Marking the 50th anniversary of the 1973 coup d’état, which saw the overthrow of the democratically elected President Salvador Allende, followed by the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet, we are pleased to present Poetry of the Everyday: Chilean Photography Under a Dictatorship, 1973-1990.
When we think of countries living through military conflicts or under authoritarian regimes, our immediate reaction is to conjure up images of violence, tragedy, and human misery, promulgated by the words and pictures we have seen in the media and the press. However, we should not forget that even in the most sanguine of wars or under the most repressive dictatorships, “life must and does go on” …
The depiction and the diffusion of images that inform us on the violence and repression of Latin American dictatorships, essentially focus on exposing the absence of the detained-disappeared, reporting on counter-demonstrations and persecutions or censoring that very same information through the official propaganda. Under a dictatorial regime, the urgency to denounce and to inform, bestows on the art and the media the critical role to act as testimonies of those times. Testimonies, which have often contributed to the rendition of an incomplete visual panorama - because, in effect, there is no room for anything else.
During the nearly two decades of the military dictatorship in Chile, between 1973 and 1988, and the subsequent transition to democracy during the 90s, the dominant visual and hegemonic discourse that derived from that collective experience was respected and adhered to in artistic practices and visual discourses. On the one hand, there was the local neo-avant-garde collective known in the late 1970s as the “escena de avanzada” which dominated the critical and discursive space. On the other hand, the photography reporters that formed the first Association of Independent Photographers in Chile (AFI) denounced and testified to the events through arresting seminal images. But what of the rest of the photographic practices during that period? What became of the original fine art photography or that of artists, which began to experiment with the use of images with different mediums? Unspoken about in the historical context of that period, it also remained excluded from the history of art and from the history of Chilean photography. An as yet unwritten history, mainly due to the fact that the arts in that period reflected on Chilean’s society’s absolutism and polarization that only the distance of time has been able to rectify.
In this exhibition we display and talk about the work of that ‘small history’ and those ‘unclassifiables’. We celebrate the authors of the so-called Chilean straight photography and fine art photography, often the works of otherwise actively engaged photojournalists. We also recognise the work of interdisciplinary artists, which marked the end of the autonomy of the photographic medium and opened new avenues for the use of the image in mixed media artistic practices and contemporary photography. These exceptional artists remind us therefore that even under a brutally oppressive regime, there is a space for experimentations as well as new ideas and the possibility to capture the poetry of the everyday.
Nathalie Goffard, Art Critic and Art Historian.
(Lives and works in Santiago, Chile)
The exhibition will feature the work of: Mario Fonseca, Javier Godoy, Alvaro Hoppe, Marcelo Montecino, Mauricio Valenzuela, Leonora Vicuña, Jaime Villaseca and Oscar Wittke.
The exhibition will run from the 3 October – 15 October 2023 in Gallery 6, Cromwell Place.
Opening Hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 11am - 7pm and Sunday 11am - 4pm.
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