Carlos Altamirano, Retratos (Portraits), 1979 - 2007
Carlos Altamirano, Retratos (Portraits), 1979 - 2007
Carlos Altamirano, Retratos (Portraits), 1979 - 2007
Carlos Altamirano, Retratos (Portraits), 1979 - 2007
Carlos Leppe, El perchero (The coat stand), 1975
Carlos Leppe, El perchero (The coat stand), 1975
Catalina Parra, Imbunches, 1977
Catalina Parra, Imbunches, 1977
Juan Downey, Moving, 1974
Juan Downey, Moving, 1974
CADA Archiv, Courtesy: Lotty Rosenfeld, Exhibition view, WKV 2009
CADA Archiv, Courtesy: Lotty Rosenfeld, Exhibition view, WKV 2009

Progressive Images

Art in Chile under Dictatorship, 1973-1990

Curators: Ramón Castillo and Paulina Varas

Carlos Altamirano, CADA (Colectivo de Acciones de Arte), Guillermo Deissler, Eugenio Dittborn, Juan Downey, Carlos Leppe, Gonzalo Mezza, Catalina Parra, Lotty Rosenfeld, Cecilia Vincuña

The political, social, and cultural conditions prevailing in Chile during the military dictatorship affected the production of visual art, not only in terms of its signifying capacity but also in its formal construction. As such, in both fixed and moving images we find discontinuities, breaks, divergences, splits, and recompositions, all of which translate into forms of rearticulation of the cognitive and symbolic world. The works in this selection thus reveal a discontinuous sensibility that asks the spectator to recompose the continuity of a narrative that bears witness to suffering, repression, hope, and justice. One of the most recurrent metaphors of this period is that of the body—as in both body/work and body/country—so that what develops in the work is what transpires in the human and geographical territory.
Our aim here is to reconstruct an alphabet of visual memory that addresses the constant tension between memory and forgetting, concealment and revelation, in the Chilean context; but how can this tension be reproduced in the exhibition context?
The context of repression in Chile during the military dictatorship (1973–1990) generated a series of conflicts and excesses that came to be part of the landscape—part of people’s everyday lives. The art system made visible these more or less explicit excesses, while the language of art was turned into a silent—silenced—battlefield.
The records of this complex and entropic visual memory—exhibited as fragmented cultural material—do not anticipate any one true temporal or spatial context. The images in progress or visual documents being presented here are awaiting new articulations through which to reconstitute the body of work and, by extension, the body of Chilean history. (Ramón Castillo and Paulina Varas)

All texts by: Ramón Castillo and Paulina Varas

Carlos Altamirano (1954, RCH)
Retratos (Portraits), 1979–2007
Digital print, Courtesy: Carlos Altamirano
Portraits is a work in which the artist composes a collage with a series of colour images taken from the communications media and the collective national imaginary. He then adds to these photographs of missing Chilean prisoners. This is a register or archive in progress that has gone on growing, in the midst of a landscape that traverses the time and space of Chile’s fractured recent history.

CADA – Colectivo de Acciones de Arte (1979 – 1985, RCH)
The Colectivo de Acciones de Arte was formed in 1979 by the writer Diamela Eltit, the poet Raúl Zurita, the sociologist Fernando Balcells and the visual artists Lotty Rosenfeld and Juan Castillo. They carried out a series of actions in both public and private spaces, as well as interventions in the press in opposition to the military dictatorship in which they set out to question the idea of the social body as an organism in conflict with its historic memory.

Para no morir de hambre en el arte (In order not to die of hunger in art), 1979
On October 3, 1979, CADA handed out a hundred half-litre bags of milk to the residents of La Granja municipality in Santiago de Chile. As they gave people the milk they asked them to return the bags so that artists could use them as a support for their works, which would be exhibited in the Centro Imagen gallery in Santiago, together with the material documenting this action. The bags were printed with the legend “1/2 litro de leche” (1/2 litre of milk).

Inversión de Escena (Inversion of Scene), 1979
On October 17, 1979, CADA obtained 10 trucks from a national dairy company and drove them in convoy to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. CADA also covered the façade of the museum with a white cloth to represent the censorship that Chile was living under at the time.

NO+, 1983
The phrase “No+” was used by CADA as the beginning of a series of actions that various people inscribed on walls in different parts of Santiago and in other cities. It was a case of using this slogan to introduce a series of phrases that expressed an anti-dictatorial tendency. The ‘NO+’ (no more) that originated in this CADA action was extended to the most varied forms of expression and protest at socio-political issues in Chile and other parts of the world.

Guillermo Deisler (1940, RCH–1995, D)
Selection from the Deisler archive
Courtesy: Laura Coll
Together with other Latin American artists, during the 1960s Deisler was actively involved in artistic exchanges, giving rise to a significant body of mail art in the South American continent, which was subsequently extended to the rest of the world. Before living in Europe, Deisler carried out a series of publishing and art projects in Chile, which provided the basis for many of the alternative networks for the circulation of his work and that of other artists in a number of cities.

Eugenio Dittborn (1943, RCH)
Historia de la física o física de la historia (History of physics or physics of history), 1985
Video, color, 18’, Courtesy: Eugenio Dittborn
In a video lasting 18 minutes, Eugenio Dittborn alternates popular images with stories of his private life and the action of spilling oil in the desert carried out in 1982. The pouring out and burning of 300 litres of oil in the Atacama Desert was unable to cover more than a small area. The artist does all he can to extend the spill, while the different images that succeed one another in the story, like an audiovisual collage, reconstruct in parallel different situations of supreme bodily effort: in boxing, in swimming, a singer, a woman in childbirth. The video and the fragmentation of the images were structured according to the sequence of Fibonacci numbers.

Juan Downey (1940, RCH–1993, USA)
Moving, 1974
Video, bw, 27’, Courtesy: Juan Downey Foundation
From 1973 to 1977 Juan Downey carried out a project entitled Video Trans America (VTA), consisting of journeys over the American continent from New York to Tierra del Fuego with a portapak video camera with which he recorded a series of encounters and dérives across the continent. These images were to become the basis for a series of videos, installations and exhibitions in various cities around the world. Moving is a highly subjective piece, something like a lived diary of the artist’s recognition of the territory he travels over, recording the different collective experiences he had there.

Carlos Leppe (1952, RCH)
El perchero (The clothes rack), 1975
Foto, bw, Courtesy: Carlos Leppe
Carlos Leppe binds his limbs with tape that covers him and denies his corporality. This armour both censors it and protects it from the exterior. His chest is bared in the middle of this protective layer to announce the ambiguity of the eroticized, sodomized and repressed body, in an analogy with the body of Chile.

Gonzalo Mezza (1949, RCH)
El Deshielo de Venus (The Melting of Venus), 1972-1979
Photo and photo copie, Courtesy: Gonzalo Mezza
An exhibition project in which Mezza utilizes the Venus de Milo, turning it into a figure of ice which then melts before the spectators’ eyes. This is the melting of a “Tricolour Venus”: an allusion to the Chilean flag.

Catalina Parra (RA; 1940, RCH)
Imbunches, 1977
Series of 3 graphic, Courtesy: Pedro Sanchez
Parra produced the series of works entitled Imbunches in the late 1970s. Based on a mythological figure from southern Chile, she composes a series of graphic works using newspapers, mechanical photographs (Kodalith) and seams, stitching, etc. Her work sets out to represent altered and reconstructed bodies that reflect the pain of mutation and helplessness.

Lotty Rosenfeld (1943, RCH)
Cautivos (Captives), 1989
Video, color, 12’, Courtesy: Lotty Rosenfeld
This video composed on the basis of a series of extracts from different communications media, dealing with social issues relating to the legalities and illegalities of a social process that a democratic government is starting to address. This is a visual reflection on the subjects and the communities that are creating the alternatives for the social to be transformed into a crisis that oscillates between states of alienation, lucidity and hope.

Cecilia Vicuña (USA; 1948, RCH)
Cecilia Vicuña’s archive on “Artist for Democracy”
Courtesy: Cecilia Vicuña
From 1973 on Vicuña, who was living in London since 1971, carried out a series of art projects, notably as organizer of the actions by the group “Artist for Democracy”, which ran campaigns drawing attention to the atrocities by the military dictatorship in Chile.

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