Date of Submission

Spring 2023

Academic Program

Global and International Studies; Politics

Project Advisor 1

Pinar Kemerli

Abstract/Artist's Statement

In this essay, I follow the historical trajectory of Helio Oiticica, a visual artist from Brazil’s 1960s modern art scene, to explore how attitudes towards his artistic interventions during Brazil's most transformative era affected the social view of “the artist” as a political character. I argue that the historical effectiveness of interventionist art relies on the shifting localized and national social and political identities of the artist. In order to help my reader understand how artists gain historical relevance through interventionist arts, I emphasize contextual and relational modes of analysis to better capture the complex and complicated interactions between historical and sociological phenomena that ultimately work to define the significance of sociopolitical phenomena, including artworks. My research considers national identity to contextualize the political value of national culture through non-figurative expressions of art production. Such widely contested definitions of national identity, across multiple disciplines, has led me to investigate the social and political agent that is: the artist. In the first section, The Compatible Artist proposes that Hélio Oiticica was politically primed to participate in national identity discourse due to familial and institutional ties prior to his emergence onto Rio’s avant-garde scene. The second section The Co-Oppable Artist offers that the popular narrative surrounding HO’s political interventions is historically maximized precisely due to its aesthetic dual-function as state propaganda and cultural aesthetics in formulating non-figurative expressions of national identity. The final section, The Controlled Artist, suggests that HO’s artistic legacy in renegotiating Brazil’s national imagination underscores the sociopolitical value accredited to artists and their political role in envisioning a controversial cultural synthesis of the nation state.

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