Home Institution

Harvard University

Publication Date

Fall 2005

Program Name

Southern Cone: Regional Integration, Development and Social Change


This aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between artistic and cultural movements as a means of integration for socially excluded populations in Buenos Aires following the economic crisis of 2001. Art in a traditional sense, that is, art found in museums, is most frequently an expression of the dominant classes and is an object of contemplation rather than a form of intervention with the social reality of the masses. Two prominent and “opposing” theories are presented as a possible framework for understanding the relation between art and the societies that produce it: Liberalism and Marxism. The specific conditions of the dictatorship (1976-1983) and economic crisis of 2001 in Argentina are then explained. From here, the paper dives into four case studies: 1) a community center in a poor neighborhood, 2) a bookstore which makes books using cardboard purchased from the informal recyclers who appeared after the crisis (called cartoneros), 3) a recuperated factory which is also a cultural center, and 4) a group of documentary filmmakers who film strikes and factory takeovers. The conclusions drawn are that we cannot interpret these artistic movements based on a Marxist-liberal dichotomy, as the projects incorporate a mix of ideologies, tactics, and relationships to a capitalist economy. Ultimately, what remains clear is that art in Buenos Aires both preceding and following the crisis a democratization of culture truly took place—a move away from traditional and elitist art as it aims to provide free access to all, while acting as a tool of social integration. This study was conducted over a four-week period in Buenos Aires in the fall of 2005 and is based on an investigation of the social and economic conditions of the city via research, as well as a series of interviews with the artists themselves.


Art Practice | Politics and Social Change


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