Cracking Open the Systems: Media, Materiality and Agency in Teresa Burga´s Self-Portrait. Structure. Report. 9.6.72
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Center for Latin American Studies
Citation:alter/nativas, latin american cultural studies journal, no. 3 (Autumn 2014)
Relying on media archaeology of Friedrich Kittler, this article examines a large-scale installation, Self-Portrait. Structure. Report. 9.6.72 (1972), by Peruvian artist Teresa Burga (b. Iquitos, 1935) in comparison with the structuralist underpinnings of the dominant formulations of Conceptual art. I argue that in Self-Portrait, Burga mobilizes the logic of the media in order to open up closed, disciplinary system inscribed within both tautological/linguistic and so-called critical currents of Conceptual art. Under a familiar concept, Burga’s project combines diagrams, blueprints, photographs, medical records, light, and sound. Thus, it functions at the critical juncture of language, media, and material experiences. On the one hand, through text-based proposals and diagrams, Burga asserts the role of the artist as a creator of ideas—the paradigm of Conceptual art. On the other, she puts forth encounters with highly experiential structures, prevalent in minimal, postminimal, and technology-based art. I investigate how the artist deploys the logic of the media to transpose the content of the documents, which at first seem to constitute a repressive, police-like, archival system. I maintain that as a consequence of the transposition, Burga manifests that in reality the discourse and the media are not equivalent. In her Self-Portrait there are impassable gulfs between every single element of the piece, even if they are all supposed to encompass just one body. Therefore, by exposing self-contained and self-referential limitedness of discourse, Burga decenters the subject and opens up spaces of freedom in the closed systems that captured the imagination of her generation.
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