On quasi-cinemas and hand grenades

By Mariana Botey with Cara Baldwin


Hélio Oiticica; irony, conceptual art and politics in Latin America.

In his introduction to Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, Alexander Alberro notes "the most extreme alternatives to models of analytic conceptualism in the late 1960's and early 1970s are those that developed in the deteriorating political and economic climate of a number of Latin American countries".1Alberro cites as parallel examples of this, projects produced in Argentina during 1966 by Costa, Eduardo, Escari, Raul, and Jacoby, Roberto, A Media Art (Manifesto), and work by members of Tucumán Arde in 1968 including; Paula Casajus, Maria Jose Herrera Mariana Marchesi,and Belen Garcia. Each demonstrates an interest in the discursive potential of systems of distribution that pervades Brazilian strands of conceptual art in the 1960s.

One such strand of thoughtis articulated in the manifesto General Scheme of the New Objectivity, written by Hélio Oiticica in 1967. This manifesto charts out the principal characteristics of a new art, which includes "the participation of the spectator (bodily, tactile, visual, semantic, etc.)","an engagement and a position on political, social and ethical problems", a "tendency towards collective propositions", and "a revival of, and new formulation in the concept of anti-art".2For artists in Brazil, and elsewhere, the impact of this engagement was profound. This was all the more so given the extremely volatile and dangerous circumstances surrounding artistic production for those in a country under military dictatorship.

In the same book, Mari Carmen Ramirez argues:

As with any movement originating in the periphery, the work of Latin American political conceptual artists --in its relationship with the mainstream source--engages in a pattern of mutual influence and response. It is both grounded in and distant from the legacy of North American Conceptualism in that it represents a transformation of it and also anticipated in many ways the forms of ideological conceptualism developed in the late 1970s and 1980's by feminist and other politically engaged artists in North America and Europe. To investigate the reasons for this complex interaction is to delve into the ways in which the peripheral situation and social and historic dynamic in Latin America imprinted a new logic onto the most radical achievements of center-based Conceptual art. 3

Latin American artists have rigorously used Modern and Conceptual art to interrogate concrete social and political issues. Conceptual art practices, in particular, have been used in critique of institutions and agents benefiting from the political and economic precariousness of Latin America. Simply exposing the commodification of art objects in a capitalist economic system wasn’t enough. In contrast with North American and European conceptualism, Latin American conceptual art has been employed broadly and powerfully to expose the limits of art and life under extreme conditions of marginalization and repression.

Carlos Basualdo describes Latin America’s relatively sustained and rigorous investigation of the social promise of international modernism and conceptual art in the context of Brazilian culture saying:

Let us consider, for example, the work of Clark and Oiticica, which evolved from a formal analysis firmly rooted in European Modernism into a process of constant experimentation that transcended the traditional restrictions of the esthetic realm: Clark explored the inner structure of subjectivity; Oiticica, social, intersubjective bonds. Both are excellent examples of an inclusive modernism in which the formal is political - in Brazil, social and political conditions made it impossible to ever perceive the space of art as neutral (as American formalism once did). 4

The alterity of conceptual and modernist practices in Latin America critically exposed discursive and material systems of distribution in Northern American and European cultural frameworks. Through the radical linguistics of Oiticica, for example, the grandly singular “expanded cinema” is replaced with the povera and the plural—the quasi-cinemas. In the same article, Basualdo goes on to say of Oiticica:

It was in his 1928 essay "Cannibal Manifesto" that Oswald de Andrade first pointed to anthropophagy as the constitutive principle of Brazilian culture. In his text, de Andrade not only defined the law of the cannibal as the obsession with everything foreign, but also identified "cannibalism" as the glue that holds Brazilian culture together. Since then, many generations of artists and writers have reworked that concept to frame their reflections. As a principle, anthropophagy stands in opposition to those theoretical paradigms founded on isolating the esthetic from the rest of the epistemological field. Unlike Greenbergian formalism, the logic of cannibalism relies on contagion and contamination and leads inexorably to a poetics of displacement and hyperbole. This is why Brazilian modernism can really be best described as the effort to “acquire aesthetic knowledge through a certain analytical, intuitive operation (which could be called the work of art) and to project that knowledge onto the rest of the epistemological field in order to produce ruptures and partial reconfigurations.5

Again, Mari Carmen Ramirez, in blueprints circuits: conceptual art and politics in latin america writes:

The aims of bridging distance to negotiate meaning evolved into a deliberate tactic of insertion into prevailing artistic and ideological circuits. This was done in order to expose mechanisms of repression and disrupt the status of Latin American identity as a commodity exchanged along the axis between center and periphery. The development of such a conceptual strategic language, however, eventually situated the work of these artists in a paradoxical relation to a fundamental principle of European and North American Conceptual art: the dematerialization of the discrete object of art and its replacement by a linguistic or analytical proposition. Latin American artists inverted this principle through a recovery of the object. in the form of the mass produced Duchampian readymade, which is the vehicle of their conceptual program." 6

She further complicates this critical relationship with the center, contrasting representation and reception of the readymade in Latin and North American traditions saying that from the Sixties onward, the North American understanding

…originated in a narrow reading of Duchamp’s original intentions; the significance of the readymade was reduced to the act that created it: " It is art because I say so" On the other hand, in the case of such Pop artists as Warhol, appropriation of the idea of the readymade led to the exaltation of marketable commodities, represented by the Coca-Cola bottle or Campbell's soup can, as icons of a market-driven culture. Both approaches to the readymade can be seen as grounded in a passive attitude toward the prevailing system, which this group of political-conceptual artists aimed to subvert. Thus, in Latin American work, the readymade object is always charged with meaning related to its functions within a larger social circuit. That is the Latino American conceptual proposition. In most cases the infusion of broader meanings is achieved by removing the object from circulation, physically transforming it, the artist reinscribes meaning into the commodity object and goes beyond Pop art's fetishization of the object, turning it into a conveyor of political meanings within a specific social context. 7

In 1971, when Hélio Oiticica arrived in New York with a Guggenheim Grant, he narrowly escaped imprisonment by the militaristic regime that had taken hold of the government installed by the US during the Kennedy Administration to ensure Brazil’s participation in the program of global caplitalism. During the seven years he spent in New York, he elaborated a materialist perspective that avoided the dim literalism of Greenbergian modernism, creating a complex body of text, performance, and multimedia work that reproduced and remade cinematic language. In a series of participitory and discursive works, Oiticica reconfigured the body of a viewing subject as the social and material basis, or object, of his medium.

Slide projections with accompanying musical "sound tracks," the quasi-cinemas dissected and reconstituted the filmic body with sequential projections of still images and a synthesis of visual and aural media, effectively dismantling the illusion of its seamless integration. Through the quasi-cinemas, Oiticica undermined the subjective authority and natural primacy of vision associated with an upright posture and use of forced one point perspective. He often projected constellations of identical slide images on various walls and ceilings, and substituted rows of theater chairs with hammocks suspended like webs cast between projections. Mattresses, or shiny yellow and orange rubber balls could scatter across the floor. In one environment, Oiticica laid out fingernail files for viewers to use as needed.

Basualdo notes:

The earliest occurrences of the term quasi-cinema are found in two letters that Oiticica drafted in April and June 1971 "...I went to a slide projection with soundtrack, a kind of quasi-cinema, which was incredible....Jack Smith is a kind of Artaud of cinema." 8

 Jack Smith, Warhol, Godard, and Kenneth Anger became the strongest influences on Oiticica through this period, in contrast to the experiments in the field of structuralist cinema carried out by other North American artists, such as Paul Sharrits or Hollis Frampton.

In the two decades prior to this moment, Oiticica had collaborated with experimental Brazilian filmakers Glauber Rocha, Jùlio Bressane, Rogério Scanzerla, and Neville Dalmeda. He’d also extensively explored relationships between constructivist formal and social structures in a series of environmental installations he called penetrables. In an exhibition monograph occasioned by the installation of Eden at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1969, Oiticica describes his labyrinthine and cinematic installation of two years prior called Tropicalia saying:

I wanted this penetrable to make exercise of the ‘image’ in all its forms: the fixed geometric structure (it resembles Japanese Mondrianesque houses, the tactile images, the sense of treading (on the floor there are three types of things; bag with sand, sand itself, pebbles and carpet in the obscure part, in succession from one part to another) and the televised image. The terrible feeling I had inside was of being devoured by the work, as if it were a big animal. I interpretted it as a transformation being processed in my work and thinking: maybe this plan for the penetrable with water on the floor is the first positive result after this crisis, it is a kind of liberation from the imagetic obsession of the other penetrable. I created a sort of tropical scene, with plants, macaws, sand, pebbles…The problem of the image is posed here objectively— but since it is universal, I also propose this problem in a context that is typically national, tropical and Brazilian. I wanted to accentuate this new language with Brazilian elements, in an extremely ambitious attempt to create a language that would be ours, characteristic of us, which would stand up against imagetic international pop and op art, in which a good part of our artists were submerged.. 9

In the years leading up to the penetrables, Oiticica primarily investigated the viewer's participation in the work. He shared with Lygia Clark a desire to develop participatory works that were intended to function as "proposals” or “programs” rather than closed, or “finished works". However, the viewer's participation seems gradually to be reconfigured in an investigation of the relationship between subjectivity and labor. In the words of Herbert Marcuse, this process would culminate in a “structure of leisure as pleasure opposed to the current one of leisure as the programmed desublimation that sustains hours-periods of alienated work-production.” 10

Oiticica consciously cultivated representational modes in response to cultural realities.

He used filmic language to launch a radical critique that wasn’t confined to the materiality of the art object, but expanded into modes of production that configured the experience of culture in post-industrial society. As such, his investigation of the image gained critical force during the early years of the seventies in New York and become a recognizably constitutive part of his work.

In contrast with the Coke is it.™ pose struck by Warhol, Oiticica would linger over and then cut through the surface of the filmic image, reconfiguring the relationship between creative pleasure and alienated work. While his quasi-cinemas clearly articulated this relationship, Oiticica’s Cosmococas expressed it with potency and precision. In Marcusian terms:

(The) ineffectiveness of representation (as a world, a way of life): the reality of 'being here' in the 'lived moment' is more than its representation. No resolution can or should be sought in a 'nostalgia for natural life' pre-representation...[a] solution 'beyond representation' can only be achieved by existential saturation and consequently dissatisfaction with the world of products of that representation, in which the spectator-spectacle relation is fundamental. 11

How could images be used against visual representation and the spectacularly alienating "world of products"? In the Cosmococas, Oiticica appropriated "for aesthetic ends" a substance that continues to live a double life as one of the most ostentatious signs of consumer culture, and its transgressive reverse—cocaine.

In Waiting for the Internal Sun: Notes on Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-cinemas, Basualdo writes:

Oiticica wrote abundantly and reflected deeply on the cultural effects and meanings of cocaine. His notes include references to the book History of Coca: "The Divine Plant' of the Incas, originally published in 1901 by a North American physician, W. Golden Mortimer. It is not difficult to imagine that Oiticica could have read Mortimer's writing as a denunciation of the evils brought on by the instrumental use--and abuse--of what had originally had been a beneficial element in native South American cultures. The discovery of cocaine and its use as a stimulant may have represented for Oiticica a symbol of the violence inherent in a socio-economic and political context that was able to subsist only by opposing alienated work to desublimated leisure: an opposition that entails the reification of subjectivity. In this light the illegality of cocaine would be a necessary consequence of its insertion within the prevailing order of things. Coca represents the transgressive symbol of resistance to imperialism.12

A decade earlier, Oiticica wrote of one of an early series of works, containers of earth he called bólide(s), and banner like capes called parangolé saying:

I wanted here to homage what I think is the individual social revolt: that of the so-called bandit. Such thinking is very dangerous but something necessary to me: there is a contrast, an ambivalent character in the marginalized man: besides great sensibility lies violent character, and many times, in general, crime is a kind of desperate search for happiness.

He goes on to say:

This homage is an anarchic attitude against all kinds of armed forces: police, army, etc. I make protest poems (in capes and boxes) but this to Cara de Cavalo reflects an important ethical moment, decisive for me, for it reflects an individual revolt against every social conditionment. In other words, violence is justified as a revolt means, but never as an oppressive one. 13

“Be an outlaw, Be a hero.” 14 For an artist who identified the outlaw as a figure of resistance to the instrumentalization of artistic work, using an illegal substance to create work materially signified a crisis and its reversal into radical transgression.

A sign of the destructive powers of instrumentalization, cocaine was useful because of its power to position the spectator/participant of each work in complicity with the artist, and outside the law and logic of the spectacle. Cocaine, Oiticica said, was "the trash-image of the remains: of the repertory of representation". As such, it enabled him to critique and employ representational cultural images. The penalty for use of this powerful signifier was censorship. The symbol of conspicuous consumption was to remain materially invisible. Indeed, the first public projection of a Cosmococa in 1992, occurred twelve years after Oiticica’s death.

As Michael Taussig, in his book My Cocaine Museum, notes:

It goes like this: gold and cocaine are fetishes, which is to say substances that seem to be a good deal more than mineral or vegetable matter. They come across more like people than things, spiritual entities that are neither, and this is what gives them their strange beauty. As fetishes, gold and cocaine play subtle tricks upon human understanding. For it is precisely as mineral or as vegetable matter that they appear to speak for themselves and carry the weight of human history in the guise of natural history.15

Cocaine is fetish; each gram weighed against gallons of blood accumulated as violent capital—from the mountains of Cusco to South Central Los Angeles. More than 30 years have passed since the Block Experiments in Cosmococa were created by Oiticica in collaboration with Neville D'Almeida, and while cocaine remains a transgressive substance, its libertarian qualities are dubious.

In the Andes mountains of Peru and Bolivia, as in Colombia, cocaine is bound up in the struggle of Indians and guerrillas who labor to cultivate and sustain a traditional medicinal plant. Cocaine is thought to represent the only crop capable of economically supporting a fight for a utopian society to be born on the sub-continent the day empire dies of an overdose.

What remains are violently corrupt and co-opted local states run by military and paramilitary apparatuses instrumentalized by the CIA managed overlords of black market economies. Dependent on cocaine trafficking, paramilitary officers and mercenaries torture and kill peasants they claim as collaborators with guerrillas.

Falling in spirals of terror, mythical ecstasy and false power; does this post- Cosmococa reality transform the radical meaning of the readymade/collage/multimedia environment of Oiticica's quasi-cinemas? On the contrary, it derives from that original "proposal" a radicality that is complex and disturbing in its levels of significance.

Cosmococa functions as a sign of complicit violence along the axis of centers of consumption and peripheries of production and distribution. In the three decades that followed its employment, an expanding pool of blood and violence has accumulated and is symbolically contained in the readymade.  As the central material part of Oiticica's experimental deployment of an “expanded cinema” it remains charged with meaning related to its function within a larger social circuit. Opposing alienated work to desublimated leisure, the material is reactivated, disrupting instrumental notions of art practice to reconfigure the relationship between creative pleasure and alienated work.

Quasi-cinemas\Quasi-heroes\Quasi-icons\Quasi-deviant\ Quasi-shamanic\Quasi-leisure\Quasi-labor\Quasi-expanded consciousness\Quasi-ecstasy\Quasi-power\Quasi-utopia.


Utopias and Shamans

Hélio Oiticica’s work is a conceptual hand grenade whose blast shatters the monolith. Its resonance reveals dialectic counterpoints through which we can examine the lineage of conceptual and avant-garde art practices to which the expanded cinema is indebted as a multidisciplinary and experimental form of expanded consciousness.

Shamans and Charlatans

The sacred is that prodigious effervescence of life that, for the sake of duration, the order of things holds in check, and that this holding changes into breaking loose, that is, into violence. It constantly threatens to break the dikes, to confront productive activity with the precipitate and contagious movement of a purely glorious consumption. 16

Shamanism can be defined as the practice that establishes a relation with that which is invisible and cannot be conceived as part of the order and reality of things, particularly as functions of utilitarian production and consumption. Shamanism destroys the “real” world and its ties of subordination; it draws the subject out of the world of utility, away from the subordination of labor and the object.

Shamanism was not erased by colonization in America— in fact it has experienced endless revival. To understand how shamanism continues to serve as a conceptual space of resistance even after contact with monotheism and capitalism, Peter Lamborn Wilson (a.k.a. Hakim Bey) cites the analysis of Michael Taussig explaining:

conquerors always regard the conquered (the 'natives') as 'Radical Other', despised sub-humans, devoid of culture, better off dead, etc., etc. this is the daylight or conscious side of colonialist  'racism'.  On the other hand the natives retain some advantages.... For instance, the conquerors are strangers in a strange land, but the natives are at home.... Above all the native knows the spirit of place and possesses a magic that appears uncanny, ambiguous, or even dangerous to the colonialist. 17

Shamanism has effected a curious reversal of colonial energies, in which elite anxiety gradually turns into romanticism, and then dependence on native sources of power. The abuse of voodoo ritual by the Haitian oligarchy to control and subsume by fear, is but one example.

Shamanism is also a system interacting with the whole world. It is not confined by the totalizing sphere of anthropology and the particular history of religion understood in a local cultural context.Shamanic power is frequently the model of the hidden power of the oppressed. As such, it prepares us to perceive even subtle models in which overt signs of shamanism and resistance may be muted almost to the point of invisibility.

Borrowing from Walter Benjamin's phrase the “utopian trace”, Peter Lamborn Wilson speaks of a “shamanic trace”, which may be present even in institutions or images lacking all open connection with shamanism per-se. The shamanic trace will be obscured to the point of the unconsciousness, just as the trace of “utopia” is obscured by the advertisement in which it is embedded as an image of promise. The difference between a utopian and shamanic trace is that the former is deliberately “put into” the advertisement to produce commodity fetish, whereas the latter intervenes as an unconscious manifestation of 'direct experience'. In this sense, the shamanic trace is also utopian in that it is involved with a desire for such experience rather than the experience itself.

In To Return Earth Unto the Earth: A Paradox of Containment, Guy Brett notes that with both Oiticica and Joseph Beuys, there is inherent difficulty in preserving the efficacy of their work without their living presence. I’d push the comparison further, however, into a reflection on the relationship between each artist, institutions, and notions of public. Beuys often used the metaphor of the artist as a shaman, the artist as a kind of ultrasensitive intermediary between the people and the cosmos. This required the living presence of the artist. Beuys clearly saw himself as the shaman, the professor, the author, the artist and the performer, despite his expression, "everyone is an artist." Alternately, Oiticica expressed this idea in structures that invited the participation of the public. These would lead not to an individual, but to a communal work of art. Oiticica’s “nonrepresive collectivism” and “rap-play” employed communality in terms that explored the finest nuances between individual/solitary reverie and social/communal. 18

The environments Hélio exhibited in galleries were variations of experimental living and working spaces that he constructed in his own home. Reduced to the simplest terms, these were a combination of habitable individual “nests” and communal “jive” spaces. Partly, he had in mind a secular version of the Tejero, the sacred dance building associated with the Brazilian Candomble. His earlier work prepared the public for a bodily engagement with elements (color, space, transparency) previously conceived for a mental rather than tactile engagement. He went on to use the forms of everyday life that were prohibited in the space of a museum such as touching, lying down, putting on clothing, dancing and walking barefoot.

Insert break. Pause. Question. Maybe these hidden memories are what Oiticica presents in the Cosmococas as a “pre-history of the future?” If we break off from imagining the shamanic as a model in the past, we displace the matrix of western metaphysics from the center. We also see a radical Other matrix, wherein dialectic violence, that smoking mirror that contains the order of things, collapses into a radical Other structure. Oiticica's experiments embody this radical Other model of the world— the primitive that isn’t. He takes into account non-linear and non-coercive paradigms. A form of consciousness appears where the separation of object/subject is re-considered and negotiated; no isolated art object is produced in his model. Instead, what comes to existence is a logic that prevents violence against the “invisible brilliance of life that is not a thing.” 19

The Utopian and the Paleocybernetic phenomena.

Radical refusal is often expressed in revolutionary speech, and art, most notably in the genre of science fiction. In his book,A Cavalier History of Surrealism, Raoul Vaneigem writes: "The radical consciousness cannot be reconciled with ideology whose only function is to mystify.” 20 To mystify is to displace. To mystify is to separate. To mystify is to reduce the relation of ideology to power.

The ways in which ideology reproduces imaginary relations that produce power structures are already elucidated in the Althusserian model. Subsequently, it becomes necessary to specify the relation of culture and art to power. Is art an ideological form that reproduces the mystifying machine, or a form of knowledge and radical refusal?

There is currency in understanding modern culture as one of the terminal phases within the crisis of civilization. The political and social project of the bourgeoisie has undermined the integrative power of myth, which once served to conceal the separation between culture and social life. Again, Vaneigem: "Out of the relics of myth, which were also the relics of god, the bourgeoisie sought to construct a new transcendent unity."21 This was to be a secular myth, in which a new enlightened consciousness, using a purportedly demystifying force of reason would postpone the separations and contradictions that individuals without a shared, unifying world view consequently experience. State and corporately sanctioned secular unifying myths indulge their own abundant investment in applied technology and capital.

Considering Gene Youngblood's Expanded Cinema as a text that incorporates discussion of myth constructed as a utopian machine, and is discursively aware of the quasi- or expanded- cinema proves a worthwhile point of comparison. Of Paleocybernetic brain child, Stan VanDerBeek, Youngblood says:

Implicit in this trend is another facet of the new Romantic Age. The new consciousness doesn't want to dream its fantasies, it wants to live them. The child of the Paleocybernetic Age intuits that his life could be a process of nonordinary realities if the energies of the globe were properly distributed. 22

While the word “distribution” rings Marxist, it ends violently on a shrill note:

We're developing all these fabulous hardware systems that soon will make life a process of continual myth generation for the individual as well as the collective ego. 23

Clearly, the phrase “collective ego” is an oxymoron and hardware that functions to generate myth, “fabulous” or otherwise, is not radical.

Thankfully, Youngblood goes on to quote VanDerBeek in his own words. Unfortunately, the geriatric L.S.D. maverick is equally unable to imagine and articulate a radical or rhizomatic utopian model. Instead, he proposes artists act as corporate content and interface providers saying:

Unconsciously we're developing memory storage and transfer systems that deal with millions of thoughts simultaneously. Sooner than we think we'll be communicating on very high psychic levels of neurological referencing. It's becoming extremely rich. This business of being artists in residence at some corporation is only part of the story; what we really want to be is artist in residence of the world, but we don't know where to apply. Major internationalizing by artists is going to become very important, and so will the myth-making process. What we're looking for in some sociologically appropriated way is a third side to each confrontation: a way to deal with each other through a medium.24

Oiticica completed his artist in residence on the steep hillside settlements of the Favelas while Stan VanDerBeek works on the small business of “being artists in residence at some corporation,” at best, only looking for a way to resolve social conflict through technological mediation. Immersing oneself in new techniques for corporate control and social regulation is clearly an experimental field for new media’s avant-garde, but to what extent does VanDerBeek advance a model of total mediation? In his words:

I think the student riots are a manifestation of a deep-seated awareness of this problem. There is such a contiguousness now with rioting; I think we realize that rarely do we directly deal with issues, personally, physically, intimately, with real body contact. That could easily be the cause, or at least partial cause, of the riots. We suddenly realize that riots may be the only real form of theatre left in which we're not just an audience. 25

VanDerBeek feebly acknowledges the despair of the Vietnam-era youth as they are rendered an audience for the spectacle of war, only to gesture to their final dismissal saying “But, you see, being an audience is necessary. A major factor in living in an overpopulated world is that we really cannot deal with each other directly.” 26

With one swift blow he drives the nail into his son’s coffin, reinforcing a passivity that has become swollen and rigid with death. If we had more space, if women had fewer children, then man could claim his birthright. Be still. Lay down at the Movie-Drome in Stoney Point, New York. Let the theater of the cosmos overwhelm you.

Interestingly enough, VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome owes its conception to another American pop-guru who “Americanly preferred accelerated evolution, as opposed to revolution,” 27 R. Buckminster Fuller. As early as 1932, Meyer Schapiro had identified Fuller as the leader of  “…a confused liberal group of architects, who are still tied to the ideas of their masters. Though opposed to aestheticism in architecture, they remain bohemian and arty in their sentimental view of technology and the social mission of architecture.”28 Schapiro sharply criticized the intentions and ability of these “social reformers”, saying they overlooked the fact that under capitalism technical advances are inseparable from exploitation and misery. Their program, Schapiro argued was “This intangible and invisible, as well as inaudible, revolution [that] has also the reassuring quality of impotence.”29

That said, the line that links the Fuller Dome to the Movie-Drome extends archly beyond curvilinear ceilings. When Fuller wrote the introduction for Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema published in 1970, almost 40 years had passed since Schapiro’s biting critique. During this time, the Great Depression, a Second World War, the first “undeclared” wars in Korea and Vietnam, the Atomic Bomb, the Cold War, the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, satellites, lasers, the C.I.A, the Cuban Missile Crisis, transistors, nuclear power, a man on the moon, napalm, televisions, and a series of techno-avant garde programs had all taken turns on North America’s cultural stage. Founders of the Orientalist School For the Promotion of Panpsychic Mysteries, these latest promoters of “evolution” diffused much of the social unrest of the Vietnam-era. Sites of radical refusal were rendered through their so-called “expanded consciousness as sentimental, novel, or arty experiments readily co-opted throughout the 60’s consumer ready-made revolution of drugs, sex, and rock and roll.

VanDerBeek expresses an equally prophetic and self-fulfilling prophecy. Like Oiticica, he shows a heightened consciousness of the future of cultural relations and representations. VanDerBeek’s visions of “Intra-communitronics, the image library, a culture de-compression chamber” and a “culture inter-com” may anticipate the internet. His proposal for the "...establishment of audio-visual research centers, preferably on an international scale." appear to forecast current phenomena such as new media and relational aesthetics in a global art market as well as surveillance and media inundation in an expanded field. Because VanDerBeek’s postulated interfaces have become tools of oppression and alienation represented discursively as utopian, his ideas will only generate slight speculation and critique. 30

Insert break. Pause. Question.

Is art an ideological form that reproduces the mystifying machine, or is art a form of knowledge and radical refusal?

Is art a paleocybernetic mediated Utopia, or a rhizomatic Neolithic trace of the shamanic?

Oiticica is dancing in shuttering movements. Nylon stretches over his mouth as it splits into a smile. Other bodies stretch in vertical lines. Other hands dig in soil. Teeth covered in tin foil vibrate in the darkness; “this is not just a hand grenade—it’s a landscape.”


1. Alexander Alberro, “reconsidering conceptual art, 1966-1977” in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, conceptual art: a critical anthology, MIT Press, 1999, p. xxv.

2. Hélio Oiticica, “general scheme of the new objectivity”, in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, conceptual art: a critical anthology, MIT Press, 1999, p. 40.

3. Mari Carmen Ramirez, “blueprints circuits: conceptual art and politics in latin america,” in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson’s, conceptual art: a critical anthology, MIT Press, 1999, p. 551.

4. Carlos Basualdo, “Raw Meal - cannibal culture,”Artforum International, Vol. 34, April 1996.



6. Mari Carmen Ramirez, “blueprints circuits: conceptual art and politics in latin america”, in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, conceptual art: a critical anthology, MIT Press, 1999, p. 554.

7.Ibid., p. 555.

8. Carlos Basualdo, “Waiting for the Internal Sun: Notes on Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-Cinemas”, Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-Cinemas, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, 2001, pp. 40-41.

The quote by Oiticica is experpted from the volume of correspondence between Oiticica and Clark, compliled by Luciano Figuereido, Lygia Clark/Helio Oiticica: Cartas 1964-74, Rio de Janeiro: Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro, 1996, p. 204.

9. Hélio Oiticica, Hélio Oiticica: Whitechapel Gallery, London 1969, p. 17.

10. Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud,1955. With a New Preface by the Author, published by Beacon Press, Boston, 1966.

11. Ibid., p. 47.

12. Carlos Basualdo, “Waiting for the Internal Sun: Notes on Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-Cinemas”, Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-Cinemas, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, 2001,p. 47.

13. Hélio Oiticica, Hélio Oiticica: Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1969, p. 6.

14. Hélio Oiticica wrote these words on banner in 1968 and displayed them on the occasion of a concert inspired by his work in Rio de Janeiro. As a result, the concert was censored. Carlos Basualdo, “Waiting for the Internal Sun: Notes on Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-Cinemas”, Hélio Oiticica's Quasi-Cinemas, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, 2001,p. 43.

15. Michael Taussig, My cocaine museum, The University of Chicago Press, 2004, p. xviii.

16. George Bataille, Theory of Religion, Zone Books, 1994,

pp. 52-3.

17. Peter Lamborn Wilson, “The Shamanic Trace”, Escape from the 19th Centuryand Other Essays.

18. Guy Brett, “To Return Earth Unto The Earth: A Paradox of Containment”, Inverted Utopias: Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art In Latin America, Yale University Press, 2004, p.341.

19. George Bataille, Theory of Religion, Zone Books, 1994,

pp. 47.

20. Raoul Vaneigem [Jules-François Dupuis], Histoire désinvolte du surréalisme Nonville: Paul Vermont, 1970, A Cavalier History of Surrealism, Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, AK Press, 1999.

21. Ibid.

22. Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1970, pp. 348-9.

23. Ibid., p. 349.

24. Ibid., p. 350.

25. Ibid., pp. 350-1.

26. Ibid., pp.350-51.

27. Meyer Schapiro, Architecture Under Capitalism. [Originally published under the pseudonym John Kwait] in New Masses, December 1932 and reprinted in Grey Room Vol. 6, p. 73.

28. Ibid., p. 79.

29. Ibid., p. 78.

30. Stan VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom: A Proposal and Manifesto,” Film Culture, Vol. 40, Spring,1966, pp. 15–18, reprinted in Gregory Battcock, The New American Cinema. A Critical Anthology, New York, 1967, pp. 173–179


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