artists by creating artificially constituted groups that they use to personally promote themselves internationally, leaping from one -ism to another?

Does this string of -isms that is a product of the critics’ artificial classifications contribute a single positive element? Does it not help keep artists in a position of constant rivalry with their colleagues? Does it not leave the artist to his or her own individualism, vulnerable and likely to be manipulated? Is this not how the artists, one by one, end up coalescing into one unsteady mass from which the expert-administrators will extract those who are the most ‘valuable’? According to what criteria? According to what standards? And are not the acts of selecting, classifying, appraising, buying, acts of power?



The dominant classes are conservative. They locally reproduce the capitalist power frameworks, imitate the life model disseminated by the imperialist centres, impose their own criteria and values, and impede the development of creativity. In almost all Latin American countries, the current regimes fight creativity since it is synonymous with reflection, critique, change, and action. ln order to endure, these regimes alienate the population, keeping it passive and dependent.


With art, in the best case, they accept only that which reflects their situation and helps them maintain power – that is, art that increases passivity and depen- dence, art that exports aesthetically pleasing, harmless models, art that subscribes to the model of supply and demand. They thereby denaturalize creativity and see the artist as someone at their service, who can be alienated like the rest of the people.


Perhaps one might say that the true Latin American spirit in art is authentic creation, accompanied by an attitude in keeping with that. This creative attitude in art would parallel the creativity of the people, who, though alienated, continuously invent new ways of fighting against repression, in order to destroy the oppressors and create new modes of coexistence. It would be a creative attitude in art that would help in one way or another to survive or live, help break mental boxes and constraints, eliminate ideological conditioning, passivity, submissiveness, fear, and allow us to understand the possibility of a different future.


Julio Le Parc (conscious of his contradictions as an experimental artist in a capitalist society).

Presentation given at the First Ibero American Meeting of Art Critics and Visual Artists. Caracas, June 1978.

Value-Creation: A Key Weapon

This text was presented at the Rencontres d’Intel- lectuels pour la souveraineté des peuples de notre Amérique [Meeting of Intellectuals for the Sovereignty of the Peoples of Our America], Casa de las Americas, Havana, September 1981.


Latin America is a continent that fights simultaneously against the political, economic, and military penetration of American imperialism and against its desire to use culture as a weapon for domination.


Former strategies inherited from Old Europe for im- plementing cultural systems have regained their power here, and means of mass communication, aided by the acceleration of communication in general, have proven to be the ideal instrument to directly or surreptitiously propagate the imperialist ideology and way of life. In the field I work in, that of visual arts, one can clearly observe how successfully imperialism has managed to control all the international bodies that attribute value, ensuring that the works created by its artists (overpriced) are permanently at the fore.


With regard to visual arts in our Western world today, one cannot apply a rigid policy of protectionism at a national level, such as occurs with other products, because artistic products from other international centres do not necessarily require a physical presence: innovation only needs to cross borders in the form of information for the local cultural system, which is based on those international centres, to adopt them through imitation. It does not matter whether these products are good or not. Insofar as artists from across the globe develop an authentic investigatory and creative form of research, while respecting the parameters of visual arts, their contribution is perfectly valid. What is not acceptable is the way in which this contribution is used and manipulated – the artificial and exclusive creation of value by those in power who are responsible for deve- loping the art world at a local and international level.


I believe that isolation, and therefore the ignorance of what happens in the rest of the world, is neither desi- rable nor possible for arts in Latin American countries; an isolationism focused on the past in the search for a hypothetical national identity; an isolationism that while preserving its current system of selection and value-creation adds to its own criteria, detached from local reality; an isolationism that chauvinistically exalts all that is national according to the interests of the dominant class; a retrograde isolationism that harks back to an old form of academicism. An isolationism that rejects international confrontation would also reject internal confrontation.


During meetings with groups of young artists from several Latin American towns, I observed a justifiable mistrust towards the art of international centres. I pointed out, however, that in these centres, young artists like them are continually fighting against a hostile environment where, apart from the private market, the circulation of art is controlled by technocrats who are mostly deaf to, insensitive to, and unfamiliar with their problems. Although it is obviously important to resist the cultural penetration that brings these innovations and standards of value, we must also make contact with all those around the world who try, in one way or another, to bring about the conditions for a different situation for artists.


We cannot look at the issue of Latin American art in aesthetic terms. Today, in good times and bad, we must support the diversity of movements. Many move- ments exist in Latin America, applied with more or less authenticity. It is risky and arbitrary to qualify some as progressive or revolutionary and others as being retrograde and in service to the dominant class.


In itself, artistic creation does not have an intrinsic value that resists time and extends across all latitudes.


But the problem is that there are people who have decided that their standards of value are universal and indisputable. In addition, some works or artistic move- ments that for the moment can be qualified as positive have been considered and classified by the dominant class for the most superficial of reasons and inscribed in the ‘contemporary history of art’ for all these poor reasons; their contribution and all that goes against the interests of the dominant class are neutralized. Thus devitalized, these artistic works or movements end up forming part of the exclusive heritage of the dominant class that dictates its own standards of appreciation and indicates to the public the position it must take in relation to them.


It is no coincidence that the attitude of the public towards these works is almost always one of inferiority, passivity, and dependence; they further accentuate the public’s submission to the established order, inhibit its personal judgement, and deaden its natural creativity, isolating it in individual contemplation and thus remo- ving any possibility of intervening in what is presented as Art with a capital ‘A’ and what is completely foreign.


This way of manipulating the artistic world can be observed in all manifestations of culture and with even more conclusive results in sectors other than the visual arts, for example, the press, radio, cinema, or television. These means of communication are no longer only used to slow down people’s natural impulses for developing their personalities, but, skilfully handled, they have been converted into privileged channels for mental penetra- tion that promote an attitude of resignation towards the injustices of this world, presented as inevitable and natural. They thus inculcate the almost inaccessible way of life of the local dominant classes, which is simply the reflection of the way of life of dominant classes at an international level.


The correlation between the general system of op- pression used at an international level and that applied locally is obvious. This same correlation exists in the field of art and culture.


Although it has been repeated a thousand times, it is worth pointing out the case in general; this allows us to identify the means more precisely and to resist the situation by establishing a register of all that is done in this direction. For example, alongside the television or film producer who develops a seemingly innocuous product in service to the dominant class’s ideology, there are people in this profession who, in spite of the rigid mechanisms of operation of these media, try to introduce into their creative work elements of reflection intended to awaken the viewer’s sense of critical thinking, thus preparing the way for more radical changes in society.


This is the same for visual arts. Throughout the world in recent years, a multitude of attitudes, behaviours, achievements, and combats have been observed, all seeking a new vision of artistic know-how. Just as there is a top-down internationalization of standards of value and of value-creation by imperialist centres, there should be an international organization that unites producers from all countries and that fights against the arbitrariness of the world of the visual arts and against the hegemony of the United States. The participation in this fight of Latin American artists, inside and outside Latin America, is important.


Now we must set up an analytical register of all that has been done to this end. Making these experiments known, with both their successes and their errors, is probably much more useful for a rising generation of artists than the innumerable books on the avant-garde based on ‘aesthetic’ criteria and meeting international standards of value.


In my opinion, the current situation of visual arts is a chain in which the producer and product, those who circulate and what is circulated, and those who consume and what is consumed can be found. The key point of this chain is ‘value-creation’. This value-creation lies in the hands of a small number of people responsible for separating the wheat from the chaff in art and for circulating what they choose; the selected work takes on all its social reality through the act of purchase by the collector or through the sacralization granted by art officials in art’s privileged places: salons, international exhibitions, public spaces, museums, etc. Members of the public are excluded from all this (their entry into certain museums barely counts), regarded in the best of cases as well-intentioned but impotent amateurs, carrying no weight in the history of visual arts. They are suspected of being uncultivated people who only like ‘easy’ paintings and who make fun of avant-garde art or who are quite simply unaware of it, generally regarding it as hostile and incomprehensible, far from daily concerns.


Just as value-creation at an international level determines aesthetic tastes at a global level according to the evolution of artistic fashions, at the local level, value-creation by the minority determines what is done locally, in a more or less equally submissive way depending on the degree to which it imitates interna- tional criteria. However, it is precisely here that we can create a space in this closed system that excludes the creation of any value other than its own.


We can propose an infinite variety of initiatives and require their practical application (using state funds in particular) in order to develop different cultural policies through a broad confrontational approach that would allow multiple values and provide new foundations for artistic creation.


Creation, like all aspects of social life, must be a shared concern and must not be delegated to a small group, whether in regard to acts of creativity, value- creation, or social integration. In societies that have adopted the capitalist system, it is absolutely necessary to break down the mythical individualism of artists so that as part of a group they can reflect on the role that they play in society, on the system of creation, value-creation, circulation, and the social function of their work. They will thus make a collective impact on their own milieu and will be able to denounce what seems arbitrary, adopt behaviours suitable for trans- forming the cultural system, join with progressive groups from other disciplines, and coordinate their efforts towards change.


Thus, during activities as commonplace as salons, acquisitions, public commissions, national selections, official exhibitions, and so on, the direct participation of artists, critics, art specialists, officials, and the public in general could be required, by way of a system of value-creation and multiple selections in continual confrontation, which would leave its mark through a constant exchange of opinions, thoughts, constructive criticisms, and open dialogue. All this would set up fresh criteria for the appreciation of artistic creation, establish shared responsibilities, and create new relationships between all those who are concerned with art. This is the only way that creation, in its new form, can be conveyed to the common people.


It would initially be a question of no longer regarding the viewer as a passive being, dependant, and of no importance, but instead as a living being in a reality about to be transformed, somebody able to observe, reflect, compare, and act, a social being capable of forging an opinion together with other protagonists, understanding the problems, and finding solutions.


Out of this, the foundation for a Latin American identity will emerge. This cannot be decided by decree, or by academic paths, or even by the revolutionary avant-garde. Latin American cultural identity is a task belonging to the present and the future. This issue is relevant for everyone, as the enormous creative capaci- ties of the Latin American people could be developed in every domain, a people that neither the most atrocious dictatorships nor the oppression of imperialism have yet managed to destroy. This cultural identity exists impli- citly and takes into account all that has been done and all that has helped, in one way or another, to preserve the people’s aspirations for another way of living life as a society and another way of life in general, in this, our Latin America.


To end my presentation, I would like to propose some concrete measures including the reaffirmation and generalization of what has already been done and what continues to be done every day in the field of visual arts, and which contributes modestly to the daily efforts of the true Latin American in his or her fight. Let us note in particular:

• The many stances against social injustice, support for humanitarian causes, defence of human rights, and solidarity with the justified aspirations of the people;

• Specific attitudes vis-à-vis what is arbitrary in our cultural milieu and of behaviours designed to change the system that governs how the visual arts operate;

• The use of professional capacities in the service of precise causes related to fights belonging to the people;

• Serious, investigative, and creative research within the parameters of the visual arts;

• Open attitudes leading to interdisciplinary and collective work, related to social realities.

And to conclude, I will make a more concrete proposal to the Casa de las Americas, which, I believe, will be in agreement with the idea of creating a broad Latin American front of intellectuals and artists. The Casa de las Americas has been and remains a centre for vibrant cultural activity, a place for meetings, exchanges, and achievements that have given a new shape to Latin American cultural life. Its value and importance for Latin American creators and the circulation of their works has been illustrated many times over.


There are many of us who wish to see more Houses of the Americas on our continent and even in Europe. We see it as the ideal instrument for circulating Latin American creations. This initiative would make it possible to develop and intensify mutual knowledge of what is done in many creative fields. With regard to Europe, it could help us reinforce links with the dynamic aspects of European culture. Even if that may appear utopian, imagine the creative output of all these Houses of Americas. I would propose, as a starting point within the Cuban Casa de las Americas, the training of a broad committee made up of creators from various disciplines, Latin American or otherwise, whose functions and com- position remain to be determined.


In addition to being officially invested, due to their training, with representation in the Casa de las Americas, the members of this committee would coordinate all local initiatives, combining their efforts to create, if not many local Houses of Americas, at least one centre of activities in the spirit of the Casa de las Americas. At the same time, they could be responsible for transmitting to the parent organization all the suggestions, initiatives, ideas, criticisms, and contributions from local creators, putting them forward for the approval of the com- mittee. We could thus develop a closer relationship of shared responsibility, and creators from many countries would benefit from a space for direct intervention. This committee could hold periodic meetings, obviously in the Casa de las Americas in Havana, but also in other countries, to diversify relationships with local creators and relevant institutions, which could in turn lead to shared initiatives.


This work would gradually consolidate new attitudes and behaviours, which themselves could be used as a basis for exchange and for the conditions necessary to the production, circulation, and added value of Latin American creations. All this would make the develop- ment of solidarity with different peoples possible, giving rise to a broad front of Latin American culture against imperialism.


Julio Le Parc, Carboneras, August 1981.

The Old Painter

We were the ones who were receiving answers. Us, a small group of volunteers, who, owing to our insistence, had managed to obtain a terminal phase of construc- tion from the director of the Centre Pompidou: that he convoke a meeting of artists. It all started with a simple and natural request. A few painter friends and myself had learned that Mr Pontus Hulten, who had been appointed as director of the Centre, had organized a visit to the museum’s construction site with a group of directors from the best Parisian art galleries and after that, he had bought them lunch at a very good local restaurant. A while later, he had done the same thing with around thirty directors from the art galleries of a lesser category. Possibly instead of lunch, he had only bought them tea.


We thought to ourselves: ‘What a great start! Soon, it’ll be the artists’ turn.’ But since that was late in coming, we resigned ourselves to the fact that nothing had been arranged.


I have known Pontus Hulten since 1961, when he had organized an exhibition on movement in Scandinavian countries. We secured a meeting where he was of a mind to give us some information but not to call in a general assembly because, he said, that would turn into an accountability assembly.


From that point on, we found ourselves obliged to pursue our approach of bringing together the artists interested in this meeting, by multiplying gatherings and broadening our small initial group to collect a significant amount of artists’ signatures in order to obtain it. After endless negotiations, pressure, and solicitations from all quarters, Pontus Hulten and his team granted us the convocation to the meeting we’d requested.


For us, it was absolutely necessary that the convo- cation be extended by the Centre and signed by its director Pontus Hulten, even if we had to do all the printing work for the convocation, the addresses, the envelopes, the postage, etc. To this end, we had obtained a small corner at the Centre. The artists receiving the convocation from Pontus Hulten had to reply in order to obtain an official invitation and eventually pose ques- tions that Pontus Hulten undertook to risk conveying to the artists’ commission.


This is how we found ourselves in possession of a letter from artists in which there were countless questions to be asked during the assembly, questions that we added to the general questionnaire.


There were two letters that attracted my attention: one from a rather famous artist, who took advantage of the occasion to ask Pontus Hulten to buy a painting from him to fund his move to the countryside; the other, from a painter who expressed how moved he was that, after decades of work, this was the first time in his life that he had been invited to converse with a museum director. Unfortunately, his advanced age and illness prevented him from attending the meeting, so he asked permission for his daughter to represent him and be informed of the deliberations.


After a year and a half of insistence, we had obtained from Pontus Hulten and his collaborators a meeting, not in Paris, but in Créteil! The date that they’d set was 3 January 1977! Just after the end of year festivities! Despite all of these drawbacks, over a thousand artists attended the meeting, as did the daughter of the old painter.


Julio Le Parc, Paris.

Yvaral, Soto, Le Parc

To Be or Not To Be

Yvaral listened to the resounding voice of art history telling him: either speak now or forever hold your peace. Dilemma: being mistaken for bitter, jealous people, mulling over their revenge (of the ‘inferior artist’ variety), attacking a ‘safe bet’ to get attention; or staying silent and being considered ever after as an epigone of Soto, having done a few shitty little pieces by copying him.

Between these two extremes, there must be a consensual and worthy [consensual? Maybe I was still committing such sins out of naivety] attitude enabling the facts of historical reality to be specified in an objective way, without falling into cheating, insults, and without getting everyone’s backs up. If this precision is accurate and based on the undisputed facts, even Soto could subscribe to it without losing face.



Poorly placed scruples that must be corrected. He could have whispered to me: ‘do not attack Soto, he is of the same artistic movement as you! Do not attack Soto, he is Latin American like you! Do not attack Soto, he is almost your friend, etc’.

I assert the right to speak my mind, to say what I believe to be historically accurate and in so doing, I underline the difference between Soto and myself and I affirm that I do not belong to the same movement as him; appearances can be deceiving. The clearer things are, the better it will be for Latin American art. The more sincere we are, the stronger are our chances of building true friendship [more naivety?] In so doing, I have no intention whatsoever of attacking Soto either as a person, or as an artist. I am contributing elements that will be added to others, to feed into a vital and constructive polemic, in the hopes of a clarification that has now become urgent.


Brief History

With the foundation of the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) in 1960, we were tackling the problem of artistic creation head on, and particularly everything to do with optical phenomena, the construction of the work (its framework, conception), to all manner of movements, etc.

From there, we developed a unique body of work.

For us, the work of Paul Klee, Mondrian, Pevsner, Vantongerloo, Moholy-Nagy, Sophie Taeuber, Duchamp, Albers, the constructivists in general, Max Bill, Schoffer, and Vasarely with his strong presence and the youngest members (Tinguely, Agam, Bury, and Soto, etc.) were the foundations of our approach (we had made that clear in our publications). By analysing their strong points, contradictions, and limitations, we developed our personal approach, which went beyond the paths that they had paved for themselves.


Perpetual Research

Within the GRAV and the New Tendency (the Gruppo N of Padua, the Gruppo T of Milan, and other artists), some very interesting proposals were made, supported by specific experiments, concrete productions, and clear positions.

They concerned the visual priority of the artwork, the systematic work, the participation of the viewer, the playful aspect, etc. They denounced the mystifi- cation that clouds both artwork and artist; they also denounced the arbitrary nature of the official artistic system, the dependency on the art market, and so on (thus compromising us).

With the GRAV, we had a form of work that was very different from the one practised at the time based on indi- vidualism, the ‘sanctified’ artwork, the cult of personality, etc. Our approach mainly relied on an attitude of perpetual research, on discussions, on permanent confrontations; in short, we tended towards collective work.



Those who preceded us remained within the tradi- tional position. That was understandable for Vasarely who was old and whose work was maturing (moreover, we had some positive discussions with him, and his work and texts were always present). It was the others who disappointed us. Those who were the same age as some of us or a bit older, and who had participated in the Movement exhibition, at Galerie Denise René, in 1955. Our attempts to get closer to them, to think about or even work on things together, were never followed up. These artists (including Agam, Bury, Tinguely, and Soto) made us acutely aware that their independence was important to them and jealously defended their

artistic originality. The attitude that we were advocating called them into question.

They wanted to retain their private hunting grounds.



The most extreme and grotesque among them was Agam, who boasted that ‘his’ system of paintings with triangular bars – a system that has long been used in advertising – had been filed with the register of inven- tions. When I was a teenager in Buenos Aires, I remember that the Peronists used these in their political propa- ganda: on a big sign, you could see the portrait of Peron who, as you moved, was eclipsed to make way for that of his wife Evita (it must be said that it was effective).


Tinguely’s Motor

I remember that we had suggested to Soto that he include real movement in his work. He wouldn’t allow himself to use the slightest electric motor so as not to encroach on Tinguely’s domain. They both thought, tacitly, that doing research into magnets amounted to betraying or even stealing from Takis, etc.


The Thing

Soto had introduced the moiré or watered effect into his paintings. He used the displacement of the viewer differently than Agam.

In the latter’s work, when the viewers moved, they discovered different geometric paintings within a single relief.

In Soto’s work, there was an optical vibration. And he was very attached to his optical vibration! That was his thing. When we met him, in late 1958, he was making a series of artworks in which disparate elements, possibly found in the street, composed reliefs, where there were various kinds of stripes on which pieces of haphazard iron wire created the famous phenomenon of vibrating optics. This optical phenomenon was found to a lesser extent among certain informal artists, who were intro- ducing the iron grid into their assemblages.


Mad Scramble

At the end of the 1950s, those who had participated in the Mouvement exhibition at the Galerie Denise René, since they had never comprised a real group either for analysis or collaboration, pursued their individualistic paths, each accentuating in their respective corners their own artistic quirk. They deserted the battlefield; Tinguely was drawn into neo-Dada, Pol Bury persona- lized his work through disturbing movements, Agam repeated his stacked constructivist paintings, Vasarely was becoming famous, and Soto was teaming up with the informalists . . . Most of them became acquainted with Yves Klein, at Iris Clert’s; the spirit of the Galerie Denise René slumbered.



Soto’s work was heavily influenced by the trend of the day: tachisme, informal art. It was a trend followed at the same time by another important artist, a Venezuelan by the name of Alejandro Otero, from the same move- ment as Soto, but who otherwise had no additional particularity. Tachisme, informalism . . . precisely what we were combating, precisely because of its trendy character and its invasive academicism. We were fighting against it not only out of disgust for an easy production excluding other potential approaches, but also through our analyses and texts, like the one we had distributed in the form of a tract in 1961 at the Biennale de Paris. But above all, we fought against it by adopting within our artistic reality a very different attitude to one of the artists of Soto’s generation and those who were on all the picture rails of the galleries and museums at that time.


Dear Jean-Pierre

Yvaral’s work does not consist of a few little impro- vised things put together and soon forgotten. It is a serious, in-depth approach that has spanned over ten years and produced a considerable amount of research.

All of this work was mainly completed in physical form, notably at the Biennale de Paris in 1963 where he exhibited his mural with transparent plastic cords, or at the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, and the New Tendency exhibition at the Palais du Louvre in 1964, with his large-format cube from 1961.

Part of the work developed within the GRAV by Yvaral had the same starting point as Soto: the phenomenon of the moiré effect. This phenomenon, incidentally, belonged to different optical illusions used by Albers, Duchamp, Vasarely, and particularly Pevsner. But Yvaral used the phenomenon in an entirely different way to

Soto. While the latter contented himself with ‘demate- rializing’ disparate elements exhibited in front of stripes through optical vibrations, Yvaral was developing bona fide research, using the viewer’s changing position to the utmost by playing on accelerations and decelerations in optical movement, produced by his ‘premonitory’ constructions made of plastic cords.

In 1962, in my text, ‘À propos de art-spectacle, spectateur actif, instabilité et programmation dans l'art visuel’ [‘On Art as Spectacle: The Active Spectator, Instability and Programming in Visual Art’], the following passage made reference to Yvaral’s work:

• In the case of Kinetic Artworks in volumes – those that are created through the viewers’ displacement – they truly have value when the viewer’s total perception, as they move, responds to the same data sets of design and creation.

• The value of this perception resides, not in the capri- cious addition of the various points of view – each of them potentially being the equivalent of a traditio- nal, static painting – but in the close relationship of displacement of the viewer and the multiple visual situations arising as a result. Each one in itself having only minimal value, the most important part is a third state produced by the displacement.

• The most remarkable artworks on this path are those that include the notion of acceleration that produces a genuine sense of movement, since the slightest displacement of the viewer produces a visual move- ment several times superior to the actual movement of the displacement. This visual movement is subject to permanent constants.

Obviously, Yvaral would have been just as ridiculous as Agam if he had filed with the register of inventions the visual effect that the alignments of trees seen from a moving train produce. Yvaral’s research, like that of all the others, was and remains latent, open, and poten- tially extendable.


Sequel / Soto Il

Soto’s work, which in our eyes had been endowed with an interesting problematic, later seemed to us to be irredeemably lost; too long a prisoner of informalist academicism, it became a production that had lost all interest for us.

When Soto will show this informal academicism the door, he will remember what he used to do and he will recover this vast platform made up of the ideas, creations, and propositions that – by dint of discussions, comparisons, and analyses – the GRAV and the artists of the New Tendency had established, at the cost of constant struggle and hard work, which was not devoid of sacrifices.


Optical Vibration

It is possible that during his ‘informalist’ time some of our ideas were able to cross Soto’s mind now and then, but the fact remains that, throughout this period, he did not apply any of them, contenting himself with using the phenomenon of vibration in the informal manner.

You could argue that what matters in Soto’s case is the emphasis put on optical vibration and that the media used are unimportant. That would mean that the attachment to a theme, that the perseverance in maintaining it across various media, enables artists to constitute an identity, a label, a style, a brand image: that is, a passport to success.



Within the array of monothematic artists, we can find some from all currents who have managed to impose their brand image, since the artistic milieu has granted them its recognition.

Would you like accumulations? Here are some for all tastes (Arman).
Would you like packages? Here are some and each time they get bigger (Christo).

Would you like starred flags? Here are some in all dimensions (Jasper Johns).
Would you like nanas? Here are some in all colours (Niki de Saint Phalle).

Would you like stripes? Here are some of all stripes (Buren).
Do you like fat ladies? Here are some, and some fat men too, some short and stout, some fat cats . . . (Botero). Can you cope with TV? Here are mountains of them (Nam June Paik).

Do you like thin people? Here are some walking (Giacometti).
Do you like the sky? Here are tonnes of ultramarine blue spread with a roller (Yves Klein).

Do you like optical vibration? Here are some on a monumental scale (Soto).
Do you like black? Here’s ‘black light’ (Soulages).
Do you like old stones? Here are kilometres of crackled, textured walls . . . (Tàpies).

Do you like compressions? Here’s a scrap merchant for you (César).
Do you like dripping paint? Here’s some that has dripped, dripped, dripped . . . (Pollock).

Do you like bathrooms? Here are shovels full of tiles (Raynaud).
Do you like souvenirs from Montmartre? You will find artists for tourists who do not hide the fact that they’re retail items.

Would you like a souvenir of the great mystification of art? Here you go, here you go, here you go...
Do you like lampoons? Here’s one from the kind of person who goes on and on (Le Parc).

This theme in the ironic register could be infinitely varied.


Double Standards

The attitude that consists of continually experi- menting is absolutely in contradiction with the idea of the unique and original artwork. The originality resides in this attitude itself.

It is open, generous. The researcher contents himself or herself with small discoveries that, step by step, eventually constitute an approach.

In our milieu, this attitude has no ‘value on the sharemarket.’ Prized values are more akin to ‘style’, perseverance on a single track. If you spend five, ten, thirty years doing the same thing, you will have a chance of becoming a ‘safe bet’, recognizable and appreciated. The more you persist in a way of doing things – independently of actually doing them – the greater your chances of recognition become. At any rate, more than if you experiment. Experimenters are generally considered outside the fold, old-fashioned, classified as iconoclastic, naive, utopian, or peevish, detracting from the others treading water.


Despite Everything

Beyond the recognition and advantages that the art world may grant to those who adopted a ‘style’, even if it is ‘uni-thematic’, there are cases where an artist who sincerely follows their obsession for many long years,

manages to refine their theme to the point of overcoming all considerations and producing some very beautiful artworks. In the event that they derive their inspiration from a colleague’s work, the beauty of their artworks can cause us to forget the lack of originality and possibly it can even bring out something that, without this artist, would have been overlooked.



For individuals positioned outside of personal rivalries and who favour the development of ideas, it is hugely satisfying to see one of their ideas take shape and become clear to all. Provided, however, they have not first been downtrodden either by the injustice of over- sight, or by the accusation of fraud.



Since the artists of the GRAV and those of the New Tendency are not exactly fierce defenders of little quirks, small discoveries, or brand image, as the years have gone by, all of our contributions have become (perhaps others have obliged them to become) a fading nebulous.

We are seen as a shapeless mass diluting into the air of the past tense, belonging to all. Some have shamelessly stolen from us, others have done so more slyly, while others still have developed our ideas while making new propositions. So much so that the hasty ‘historians’ of contemporary art always forget these contributions. Tachisme, pop art, minimalism, or trans-avant-gardism are enough for them. However, there is some of the GRAV and the NT in minimalism, conceptualism, sociological art, new constructivism, Supports/Surfaces, BMPT, inter- ventionism, in the installers, in the artists’ collectives, in anti-establishment artists and . . . and . . . in Soto too.


The Breaking Point

Can we say that the work of Soto in the late 1950s and early 1960s was informalist? It was and yet, at the same time, it wasn’t. Can we say that a large proportion of the work he created afterwards was GRAV/NT? It was and it wasn’t. In this interstice lies Soto. There, as both one thing and the other. As far as we’re concerned, it is not just a problem of dimension, of scale; as he enlarged some of our themes, he gave them a different scope (not just in terms of size) of a different intensity.

Soto’s artistic virtues are undeniable. What for us was in the field of research, experimentation (even when it was 100% accomplished), permeated Soto’s work a bit later on, surpassing the original idea and presenting remarkable quality and nobility, due to the finesse and sensibility of the artist that Soto is. And there, too, his little quirk (optical vibration) becomes a pretext. It is present in his creations but surfaces through the artistic fact; when we look at them, we get the sense that they could’ve done without it.



Jealousy of the success of Soto’s work? Holding it against him? No. On various occasions, I have expressed to Soto how much I appreciated his work. I remember congratulating him at the international fair in Montreal for his simple and beautiful work hung in the pavilion of Venezuela, designed by the architect Villanueva. I wasn’t about to congratulate myself even though, in its conception, his work was similar to one of mine created earlier. It was similar yet different. It was Soto to a tee. My congratulations were sincere, because ‘my one’ in question also came from somewhere and claiming paternities has always struck me as ridiculous.


Culture of Exclusion

Through a sleight of hand, the contemporary history of art has skirted around all of the contributions from one approach that represents long years of very intense research work within the GRAV and the NT.

Why? The opinion of an elemental anti-Yankee: because of rivalries from the 1960s between Europe and the United States. This tussle ended when everyone recognized North American supremacy in the field of art as well and accepted that it was them, the Yankees, who determined the value of things. And since North American artists were not protagonists in the NT movement, they decreed that this movement had never existed. And the Europeans submitted themselves to the law of silence.

An anecdote: in the month of May 1996, during my exhibition at the Electra Foundation, some specialized magazines published some small articles about me. As I flicked through them, I found entire pages dedicated to Soulages’s major exhibition held at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris. I was pleasantly surprised to read the praise of art critics regarding ‘black light’, to

see them admiring the original way that Soulages catches the light in his paintings and their surprise at the way in which it modifies and transforms them depending on the spectator’s positioning and displacements. At that point I met an art critic who had not yet written his article on Soulages and was about to. Naively, I asked her if she intended to take into account our work within the GRAV and the NT, in the early 1960s, on the non-definitive artwork, on instability, on movement, on the participation of the viewer, and on the incorpora- tion of external contingencies within the artwork. She laughed at me outright. In her opinion, no one could be interested in such wild imaginings and if anyone had had the peculiar notion of doing anything of the sort, it must have only been a minor or unknown artist; the genius artist was Soulages.


Homage Yes – Homage No

She was so convinced by her argument that she asked me to entitle one of my artworks from the 1960s exhibited at Electra Homage to Soulages! So this is what we can say about the ‘seriousness’ of certain critics subservient to prestige, the art market, and fads. It is as if a critic had suggested to Yvaral at one of his exhibitions to call his cube: Homage to Soto. Wouldn’t it have been more logical and accurate that Soto entitle the artwork that he presented this year on the Champs-Élysées: Variation on a theme by Yvaral or simply Homage to Yvaral?


Penetrable – Penetrables

At the 1963 Biennale de Paris, inside the labyrinth (a collective work by the GRAV) I’d created a small cell containing all of the conceptual, material, and operative information of what, later, would be called ‘penetrables’.

In 1969, when Soto installed a penetrable on the parvis of the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, for his first retrospective, I was very happy about it. For me it was as though my little cell from 1963 had left the labyrinth to fly solo, had gone through the doors of the museum and come to sit just in front of me. It thus took on a different scale, revised by Soto, on this big square of cement where ice skaters usually did their arabesques.

I saw photos of one of Soto’s daughters, already grown up and very pretty, inside the penetrable and it reminded me with emotion of the ones that I had

taken of my children, still very young, participating in a few of my works.


In the Street, the Cage

I told myself at the time that if we’d been able to have these kinds of facilities for our Day in the Street in 1966, we could have been much more effective. Instead of that, they’d sent the police to chase us away. That didn’t stop us from being happy and proud of our approach, of the meaning it had and our contact with the public. Among the events that we were proposing, there had been the tiny cylindrical cage by Yvaral made of transparent plastic cords, tiny in comparison to Soto’s penetrables.

In one of the photos from the period, it is moving to see it already ‘penetrated’ and occupied by the patriarch with his white beard, looking older than he really was; at that time, his moustache was still black: I am referring to Pierre Restany. Next to him stood a beautiful young woman in a figure-hugging black-and-white striped ensemble that played ‘optically’ with the suspended plastic cords. Some other curves, with a different kind of charm, had also penetrated the cage in the person of Otto Hahn.

Yes... of course.

Soto had a fresh start after his ‘informal’ period. To do so, he drew in large part on the ideas that we had sparked in the meantime. He ‘borrowed’ some of our research and developed them. And beyond that? Well, I think – once these little ‘sins’ are forgiven – that what Soto makes is very beautiful.

What is less pardonable is the behaviour of obtuse decision-makers and amnesiac art historians, who are obliging us to undertake this clarification – which is certainly belated and is possibly not going to be well-received – concerning Yvaral, the GRAV, the NT, and myself, in relation to Soto’s work.



We can catch ourselves imagining all the things the artists of the NT might’ve been able to achieve had they been given more opportunities. It could be objected that if it wasn’t done it’s because they lacked conviction, that they were incapable of communicating their enthusiasm to sway the decisions. Or perhaps it was because we were not opportunistic enough, not sufficiently ready to kowtow or to consider that ‘the end justifies the

means.’ But these are moral considerations that relate to individual consciences.

Also, I think that for those who take the time to look for them, real contributions are found more in the research itself than in the spectacular.

Soto having a third retrospective exhibition in Paris is very good. But it would also be very good if Paris, one day, invited the artists of the GRAV and NT to show all of their research work from the 1960s.

That would be rightful redress and a much more eloquent clarification than this text.


A Seat at the Table / Every Seat

Soto must have all the recognition that he deserves. That is only natural. What would be abnormal and un- healthy for everyone, including Soto, would be that he not have any at all or that he have an excessive amount, with no basis in reality, like that of certain ‘chosen’ artists today who are exaggeratedly famous, who, without a doubt, will be the ‘firefighters’ of the future. By carrying an artist to the summit, this totalitarian recognition is entirely undertaken to the detriment of others. Is this already unhealthy? Is it already too late? At any rate, this text has its reason for existing, if only for the inner peace the act of writing it has brought me.



It is highly possible that this approach turns against us. Or that our statements fall into the most utter indifference. Or that we are accused of being copiers, by criticizing our creations, the ones from the GRAV period, the ones from afterwards, or the ones from today, or by demolishing our analysis. These criticisms will be welcome in this period of widespread crisis, if they are part of an in-depth examination of our milieu regarding artistic production: how it is devised, how it is showcased, how it is disseminated, how it is marketed, how it is integrated socially, etc. This is how we might detect its contradictions, its flaws, and see how we can modify it and integrate it in a positive way within contemporary society.


Cachan, December 1996.

Preface to Historieta

The origins of this ‘small illustrated history’ date back many years. In the mid-1950s, while we were studying at the Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we launched a powerful student movement. We occupied the three schools day and night for a whole month, resulting in the deposition of the directors and vice-directors, and in the creation of a list of professors who were categorized as ‘good’, ‘bad’, or ‘undesirable’. The disciplinary rules were also removed, and we called on young artists to exhibit their work inside the schools by inviting them to give free classes.


At the time, we dreamt of totally restructuring me- thods for teaching art. At one point, once the student mobilization had started to decline, we made a small mimeographed magazine with written texts and comical drawings that highlighted the shortcomings of our art world and its teaching methods.


This nascent analysis of the art world was furthered by the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) in the early 1960s in Paris, through a process of collective critical thinking that was formalized in texts, political positions, and actions; for example, the tract ‘Assez de mystifications’ [‘Enough Mystification’], which was distributed at the Biennale de Paris in 1961 or the 1966 Day in the Street.


This same attitude drove me to write texts developing these ideas (‘Guérilla culturelle?’ in 1968), use my images in a public poster workshop that I took at the École des beaux-arts in Paris in May ’68, and, with some fellow Latin Americans, organize and put on a large event called ‘América Latina No Oficial’, a type of informative visual pathway designed to counter official information from Latin American states, and in particular those using torture as a mode of government.


Graphic and ideological elements from this ‘small illustrated history’ were already present in the Jeux- enquêtes [Investigating-Games]: ‘Renversez les mythes’ [Overthrow Myths], ‘Choisissez vos ennemis’ [Choose your Enemies], and ‘Frappez les gradés’ [Strike the Officers] in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


This process of critical thought about our condition as artists in contemporary society continued collectively within the Front des Artistes Plasticiens (FAP), which contested the organization of the ‘Pompidou’ exhibi- tion (1972), questioning the instigators and organizers through texts, illustrated posters, and actions. Other satirical images were made with students from the Paris art faculty (among others) where I was teaching in 1973.


In addition to the collective creations made with the Brigade and Collective of Antifascist Painters, there was later a group of artists that rallied against the way the Centre Georges-Pompidou was organized. This struggle was the continuation of our thought on arbitrariness in cultural policies. For this occasion I made other drawings, which were to become the origin for this book. Among the texts I was writing on the situation at the time, ‘Questions’, in 1978, summarizes the various ideas on the topic we are dealing with here.


One day the BBC in London, who wanted to do a film on my work, asked me to submit something of my own devising. This encouraged me to put my various drawings in order, make new ones, construct small sets, write a script, etc., so that I could include my story in their film. This is when I realized that the story itself could be the subject of a short film. A few clips were nevertheless included in the film that the BBC produced in 1978.


This was when I employed the 150 slides that were the basis for this book. I used them several times in an audiovisual form to open public roundtables or to present exhibitions at various organizations, art schools, etc. In 1988, my son Gabriel also produced a thirteen-minute video in Spanish on the subject.


I had been waiting for quite some time to be able to place all these images and the problems they implied into a small, accessible book. Indeed, they contain, in a condensed fashion, a thought process that I had shared with many artists and that formed the backbone of my entire approach as an experimental plastic artist in a capitalist society.


Given my age, I might have been advised to ‘take it easy’ and fit into the mould of the artist searching for personal recognition and to leave former quarrels well alone; in short, to leave old demons sleeping and leave all these images, which still had the power to upset, in a dark corner of my cellar. One might have thought that to ‘bring them out’ would go against the ‘fine career’ of a creator and increase the danger of not seeing it bear its fruit before the permanent ‘withdrawal’ of the ‘good artist’ label that the art establishment was offering.


Unfortunately, the issues that I have had to face from my teenage years as a student at the Bellas Artes until today are still present. Raising these issues and searching for solutions can provide relief and favourably induce creation, as one knows where one stands.


I would like to take the opportunity here to thank all those who have made the publication of this book possible. In particular Pascal Letellier for his enlightened enthusiasm, Annette Breuil for her warm participation, and Jean-Louis Pradel for his analytical contribution and supportive attitude. I would also like to thank the Joca Seria publishing house.


Cachan, November 1996.

Lack of Contrasts

After visiting the exhibition Contrasts of Form (Geometric Abstract Art 1910–1980) in the Pablo Ruiz Picasso rooms in Madrid, I wrote the following text which was published in Diario, issue 16, 1 June 1986.



To see or revisit a series of artworks belonging to so-called geometric abstraction. Especially those of the pioneers.



To witness, once again, international manipulation on the part of the Americans in the field of contemporary art.



That, in this instance, the Spanish cultural authorities are rushing headlong into this manipulation. Either they know nothing about contemporary art or else (which would be worse) they are acting wittingly, establishing a complicity that verges on dishonesty.



As for Spain, how can it accept an exhibition of this kind, featuring, in the first half, only two Spanish artists: Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso? No other valid Spanish geometric artist apparently exists according to American criteria. How would it be possible not to feel outraged, for instance, that in the fifth part of the exhibition (1960s to 1980s) the historic Equipo 57’s work has been deliberately eclipsed? How could we not feel outraged at the absence of Eusebio Sempere? And how could we not feel outraged that all of this is taking place with the obvious consent of the Spanish cultural authorities?



As for Europe, how do we also accept in this same section (1960s–80s) the voluntary and no less delibe- rate exclusion of everything that has been produced in Europe in this period? We can cite several scandalous absences. For Italy, the works of Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari, the Gruppo N of Padua, the Gruppo T of Milan; for Germany, the work of Gerard Von Gravenitz and that of the artists of the Zero Group; for Switzerland, Richard Lhose, Karl Geznert; for France, Tinguely, Agam,

the GRAV (Groupe de recherche d'art visuel) . . . And a huge et cetera that includes countless artists from all the countries of Europe, without forgetting those of the Eastern countries, as well as the Movement Group of Moscow.


Latin America

Given that this exhibition will tour to Latin America (Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Caracas), how do we accept this ignorance – not devoid of a degree of scorn on the part of North Americans, for everything coming from the South? How can we possibly tolerate seeing the fundamental contribution of Latin America in this movement described as geometric abstraction, buried in the trashcans of history? So many brilliant artists have worked and continue to work in this spirit. I would just like to cite a few cases: the Movimiento de Arte Concreto Invencion, emerging in the 1940s in Buenos Aires and São Paulo; Arden Quin’s Madí Group, created in the same period in Rio de la Plata, recommended by the legendary Torres-Garcia, and whose artworks, declara- tions, and positions would cause many North American artists (who are nevertheless massively represented in this exhibition) to die of shame.



To think that some of the Latin American cultural leaders are also promoting this kind of exhibition in their own countries (just like Spain)! To think that it is these anti-national masochists or doormats to whom the super-expert Rambos of contemporary art can superbly dictate their masterclasses, imposing, as in so many other domains, their arrogant vision of the world in which their ‘made in the USA’ artists are the supermen of today’s art.



It is possible to find an infinite number of justifica- tions as to the content and choices of artworks in this exhibition, but it is undeniable that, as we have been able to observe on many more or less identified occa- sions (Paris – New York – Paris), for the North Americans, European art from the turn of the century is no more than a reference; veritable contemporary art sprung up fully formed, like a spontaneous generation, in the United States. And everything that opposes this idea

is worthless and does not exist. So if they overlook something, it must be deduced that this something has no importance. If it does not receive the stamp of approval from New York, it is because it does not deserve a presence in the history of art, and if they do grant it a small corner within this history, it is only to better confirm the American thesis.



In my opinion, this exhibition should not take place either in Buenos Aires, or in São Paulo, or in Caracas. Since it is now being held in Madrid, I suggest to the Spanish authorities that they organize as quickly as possible, in Madrid as well, another exhibition of the same importance that will re-establish, with a mini- mum of objectivity, the historical reality of geometric abstraction, notably that of the 1960s–80s. In order to do so, they must call on the collaboration of numerous specialists on the subject who are true leaders, and above all, call on the actual protagonists who are still alive and who, in various ways and to various ends, have included geometry in their artistic creations, so that they testify to this grand adventure of modern art. This would be an excellent exhibition, contradictory yet generous and open, with the hope that this event paves the way for new development prospects.


Final Note

It is possible that the content of this small, reactive text, written in protest, may appear somewhat disres- pectful, aggressive, or even insulting to the various leading lights of this exhibition. It may also be the case that it is no more than a cry in the desert. But it must be understood the extent to which the deception and manipulation represented by this exhibition can be offensive to a great many artists who, for decades, have contributed, through their research and artworks, essen- tial elements to the development of contemporary art.


When I was young, I found it very surprising that a composer of tango music was able to refer to modern visual arts, not only in the title of his song ‘Marron y azul’, but also by conveying the modernity of plastic creation through a musical genre so profoundly our own. It made me notice with a startling clarity that from within oneself, with what we have inherited, from what we can draw from our entourage, from what we feel, from what we aspire to, and alongside contemporary creation, our own pathways towards a future we sense is possible can open up.


All this, as well as his music, brought optimism to my personal situation as an aspiring young artist-painter who was confused, uncertain, and at a dead end. Among some of the things that we attach ourselves to in order to move forward: ‘Soon a better time will come’; a pirouette by Chaplin who transforms the negative in the world; a scribble issuing from my hand; ‘Marron y azul’ on the radio. Blessed paving stones upon which we can stand and begin to move forward.


His music existed in this far-off past, and in this far- off youth many aspirations were beginning to develop. The years went by, my fascination for Piazzolla’s music progressed in a crescendo. It accompanied me and still accompanies me in the quiet solitude of my studio. Its rhythm, chords, jumps, sequences, urgings, accelerations, languor, and punctuations (not to mention the emotional side) were all parallel to my own formal research. When I look at my works, I sometimes experience an auditory memory of fragments of ‘Piazzollas’ that are embedded within them, and these ‘Piazzollas’, through a consensual alchemy, are a fundamental part of my work.


I once had the opportunity to meet Piazzolla, to see him in concert, to be part of a private gathering alongside him, to feel how his music, which issued forth from the very depths of him, travelling through him, passing out of his active and agile hands with fingers like claws caressing the buttons on his bandoneon, while before us, the music itself occupied all the sur- rounding space. It entered and moved so many things, provoking others, creating illuminations. His personality matched his creations. This indefatigable worker was not tempted by the easy option; in the work of this seeker, this archaeologist of music, the major compositions of traditional tango took on another form, and music, with a capital ‘M’, was enriched by his contributions.


In the order-disorder of my records, cassettes, and CDs, Piazzolla’s music rubs shoulders with that of Bach, Strauss, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler, Satie, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schonberg, Berg . . .


We could have done things together. In the 1970s he came up with the idea of creating a show written by Cortazar, with music by him, visual elements and lighting by me, and costumes by Martha. I was very enthusiastic about the idea, but unfortunately it did not take shape. Just as in 1989 another project – to create a visual-musical light show in Centenario Park – commissioned by the Buenos Aires city council, did not materialize. I chose music by Piazzolla and worked on the project for three months. I met Piazzolla in Punta del Este, and we worked on it together. Unfortunately, a change in staff at the city hall put an end to the project.


Later on, I was able to set a pyrotechnics display to his piece ‘La que vendra’.


Piazzolla gave this score to me as a gift during a visit to my studio. I accepted it as a generous display of friendship and perhaps as an unstated tribute to my work.


The human warmth of our last embrace is still present, navigating throughout all the corners of my studio thanks to his music.


19 August 1998.

The Illusion of May

A dream
a common dream
a foreseen dream
a dream anchored deep within each of us
a dream that tugs upwards
a dream that comes from forgotten times
a dream of impossible desires
a dream that knocks from the inside
a dream about ‘sometimes’.
Feeling that life could have been different. Walking, seeing, discovering others
in the mirror of oneself
sharing in handfuls the most beautiful,
the least prosaic,
that which has no price: illusion.
Projected into an unforeseen but sought-after present of May ’68.
How many small Mays, remaining silent against what is arbitrary, oppression, injustice, abuse of power.
And recognizing in the infinite Mays of others now expressed, now cried out in relief,
in joy, in a shared utopia.
The convergence of aspirations that awakens the vestiges of a form of life
nearly forgotten, that maybe our distant ancestors had experienced, and the people said:
‘It is possible.’
Like an illumination: we give our all, we want it all. A magical moment that provides another measure of everyone,
that reconciles us with ourselves
through the sharing of aspirations,
finding us ready for rebellion
where everything turns upside-down. Disorder with a common thread that makes
the impossible possible,
what is denied, forbidden, and an eternal transience attach themselves to neurons
and are transmitted to the future before that small minority of those who know arrive, those who codify, those who bring order, those who create standards, those who rationalize, those who write History, those who theorize, those who set the pace,

those who limit, those who appropriate, those who command, those who dominate. But it is here, here to stay, alongside so many others, this May of ’68 surreptitiously on the lookout, lying in wait, in wait, in wait...


Quito, 10 May 1998.

My Long March

My own long march,
my own little long march . . .
yes, but the one that was most my own

down there in the time of other long marches: long marches of civilizations
long marches of peoples
long marches of revolutions

long marches of men
long marches of just social causes

here inside me
the long march of the man called
Joseph Marie Le Parc
from Brittany to Paris
from France: crossing the Atlantic
in America towards the southernmost country in Argentina: towards the west
the end of the railway Rivadavia
meets Deidamia
she is expecting his child
Joseph Marie dies
it is the end of his long march
which is where, later, my own march starts

little village, really a little village: Palmira
one thousand one hundred kilometres from Buenos Aires on its edges: me as a child
I would watch the horizon, where the sun rises
back to the Andes, imagining the sea

going to the edge of the village, maybe was already a first step in my own long march

for there was in my mother an echo of what my schoolmistress advised
‘this child should be encouraged to draw’

already in Buenos Aires
the continuation of my own long march I remember it in Helena’s prediction her a teenager
me a teenager

she was no witch
more a female archangel
with her bright eyes and long
wavy hair the colour of golden wheat
‘you are going to go on long journeys
you will go all around the world’
she predicted with her gently smiling mouth

my own long march with its zigzags
its unforeseen events its expectations

its surprises

I didn’t know
but it was tracing its own course unbeknownst to me
it was tracing its course for me

encounters connections bearing the seeds of happy events of upsets

of despairs
sometimes black holes
in them already what would blossom the gaze of another teenager
how could I see behind this gaze
so many things that would become part of my own long march?

and the friendships in that distant year of fifty-five? how could I imagine at the time
that they would be the source that would
give me so much in Paris?

Buenos Aires – Paris
other circumvolutions
with one direction:
the unforeseen,
perhaps there was already the perception
of wheels in the movement of my long march

perhaps, unwittingly, or
intentionally, I configured some of these wheels

and me with
my own long march
additions of little discoveries ordinations
once started
the speed finds its own momentum

march march

the objective emerges

among so many things with the help of colour
a day for an ensemble themes that followed on, a title emerged

the long march

not going backwards
but still a thought
for the man called Joseph Marie Le Parc my grandfather

did he wear a scarf?
my father did
to protect himself from the soot of the locomotives he drove

I too wear a scarf
but to protect my vocal chords
and so that one day perhaps, I will hear
the song of women who will wear the scarf of the long march


Julio Le Parc, London, 20 November 2014.

For Netto

When the human being becomes colour When colour becomes human form When the human being is stuck to earth When the fruit of the Farmer

of the Land burst forth When his fruit is stolen

When this theft creates poverty
When this poverty creates revolt
When the revolt is repressed
When the repression responds to an order When this order is the order of others
When these others believe that they own the world When this world is globalized

to the detriment of majorities When in these majorities themselves,

these farmers become the damned of the earth When Netto, with his box of paints, is present When these damned of the earth, his Brazilian

farmers even in the worst distress, wear his colours externally and internally

When his colours are those of dignity When his colours are those of struggle When his colours are those of hope When his colours are those of joy,

which must never be extinguished When in Netto’s box of paints,

the colours become active
When his colours become activists yet autonomous,

they undertake their revolt When this revolt in colours

Sets out to meet the just revolt, that of the damned

When that does not pass for miserabilism Not for obscure and sombre defeat Not for prostration and annihilation But for desire and the right to life The colours are there.
When these colours are there:

in Netto’s gaze, in his heart
In his primal sensibility, in his head that organizes

The colours become form and faith in humanity. When everything that is anchored

in the deepest core

Of these ‘Damned of the Earth’ and in Netto, a human painter

It is a simple fact made piercingly apparent. When they are there, through the intermediary

of Netto,
With this powerful and colourful presence

We cannot shy away and we too, Stand powerfully against.

When hope does not fade, when hope grows, Netto’s paintings are there.