There are books that arouse curiosity before being launched by the protagonism of the object of study. This is the case of Walter Zanini: avant-gardes, dematerialization, technology in art, with texts by the critic, professor, historian and curator Walter Zanini, organized by Eduardo de Jesus, professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. The intellectual closure of the research results from Zanini's close relationship with the daily experience of art, revealing enigmas of his intellectual artistic physiognomy.
The Zanini method of working includes exchanging experiences with artists and a tireless way of questioning the role of art. Two moments exemplify this practice: the art laboratory created at the Museum of Contemporary Art of São Paulo MAC/USP (directed by him since its opening in 1963, where he opens space for
young artists, to conceptual art, mail art, video art, performance and technological poetics, until 1978) and, their renovating curators in the 16th and 17th editions of the Bienal de
Sao Paulo. It was he who instituted the language analogy by definitively eliminating the concept of exhibition of works by country, composing an international group of
museum critics and curators to help you in this task. The book is a theoretical-conceptual investigation of the presence of technologies in artistic production, in Brazil and in the
abroad, from the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. The texts reveal the critic's systematic look at the revealing function of contemporary art, in a process in constant mutation. The texts show the advance of art, when the artisanal production processes were put face to face with technological innovations and their various channels. There is a lot to discover in these overlapping layers that take as their starting point the experiences of Art Nouveau and the Deutsche Werkbund. The research goes through analyzes of historical avant-garde movements, such as Italian and Russian Futurism, Dadaism
and constructivism, reaching the 1980s. This timeline passes through kinetic art, cybernetic and electronic art, crisis of the object, the contestation of supports
traditions and the evolution of video art.
The opening chapter refers to art and one of its identity issues. From Craft and Mechanic Art to Electronic Art problematizes the interfaces between art and
technology in the light of its relationship with the transformations of architecture and design in the 19th century. From this period comes the sequential chapter Kinetic Art, the impulse to
the immaterial, aspects of the contribution of artist and experimental cinema. Several groups linked to the movement are mentioned, such as Zero, from Dusseldorf, 1957, in which he participated.
for Brazilian Almir Mavignier; Recherche d ́Art Visuel (GRAV), from Paris, 1960, commanded by the Argentine Júlio Le Parc; Milan MID, 1964; Anonymous, from Cleveland, 1960,
among others. Abraham Palatnik's work in Brazil is only mentioned and then commented on in another segment. The exhibition scenario, from that moment on, changes substantially, mixing traditional works with unpublished imagery realities that emerged from new machines, incorporating the multiple manifestations of the
period characterized by immateriality. In Impulse for the immaterial there is the “undeniable recognition of the musical work of John Cage” and of two favorite students: Robert Rauschenberg, who also collaborates with him, and Allan Kaprow, creator of body art. The expression “dematerialization of art” first appeared with the American critic Lucy R. Lippard, in an article signed with John Chandler, in 1968. In one of her interviews, she says that “today, everything, including art, exists within a situation policy". This new look emerged in Lippard, after a trip she made to Argentina, in 1968, where she met artists engaged in the art/political movement, within the events of May 1968. The CoBRA group appears in this chapter, with emphasis on Asger Jorn, and his idea of “study laboratories, like scientific institutes”. The aim of the Danish artist was to teach young people not only to achieve practical artistic results but also to grow in the field of art theory. The fragmented themes, not long, try to demonstrate Zanini's thought, above all,
in two segments to which he dedicated himself: video art in Brazil, in which he traces a history of the first electronic experiences that emerged here, between 1969 and 1973. While in the United States this movement was already taking shape in the late 1960s, in Brazil, due to lack of resources, it starts late. Zanini comments on art and technology “as manifestations that date back to the period between 1940 and 1950 with the cybernetic experiences of Abraham Palatnik, precursor of the complex passage of artisanal procedures of art in Brazil”. There was no portable tool for artists in this era of the immense IBM computers, when only one of them occupied a 50 square meter room.
“Waldemar Cordeiro, the pioneer of computer art, associated with the physicist Giorgio Moscati, demonstrated in 1969 the first results of his research, which had
international recognition, but soon interrupted with his death in 1973”. After him, other artists were attracted by electronics such as Wesley Duke Lee, Artur Barrio, Gabriel Borba Filho and Antonio Dias. And, among the theorists, Zanini comments on the participation of Vilém Flusser, a Czech intellectual, founder of the discipline Theory of Communication, at Faap, of which I was a student. Flusser's multimedia discourse, a theorist defined by Zanini as “the philosopher of phenomenological adherence, identified above all with Heidegger”, attracted artists and theorists from all over the world. When talking about the early times of art/technology in Brazil, Zanini observes that, on “under international influxes, behavioral experiences
were soon followed by the rapid spread of the use of audiovisuals and super-8 and 16 mm films, sometimes recordings of conceptual actions”.
The critic's intense involvement with the structural problems of contemporary art is reflected throughout this collection, as a kind of guiding thread. In the texts gathered in Aspects of the contribution of artist and experimental cinema, the group from Milan emerges, led by Lucio Fontana, Argentinian/Italian, author of the Manifesto del moviment spaziale per telezivione, 1952, expressing the conviction that “art should free itself of its materiality”. Among the works cited is that of Grupo Fluxus, which Zanini brought to the Bienal de São Paulo, in 1983, and brought Brazil into contact with Vostel's work. “The initiative of a video by the Korean Nam June Paik, in 1965, marks the inaugural moment of video art”, notes Zanini. Paik has influenced artists such as Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Davidson Gilliotti. Also opted for video art Dan Graham, Dennis Oppenheim, Richard Serra, Bill Viola, Gary Hill and others.
Overall, the book reinforces that Walter Zanini is one of the most expressive Brazilian critics in his commitment to contemporary world art and his work, a work of permanent consultation.
Walter Zanini – Vanguards, Dematerialization, Technologies in Art
Jesus, Edward De
WMF Martins Fontes