Leonardo Thinks


Historical Opinion by Jorge Glusberg

This opinion selection is based on remarks by Jorge Glusberg at the opening session of the Fourth Biennial, 1 October 1991. He suggests that art offers a path to help bring peoples together.
The Millennium of the Arts

Three years ago Francis Fukuyama, an American thinker unknown until then, revolutionized politicians, sociologists and philosophers when he wondered whether the end of history had perhaps arrived-an end which he understands as the triumph of democratic liberalism. [1]

Today, on the eve of the Third Millennium, and beyond or near the victory of this or that ideology, we take for granted that neither the world nor history will end soon. We have so closely identified the notions of world and history that we do not imagine a way to separate them: we do not believe that there could be a world without history, nor a history without a world.

Fiction has warned us, however, of a future without history as well as without a world, by meditating on the question of whether progress will always be a step towards perfection, or whether it might turn into a regression towards decadence. I think that two novels typify this call to examination: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells [2] and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. [3]

Wells refused to share the dreams of an era of technical wonders: the traveler in his book moves to the beginning of the nine-thousandth century and finds a true ‘uncivilization’ of carnivorous beings that has subjected human creatures who are without intelligence. Ray Bradbury did not go so far-just to the twenty-first century-to assume, in Fahrenheit 451, that it was vital to keep the great books of humanity in the memory of some outcasts, salvaging these books (and the ideas they represent) from another uncivilization bent on the destruction of two essential values: freedom and reason.

We live in a world that, during the brief periods of 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945, destroyed over 50 million human lives. Even though this world has reduced the risks of nuclear holocaust, it has 50,000 nuclear bombs in its deposits. It is a world that, as the recent war in the Persian Gulf shows, is not exempt from dangers and instabilities. Experts calculate that nuclear arsenals hold the equivalent of 4 tons of dynamite per inhabitant of the planet, and one in 400 people are homeless.

I believe that the Third Millennium should be the millennium of definitive freedom, of absolute justice and of permanent peace, yet this consolidation should start now and not wait for the twenty-first century. However, freedom, justice and peace-three values that cannot exist separately, because together they describe the basic right of every person to a dignified life-are not issues that concern only politicians, economists and social leaders. They are matters that belong to each and every human being, and among these are the architects and artists. They are the ones called to take the lead in establishing the new world that humanity seeks, desires and deserves.

I am not suggesting to replace world leaders-just to shine and illuminate their way. It is time to understand the peoples and bring them together.

Art has united human beings since our predecessors painted the caves of Altamira and Lascaux, 22,000 years ago. Art has survived time and the battles and divisions of men. It has transformed the world-that is its role. What else was the Renaissance? What else was Romanticism? And what else have the vanguards of this century been? Art has not unleashed one single war: it is time then that art make an effort to avoid them. If there is a deterring power in our world, that power does not dwell in the strategic war planes, nuclear submarines or the atomic missiles that exercise terror: the greatest deterrent power is that of music, painting, drama, literature, cinematography, architecture, poetry and dance.

The arts are the highest common denominator of the human species, its inexhaustible field of harmony. I want to suggest a different world, bearing a resemblance to humans, to a human who should never again be, as Plautus said, ‘the wolf of man’; I suggest a human devoted to being more, not only having more.
Jorge Glusberg is an author, publisher, curator and educator. He is director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes MNBA in Buenos Aires and co-director of Comité Internacional de Críticos de Arquitectura CICA. In 2002 he was leader of the Buenos Aires Biennale. His website is at http://1999.arqa.com/informa/cur_glus.htm.
This editorial is based on remarks by Jorge Glusberg, director of the Buenos Aires International Architectural Biennial, at the opening session of the Fourth Biennial, 1 October 1991.
ISSN No: 1071-4391
Author: Jorge Glusberg, Leonardo Honorary Editor
Director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes MNBA; Co-director of Comité Internacional de Críticos de Arquitectura CICA
Originally published in: Leonardo Vol. 25, No. 2 (1992), pp. 109-110
Print: ISSN 0024-094X, Online: ISSN 1530-9282,
DOI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1575696.
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