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17 + 23 = 40: the urban politics of remembering

17 + 23 = 40 is the title of a work by Gonzalo Díaz concerning  art and the dictaroship in Chile. (image left)

The commemorations of the military coup 1973 has many cultural activities as part of the process of reconciling this rupture that includes spontaneous activities and planned forums, lectures, book launches and performances. I walked out the door this morning to find 100s of bodies lying end to end in the main street for several blocks (quererNOver - wishing not to see). Within what I read as a symbolic commemoration to the 3000 disappeared of the dictatorship was the fact that every person in Alameda had to make a conscious effort to step over the bodies to get to work. 

For me it bridged the disappearance with a presence made relevant by being in Santiago, the capital and site of the coup and on the 40 commemorative year. I was on my way to a colloquium as part of Golpe 1973 -2013 about art and the dictatorship followed by a session on feminism and the dictatorship.

Colloquium invitation poster 

The session on art made the point that the coup was in fact the brutal instalment of neo-liberal free market economics and that the disappeared are an integral strategy of state terrorism that establishes the ground rules for the same economic system maintained through to today. In this sense, Golpe 1973-2013 holds that 17 years of dictatorship plus 23 years of 'government' = 40 years of one in the same system that must be fundamentally challenged through justice for the disappeared and constitutional reform - and this is artists speaking through their work. The discussion on feminism in Chile made the point that feminism in Chile, that began to peak like many countries in the world in 1970, holds a special place of resistance to the coup as it maintained the bridge and critique between the private and public, the house and the street - both under strict control.

What keeps striking me about the discussion of culture and art is the inseparable nature of urban life, politics and daily life. From the house to the street to the micro (bus) to the metro, to the plaza to the corner to the house.

Photographs and text by Anthony McInneny


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