Collective Endeavors

The artists of The Other Trans-Atlantic were not only determined to expose and depict the relations governing the world outside, they also wanted to create and spaces where the future could be experienced in the here-and-now. They formed independent groups made up of scientists, engineers, musicians, sculptors, painters, and graphic artists who came together like researchers in the lab of artistic endeavor and declared their own principles. Their goal was not fixed upon a sturdy, polished product, a synthetic formula, or even a vision, but the process itself.

In was in this spirit that the New Tendencies collective (founded in Zagreb in 1961) functioned, as did the Moscow group Dvizhenie (created in 1964), Prometheus (active in Kazan in the 1960s), and SIGMA (active in Timişoara, Romania  from 1969 to 1981)—along with the better-known groups operating on the other side of the Iron Curtain, such as GRAV (assembled in Paris in the early 1960s) and Zero (set up in Düsseldorf in 1957). A non-institutional culture of symposia also flourished in Poland in the 1960s; plein air events and artistic biennales were organized in Puławy, Osieki, Elbląg, and Wrocław. On the other side of the Atlantic, similar groups were founded, including Madí, already established in 1946; Grupo Ruptura, created in São Paulo in 1952; Grupo Frente, active in Rio de Janeiro from 1954; or the Neoconcretist movement, formed in that city by poets, sculptors, and painters in 1959. Alas, any of these joint activities ended in an atmosphere of conflict. What mattered more, however, was the fact that the need to build interpersonal, multi-disciplinary and, often, international links that were forged in the syncretic spirit of egalitarianism and partnership, gave way to a spirit of defiance vis-à-vis the prevailing systems of governance in these countries—oppressive, hierarchical, egocentric, and authoritarian .

An intriguing premise of the kineticism on view resides in the abandonment of the traditional “object” in favor of an aleatory situation, interaction or therapy that would require the liberation of the senses, creating new ways of experiencing the world, the self and others around us. It is in this spirit that Hélio Oiticica conceived his famous Parangolés: habitable paintings, designed to be worn or carried by the samba dancers of Brazil’s favelas. In the stratified society of junta-ruled Brazil, these joyous, provocative works carried a powerful political message. In a similar way, members of the Sigma group aimed to leave the object behind; in addition to building a new art language, they also aimed to develop a new pedagogical model, which they introduced into the Timişoara Art School. In a departure from the typical hierarchical structure, the school promoted partnership and egalitarian relationships with its pupils. Oskar Hansen’s Open Form had risen upon similar premises, functioning in like-minded ways in the fields of art, architecture, music, and urban design. Hansen advocated an art that would “create our individual need to exist, help us to define ourselves in space and the time in which we are living.” In this regard, it’s without a doubt that the “art of events” took on the dynamic world as its kinetic object.