Working around : Lea Lublin, Marie Orensanz, Mirtha Dermisache, Margarita Paksa and the active spectator, 1968–1983




Detchon, Julia Watt

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This dissertation studies four women artists working between Buenos Aires and Europe in the 1970s: Lea Lublin, Marie Orensanz, Mirtha Dermisache, and Margarita Paksa. During the military dictatorships of that decade, artists developed conceptual tactics – including performance-based works, coded uses of language and environmental installations – to critique the regimes in power. At the same time, the Centro de Arte y Comunicación, an interdisciplinary gallery established by Jorge Glusberg in Buenos Aires, championed conceptual art from Latin America, presenting the work of Lublin, Orensanz, Dermisache, and Paksa alongside North American and European practitioners. This dissertation compares some of the conceptual tactics developed by these artists during the Long Seventies in an effort to highlight their contributions to the convergent histories of feminism and conceptualism in Argentina. Connected by the ambitious international agenda of the Centro de Arte y Comunicación, and by personal friendships, Lublin, Orensanz, Dermisache, and Paksa each made work that responded to shared experiences of political and gendered domination while adapting nimbly to the specific cultural environments of Europe and the Americas. I therefore give careful attention to how their aesthetic strategies functioned across these varying environments. My analysis of these artists’ work, in its many forms, proposes a reading of conceptual art that hinges on the fundamentally reconfigured relations between artist and viewer taking place at the time. Focusing on “active spectatorship,” rather than on its dematerial or linguisitic qualities, this dissertation locates conceptual art’s criticality in its reliance on viewers that enter into it as embodied process. By opening not just the interpretation but also the creation of art to collaboration, I argue, these artists aimed their critique at the level of everyday life.



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