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Curatorial Practices
Load (and Unload)
by Cristian Silva

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This essay and subsequent videos were originally published for the Freewaves: Latin America Video Festival held in Los Angeles in November, 2002.

Some years ago, walking through a neighborhood of Lima, I saw some curious and disturbing street-signs. Placed over various walls and posts, sometimes isolated, other times in small or large groups, a series of white and colored papers, proposed a photocopied text of two lines, concise and direct: problems needed. Below the line, a local telephone number was posted. Intrigued and after consulting some neighbors, I realized that far from being an existential proclamation or a collective performance, those unadorned notes where there to promote plumbing and electrical repair services.

In a sociopolitical context like the one experienced in Latin American; conflicted, wasted and fatigued, the presence of a street wall covered with these precarious multicolored flyers "soliciting problems", clearly reveals to the contradiction that signifies making art here and now. Just like the urban advertisement - the street-sign - the more illustrative Latin American artists have known how to operate historically from a platform of which austerity, the media economy, clarity of planning, a sense of pertinence that is profoundly affective, a will of "reparation" and a very special sense of humor, constitute their distinctive seal.

Nevertheless, in the specific case of the Chile of today, it has been possible to avoid certain fissures that are problematic and that replant the singular relation of artist-environment that is so characteristic of our continent. During the last fourteen years, the mechanistic complexities of art production within the post-Pinochet scenario have resulted in a sequence of actions and reactions that can be considered almost incoherent. The confusing dynamic implanted by the process of adjustment which was baptized as "transition", began to transform during the beginning of the 90's, profoundly affecting a new new generation of artists. Factors such as the gradual emergence of a market for contemporary folk art; the opening of dozens of art schools throughout the country; the growing liberty of access to the public and private spaces of exhibition; the circulation of local artists in the international panorama; the strong investment of transnational in the affair of artistic diffusion; and then taking all these into account and confronting it with a ultraconservative cultural tone and the neo-liberal economy of the social-democratic government in power, gives birth to the group of creators gathered here in Load (un-load)

Since then, the format of the "social chronic" which was so popular in the literature, theatre, music and the Chilean visual arts, were substituted during the last several decades by different forms of documentation (distant, cold and erudite on one side; light, playful, comical on the other), because of an individualistic aesthetic, "irresponsible" in the most orthodox and solemn sense of the sadly celethe term. In the audiovisual camp, the videos "Carlos Altamirano, Artista Chileno" by Carlos Altamirano or "Las Cantactrices" by Carlos Leppe, or the seminal experiences in film like "El Chacal de Nahueltoro" by Miguel Littin (1969) and "Identicamente Igual, El Charles Bronson Chileno" by Carlos Flores (1978-84), were giving way in the decade of the 90s to productions, perhaps too attentive to what was happening in the international industries of cinema and music video (Gustavo Graef-Mariano, Andres Wood, Cristian Galaz, German Bobe, etc). And although it is certainly possible to continue to find many sensible and valuable works (like "Aqui Se Construye" by Ignacio Aguero, 2000), the audiovisual vanguard in Chile manifests in general a condition that has masked the outcome, and that result is directly proportional to the availability of commercial resources and technicians that are apparently growing in number.

Juan Cespedes, Felix Lazo, Cristobal Lehyt, Mario Navarro, Mariano Maturana, Macarena Rivas, Francisco Valdes and Joe Villblanca, the artist gathered in the present selection, have know how to sustain a consistent position, and are at the same time agile with respect to the limitations of their context and their ideological instabilities. With the objective of enriching their codes, they have certainly jumped from one medium to the next. They have maintained alert in the face of contemporary urban social problems, they have negotiated with serenity their historical and public inscription, but over all, they have worked directly and subtlety from their own and dissimilar sensibilities. In a territory like the Chilean one, sadly celebrated by its frequent and devastating earthquakes , we could point out that its proponents have been articulating according to the indications of the most sophisticated anti-seismic devices; that is to say, absorbing, resisting and recycling external energies, employing for it flexibility over force. And although practically all of them have received an education in visual arts, graphics and painting and not all of them actually reside in Chile, their incursion into the audiovisual has constituted an interesting contribution for the younger generations of local artists. In this sense, it is worth mentioning "Gran Santiago" by Joe Villblanca (1997) as one of the most representative works of this attitude and perhaps of the most radical gestures realized in video during the decade of the 90s in Chile. With an extremely low-tech recording of a brief, gentle, candid, erratic and somewhat delirious telephonic eruption of the artist during a live transmission of a television talk show, he promoted his own work, in hope of gathering enough attention from an otherwise absent and silent, Chilean audience.

Guadalajara, June 2002

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