Alice DavidPhD Candidate
Countercultural Print Tactics: Printing Progress and Anti-Progress in Latin America between the 1970s and 1980s
Supervised by Dr Klara Kemp-Welch
Funded by AHRC/CHASE
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, a number of countercultural artists in Latin America began to experiment with printmaking and mechanically printed art. While many revisited familiar processes such as engraving and woodcut, many others began to incorporate photomechanical printing technologies such as Xerox and photoengraving into their oeuvre. Through analyses of the alternative print scenes operating in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, my thesis therefore proposes a new reading of artists’ use of printing and printmaking technologies in Latin America, reconciling reprographic equipment – namely Xerox and the mimeograph machine – into the region’s strong tradition of socially engaged graphic art. At the same time, the thesis stakes a claim for the political and artistic significance of printmaking within the wider field of countercultural art in the 1970s and 80s. While we benefit from a comprehensive literature on photography and photographic theory, we have yet to develop equally sophisticated theoretical frameworks for printing. In studying the ways in which artists both responded to and rejected the established conventions of the medium, I explore questions such as the significance of producing multiples within narratives of concept-based dematerialisation, the ontological relationship between originals and copies, and what it meant to work both within and against the self-replicating parameters of a historically distinct tradition within art and art history.
More specifically, my thesis traces networks of intellectual and artistic opposition to the more insidious aspects of State-led economic and cultural modernisation projects. The regimes in these countries were then pursuing developmentalist ideologies proposed by American economists such as Walt Whitman Rostow and the Chicago School to restructure their societies according to Western models of progress. In the face of US intervention in Vietnam and Chile, however, and the economic sanctions imposed by the IMF during the ‘lost decade’ of the 1980s, these modernisation projects came to be increasingly popularly associated with neo-colonial attempts to steer these economies towards the needs of the global market. Firstly, with reference to theories of economic dependency and cultural critiques of the region’s hybrid position between tradition and ‘modernity’, I advance an alternative way of distinguishing a counterculture at this time by looking at those artists who undermined imposed ideas about ‘progress’. More broadly, the thesis explores the ways in which the print medium can collaborate with artists in their work by resisting or complicating progressive teleology at a material level.
- PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2019 – present)
- MA History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2017 – 2018)
- BA Modern Languages, University of Bristol (2013 – 2017)
- Semi-Mechanical Print Tactics and Urban Interventions in Mexico City (1971–82), AAH Annual Conference, Brighton, 2018.
- Printmaking, printing, and alternative print media
- Countercultural art and politics in the 1970s and 80s
- Art and technology
- Intersections between art and economic processes