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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Paulo Bruscky and Edgardo Antonio Vigo: Pioneers in Alternative Communication Networks, Conceptualism, and Performance (1960s–1980s)
by Davidson, Vanessa Katherine, Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 418; 3482872
Abstract (Summary)

Edgardo Antonio Vigo (1928–1997) of La Plata, Argentina, and Paulo Bruscky (1949–) of Recife, Brazil, exchanged artworks and letters through the mail over the course of fifteen years, beginning in the mid-1970s and continuing throughout the 1980s. Their approaches to mail art differ, but both used the mail and other alternative communication networks (such as self-published magazines and newspaper classifieds) as a means of escaping their marginal status as artists working outside of traditional artistic centers like Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo and connecting with the rest of the world. Both artists also created conceptual works and practiced performance art, each in his own idiosyncratic way, and both cultivated audience participation in their multifaceted activities. This dissertation examines Vigo's and Bruscky's pioneering works as exercises in freedom in the context of repressive military dictatorships. These artists are fundamentally united in their embrace of humor, irony, and the absurd as a potent strategy for engaging audiences and alleviating, if only momentarily, the climate of fear and oppression that pervaded their countries under military rule. In addition, both artists' emphasis on audience participation provided their compatriots with rare opportunities for creativity and play during the darkest of times. As Dutch theorist Johan Huizinga asserts in his 1938 Homo Ludens, the first principal characteristic of play is "that it is free, is in fact freedom." On the other hand, Huizinga continues, "In play there is something 'at play' which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to the action. All play means something." In Vigo's and Bruscky's varied endeavors, what is "at play" is the urgent need to overcome repression and marginality and to connect with local and international audiences by means of alternative communication networks, conceptual proposals, and participatory and performance art.

Based primarily on archival research, this dissertation brings to light many heretofore unknown artworks and situates them within the framework of contemporaneous international occurrences. It also addresses the similarities and divergences between these artists' works, thus revealing overlapping strategies for envisioning art as life and life as art. Vigo's and Bruscky's diverse projects position them at the avant-garde of artistic activities in their respective countries during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, despite their geographic marginality. Ultimately, it is hoped that this dissertation will foster critical reconsiderations of Vigo's and Bruscky's pioneering works, reevaluations that will ensure these radical innovators a deserved place in the histories of Latin American and global art.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sullivan, Edward J., Storr, Robert
Commitee: Slifkin, Robert, Soucek, Priscilla
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history
Keywords: Alternative communication networks, Conceptualism, Conceptualism in latin america, Edgardo Antonio vigo, Mail art, Mail art in latin america, Paulo Bruscky
Publication Number: 3482872
ISBN: 978-1-267-04878-3
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