As originally realized at the 1968 Venice Biennale, a politically charged exhibition that coincided with the height of the Vietnam War, this work consisted of a slick office environment outfitted with furniture and trappings designed by the Italian manufacturer Olivetti and encased behind a plexiglass partition. At intervals the installation was activated: a neatly dressed woman sat in the office and read aloud from live transmissions about the war that were received through a telex machine from the Italian news agency ANSA. When she was absent, visitors could pick up telephone handsets outside the office to hear recordings of the reports in several languages. The work in MoMA’s collection is a unique reconstruction of the original presentation, composed of period furnishings and electronics along with a reenactment of the performance using news reports from the time.
With this performative installation, Lamelas reflected on the shifting, at times paradoxical, nature of time and communication in a burgeoning information society. The immediacy with which information is circulated—recorded and transmitted even as events are unfolding—has the potential to oversaturate its audience and diminish its impact. Here the recitation of real-time news reports on the atrocities of the war in a sterile, bureaucratic setting mirrors the irony inherent in an ever more connected yet increasingly alienated experience of the world.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
First realized at the Finnish Pavilion of the 1968 Venice Biennale, this installation by Lamelas marks his departure from Argentina and the beginning of his career in Europe. It is a landmark work that suggests the shifting nature of time and communication in a burgeoning information society. Originally composed of Olivetti office furniture and an Olivetti telex machine, Office of Information about the Vietnam War at Three Levels: The Visual Image, Text and Audio amassed news reports about the Vietnam War supplied by the Italian news agency ANSA, which were read intermittently by an attendant in Italian, French, and Spanish. When the news was not read live, recordings could be heard through headsets. Office presented records not of long-past events, but of news as it was unfolding. In contrast to the resulting sense of immediacy, the administrative setting mirrored the irony of an increasingly connected world experienced at a distance.
Gallery label from Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960–1980, September 5, 2015–January 3, 2016.