by Sooni Shroff Gander
One of Argentina’s most prominent conceptual and performance artists, Marta Minujín, turned 75 earlier this year. ‘I am still creating art because it is my way of living, and I can’t stop. I cannot. I will die working,’ says the flamboyant Argentine, who shows no signs of slowing down.
A pioneer of pop art, performance art, happenings, ‘living’ sculptures and installations, Minujín deconstructs art only to reconstruct it again, irreverently and often ephemerally, seeking to use her mediums as the message and to make artworks in real time.
Minujín’s career began in Paris and New York (she was a friend of Warhol’s), and from the mid-1960s she became one of the most energetic proponents of pop art and public art scenes in Buenos Aires. Her award-winning seminal work, ¡Revuelquese y Viva! (1964), was a construction of hand-painted mattresses that invited audience participation; her famed La Menesunda (1965), a visual labyrinth of 16 environments, saw over 30,000 visitors flocking to participate; and Minuphone (1967) was an interactive telephone booth.
Minujín’s work has always tackled such complex themes and issues, from politics to the definition of public art and the way art should be perceived and felt. In 1985, a series of photographs of her with Andy Warhol famously shows her symbolically paying off the country’s debt with corn. She has won awards and accolades and declares that she will always abide by her true belief that ‘everything is art.’ Her studio, in the leafy San Cristóbal suburb of Buenos Aires is where she lives and breathes this sentiment. It is flooded not only with sunshine, but also with sculptures, artworks, posters, acrylics, fabrics, and many other mediums that are a testimony to her continuous experimentation with materials and techniques. Kitted out in a fluorescent jumpsuit and her trademark aviators, Minujín indicates a recumbent Statue of Liberty holding a hamburger: ‘It is a sculpture, a symbol of how all the universal symbols are falling down,’ she asserts. ‘I felt that the United States is falling down – that all the cities are falling down – so I’ve made all the monuments lying down. Each work that I have done, the Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower – all down.’
When asked if these represent the end of the world or the collapse of politics, Minujín answers without hesitation: ‘The collapse of politics. But art is above religion and politics because all humans are capable of creating, and we are all artists.’
So what is the purpose of her own art? ‘Art is too elevated and it shouldn’t be. Art should be about doing; it is not about people buying it. You don’t need to understand art; you only have to live in art. I live in it,’ she says simply.
‘People need this,’ she says. ‘The energy made me cry. We had 600 pounds of flower petals that rained on the crowds. This was about love. About colors. About the soul. But above all, it was about art. About instantaneous art, which I believe in. Art is everywhere.’
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