A Century of Change for Latin American Metropolises, 1830–1930
“The metropolis is not just the city; it’s the mother city. It has a fundamental role in defining the history of these countries that we discussed in the book.”
The period between 1830 and 1930 was one of global change, particularly in Latin America. Emerging from Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule at the start of the century, cities from Buenos Aires to Havana faced explosive population growth and rapid modernization, which reshaped the urban landscape and sociopolitical structures. These changes were captured triumphantly in photographs and film, planning maps, and theoretical treatises. However, the poor or disadvantaged were often erased from these records, and were often physically relocated to the outskirts of the urban core, reducing their visibility in cities.
In this episode, Getty Research Institute curators Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato discuss this consequential century of development for Latin American cities. Their research into this topic formed the basis of a 2017–18 exhibition at the GRI titled The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930. The exhibition’s materials, most held in the GRI’s collections, have been expanded in the recent Getty Publications volume The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930: Cityscapes, Photographs, Debates, edited by Alonso and Casciato.
“Everything was made of the most familiar objects. It could’ve been taken off a desk or a kitchen counter or something, and put into action. They were inert, but their meaning wasn’t. I thought to myself, this isn’t art; it’s better.”
In the early 1960s, artists from around the world practicing in wide-ranging disciplines—from music to dance, visual art to poetry—began to coalesce in a movement called Fluxus. Fluxus grew out of the absurdity of Dada, Surrealism, and Futurism, drawing inspiration from influential artists like Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. Although the movement ended in 1978 with the death of its founder, George Maciunas, its approach to artmaking continues to inspire artists today.
In this episode, art critic and Fluxus expert Peter Frank discusses the movement’s history and impact, sharing his personal engagement with Fluxus that began during his childhood in New York City. This conversation took place on the occasion of the Getty Research Institute’s exhibition Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive, which is currently on view at the Getty Center through January 2, 2022.
“To really read into the fragment that you have in front of you and to imagine the rest of what was the whole text is really romantic and an enjoyment of tekagami viewing.”
The rise of tea drinking ceremonies during the Edo period (1615–1868) brought about another new cultural phenomenon: calligraphy albums. Called tekagami, or “mirror of hands,” these albums showcase calligraphy by 8th-century emperors, famed poets, and other illustrious figures from Japan’s past. The calligraphic samples are often fragmentary, containing a few lines of classical poetry, Buddhist sutras, or snippets from personal texts such as diaries and letters. These fragments gain meaning not only from their content and form, but, importantly, from their arrangement on and within the pages of tekagami. In March 2021 the Getty Research Institute gathered together scholars to discuss this unique art form in a colloquium titled “Tekagami as/and Fragments.”
In this episode, the colloquium’s organizers, Akiko Walley, the Maude I. Kerns Associate Professor of Japanese Art at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and Edward Kamens, the Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies at Yale University, discuss the origins of tekagami, its place in Japanese art history, and avenues for future research into this fascinating medium.