The Centro de Arte y Comunicación: Its History
By María José Herrera and Mariana Marchesi
The Centro de Arte y Comunicación [Center for Art and Communication] (CAYC) was founded in 1968; its goal was to encourage an interdisciplinary approach between the latest tendencies in art and communication, in keeping with one of the most influential theoretical ideas to impact the study and production of the key figures of the avant-garde. Jorge Glusberg (1932-2012), the founder and only director of the CAYC, worked to create an experimental art movement with a network of artists and critics from Argentina, Latin America, and beyond. Glusberg attended Jorge Romero Brest’s lectures and classes; in the 1960s he became known in cultural circles in Buenos Aires because of his critical columns in the weekly Análisis and his role as a correspondent for Leonardo (published by the MIT Press in Cambridge), an academic magazine that focused on art and technology. He had trained, however, as a commercial and cultural agent, and he was used to innovating and taking advantage of opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges.
The CAYC was created in response to the complex socio-political conditions in Argentina following the 1966 coup d’état and the subsequent assault on culture and education that was endorsed by the de facto government, ranging from censorship of a variety of cultural activities to the takeover and forced occupation of universities and the repression and expulsion of many students and teachers.  The Center was originally associated with the Fundación de Investigación Interdisciplinaria [Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research], which included a group of dissident professors from the Facultad de Arquitectura y Ciencias Exactas de la Universidad de Buenos Aires [Faculty of Architecture and Exact Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires]. The institutional model for the CAYC was also inspired by new cultural centers designed to promote contemporary art in other parts of the world, such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, which had been established in Europe since the early 1960s. Inspiration also came from art research initiatives such as Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), the North American group created in 1966 by the artist Robert Rauschenberg and the engineer Billy Klüver. Another contributing factor was the rising importance of the mass media and technology that were, in fact, booming in Argentina thanks to the modernizing effects of the developmental policies championed by President Arturo Frondizi (1958-62). All this manifested at a cultural level through the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (ITDT), an organization that supported the local avant-garde. But the severe economic, social, and political crisis of the late 1970s took its toll on the Di Tella Institute, which closed in 1970.  The CAYC then became the home of an innovative avant-garde that was deeply involved in the country’s socio-political problems, a group that—during the brief return to democracy from 1973 to 1976—sought to come up with new ways to address “current conditions” at a national and regional level through art and in contemporary terms. Revolutionary ideas were very much in the air during that turbulent decade in Latin America. Some artists, many of whom joined the CAYC, took a systematic and interdisciplinary approach to their work and decided to embrace the epistemological and technological changes that were taking place at the time.
Glusberg’s goal, from the very beginning, was to introduce Argentinean art to an international audience. His knowledge of what was happening outside of Argentina and his close connections with avant-garde centers around the world were based on his personal interest in art and his business dealings on behalf of his lighting company, Modulor. Before the CAYC came into existence, for example, and just a year after the exhibition Primary Structures opened at the Jewish Museum in New York, Glusberg presented Estructuras primarias II in the art salon at the Sociedad Hebraica Argentina. This was a local version of the new trend that was taking the place of traditional sculpture. During its early years, the Center focused on organizing exhibitions that legitimized international explorations of experimental art.
The CAYC hosted its first public event in 1969, a seminar jointly produced with the Computer Center from the ORT technical schools in Buenos Aires, which explored the creative possibilities of computers. A team of programmers, engineers, analysts, and artists worked together to produce Arte y Cibernética, an exhibition of computer-assisted graphic art at the Bonino gallery.  In addition to Argentinean artists, the event also included the Computer Technique Group (CTG), a Japanese pioneer in computer art whose works had been shown at Cybernetic Serendipity, the successful show in London that had inspired Glusberg to follow in its tracks. Jasia Reichardt, the curator of the exhibition and assistant director of the ICA was a colleague and personal friend of Glusberg’s and she “teamed up” with the CAYC to be part of its initiative.
The Center’s interdisciplinary focus was also apparent in events such as its Argentina-Intermedios (Teatro Ópera, Buenos Aires, 1969), a production that included electronic music, stage performances, experimental films, and kinetic sculpture. It was thus reminiscent of Nueve noches: teatro e ingeniería (Nine Evenings. Theatre and Engineering), by the EAT, which sought to expand perception mechanisms via art and technology.
In 1970, the CAYC opened its own premises in Buenos Aires, in the historic art gallery district where the Di Tella was also located, and consolidated its reputation by producing a newsletter, a powerful instrument designed to communicate, promote, and educate. The initials “GT” were printed on the upper righthand corner of each page with a consecutive number and the date. These initials, presumably meaning “gacetillas de trabajo” [work newsletters], indicate that the newsletter was not intended as a medium for one-way communication, but sought to involve readers by asking them to participate in surveys or discussions about current art and social issues. Known as “yellow pages,” they were in fact green when reporting on the activities of the Escuela de Altos Estudios (EAE) [School of Advanced Studies]. These newsletters are a documentary source of vital importance that, when viewed in conjunction with other sources, shed light on the CAYC’s programming strategies, its policies, and the networks it established over the years. The local and international circulation of these newsletters positions them as a cross between a communication vehicle and an authentic piece of mail art. Exhibitions, productions, symposiums, seminars, manifestos, art projects, and artworks came to life in the 900-plus editions, which were printed on thin paper so that several of them could fit in an envelope. Meticulous logistics ensured that they were mailed to every continent free of charge from 1970 to 1974. Later on, readers were asked to pay a subscription fee to cover the production and mailing costs. Each newsletter, with its distinctive design, included the CAYC’s logo printed in a sans-serif font and a border that made it look like a computer card with the upper righthand corner sliced off. The lower lefthand corner was also sliced off, providing a sense of perspective and giving the impression of volume, an illusion that was probably meant to suggest a file full of content, a “sculptural” newsletter. The conventional typewritten text and cursive fonts made the newsletter look like a “work document”—a draft copy of the intended message.
In the late 1960s, when the art scene was coming to terms with the impact of structuralism, its concept of a “system,” and communication theories, the CAYC launched its institutional strategy based on “arte de sistemas,” an art category involving a number of disciplines that it sought to legitimize in 1971 by presenting a homonymous exhibition. Related to the concept of “systems esthetics,” a term coined by Jack Burnham, the North American theorist, arte povera, and international conceptual art, the Center’s very own category gradually acquired powerful political undertones that Simón Marchán Fiz referred to as “ideological conceptualism.” The group that organized this event at the CAYC, the Grupo de los Trece, relied on teamwork, reflection, and discussion to address social issues via a sort of process, gestural, and occasionally ephemeral art that reclaimed the streets and avant-garde institutions as spaces in which to pursue their artistic practice. Together with other guest artists, the group produced emblematic exhibitions that—like Hacia un perfil del arte latinoamericano and Art Systems in Latin America—explored the idea of a regional, Latin American identity and sought to introduce the continent’s art to an international audience.
In the mid-1970s, the group’s membership shrunk from thirteen to nine (Jacques Bedel, Luis Fernando Benedit, Víctor Grippo, Jorge Glusberg, Leopoldo Maler, Vicente Marotta, Jorge González Mir, Alfredo Portillos, and Clorindo Testa). Exile, political differences, personalities, and the return of a dictatorship chipped away at the original collective, which changed its name to Grupo CAYC and tempered its explicit ideological message. In 1977 the group made a name for itself on the international stage with the installation Signos en ecosistemas artificiales, for which they won the Grande Prêmio Itamaraty, awarded by the Ministry of Foreign Relations at the 14th São Paulo Biennial. The prize prompted controversy in Argentina and Brazil because the Group was not representing a particular country at the event, which is how countries normally took part in the Biennial. That was the last time the CAYC used “arte de sistemas” as the basis for one of its projects. The group started exploring the new semiotic trends affiliated with postmodernism that were emerging at that time.
In 1973, in addition to organizing exhibitions, the CAYC created the Escuela de Altos Estudios (EAE) [School for Advanced Studies] where theoretical ideas were combined with the practice of the various disciplines the Center was interested in. The EAE offered seminars on analytical philosophy, mathematical logic, epistemology, select branches of psychology, semiotics, and linguistics. During that brief window of democratic opening, those teachings provided a framework and greater visibility for the art initiatives the Center endorsed. Several of those courses furnished theoretical backing for the introduction of “arte de sistemas.” The impact of advertising and studies on the ideological aspect of social communication played an important role in determining the Center’s curriculum. Some years later, in 1983, the EAE published the Revista de Estética,  which studied and analyzed the influence in the arts of certain intellectuals who called for an embrace of postmodernism.
As part of its interdisciplinary mission, the CAYC focused on avant-garde theater, poetry, and video. Glusberg, Pedro Roth, and Danilo Galasse founded Ediciones del Tercer Mundo [Third World Publications] in 1973 to produce audiovisual works. A year later, during the London showing of the exhibition Art Systems in Latin America, the CAYC organized an event that became the first Encuentro Abierto de Video, which would (until 1978) be followed by nine more “gatherings” that established the discipline and created a specialized circuit.
In 1978, Glusberg was elected president of the Asociación Argentina de Críticos de Arte (AACA-AICA)  and vice-president of the Asociación Internacional de Críticos de Arte (AICA). These positions gave him a platform from which to promote international workshops and organize study groups at the CAYC, where the AACA also operated. That year ushered in the first of the Primeras Jornadas Internacionales de la Crítica [First International Conferences on Criticism], which provided an institutional backdrop for the presentation of many groups, trends, and artists in the 1980s. The Jornadas attracted many important critics, such as the Brazilians Aracy Amaral and Mário Barata, the Peruvian-Mexican Juan Acha, the Uruguayan Ángel Kalenberg, the Colombian Alberto Sierra, and the North American Gregory Battcock. Two exhibitions were presented during the Jornadas: Arte argentino 78, a historical review from concrete art to conceptual art, and La joven generación, a current overview that showed only recent work. These exhibitions expressed Glusberg’s theory of “thematic localism,” in keeping with the postmodernist view that was on the rise at that time.
Over the course of two decades the CAYC adapted to different conditions and promoted a variety of different trends. In the late 1970s, Glusberg was promoting experimental practices like video art and performance art at an international level. In Argentina, he promoted the Postfiguración group (which included painters and sculptors like Jorge Álvaro, Diana Dowek, Elsa Soibelman, Norberto Gómez, and Alberto Heredia) in a clear attempt to explore the Italian critical trends that were emerging at the time, such as the trans avant-garde.
After Glusberg was appointed director of the Comité Internacional de Críticos de Arquitectura (CICA) in 1978, the CAYC re-embraced architecture in the mid-1980s. After the return of democracy, in 1985, the Center organized the first International Architecture Biennial in Buenos Aires, which is still active today. The Center welcomed the participation of distinguished international guest artists such as the architects Norman Foster, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, and Richard Rogers.
In spite of all that, none of Glusberg’s later initiatives possessed the programmatic heft that had been achieved in the 1970s with “arte de sistemas” as the core concept. In 1985, the critic and agent brought that cycle to a close with the publication of El arte en Argentina. Del pop art a la nueva imagen [Art in Argentina: From Pop Art to the New Image]. In this book he presented his own genealogy of Argentinean art, including “arte de sistemas” as a key movement in its history.
1. The Noche de los Bastones Largos [Night of the Long Sticks] began the process of shutting down the developmental program and the artistic, scientific, and intellectual initiatives it had promoted.
2. We are referring here to the space on Florida street, the epicenter of the “Di Tella art phenomenon.” Founded in 1958, the Institute continued to operate and, in the 1990s, became a university.
3. The exhibition also included a seminar on cybernetics and its role in the creation of art, presented by Gregorio Klimovsky.
4. The founding editorial committee included Jorge López Anaya, Emilio Pucciarelli, Rosa María Ravera, and Glusberg. Jean Baudrillard, Gianni Vattimo, Omar Calabrese, and Thomas Sebeok, among other foreign intellectuals, contributed articles.
5. He was president of AACA for two terms, 1978-1986 and 1989-1993. In 1994, he was elected director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, a position he kept until late 2003.