Journal of Socialist Theory

Up to Free Articles

Objective Form, Territory of Critical Struggle *

Luiz Renato Martins on 11 March 2024 in Critique Vol 51, Issue 4

translation by Nicholas Brown


Amidst debates in the sixties regarding late modernisation in peripheral countries, Roberto Schwarz came to define objective form (1991) as a construct that provides the rhythmic and invisible links between the social-historical domain and the aesthetic. It consists, said Schwarz, of a form comprising “a practical and historical substance” acting also as the “social core of the art form” (1997). By connecting the preexistent social experience to the aesthetically built form, the objective form works as a social contract legitimating the aesthetic form. Socially and historically ordered by a collective and impersonal subject, such construct distinguishes itself from postmodern eclecticism disconnected from the historical process. The objective form offers critical intelligibility before the historical-social matter, but only if taken as a form that is intrinsic to the aesthetic sphere. Thus, the problem of the aesthetic condensation of the social rhythms is therefore concretely and ceaselessly reoccurring – in production and reception – whenever necessary to retrace the reciprocal links between social-historical and artistic forms. Accordingly, the exercise of aesthetic intuition and the critical act in the infighting with the art materials are required to synthesise the structures of the social-historical matter – otherwise inapprehensible in the intrinsic connections to the perception and reflexion about the historical objectivity and dynamics. There are things that only in art emerge and make it an indispensable tool for dialectical historical reflexion. In this sense, this paper will revisit some critical responses that Brazilian art (Antonio Dias, Amilcar de Castro, Mendes da Rocha) gave to the civil-military coup of 1964 and to the late accelerated economic modernisation that ensued. And finally, it will also revisit the contemporary installation Big Wheel (2019, Carmela Gross) – a negative architectural construct that totalised Brazil’s tragic moment with rare clarity and epic poignancy.

Keywords: objective form; practical and historical substance; aesthetic condensation of the social rhythms; late accelerated economic modernization; Brazilian art post-1964.


What roads lead to epic art? How to pass from the raw pressure of historical facts to their aesthetic form? How to convert aesthetic time into objective and critical knowledge of the world?

The notion of objective form, which we will discuss, aimed to face these challenges by recasting the nexus between aesthetic and socio-historical forms into new terms. Formulated in 1979 by Roberto Schwarz, it sprung up in the Brazilian literary and critical debate against the model of rapid modernisation following the civil-military coup of 1964.

In the Anglo-American campuses, the “linguistic turn” then prevailed, while in France, the structuralist vogue was in force followed by the poststructuralist wave. The common denominator of such tendencies was given by the segregation of the the sphere of historical judgment from the aesthetic forms’ realm.

In contrast, the notion of objective form was directly linked to historical judgment. It responded to a new cycle of capitalist modernization in Brazil, derived from the 1964 coup.1 Accordingly, the aesthetic debate behind the notion of objective form and, earlier, behind its first and prototypical construct – the idea of materialist form – has a parallel. It brings certain historical-chronological affinities with the late-sixties Western version of Maoism, born of the crisis of the post-1945 cycle of capitalist expansion, the so-called "Thirty Glorious Years".

However, beyond a shared concrete disquiet towards the socio-economic model, there was a crucial difference: Western Maoism’s discursive schemas relied on the importation of Chinese cultural revolution’s formulas. The latter had very little to do with mental life in the central economies. Thus, lacking real fluency and communicability, this movement would die out as critical reason, just as Cuban foquism had, whether in Latin America, Germany, or Italy. Therefore, despite some stridency and certain flashes of brilliance, such movements faded quickly.2

Conversely, the notions of materialist and objective form – the former formulated by Antonio Candido, who was Schwarz’s teacher – were based both on the nexus between aesthetic form and historical-social relations. Accordingly, they have flourished and multiplied in the artistic vernacular, since growing in the critical fabric and collective experience of the Latin American daily life of permanent tragedy.


I will leave aside here the remote historical sources of this debate. This would lead us to Machado de Assis' late novels, as read by Roberto Schwarz,3 and as well to Trotsky's notes, in 1912 and 1922, about the cultural dialectics between “backward” and “advanced” nations.4 In return, I will prioritise the genetic moment of objective form, including, as said, its source: the conception of materialist form.


In 1970, Candido, established materialist form as a structural reduction and formal condensation of social rhythms (Schwarz, “Pressupostos, Salvo Engano” 132; see also Candido, “Dialectic of Malandroism” 79-103; see also Candido, “De Cortiço a Cortiço” 105-29). According to Schwarz, then assistant professor and a member of Candido’s research team,

... The point was to explain how external configurations, concerning life outside the artwork, could pass into the realm of the imagination, where they would become structuring forces and show something of themselves that had not been visible. It was also necessary to explain how criticism could retrace this circuit in its turn, and arrive at one sphere by means of the other, with a gain of knowledge in relation to both (Schwarz, “Sobre Adorno” 48).

But why and how did such an aim arise? The mid-1960s-1970s saw unequal but combined convulsions inherent to the end of the expansive cycle post-1945.5 It is crucial to bear in mind such roots, since the lasting capitalist crisis in dispute has not yet concluded its adjustments. Anyhow, in many countries it is quickly becoming evident that democracy is unnecessary for capital's new order. Anachronistic before the new era of mass narcissism and before the new modes of gain and domination, democracy appears increasingly expendable as an old theatre.

Nevertheless, the corrosive critical power of the objective form remains sharp and in progress. It constitutes a kind of "Ariadne's thread", nourished by the reflexive activity and by the objective critical force of the social relations’ truth, when confronted with the current state of the world – not simple, but labyrinthine; because the current world “appears” – or, better, hides – under the effects of pulverisation and transfiguration operated by “fictitious capital”.


In 1970, as part of a seminar that reviewed modern critical theories,6 Candido developed his reflection on the historical dialectics between literary form and semi-colonial underdevelopment, and later, on the conception of materialist form.7 Candido’s seminar did not emerge out of nothing. In the previous years, in the critical torrent that flowed in response to the 1964 coup, works of music, architecture, visual arts, cinema, theatre, social sciences, journalism and so on were combined systematically, also last but not least, with the protests in the streets.8

In short, a vivid contrast arose in the international aesthetic debate when the process of capitalist restructuring took off (at unequal paces in each country after 1968).9 Excepting the young and vibrant European cinema,10 most visual arts generated in the hegemonic economies – although analytically advanced – were debased by self-confinement in the domain of pure forms.11 Conversely, in certain peripheral countries aesthetic, critical and combative responses were being forged.12 Such art included the analytical advances of the advanced centres, but subsumed them into an updated reflection on the capitalist restructuring underway. It remains to see how.

In Brazil, the process of reconstructing realism, against the capitalist restructuring after 1964, confronted the vogue in the central countries.13 Thus, the work of the then-young artist Antonio Dias carried out operations of appropriation and displacement (Martins, “Trees” 75-84). In fact, in 1965, in the opening show of the New Figuration (Nova Figuração) movement, Dias’s works took possession of Pop Art clichés, turning them against imperialism and the Brazilian puppet dictatorship. The aphasia of geometric abstraction before the coup was therefore overcome.

Dias drafted the notions of “negative art” and “painting as art criticism” in a 1967 note (Dias, Caderno; Miyada 24-7). Both evoked the operations of appropriation and dislocation of forms seized from Minimal and Conceptual Art.14 In August 1969, a new series of works by Hélio Oiticica and Antonio Dias, Project-book,15 alleged the permanent porosity of the artwork to the surrounding reality, including also historical structures – such as laws, barely tangible in the artistic space. The latter came ironically named by subtitles. Beyond authorial peculiarities, such formulations responded widely to the movement of collective debates in the arts. Earlier, in 1967, Oiticica’s essay-program “General Scheme of the New Objectivity” manifested the general will to critical objectivity and reflexive totalization (Oiticica, “General Scheme” 116).16 It matched, in the visual arts, the materialist form’s strategic horizon of “aesthetic condensation of social rhythms”.17

Such transmissible objectivity between historical structures and aesthetic forms makes up the core of materialist form and objective form. Of course, the objectivity of social rhythms changes over time, but even so, it is not less objectively structured — for example, by class relations — and is likewise prone to aesthetic condensation.


In 1979 Schwarz called objective form the dynamic articulation linking aesthetic and historical-social realms (Schwarz, “Objective Form”); in 1991, he also put it as a form endowed with "practical-historical substance"(“National Adequation” 216); and in 1997, as: "the social nerve of the art form" (“Another Capitu” 111). But conceptualization and description are not enough. Instead, only as a concrete artistic form does objective form provide intelligibility to the objective historical-social matter, as a mode of critical condensation of it, which discloses its own functioning as a back-and-forth between the two realms kept simultaneously under scrutiny. For this, the exercise of aesthetical and critical intuition is essential for the synthesis with the historical-social matter – otherwise inapprehensible. There are links between part and whole, as to subjectivity, objectivity and historical dynamics, which only in art come to the surface.

I will pick up here examples from the historical environment of Schwarz and Candido, though both conceived their critical constructs thinking of nineteen-century literature. The negative operations that expropriated Pop Art in 1965 achieved the visual objectification of the cliché of desire of the upper and middle classes: i.e., consumption (Martins, “Trees of Brazil” 74-84). Thus, between 1965 and 1967, the arts prepared the gene pool for materialist form and objective form. The twist inflecting, with irony, the formulas of Pop Art, dialectically condensed the class political project that drove the coup, in two senses: first, it pointed to consumption as fetish; second, while harshly deriding such goal, objectified the protests against the new regime which had turned into an on-going social and political conflict.

Analogously in 1968, now targeting Minimal Art through Do it Yourself: Freedom Territory, Dias plotted and marked the ground with adhesive tape.18 He completed the work with cobblestone-sized rocks bearing a military-style dog-tag reading "To the police". Thus, by installing resistance on the ground and with the legends on the stones urging the struggle – Dias visually objectified social and political protests, disclosing a visceral schism between the classes in Brazil.

Soon after, he developed a series in exile, starting with Anywhere Is My Land (1968). Besides alluding to expatriation, militarisation and imprisonment, these works brought poetic structures into conflict with their motifs. Thus, instead of creating as usual the unique and suitable form for the motive, the works required hostile or inhospitable forms, expropriated from Minimal or Conceptual Art, reworked against the grain and adulterated. Thus, with such an antithesis objectified as contradiction, conflicts inherent to reality became, beyond the alluded object, the very form and dialectical structure of artistic practice. It thus constituted the objective form of negativity, that is, of the power to negate and to struggle turned into a cogito and mode for itself (Martins, “Antonio Dias”).


Such a plastic strategy, which takes concrete relations of dependence and reverts them into creative, systemic-cognitive and critical practices, reached remarkable dissemination. In the architecture of Paulo Mendes da Rocha (1928-2021), objective form, generated as a perspective and experience of the pedestrian, constantly and molecularly instilled such an element into decidedly urban projects. I take the architectonics of the Brazilian Sculpture and Ecology Museum - MuBE (Museu Brasileiro de Escultura e Ecologia) as a visual example, but the primacy of the pedestrian and the city logic – as an environment for "unpredictable encounters" or as an egalitarian polis –, extends to the whole of Mendes da Rocha’s work.19 The latter was developed against the mainstream of modern Brazilian architecture whose monumental and contemplative ethos derived, not by chance, from rural manor houses, as in Brasília (Martins, Free Form 36-42).

For Amilcar de Castro – an exponent of Brazilian geometric and neo-concrete art and already a participant in the II Bienal of S. Paulo (1953) – the historical synthesis with the surroundings as objective form occurred in 1978 in a large format work for the plaza da Sé (in São Paulo), the site of political demonstrations against the dictatorship, at the time. It thus condensed new social rhythms, encompassing the collective production of temporality and spatiality by the protesting masses that had taken over the streets and the factory yards. Similarly, when he took into use in his large drawings the big brooms used by street sweepers, Amilcar de Castro synthesised objective gestural forms of anonymous living work.20

In 2019, Carmela Gross' work Big Wheel (Gross 2019), made visible the poignant national moment under the ultra-right government. Big Wheel brought objective forms of tragic clarity by means of a negative architectural construct installed inside a small neoclassical palace, originally conceived as a bank headquarters.21 For this, 250 pieces (collected from junkyards) were spread through the floor in the main hall of the palace, emblematic of the eclectic architecture inherited from the Empire (1822-1889) by the oligarchic Old Republic (1889-1930). Scattered on the floor, one could find old tools and utensils, worn-out parts of machines, all technologically outdated and somewhat evoking failed ventures (Gross and Martins, 2021).

Thus, the ostentatious architecture (presided by a pseudo-corinthian colonnade topped with French stained glass) stood contrasted by these objects, easily found in degraded urban areas. An intricate tangle of ropes unified the installation’s disparate complex, functioning as a dialectical link by conferring puzzling unity to the disparity. Tying the objects to the columns’ capitals in zigzag fashion, bundles of multifarious ropes visually shredded the space. They thus appeared as an improvised resource contrasting with the solemn and sumptuous scenic rhetoric.

Challenged by the riddle, the visitor did not have to go far to find the origin of the cordage (unlike the Corinthian capitals): she had only to look around the environs of the cultural centre, to come across a gathering of tents, vendors’ carts, street trade stalls, at the square facing the building. Ropes are emblematic tools of street trade, which perform two basic functions: by day, fixing the clears tarps over their precarious showcases; at night, they keep everything wrapped up.

Migrants who fled from hunger and misery, once former peasants from Brazil and neighboring countries are those who make such trade in the cities. According to Carmela Gross, Big Wheel was born from a walk in that plaza. Brought into the palace, the constructive practice of the model of resilience and survival was translated into the disparate mesh of the cordage (Martins, “Big Wheel” 82-92).

There, the very same cell, engendered in the misery of the streets, germinated and reforested the bank's headquarters. The unequal and bitter tenor of the Brazilian social formation – when erupted in the lobby against the privileges of class and property – became evident: a sudden eruption, but, in fact, thought out as an objective form, to be reconstructed by the collision-montage, which critically contrasted the improvised and stripped architecture, originally invented for the daily struggle to survival, to the farcical colonnade.


To conclude: by questioning and challenging the observer (according to the critical and reflexive tradition of German Romanticism), objective form invites the audience to complete its meaning in a dialectical back-and-forth. But this will only occur if the observer – to culminate the critical-reflexive game – is willing to combine aesthetic sensation with the negative consideration of the social-historical totality that plays as the material instance inseparable from the objective form.

Notes on contributors

Luiz Renato Martins is the executive editor of Cadernos do Movimento Operário [Notebook of the Workers’ Movement] (São Paulo, Sundermann/ WMF); also, a researcher and Ph.D. supervisor at the Postgraduation program in Visual Arts at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Latest books published in English: The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil (ed. Juan Grigera, introd. Alex Potts, trans. Renato Rezende, Chicago, Historical Materialism Book Series/ Haymarket, 2019); The Conspiracy of Modern Art (ed. and introd. Steve Edwards, trans. Renato Rezende, Chicago, Historical Materialism Book Series/ Haymarket, 2018); tri-lingual book, with Carmela Gross: Roda Gigante/ Big Wheel/ Rueda Gigante (introd. Paulo Miyada; English trans.: Renato Rezende; Spanish trans: Gabriela Pinilla, São Paulo, Martins Fontes/ Circuito, 2020).

Nicholas Brown teaches in the departments of English and Black Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Past president of the Marxist Literary Group, he chairs the editorial board of the journal Mediations. He has published widely on Marxist theory and criticism, and has translated essays by Georg Lukács and Roberto Schwarz.

* Paper presented at the panel “Marxism and form in the praxis of art criticism” at the HISTORICAL MATERIALISM 2022 – 19th Annual Conference, Facing the abyss: An epoch of permanent war and counterrevolution, London, School of Oriental and African studies-SOAS, University of London, 10 - 13 November 2022 (I thank Roberto Schwarz, Bruna Della Torre and Nicholas Brown for their contributions).


  1. In Brazil, the combative turn in the arts responded to the coup of 1964. On the earlier prevalence of geometric abstraction favorably echoing developmentalism in Latin America, on the Brazilian case, see Luiz Renato Martins, ‘All This Geometry, Where Does It Come from, Where Does It Go’, in The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil (edited by Juan Grigera, translated by Renato Rezende, intro. by Alex Potts, Chicago, Haymarket/Historical Materialism Book Series, Chicago, Haymarket/Historical Materialism Book Series, 2019), pp. 44-72.

  2. This phenomenon was keenly synthesized by Godard (b. 1930) in La Chinoise (1967): Maoist jargon and mannerisms appear alongside pop art and advertising spots; that is, as merely reiterative formulas spinning their wheels, as flavor of the month, see Luiz Renato Martins, ‘Godard e a PopArt’ (A Terra É Redonda, 22 Jan. 2021, Accessed 18 Nov. 2021.).

  3. A few of the Schwarz's studies have appeared in English: To the Victor (To the Victor, the Potatoes! [1977]. Translated by Ronald W. Sousa, Historical Materialism book series, Leiden and Chicago, Brill, 2020 / Haymarket Books, 2020.), “Complex, Modern” ("Complex, Modern, National, and Negative" [1981]. Misplaced Ideas – Essays on Brazilian Culture, edited and translated by John Gledson, London, Verso, 1992, p. 84-93. ); A Master on the Periphery (A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism: Machado de Assis [1990]. Translated by John Gledson, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2001.); “Capitu, the Bride” ("Capitu, the Bride of Dom Casmurro" [1997]. Two Girls and Other Essays, edited by Francis Mulhern, translated by John Gledson, London, Verso, 2012, pp. 57-91.); “Competing Readings” ("Competing Readings" [2006]. New Left Review, no. 48, 2007, pp. 85-107.); “A Brazilian Breakthrough” ("A Brazilian Breakthrough." New Left Review, no. 36, 2005, pp. 91-107.).

  4. In the observation of 1912 (on the topic of Bulgarian literature), Trotsky pointed out the incapacity of “all backward countries” to “develop their own internal continuity,” being therefore “obliged to assimilate the readymade cultural products that European civilization developed in the course of its history” ( Leon Trotsky, ‘In a backward country’ [1912]. The Balkan Wars, 1912-13: The War Correspondence of Leon Trotsky, edited by George Weissman and Duncan Williams, translated by Brian Pearce, New York, Monad Press, 1980, p. 49). In the second note, from 1922, Trotsky observed that, in a few cases, “backward countries with a certain level of cultural development,” in appropriating the achievements of the “advanced countries,” “reflect the achievements of the advanced countries with greater clarity and force” (Leon Trotsky. ‘Futurism’ [1922]. Literature and Revolution, edited by William Keach, translated by Rose Strunsky, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2005, pp. 135-68).

  5. Not to mention the 1968 uprisings in many countries, in ten years (1974-1984), for instance, a series of social-democratic governments and leaders in Europe (with roots in anti-nazism and formed politically in the construction of the welfare state and the social safety net after the Second World War) capitulated: in Bonn (1974), Willy Brandt (1913-1992); in London (1976), Harold Wilson (1916-1995); in Paris (1984), Pierre Mauroy (1928-2013). All of them fell through intramural maneuvers in their own party or proximate circles, to make way for a politics of the primacy of the market, based in fiscal austerity and structural unemployment.

  6. “The seminars debated, among others, texts of Russian formalism, the structuralists, Adorno, Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution,” recalls Schwarz (Roberto Schwarz ‘Antonio Candido’ (1918-2017)." Seja como For: Entrevistas, Retratos, Documentos, São Paulo, Livraria Duas Cidades/Editora 34, 2019, p. 410.).

  7. In turn, such reflections on the conception of form return to the interrelation between “literary structure” and “historical or social function of the work,” that Candido had been developing since 1961 (Antonio Candido, ‘Estrutura Literária e Função Histórica’ [1961]. Literatura e Sociedade, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro sobre Azul, 2006, pp. 177-99.). The theme of “historical function” will return as a constant in various of Candido’s writings (Antonio Candido, ‘La Literatura de América Latina: Unidad y Conflicto. Entrevista a Beatriz Sarlo’. Punto de Vista, no. 8, Buenos Aires, 1980, pp. 3-9.) and (Antonio Candido, ‘Variações sobre Temas da Formação’. Textos de Intervenção, seleção, apresentações e notas de Vinicius Dantas, São Paulo, Livraria Duas Cidades/ Editora 34, pp. 93-107.).

  8. At this time there emerged an unprecedented Brazilian critical system, see Luiz Renato Martins, ‘Trees’, in The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil (Chicago, Haymarket/Historical Materialism Book Series, 2019), pp. 73-113. Protests were prohibited after Dec. 13, 1968, by Institutional Act Number Five, said also AI-5 (December 13, 1968, and the ensuing arrests, torture, censorship, and purges).

  9. Only later did that restructuring, in the era of Thatcher (1978) and Reagan (1980), emerge in the terms proper to the hegemonic economies. Thus, the procedural restructuring — through structural unemployment, institutionalized violence, and the assimilation of gang violence to state structures — occurred much earlier on the periphery and, from this angle, anticipated the structural tendency toward the divorce of capitalism from democracy.

  10. To a great extent, Kubrick’s (1928-1999) A Clockwork Orange (1971) foresaw the end of the welfare state and aspects of the new capitalist cycle, including the fusion of the State with criminal organizations (see Luiz Renato Martins, “Laranja Mecânica, 50 anos depois (A Terra É Redonda, 16 Feb. 2021, Acessed 18 Dec. 2023.). In fact, European cinema — possibly because of its necessarily collective and industrial character — did not suffer, during this period, from the same aphasia that did the arts rooted in artisanal tradition and usually nourished by individual isolation — therefore more vulnerable to the dogma of the autonomy of language with relation to historical-social processes and, therefore, to linguistic speculations.
  11. Pasolini (1922-1975) was one of the few to tackle, in films and essays, the structural change that was taking place in capitalism (both in the youth milieu and at the macro level), associated with a revolution in global governance based in the unification of the world market and in the universal assimilation of consumption (including the consumption of self and other) as value — tending to the normalization of genocide. Pasolini understood “genocide” as the “assimilation to the mode and quality of bourgeois life” of “broad sectors” (subproletarians and populations of colonial origin) “that had remained […] outside of history” Pier Paolo Pasolini ‘Il Genocidio’ (Pasolini, Pier Paolo. "Il Genocidio." Scritti Corsari, Milano Garzanti, 1975, pp. 281-2.). See also the article “Il mio Accattone in Tv dopo il genocidio”, Corriere della Sera, 8 Oct. 1975 (Pasolini, “My Accattone” 100-5). See also Luiz Renato Martins, “A Era dos Genocídios.” (A Terra É Redonda, 30 Sept. 2021, Acessed 18 Dec. 2023.); “A era dos genocídios – II” (A Terra É Redonda, 22 Oct. 2021, Acessed 18 Dec. 2023.).
  12. As to the critical state of the art and the conjunction of historical-social demands peculiar to the moment, the answer can be found in Schwarz’s 1970 essay “Culture and Politics in Brazil, (1964-69) (Roberto Schwarz "Culture and Politics in Brazil, 1964-1969" [1970]. Misplaced Ideas – Essays on Brazilian Culture, edited and translated by John Gledson, London, Verso, 1992, pp. 126-59.). Due to the dictatorship, this essay was initially published only in Les Temps Modernes in July 1970 (Roberto Schwarz, "Remarques sur la Culture et la Politique au Brésil, 1964-1969." Les Temps Modernes, no. 288, July 1970, pp. 37-73.) and ("Culture and Politics in Brazil, 1964-1969" [1970]. Misplaced Ideas – Essays on Brazilian Culture, edited and translated by John Gledson, London, Verso, 1992, pp. 126-59.). In parallel, in Argentina, see from Solanas and Getino La Hora de los Hornos (1968) (Solanas, Fernando E., and Octavio Getino, directors. La Hora de los Hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces). Argentina, Grupo Cine Liberación, 1968.), a film produced clandestinely and premiered at the IV Festival of New Cinema, Pesaro, 1968. See also Longoni and Mestman on the multimedia series of interventions Tucumán Arde (Tucumán Arde (Tucuman is Burning). 1968, multimedia installation, Rosario, Confederación General del Trabajo de los Argentinos.), produced by a group of about twenty artists and sociologists associated with a combative dissident union group (Katzenstein, Inés (ed.). Listen Here Now! Argentine Art of the 1960s: Writings of the Avant-Garde. New York, MoMA, 2004. pp. 319-26). See also Ana Longoni, Vanguarda y Revolución (Vanguardia y Revolución / Arte e Izquierdas en la Argentina de los Sesenta-Setenta, Buenos Aires, Ariel, 2014.); and the catalogs of the expositions curated by Longoni at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and at the MACBA (Barcelona): Roberto Jacoby (et al. (ed.). Roberto Jacoby: El Deseo Nace del Derrumbe. Madrid, Adriana Hidalgo Editora / Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 2011.); Perder la Forma (Longoni et al. (ed.). Perder la Forma Humana – Una imagen sísmica de los años ochenta en América Latina, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 2012; Oscar Masotta: Theory as Action / La Teoría como acción (Longoni et al. (ed.), Ciudad de México / Barcelona, Editorial RM / Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo-MUAC-UNAM / Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona-MACBA, 2017.). I thank Gustavo Motta not only for his comments on this essay but also for the examples of the synthetic and totalizing tendency of Argentine art.

  13. On the movement to construct a new realism in response to the 1964 coup, see Luiz Renato Martins, ‘Trees of Brazil’, in The Long Roots…, op. cit., pp. 73-113.

  14. On Dias’s offensive operations, once established in Europe, see Luiz Renato Martins, ‘Art against the grain’, in The Long Roots…, op. cit., pp. 174-201.

  15. In English in the original. The program comprised ten proposals for works following specific open structures (see Hélio Oiticica, "Special for Antonio Dias’ Project-Book" [6-12 Aug. 1969 – London], Accessed 30 Dec. 2021; see Antonio Dias, "Project-Book – 10 Plans for Open Projects" [1969]. Antonio Dias, textos de Achille Bonito Oliva e Paulo Sergio Duarte, São Paulo, Cosac Naify/APC, 2015, pp. 94-7.).

  16. For further reflections by Oiticica, also connected to the reconstruction of realism in the Brazilian arts, see Hélio Oiticica, ‘Environmental Program [July 1966] (Hélio Oiticica, catalogue, edited by Guy Brett et. al., Rio de Janeiro, Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro/ Projeto Hélio Oiticica, 1996, pp. 103-04.); and ‘Appearance of the Supra-Sensorial.’ [Dec. 1967]. (Hélio Oiticica, catalogue, edited by Guy Brett et. al., Rotterdam, Witte de With Paris/ Jeu de Paume/ Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tapiés/ Lisboa, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian/ Mineápolis, Walker Art Center/ Rio de Janeiro, Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, 1992-97, Rio de Janeiro, Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro/ Projeto Hélio Oiticica, 1996, pp. 127-30.)

  17. In the essay “Dialectic of Malandroism” ("Dialetic of Malandroism" [1970]. On Literature and Society, translated, edited and introduced by Howard S. Becker, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 79-103.), Candido established aesthetic form as the structural reduction and formal condensation of social rhythms, see also Roberto Schwarz ‘Objective Form: Reflections on the Dialectic of Roguery.’ (Two Girls…, op. cit., pp. 10-32.) and Antonio Candido ‘De Cortiço a Cortiço’ ("De Cortiço a Cortiço" [1973/1991]. O Discurso e a Cidade, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Sobre Azul, 2004, pp. 105-29.).

  18. The grid-marked structure, laid down with adhesive tape, was installed for the first time in 1969, at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, as part of the show Contemporary Art: Dialogue between the East and the West. In this and subsequent installations, the work gained a complementary work: To the Police, described next.

  19. See forthcoming book on Mendes da Rocha and Amilcar de Castro referred in the next note.

  20. For the analysis of such operations, whose details space does not allow for here, see the essay (published in two parts): Martins, “Amilcar de Castro.” The publication of this text in book form (in preparation, projected 2024) — Paulo Mendes da Rocha e Amilcar de Castro: A Força do Negativo (provisional title, São Paulo: MuBE / WMF Martins Fontes) — will include a full English version.

  21. Begun in 1927 and completed in 1931, the building served as the headquarters for the Província, Nacional do Comércio, and Sul Brasileiro e Meridional banks successively, before meeting in 2001 its current fate, to be designated as Farol Santander. [Farol is a lighthouse or beacon; Santander is the Spanish-based multinational banking conglomerate, which has a substantial presence in Brazil. Farol Santander, as will be clear from context, is now a cultural and exhibition space. Trans.]

Back to top