Waldemar Cordeiro

Brazilian artist Waldemar Cordeiro’s People is a photograph of a large group of people that was digitized and its resolution brought down so that the people are only just still recognizable. The idea behind this work was programmatic. Although Cordeiro had been an important advocate of Concrete Art in postwar Brazil, by the late 1960s he began ti dismiss all variations of Constructivism as “paleocybernetic.” In his subsequent work with computers, Cordeiro tried to provide examples for a socially engaged art in societies he believed would be increasingly transformed by computers and telecommunications. Cordeiro’s participation in tendencies 5 was of particular importance, because his name was on one of the very first artist lists suggested by Mavignier for the first New Tendencies exhibition. Cordeiro’s own development ran parallel to that of New Tendencies. Starting out from a Concrete Art position, he challenged the dominance of the supposedly neutral, infrastructural level in 1965 by demanding that the infrastructural art of New Tendencies move to a “semantic” element. After starting to work with computers in 1969, he was interested in the democratization of art. Cordeiro tried to combine the original interests of New Tendencies into infrastructures of seeing and perception with the new possibilities of computers and telecommunications networks. In a text written in 1971 titled Arteônica, Cordeiro formulated his personal manifesto of electronic art. According to Cordeiro, the art of the first phase of New Tendencies had created something like a “machine language” for urban and industrial society, but in the 1960s those tendencies had suffered a crisis due to the emergence of a new popular mass culture based on electronic media. The development of new means of telecommunications could provide the macroinfrastructural basis for a new democratic art that also addressed the imbalances of countries like Brazil, divided between megacities such as São Paulo and underpopulated, remote areas. If brought to a conclusion, Cordeiro’s ideas would have shown a way out of New Tendencies’ rationalist and abstract dead-end street toward a new art for the multitude, of which his work People (1972) seems the perfect illustration.

“Dematerializations: Art in the Early Information Revolution (1971/1973-1978)”. In New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961-1978), by Armin Medosch. p. 203.

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