Oscar Bony’s La Familia Obrera: The Labor and the Work

This article analyzes Oscar Bony’s work La Familia Obrera (1968), in which a working class family sat on view in the gallery of the Instituto Di Tella in Buenos Aires. What might be read from the transformation of a working class family into a work of art? How was Bony’s own artistic labor reconfigured in the process? How did Bony’s display of a working class family engage with both the context of the Instituto Di Tella—an extension of Argentina’s most prominent industrial company—and the demands for productivity made by the developmentalist dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía? In other words, how was this work entangled in the contradictions of modernization and, more specifically, the transnational corporations with which the Di Tella family’s operations were collaborating? By May of 1968, the Instituto Di Tella had become notorious not purely for its often outrageous experiments with media and performance art but also for its funding sources, namely the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. Amidst the mobilization of the Left, many artists in Argentina that year would reject cultural institutions in favor of quasi-activist projects in the public realm, so as to imagine themselves as cultural workers. With La Familia Obrera, Bony, by contrast, produced an institutionally- reflexive gesture, negotiated from within. But much as artists and intellectuals began to understand the Di Tella as a Trojan Horse of transnational capital, so too was Bony’s work not exactly what it appeared, manipulating its public through processes of surrogation.

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