Margarita D'Amico

November 2, 2017

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Margarita D'Amico and Marshall McLuhan. Photo by Claudio Perna, 1976

It is no easy task to analyze the contributions of a multifaceted person possessing no small number of points of view, as was Margarita D’Amico. A journalist, writer, researcher, teacher, curator, pioneer, and promoter of the artistic vanguard, among other accomplishments on a long list of et ceteras, this outstanding Venezuelan (1938-2017) was a singular figure in art and culture of 20th century Venezuela.

D’Amico was a forerunner of cultural journalism in Venezuela, where she published in both print and audiovisual media. She did not make a distinction between art and science; she collaborated with the IVIC (Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas), and for many years was a teacher at the Escuela de Comunicación Social at the UCV (Universidad Central de Venezuela), where, with her characteristic obstinacy, she was poorly understood for her categorical, radical, and almost fundamentalist position in favor of contemporary art. She was a person who opened pathways, who produced necessary ruptures in Venezuela’s visual culture with her untiring persistence. Her book Lo audiovisual en expansión, published in 1971, is essential for understanding visual communications in our time.

Humberto Valdivieso, professor and researcher, considers that her greatest contribution was her ability to connect the country with the best of the art world and to access the transcendent with her journalistic instincts. “She was the grandmother of the Venezuelan vanguard. My generation is greatly indebted to her,” the Venezuelan filmmaker Diego Rísquez has said, and Iván Candeo, an artist of the new generation, tells how he had to study Margarita D'Amico to understand video art. Being in Spain, he gained the perspective to realize the transcendence of her work. “She represents the vanguard spirit of the 20th century in Venezuela. She serves to comprehend the contemporaneity that we are living. She was, together with Sofía Imber, a woman of empowerment,” affirms Candeo in relation to her support for artists.

“The country, nevertheless, did not understand her,” in the opinion of artist Rolando Peña. Venezuela was too provincial to understand the work of Jesús Soto or Carlos Cruz-Diez, and the same has occurred, even in the present day, with the journalistic work of Margarita D’Amico, who was denied space in the media.

Thanks to her support and promotion, Venezuela’s visual arts were decisive in the configuration of a new way to speak, above all in the decade of the 1970s; Diego Barboza, Asbrúbal Colmenárez, Víctor Lucena, Rolando Peña, Claudio Perna, Antonieta Sosa, Pedro Terán, Yeni & Nan, María Zabala, or Carlos Zerpa, to mention only a few, are today recognized, and rightly so, as authentic precursors of contemporaneity in Venezuelan art. She also took up the cause of young emerging talent that was just beginning, such as Sammy Cucher and José Antonio Hernández-Diez. As was to be expected from someone who saw, who acted widely in parallel with new creative tendencies, she extolled the early work of today’s international masters such as Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alejandro Otero, and Marisol.

She interviewed many personalities from art and general culture for different publications, among whom we encounter no smaller figures than Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alfredo Del Mónaco, Gabriel García Márquez, Víctor Lucena, Marshall MacLuhan, Marcel Marceau, Charlotte Moorman, Dennis Oppenheim, Alejandro Otero, Nam June Paik, Rolando Peña, Román Polanski, Diego Rísquez, Sonia Sanoja, Jesús Soto, Bill Viola, and Andy Warhol.

One of the most significant moments in contemporary art in Venezuela was the historic, landmark Video Exhibition in 1975, at the recently inaugurated Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, where the night of its opening Charlotte Moorman executed her performance TV Bra for Living Sculpture, which was visited by 57,000 people in the first two weeks it was shown, in which notable video art creators such as Nam June Paik, among others, participated. I remember being there that memorable night at the MACC, at a nascent Parque Central, and the public—a majority of young people—was delirious in those spaces crowded with people anxious to witness visual and sonic manifestations never before seen in the city. It was Margarita D’Amico who, with knowledge and passion, organized that memorable show.

As do all those who signal vanguard approaches and ideas, D’Amico earned more than a few enemies who felt that this promoter was openly against the establishment and conventional art.

Regarding new technology, she wrote: “For some the future appears as catastrophic, on the brink of shaking all the gears of communication, which are quite complex, nearly uncontrollable and have unpredictable projections. Even those who contributed to their development are terrified, because it’s gotten out of their hands, after the cyberattacks on the security systems of several superpowers. But that’s not all. Today the risks are horizontal, globalized. For the optimists, it’s the marvel of the century, the best thing that could have happened to human beings. The convergence of media: traditional, new, newest, real and virtual universes, video games, social networks, music and information spread on the internet in real time, in a permanent global streaming. We must not forget this is also a world in which golden myths abound, and black ones are not lacking, both with their own followers and detractors. The millions of people who live attached to their social networks, those who live for their latest-generation iPad, those who wear out their smart phones stuffed with apps, those who prepare themselves to enter the webal silicio or thousands of other things… Even they, all of them, haven’t even realized that the future is today, that the future is here and not in far away or remote places.”

Facing this scenario with her hardheaded tenacity, Margarita D’Amico managed to help Venezuelan art find a way to move indifference and alienation. It is not in vain that today her struggles and perseverance on behalf of new media are living history.

Caracas, October 2017