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A fiction interview to Clemente Padín

A fiction interview to Clemente Padín.

· You´re active at Latin American alterart scene over 40 years… But, in seventies you have some problems and spent some time in the prison. What´s really happened ?

So it was. In 1965 began the edition of the magazine “Los Huevos del Plata”, until 1969.
After OVUM 10 and OVUM from 1969 to 1977. These reviews was borned by the
necessity of magazines to spread the results of our experiencies and to forbid the communicative barriers. All those artistic activities agreeding with the inherent postulates of every vanguard current, it does not matter the artistic field chosen : poems, theoretic texts, music, performances, propositions and projects, etc. In all their concurrences and derivations had have place in my reviews : creation that modifies or upset the ancient and stereotype way of expression in any sense.
My first visual poems was from 1967. I officially began in Mail Art in 1969, when OVUM 10 edited my visual poems in postcards but yet interchanged art and publications with Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Guillermo Deisler, and Damaso Ogaz from 1967. In 1970 I did my first performance in the hall of the Uruguayan University : “The Poetry Should Be Done for Everyone”. In 1971 I participated in my first mail art exposition realized by the Image Bank Postcard Show, in Vancouver, Canada. In 1974, during the Uruguayan military dictatorship I organized the first documented Latin-American Mail Art Exposition, at U Gallery, in Montevideo, called “Creative Postcard Festival”. In 1977, I was jailed by the dictatorship for “hurt the morale and reputation of the army” during two years and three months. I was condemned for four years but the international solidarity liberated me before. The real cause of my detention was my artistic activities against the brutality of the dictatorship and also for to organise the Counter-Biennial in front the Latin-American Section of the X Biennial of Paris, France, curated by the Director of the Fine Arts Museum of uruguay…


· Most part of art – people in network know you as visual poet…But you´re active in different art – media : video – art, installations, performances, mail art, isn´t it ?

You are right. I had used and will use many form of expression (video, performances, lectures, interactive art, fax, inobjetal forms, etc.) because in my work the important is the form of expression and not the form of content. The content is historic, it is “there” in the social life, in the “air”. Love is love yesterday and today : only the form in which determined content is expressed changes. By this way, I am allways experiencing materials, supports and new communication ways. Now I am trying internet…You can find my last Net Art in


· Your peacefully art – engagement is well – known in the world. Which are your last actions of this kinds ?

Yes, the armies must be removed. Remember : killing is the first that men learn in army.
You see : United Nations Armies are used to resolve politic problems of USA. The armies are responsible of the damage to environment and waste of natural resources. Also, they eat the 20% or 30% of public rents of each country, yearly…
My last actions was in La Plata, Argentine, December 18, 1995, in the collective project by Group Escombros (“Rubbishes”). I try to denounce the State organizations, like Work, Education or Public Security (v.g. fabric, school or army) creates by system for to control of peoples. After, in the “V Biennial International Visual/Experimental Poetry”, in Mexico City, from 10th to 20th January,1996, organised by Cesar Espinosa and his group Poexia/Visual. There, I Performed an “Homage to Guillermo Deisler”, my old Chilean friend dead in October´95 fall in Halle, Germany. Willy, was throwed from his mothercountry, Chile, by Pinochet, the dictator, chief of the Chilean Army, still without punishment for his murders. After… I realized: “Reading of Anthology of Autorreferencial Poetry”, in the inauguration of the “STOP exposition” in the Art Contemporary Museum of Santiago, Chile, March 13, 1998; in “INTERSIGNOS Exposition”, Paço das Artes, Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 8, 1998 and in the “VIII International Festival of Poetry” of Medellín, Colombia, June 20, 1998; “Absence – Presence”, homage to Edgardo Antonio Vigo to the year of his death carried out in Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina, in occasion of the event “50 Years of Validity of the DDHH,” organized by the Art Center Modern of Quilmes, November 7.1998; “Art Zone”, in the “Week of the Action”, organized by the French Alliance and the Art Contemporary Foundation, Montevideo, Uruguay, July 23, 1999 (also in Oaxaca, Mexico in the frame of the pattern “Postal Art toward the New Millennium”, December 17, 1999, in Barcelona, Galeria H2O, November 12, 1999; in Buenos Aires, Setiembre 15, 2000 in the “1er. Art Encounter of Action and Performance”, Pringles Gallery and in Santa Lucía, Canelones, Uruguay, August 25, 2002.
I continued with the Mail Art Hit Parade, in the “7th. Biennial of Havanna”, Cuba, November, 2000; “PEACE = BREAD”, Montevideo, Uruguay, March 25, 2001, in the frame of Dialogue of Civilizations organized by United Nations and during the XI International Festival of Poetry of Medellín, Colombia, June 4, 2001; “Artist in action”, Montevideo, Uruguay, April, 2002, during the “Week of the Action” organized by the Art Contemporary Foundation. Now, in December, 2002 I am invited to participate in PERFOPUERTO, an event on performance in Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile.

· Can you explain some characteristical art tendencies in Latin American contemporary art, also groups and individuals ?

Now, in Latin American, the underdevelopment and neo-liberalism are obliging to more than a half of our population to steal their daily food from the rats. There are not only words. You see : the complete hegemony of USA, the globalization of the savage capitalist economy, the growing abyss between the rich and the poor nations are greater each day. In the frame of this social- economic situation, the latinamerican artists continue creating and fighting for their ideas. The recent V Biennial in Mexico is a clean and decisive example : the dynamization of the latinamerican art scene is incredible. In Buenos Aires, Santiago, La Plata, San Pablo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico, Montevideo, etc., more and more artists are defending democracy and rights of their peoples, trying to resolve the social antagonisms and reaffirm the principles of toleration and mutual respect as a basic element of the human relations in a clime of peace and justice.

1. How and when did you become involved in Mail-Art?
I became involved in Letter Art near 1967 when, with my Latin-american friends Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Guillermo Deisler and Damaso Ogaz, we started to exchange our reviews and our mail-art works. The Uruguayan review OVUM 10 published 6 post- cards with my visual poems in 1969. Later, in 1974, during the Uruguayan military dictatorship, I organized the First Latin-American Mail Art Exposition documented at the Gallery U, in Montevideo.
Also, I participated in the first Mail Art Shows realized in the U. S. A. in the fall 60s. and beginnings 70s. To the current moment (December 2001) I have participated in near 1300 expositions of Mail Art.

2. Can you give us a short C.V. of your Mail-Art activities from the beginning till now?

After the first Mail Art Show in Latin-american, I was imprisoned for the Uruguayan dictatorship in 1977 for my opposition to the military government. An edition of artistamps and false mail-stamps denouncing the suppression of human rights and the death, torture and disappearance of many people opposite to the regimen led my incarceration and the sentence by four years for “transgression that hurt the moral and reputation of the army”.
But an intense and supported mobilization of hundred and hundred of artists in the whole world freed me after only two years and three months!
After, I organized many Mail Art Exposition on Latinoamerican themes like the Blockade to Cuba, The Civil war in Nicaragua, The Bombing in Panamá, For Chile Free,
Centennial of Marti, Stop Torture and many others. Also a great exposition for Mandela´s Freedom. My last Mail Art Show was in the 7th Biennal of Cuba, in November 2000: THE MAIL ART HIT PARADE 2000, in the streets of Havanna.

3. What are your specific activities within Mail-Art?

I like very much to make artistamps and decorated envelopes. Also, organize expositions and publish magazines of Mail Art. Now I am editing SOUTHERN POST, a fanzine on artistamps. In the last months I am occupying, through notes and rehearsals, of diffusing the proposals of the Mail Art because Mail Art is falling in the market of the art and the networkers are forgetting the basic principles of Mail Art, above all, “money and mail art don´t mix”. So, Mail Art is quitting being an instrument of communication in order to be a merchandise more in the market.

4. Can you tell me something more about the first Mail-Art exhibition you
have organised in Latin-America? This is also a good item for the Mail-Art Encyclopaedia.

In 1974, during the Uruguayan military dictatorship I organized the first documented Latin-American Mail Art Exposition, at U Gallery, in Montevideo, Uruguay, called Creative Postcard Festival. A facsimil of the cataloge and the English´s translation of the prologue are in CORRESPONDENCE ART by Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, Contemporary
Arts Press, San Francisci, USA, 1984.

5. How did you feel that houndreds of people who you do not know from person even you haven’t written with, were able to set you free. Thanks to that one single activity you had in common with them: Mail-Art. This must feel great?

It was increible…!!! In 1977, I was jailed by the dictatorship for “hurt the morale and reputation of the army” during two years and three months. I was condemned for four years but the international solidarity liberated me before. The real cause of my detention was my artistic activities against the brutality of the dictatorship and also for to organise the Counter-Biennial in front the Latin-American Section of the X Biennial of Paris,France, curated by the Director of the Fine arts Museum of Uruguay. After, I had a period of “watched over liberty”: I could not receive neither send mail, the Uruguay could not leave from neither of Montevideo, etc., etc. But, starting from 1984, when the Uruguay returned to the democracy I was re-born to art and life, I organized the “May 1st., Workers-Day” in Montevideo and many other shows about freedom to Chile, Panama, Paraguay, Nicaragua, against Apartheid and United States Interventions, etc.
All these exhibitions were donated to the social institutes that had sponsored them, like the “Uruguayan Association for Mandela’s Freedom”, etc. par example, the Jose Marti: 100th Anniversary” that I curated was donated to the “Americans’ House” of Cuba, because Jose Marti was the Cuban National Hero. And so…..

6. Did you get another look on Mail-Art, after your imprisonment and the
solidarity from Mail-Art followed by your freedom?

Yes..! Don´t forget that from August 1977 to April 1984, I practically could not practice Mail Art nor any other form of art. Seven years out of network… but, thanks to that liberty, I could attend my family: my wife and my small daughter was suffering, not only for my absence, but for the lacking in means of life. Really, I am and I will be in debt with all the artists that they were added to the campaign for my liberty. The only form that I have is to return that solidarity with more solidarity.
What happens with the Mail-Art you receive? Do you have a Mail-Art
CP.- Yes, I have a proto-Mail Art archive, id est, yet it is not a file. I go hardly ordering all material that I receive in boxes of carton-plast of the same size. The criterion of order is not the better but it is the most functional. I established some functional divisions: countries, catalogs (per year), creatives envelopes and postals. On the other hand I try to separate Mail Art of experimental Poetry.
My current file began in 1984, year in which the Uruguay recuperated the liberty.
Uruguay remained 13 fateful years under a murderess military dictatorship. When I fell prisoner, in 1977, the army carried off everything my file (that I gathered from 1964) and never returned it to me. Also, from 1979 to 1984, I was under the regimen of “provisional liberty” and I could not exercise my profession of artist. Only in 1984 began to participate again in the network.
Nowadays I confront the topic of the lacking in space in my house. No longer I know where keep the shipments. The ideal for me would be could compose a Foundation that becomes expense of my legacy and of my file like the Foundation that was erected with the work of Edgardo Antonio Vigo in La Plata, Argentine, after his death. But, in the Uruguay, this is very hard… See you: some years ago I donated some books of mine (of those that I possessed an only copy so that they are not lost) to the National Library.
Some days ago I was going to see them but the employees inform me that they be robbed. What could I wait for?

– Could you tell us something more about the magazine OVUM? When did it start, when was the last edition, what was it, …?

CP.- OVUM 10 was the second magazine that edited, only dedicated to the visual poetry and alternating arts. It is the continuation of my literature review LOS HUEVOS DEL PLATA, 1965-1969 (The Balls of River Plate). OVUM 10 was edited only ten numbers from 1969 to 1971. After, in 1973, at the beginning of the Uruguayan dictatorship I edited a second time, only called OVUM, until 1975. I don’t resist to transcribe the justification: “OVUM begin a second era. It is obvious the necessity of a magazine to spread the resuklts of our experiences and to forbide the communicative barrier. All those experiences, agreeding with the inherent postulates of every vanguard activity, it doesn´t matter the artistic field chosen: poems, painting, music, theatre, audio-visual technics, propositions, theoric texts, etc., in all their concurrents an derivations, will have a place in OVUM. These postulates belong to every creactions or proposiotions that modifies or upset the ancient and stereotype ways of expression in any sense (1973).
OVUM 10 published 6 postcards with my visual poems in 1969. It was my official baptism in mail art. Previously, I had begun to interchange my works, via mail art, from 1967. Also, with OVUM, I organized in 1974 the First Latin American Mail Art Exposition documented (also called FESTIVAL DE LA POSTAL CREATIVA) at the Gallery U in Montevideo. About OVUM, the artist and critic of art, Géza Perneczky said:
“The periodical and private publications that had midwifed in the birth of the network (File of Canada, the American Weekly Breeder and Mail Order Art, Poland´s net, Padín´s OVUM, etc.) displayed, to different degrees, motives that emphasizes the need for social contacts or were based on more commercial interests”. (A Halo, 1991, p. 232)

Clemente Padin




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