A History of the Imagination in Argentina

Visions of the Pampas, the Littoral and the Northwest
from the 19th Century to the Present Day

Año 2019
Bilingual edition, Spanish/English
Texts: Javier Villa, Alejandra Laera
Graphic Design: Eduardo Rey
Translations: Ian Barnet, Kit Maude and Julia Benseñor


452 pages
Format: 27 x 17 cm
ISBN: 978-987-1358-66-3


This book contains theoretical essays by Javier Villa and Alejandra Laera, as well
as images of a significant number of the works displayed in the exhibition A History
of the Imagination in Argentina
, a wide-ranging visual journey around Argentinian
national territory and identity from the nineteenth century to the present day. This
visual narrative also engages in a dialogue with Laera’s comprehensive literary
anthology, in which the landscapes and their mythical, narrative and political themes
find intersections, contradictions, resonances and nuances. It brings together
fragments of fictions, essays and poems by world-renowned Argentinian authors like
César Aira, Selva Almada, Olegario V. de Andrade, Roberto Arlt, Hilario Ascasubi,
Carlos Battilana, Juan Jispe Becerra, Lina Beck Bernard, Diana Bellesi, Adolfo Bioy
Casares, Francis Bond Head, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Carlos Bustriazo Ortiz, Gabriela
Cabezón Cámara, Pilar Calveiro, Jorge Calvetti, Eugenio Cambaceres, Manuel Castilla,
Concolorcorvo, Haroldo Conti, Jorge Washington Dávalos, Manuel José de Lavardén,
Libertad Demitrópulos, Luis Domínguez, Esteban Echeverría, Emeric Essex Vidal,
Felipe Esteban, Jorge Fandermole, Baldomero Fernández Moreno, Sara Gallardo,
Alicia Genovese, Alberto Gerchunoff, Oliverio Girondo, Joaquín V. González, Juana
Manuela Gorriti, Beatriz Guido, Ricardo Güiraldes, Eduardo Gutiérrez, José Hernández,
Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg, William Henry Hudson, Cristina Iglesia, Martín Kohan,
Leopoldo Lugones, Francisco Madariaga, Juan José Manauta, Lucio V. Mansilla,
Eduarda Mansilla, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Bartolomé Mitre, María Moreno, Rafael
Obligado, Carlos María Ocanto, Olga Orozco, Elvira Orphée, Juan L. Ortiz, Mario Ortiz,
Alejandra Pizarnik, Manuel Prado, Clementina Rosa Quenel, Horacio Quiroga, Juan José
Saer, Florencio Sánchez, Matilde Sánchez, Domingo F. Sarmiento, Marcos Sastre, Samanta
Schweblin, Alfonsina Storni, Eulogia Tapia, Armando Tejada Gómez, Héctor Tizón,
Hebe Uhart, Alfredo Varela, Héctor Viel Témperley, Rodolfo Walsh and Atahualpa Yupanqui.

‘What are the images that define us? How do we perceive the topography of Argentina
and how do we use it to construct our mythology? On which visions are our political, literary
and historical stories based? How have our images of the country endured, varied and
evolved since its founding to the present day and how have they been re-interpreted?
A History of the Imagination in Argentina sought to consider these issues and so to explore
how we see ourselves as Argentinians. This journey through more than two hundred and fifty
artworks from across the country, from the late 18th century to the present day, does not offer
a historical overview of landscapes and different discourses from Argentine art but rather invites
us to reflect on the avatars that have and continue to reside in our imagination as seen by
Javier Villa, the exhibition curator. ’s
                                                                                                          Victoria Noorthoorn

‘In a present with walls springing up everywhere we can use tradition as a catapult: we can
pull back a little to launch the projectile as far forward as possible. Tradition may well be
a dark rock that shines only when polished by the time of which we have unhesitatingly taken
control. The past cannot be changed but history can be reimagined and reformulated in order
to shape the future. ’s
                                                                                                          Javier Villa

‘Exercises of the imagination change the present and impact the future. Discovering the
southern riverside pampas with its horses, cows and gauchos. Emphasising the dampness
of the pampas that flows out from the Paraná. Touring the jungles of Misiones and the puna
mountains of grasslands and invention. Capturing the nuances of the religious tales of the
northwest and exploring how they merged with stories of women being captured on the
plains. Exposing the slaughterhouses. Imagining new potential territories. ’s
                                                                                                          Alejandra Laera

‘You have, land, the bones that you deserve:/ great vertebrae simple and innocent,
/ rudimentary tibias,/ shapeless maxillaries that testify to/ your age-old life;/ and yet,
land, not a wrinkle/ is to be seen on your brow.// No it is only a silence deeply moved/
your grassy voice of drained sea. ’s
                                                                                      Oliverio Girondo, Field of Ours, 1946

‘In his summer he dreams of the impossible permanence of summer. Insulated passion.
Without sequence that flower turn into fruit. Isolated passion. Waganagaedzi floats in the
waters of the river and his hair spread out like a fan of riverweed laces together little fishes
and petals unmoved by the current. Isolated passion. Not subject to the fleeting force-field
of effect to cause. A bird over there. Hunting in the sun or hunted, in full heart of the sky that
reaches its diastole and falls, for a second on the pieces of the Amazon, for a second the
desire and the memory of the desire, for a second, quenched. ’s
                         Diana Bellessi, ‘Waganagaedzi, the Great Wayfarer’, Double Mask Dancer, 1985

The exhibition A History of the Imagination in Argentina: Visions of the Pampas,
the Littoral and the Northwest from the 19th Century to the Present Day
was presented
at the museum from 6 April until 3 November 2019.

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