– Spring/Summer 2005

David Lamelas: The Limits of Documentary

Stuart Comer

Tags: David Lamelas

'Extra-vagrancy' is neither nomadism nor errancy. It is a luminous and open skyline. It plays on multiplicity and casual encounters. Extravagant, vagrant, the 'extra-vagrant' plays upon the continuous breach of habit and invents new ways of being. Evidently, extra-vagrancy is the kernel of an imagination that always finishes by revisiting its point of departure.
- Annemarie Sauzeau Boetti1

Prominent Argentinean theorist Jorge Romero Brest claimed that the birth of the avant-garde in Argentina - which coincided with a schizophrenic climate of authoritarian military interventions, flimsy democratic governments and increasingly radical social dissent - kicked off in earnest with La Menesunda, a happening-like 'experience' staged in the late spring of 1965. Installed in Buenos Aires at the dynamic Instituto Torcuato Di Tella where Brest served as director, La Menesunda was initiated by artists Marta Minujín and Rubén Santantonín in collaboration with Brest, David Lamelas, Pablo Suárez, Rodolfo Prayon, Floreal Amor and Leopoldo Maler. Visitors were transformed into active participants in a series of 16 vignettes that displayed 'a couple in bed, ushered them into a gigantic head, locked them in a room from which they could exit only by dialling a telephone number, then presented images of them on a television screen that had been taken as they were walking through the exhibition, and finally guided them through a room where several fans created whirlwinds of confetti.'2 The environment provoked a local media frenzy and evidenced the young artists' decisive turn from a modernist, Concrete agenda to one consisting of 'Informalist' experiences emphasising action over objects. Over 1.5 million people visited La Menesunda, and the agenda for Instituto Torcuato Di Tella was irreversibly

  1. Annemarie Sauzeau Boetti, Alighiero e Boetti: Shaman-Showman, Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2003, p.189

  2. Andrea Giunta, 'Rewriting Modernism: Jorge Romero Brest and the Legitimation of Argentine Art' in Listen Here Now! Argentine Art of the 1960s: Writings of the Avant-Garde, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p.84

  3. Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, 'Structure, Sign and Reference in the Work of David Lamelas' in David Lamelas: A New Refutation of Time, Munich: Kunstverein München, Rotterdam: Witte de With, Düsseldorf: Richter Verlag, 1997, p.122

  4. Irit Rogoff, 'The Where of Now' in Time Zones, London: Tate Publishing, 2004, p.90

  5. Marta Minujín interviewed in Vivencias, Vienna: Generali Foundation, 2000, p.235

  6. David Lamelas interviewed in David Lamelas: A New Refutation of Time, op. cit., p.51

  7. Jack Flam (ed.), Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996, p.248

  8. Heike Ander, David Lamelas: A New Refutation of Time, op. cit., pp.36-37

  9. D. Lamelas, David Lamelas: A New Refutation of Time, op. cit., pp.117-18

  10. B.H.D. Buchloh, David Lamelas: A New Refutation of Time, op. cit., pp.131-32

  11. D. Lamelas, David Lamelas: A New Refutation of Time, op. cit., p.61