Academic journal article Chicago Review

Infrarealism: A Latin American Neo-Avant-Garde, or the Lost Boys of Guy Debord

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Infrarealism: A Latin American Neo-Avant-Garde, or the Lost Boys of Guy Debord

Article excerpt

ART IN THIS COUNTRY HAS NOT ADVANCED PAST A LITTLE TECHNICAL COURSE FOR EXERCISING MEDIOCRITY DECOR ATIVELY

--Mario Santiago Papasquiaro

The above inscription comes from Mario Santiago Papasquiaro's "Infrarealist Manifesto," penned in Mexico City in early 1976. The manifesto, included in full in this special section, outlined key programmatic positions and actions for the then newly founded neo-avant-garde movement. Comprised of Leftist militants, countercultural enthusiasts, and college dropouts, some of whom had met in writing workshops, the Infrarrealistas (Infrarealists) came together as a group of young Latin American poets who were deeply dissatisfied with the current literary and artistic establishment. The group first gathered in the summer of 1975 and soon began meeting regularly at Casa del Lago in Mexico City's Chapultepec Park and in downtown cafes, reciting their poems together, exchanging their manuscripts, and sharing ideas, viewpoints, and experiences. Their long daily walks through the city would eventually lead them to a collective ethical position that radically challenged the underpinnings of Mexico City's entire cultural establishment.

Infrarealism was the crystallization of Santiago Papasquiaro's efforts to combine and renew traditions from the European and Latin American avant-gardes. Barely nineteen years old and attempting to form a group in 1973-1974, Santiago Papasquiaro began his neoavant-garde activity with the January 1974 publication of Zarazo, a tabloid that collaged texts from Surrealism, Dada, the Beats, the Peruvian neo-avant-garde Hora Zero, and post-1968 Marxist theory. This roster articulated a kind of aesthetic and philosophical genealogy for Infrarealism, its organizing principle being a belief in the unification of art and life. Generationally, Santiago Papasquiaro and the Infrarealists felt closest to the Beats and to Peru's Hora Zero. In the Beats they found a compelling image of the poet as adventurer, visionary, outsider, and intellectual provocateur. And in Hora Zero they found an attractive conception of the literary text as a "poema integral," a total or comprehensive poem that would incorporate a mixture of languages and genres into the text as a way of representing the full integration of the poet into all areas of life. A year after the publication of the Zarazo tabloid, Santiago Papasquiaro met Bolano and several other young poets who shared his neo-avant-garde position and became the first recruits of his projected group.

In late 1975 and early 1976, as they bummed around Mexico City together, this new group discussed the writing of a manifesto and the meaning of the name Infrarealism, which Bolano would soon introduce in his own manifesto "Leave It All, Once More," included in this special section. (1) Bolano derived the name from Soviet science fiction writer Georgy Gurevich's novelette Infra Draconis (1961), where the term infrasoles (black suns) refers to stars that are not shown on sky maps because they have a non-gleaming appearance, despite their heat. For Bolano, the term described the group's position in the "constellation of the literary and cultural field." (2) For Bolano, Santiago Papasquiaro, and their fellow infrasoles, the name Infrarealism stood for their efforts to represent the whole reality (an infra-world) that lies beyond the range of hegemonic regimes of perception.

In his own "Infrarealist Manifesto," Santiago Papasquiaro begins with the following question and answer: "WHAT DO WE PROPOSE? TO NOT MAKE WRITING A PROFESSION." It then immediately identifies the center of the poet's activity: "LIFE MISALIGNED AT ALL COSTS." The poet isn't an historical witness who observes and reflects on the world from his domestic comfort, but rather an active agent in transforming everyday life "at all costs." The manifesto's general statements and principles are underscored by a telegraphic assessment of the current situation, with particular attention paid to new forms of Leftist politics in Mexico City, from independent trade unions to the gay liberation movement. …

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