Memories of Underdevelopment examines a major paradigm shift in culture and the visual arts, characterized by the articulation of a counter-narrative to the rhetoric of developmentalism that resulted in early instances of decolonial thought in the artistic practices produced in the region between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s.
During this period intellectuals and artists throughout the region echoed the critiques coming from the field of political economy, questioning imposed cultural and aesthetic models, marking a critical distance from the canon and formal vocabulary of the modern, reclaiming local forms of knowledge as well as popular and vernacular expressions, and recognizing the value of cultural manifestations born out of conditions of material poverty. Many artists, some even formerly affiliated to the modernist avant-gardes in their respective countries, established a dialogic relation to these cultural forms, engaging in a structural commitment to their incorporation into their own avant-garde practices and generating forms of collectivization of experience that fostered social awareness through spatial modes of perception and participation.
(Photo: Thomaz Farkas, Populares sobre cobertura do palácio do Congresso Nacional no dia da inauguração de Brasília, Distrito Federal (detail), 1960 (People on the esplanade of the National Congress on inauguration day of Brasília, Federal District), inkjet print with mineral pigments on 100% cotton paper. Courtesy Instituto Moreira Salles. © Thomaz Farkas / Instituto Moreira Salles Collections)