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249 Postscript Loose Ends How should a book about an unfinished art end? A number of years ago, when I first began research on the project that would become The Unfinished Art of Theater, it was hard not to feel over‑ whelmed by a sense of historical déjà vu. The financial crisis of 2007 was percolating and then came to pass, and even before the pundits started announcing that it was 1929 all over again, I could palpably feel the con‑ nections to a past I was just starting to piece together as the result of my readings, time spent in archives in Mexico and Brazil, and a growing intu‑ ition about certain things that were missing or never explicitly said. Over the subsequent years the parallel has been borne out in certain regards: echoes of the 1920s and 1930s are evident in the messy structural realignments of state power and global capital occurring today, the growing recognition of the lim‑ its of liberalism and the electoral system, political polarization, and (in many places, with undoubtedly more to come) physical face-​ offs between fascists and antifascists. Some of the questions people are now asking about art and education and their relationship to labor, capital, and the state resonate quite clearly with the ones avant-​ garde intellectuals were asking nearly a century ago. Without a doubt, my experiences of and perspective on the present have had a role in shaping the stories I tell in this book, which seeks to pull back on the sense of futurity so often associated with the avant-​ garde and insist that it is equally tied to the experience of backwardness, dependency, and uneven development. It is important to remember, though, that history only happens once: even if (as Marx argued) history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second as farce, the difference in genre is hardly inconsequential. When I sent the full manuscript of this book to the press for review I was in Brazil, where the president, Dilma Rousseff, was facing the threat of impeachment under the pretense of a violation of budgetary rules; a little less than a year later, when I sent in my final revisions (once again from Bra‑ zil), Rousseff had long since been ousted, and the right-​ wing agenda of the new government was increasingly clear, as were the limitations of a Work‑ ers’ Party program that had been predicated on a global commodity boom 250 Postscript destined to go bust. The government of Getúlio Vargas, the eventual dictator who casts a shadow over the final chapter of this book, had censored artists and imprisoned intellectuals, but it had also built up the cultural bureau‑ cracy; in contrast, one of the first acts of the new president, Michel Temer, was to shut down the Ministry of Culture, which under Lula (Rousseff’s predecessor) had been led by the musician Gil Gilberto, one of the leaders of the Tropicália counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s who had claimed the mantle of the modernista avant-​ garde. Although the ministry was subsequently reinstated, defunding of universities and attacks on affirmative action have followed, and now intellectuals and artists who only recently enjoyed unprecedented prerogatives from the state (coupled with corporate funding incentivized by tax breaks) are faced with the question: Where to from here? The situation is a little different in Mexico, where avant-​ garde artists of the 1920s and 1930s were more fully integrated into the creation of the postrevolutionary cultural infrastructure. There the sense of uncertainty and urgency has been building for some time, as the government has made moves to rescind the right to a public education (among other guarantees made in the Constitution of 1917) while simultaneously waging a “war on drugs” in which well over one hundred thousand have died. The first chapter of this book focuses on the theater projects of José Vasconcelos, who as the founding director of the Secretariat of Public Education created schools, sent teachers into the countryside on educational “missions,” and helped foster the formation of the vanguardias. Decades later, the name of the town of Ayotzinapa has served as a rallying cry for opposition to the state ever since the night of September 26, 2014, when forty-​ three student protestors from a rural teachers’ college were abducted by local police and handed over to a cartel to be killed; more recently, in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, federal police killed six supporters of a teachers’ union...


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