Objects and environments underwent widespread dissemination during the sixties. Marta Minujín exhibited assemblage pieces fusing objects and paintings in 1962. That same year, in Paris, she began to work with mattress canvases that were textile sculptures of a sort that she would use soon afterward to construct inhabitable structures: environments that the public could enter and pass through (1). Inviting the public to participate sought to broaden traditional concepts regarding how a work of art was to be contemplated. Participation proposed reenacting the artist’s own experience and therefore extending the contemplator’s field of experience, now converted into an active participant. Another idea continually present in Minujín’s works from that era was to generate certain dislocation through play. Her playful mattresses, made to swing in and so “to live in art” are a paradigm of Argentinean pop art’s vital optimism.
Back in Buenos Aires, she presented Eróticos en technicolor (Erotic Works in Technicolor) at the Premio Nacional Di Tella in 1964. It consisted of an installation with four sculptures and ¡Revuélquese y viva! (Roll Around and Live!), a transitable installation that received the first prize (2). The different soft, organic forms of Eróticos en technicolor are entangled and interpenetrating, an allusion to two bodies during sexual intercourse. The theme’s provocative aspect was further intensified by the title with the inclusion of the term technicolor: as was the case for film at that time, technicolor offered a faithful representation of reality (3). Ironically, Minujín made use of the attractiveness of this mass culture promotion in order to comply with one of art’s oldest traditions: to reflect the visible. Each hanging sculpture was made of cotton fabric painted with fluorescent tempera paint and filled with foam rubber, suspended by way of heavy springs. The striped motif on the cloth imitated the cotton ticking used for mattress covers, but using a much more vibrant palette. Rocking in these sculptures was reminiscent of bouncing on a cotín, a local slang term for bed. During that era of sexual liberation, the artist’s urging her public to “revolcarse y vivir” (roll around and live) was a provocative command, doubly so for its use of common language. Quoting the jargon of the poorest classes and lunfardo (the slang of tango) is a reiterated occurrence in Minujín’s work. In 1965, along with Rubén Santantonín and a numerous team of other artists, she carried out La menesunda (Mayhem) (4), an environment that took its name from a lunfardo word meaning confusion, disorder or mix-up. Minujín recognized all of these qualities in the city and in contemporary urban culture. The work was very popular and received an enormous number of visitors. It proposed different situations for participants to experience, among which there was a space that was covered on all sides, top and bottom with soft sculptures that modified visitors’ bodily perception as they walked through. Defined as an art of an eternal present (5), just as pop art was, La menesunda was the first environment world-wide to have incorporated closed-circuit television, with a “live” transmission of what was happening inside.María José Herrera
1— La pieza del amor, done with Dutch artist Mark Brusse at the artists’ atelier on Delambre Street, Paris, 1963.
2— Regarding its international reception, see: Thomas Messer, The Emergent Decade. Latin American Painters and Painting in the 1960s. New York, Cornell University Press/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1966 y Damián Bayón, Aventura plástica de Hispanoamérica. Pintura, cinetismo, artes de la acción 1940-1972. México DF, FCE, 1974.
3— Technicolor was a cinematographic innovation that allowed filming in real colors, leaving black and white behind.
4— La menesunda by Marta Minujín and Rubén Santantonín with collaboration from Pablo Suárez, David Lamelas, Rodolfo Prayón, Floreal Amor and Leopoldo Maler, took place from May 28 to June 6, 1965 at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella’s Centro de Artes Visuales on Florida Street.
5— See: Jorge Romero Brest, Relación y reflexión sobre el arte pop. Buenos Aires, Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, 1967, mimeograph.
1969. ROMERO BREST, Jorge, El arte en la Argentina. Buenos Aires, Paidos, p. 72 (Colchones). 1979. SAFONS, Horacio, “La decada del 60” en: Gabriel Levinas (ed.), Arte argentino contemporáneo. Madrid, Ameris, p. 95 (Colchones).
1985. GLUSBERG, Jorge, Del pop art a la Nueva Imagen. Buenos Aires, Gaglianone, reprod. p. 321 (Matelas).
1997. LOPEZ ANAYA, Jorge, Historia del arte argentino. Buenos Aires, Emece, p. 295 (Eróticos en technicolor).
1999. GLUSBERG, Jorge, “Vivir en arte. Muestra antologica de Marta Minujin” en: Marta Minujín, cat. exp. Buenos Aires, MNBA, p. 17-18 (Colchones multicolores).
2003. LOPEZ ANAYA, Jorge, La vanguardia informalista. Buenos Aires 1957-1965. Informalismo, arte destructivo, arte cosa. Buenos Aires, Alberto Sendros, p. 79. — LOPEZ ANAYA, Jorge, Ritos de fin de siglo. Arte argentino y vanguardia internacional. Buenos Aires, Emece, p. 154.
2004. KATZENSTEIN, Ines (ed.), Listen, Here, Now! Argentine Art of the 1960s: Writings of the Avant-Garde. New York, The Museum of Modern Art, p. 343.
2005. LOPEZ ANAYA, Jorge, Arte argentino. Cuatro siglos de historia (1600-2000). Buenos Aires, Emece, p. 417, 421 (Eróticos en technicolor).
2006. GIMENEZ, Edgardo (ed.), Marta Minujín por Jorge Romero Brest. Buenos Aires, Edgardo Gimenez, reprod. color [s.p.]. — GIMENEZ, Edgardo (ed.), Jorge Romero Brest. La cultura como provocación. Buenos Aires, Edgardo Gimenez, reprod. color p. 231.
2007. KATZENSTEIN, Ines (ed.), Escritos de vanguardia. Arte argentino de los años 60. Buenos Aires, Fundacion Espigas, p. 352.