CHAPTER V

URBAN SIGNS

Obelisco Acostado - Marta Minujin 3.jpg

Upone the dethronement of statues of slavers and genocides of the colonial period produced in the heat of the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement that exploded internationally before racism in the contemporary world, in different cities of the United States and Europe, is back in the Discussion forum the relationship between figures in political history, their heroism, and the public arena. Jürgen Habermas proposed the notion of "public sphere" to name these arenas of discussion that are outside the exclusive influence of market and political forces, and that configure socially articulated critical forces. In this chapter images of Argentina and Chile are crossed. It is a record marked by the photograph of the sculpture of the decapitated Eva, by a symbol of the city of Buenos Aires, the obelisk, in this case toppled, and by the archive of the intervention of the monuments of the city of Santiago during the movement of massive urban protests produced in the heat of the slogan "Chile woke up" that began on October 18, 2019. Given these two cases the questions are lit, what do we do with the monuments and urban sculptures that a sector of the citizenship rejects? Who is arguing, who has the authority to decide on them?

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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The obelisk has often been evoked as a phallic symbol that is activated in different contexts. Just as the Argentine dictatorship turned it into a support for the slogan “silence is health,” inscribed in a ring circling the monument, in 2005 it appeared covered by an immense fuchsia condom to make it part of the anti-AIDS campaigns. Marta Minujin laid it on its side and placed it on the sacred stage of the Ibirapuera Pavilion at the first and only Bienal de Arte Latinoamericano, held in São Paulo in 1978. She produced this symbolic repositioning that disrupted the power of the monument to turn it into a structure that anyone could walk through. In its interior, images filmed around and from inside the obelisk, were projected.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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Press release & room sheet | 1st Latin American Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil, 1978

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I could already see that we were entering the third millennium ... I thought that we needed to lay down the universal myths in order to invent our own. Why do we still have to go on about the Egyptian pyramids being a myth and still idolize them? I thought of laying down the Parthenon of Books in 1983 and I couldn’t because the cranes almost broke, but that was my intention. All the myths had to be laid down. The first that occurred to me was to lay down that brutal masculinity, not thinking of it on a male-female level, but the military dictatorship’s power to invade others, which I really suffered from. I had been living in New York, in Washington, then I came back here, I thought it was a monstrous nightmare, and I thought, what I had to do in 1978, in this Bienal de Arte Latinoamericano, which gave me the possibility of doing what I want, is to lay down the obelisk. I got a key, which was incredible, I don’t know how, and I climbed the obelisk—along with my son Facundo, who was thirteen or fourteen years old—up a cat ladder, to a height of seventy-four meters, and there, in the window, I shot a film that I thought was going to reach São Paulo. Through my parents I met the CEO of Techint, an Italian called Andrea Vacchelli, and I went to see him and he connected me with Techint Brazil and I got all the financing to make the obelisk. It took about fifty days; it was extraordinary, seventy-four meters long, four by four meters, height and width, and a TV set in the point where people could sit and watch the film that I had made. There was a lot of competition among the artists at the biennial, but I lived inside, all twenty-four days that I was there.

Marta Minujin, Rethink Everything, Talk #3, June 20, 2020.

Catalogue | 1st Latin American Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil, 1978

Video record | The Obelisk Laid Down by Marta Minujin at the 1st Latin American Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil, 1978

In 1955, the self-proclaimed Liberating Revolution, the coup d’état that deposed Juan Domingo Perón, banned names, words, songs, and images linked to his government and his person. A military commando entered the studio of Italian sculptor Leone Tommasi and mutilated the statues destined for Eva Perón’s mausoleum. Her decapitated sculpture was thrown into the Río de la Plata. From there it was recovered in the 1990s, during the Menem government, and moved to the Quinta 17 de Octubre in San Vicente, the residence where Perón and Evita would go to relax. Perón’s remains were transferred there in 2006, on a day that ended in violent confrontations between labor unions. Santiago Porter photographed Eva in the misty dawn of a cloudy day. In the book of notes, drawings, and collage that accompanies the work, he integrates images of the confrontations that occurred on the site in 2006. They are images, archives, and texts traversed by the tension of history, by the unresolved relationship between the past and the future.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes 

Santiago_Porter,_Bruma_II,_Evita,_2008,_

(...) Objects, victims and witnesses of what happened to them, have an extraordinary capacity to evoke their history. And there they were, in the images of Crónica, the boys destroying the country villa on the day of loyalty, rendering accounts to each other at shooting guns. With the Evita as a witness. I knew the history of sculpture, but I did not imagine that its image could live up to this history. And the image was installed as an obsession. I imagined the misty forest, the trees accentuating the absence of the head, Evita as a kind of gothic princess. I had to take this picture in order to continue. But I needed to do it under very specific conditions. At dawn on a gray day and with the fog still to dissipate. It had to be that way, or nothing. After the incidents, the fifth one closed and it took me more than a year to get the authorization to take the photograph. At that time I couldn't do any other.

(...) It seems that the images renew their validity based on the cyclical nature of our political events. The coup of '55 followed by the prohibition of Peronism, the execution of civilians and the military, and the kidnapping of Evita's body, are the main arguments that motivated her kidnapping and her death. It is the birth of Montoneros. Aramburu is probably the clearest exponent of the anti-Peronist fury and its history the true reflection of our contemporary political history. A story crossed by death, revenge and irreconcilable perspectives.

 

Santiago Porter

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Santiago Porter, Work notebook (Evita), 2015

In Chile’s urban space, monuments have lost their sacred and protected character. Since the crowds erupted onto the streets, repressed by the police in confrontations where urban space was disputed daily, the effigies of heroes have been scratched, painted, hijacked, deposed, and replaced. Signs of a nation that is questioning its foundations through contemporary exclusion. Celeste Rojas Mugica is building an archive of images by intercepting them as they appear on social networks, an archive born out of the urgency of the mobilization, of the street protests that stopped only as a result of the isolation imposed by the virus. Chile is expectant, in wait for the times that will follow the medical isolation. The contrast between the time of the streets and the time of confinement points to a specific context. It was not only ordinary life that was on hiatus, but also the mobilization of citizens in pursuit of what seemed to be an imminent transformation, set in motion by the societal explosion that began on October 18, 2019.

 

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

The process of inventorying and filing that Celeste Rojas Mugica proposes in web format with respect to the images of the social outbreak in Chile and iconoclasm, opens new readings of meanings about the destruction and rupture of images. New codes linked to the force of the revolt itself and to the medium of the interface as a language.

(...) Throughout the photographic archive, the mass appropriates space and urban architecture. In the interface, small photographic windows are opened showing heads of heroes, fathers of the homeland and male figures covered in cloth and bags, with their bodies transvestite and transfigured. This scheme creates multiple appearances of jubilant bodies, positioned and erect, mounted on the heights of the horses of nineteenth-century wars, flying flags of marginalized territories. The interface, as a visual configuration, groups the street corpo-politics, built around iconoclasm against history and monuments; an iconoclasm that counteracts with the heaviness of immobility and the monological discourse of statuary representation. This corpo-politics of dissident bodies rises on the fallen representations, transcending with new icons from popular, dissident-political and street affection. The image-body that emerges at the interface, like the social body of the outbreak, is a socialized, transversal and non-hierarchical body.


(...) Iconoclasm is transformed into a policy of self-determination, which attacks the symbols of heteronormativity, racism and segregation. Where there was a monument and solemnity, iconoclasm takes on the meaning of popular calligraphy; a palimpsest poetry, made of demands, times and renewed memories.

Iconoclasm and self-determination: the dispute of space and memory.

Links between iconoclasm and interface in relation to photographs of the social outbreak in Chile

By Mane Adaro. Article published in LUR

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...these images—it’s worth mentioning they are mostly not mine and appeal precisely to an expunging of authorship—are images produced collectively in a place and time ... If we look at the collection of these monuments, we see that the interventions happened multiple times over twenty-four hours, in a day. The issue of being in lockdown today also brought, on top of everything, on the one hand, a much more brutal militarization of the space, an exploitation of these circumstances so that the public space would become perhaps even more brutal and even more repressive. It was also a blow to the experience of the human body with the space around it, perhaps even harsher and more opposed to what we had been doing before we had to lock ourselves in.
As soon as the pandemic and the state of emergency were declared, law enforcement and the government took advantage of it; there was a whiten- ing of the graffitied walls, of the defaced monuments. It was instantaneous, incredibly quick.
The most powerful collective event before this erasure was on the 8th and 9th of March, during the feminist strike. It is interesting because in the center of the city, which is where people congregate to demonstrate, is the monument to Baquedano. On March 8, for the first time, a woman raising a black flag climbed to the top of this hard, heteronormative, masculine monument celebrating a soldier. Until then, that place, of the woman at top of the monument, had not existed.

Celeste Rojas Mugica, Rethink Everything, Talk # 3, June 20, 2020.

BIOGRAPHIES | CHAPTER V

Marta Minujín (b.1943), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

She is a pioneer of happenings, performance art, soft sculpture and video. She has been awarded the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella National Prize (1964), the Guggenheim Fellowship (1966), the National Achievement Award of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes (2019), among others. Her work is part of private collections and museums around the world: MNBA, MALBA, MAMBA, MACBA (Buenos Aires); MoMA, Guggenheim Museum (New York); Art Museum of the Americas (Washington DC); MOLAA (Los Angeles); Center Pompidou (Paris); Tate Modern (London); Olympic Park (Seoul); Reina Sofía National Museum of Art (Madrid); Caixa de Barcelona; Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art (Seville), La Tertulia Museum (Cali). She lives and works in Buenos Aires.

Santiago Porter (b.1971) Buenos Aires, Argentina.

His work, exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Argentina and abroad, is part of numerous public and private collections. He received the Guggenheim Scholarship (2002), the Antorchas Scholarship (2002), the Petrobras-Buenos Aires Photo Award (2008), and the National Scholarship of the National Fund of Arts (2010). He participated in the Artists Program
at the Di Tella University and is the author of the books Pieces (2003), The Absence (2007) and Mist (2017). He is currently a professor in the Department of Social Sciences of the University of San Andrés and in the Bachelor of Photography of the National University of San Martín. He lives and works in Buenos Aires.

Celeste Rojas Mugica (b.1987), Santiago de Chile, Chile / Argentina.

Visual artist with a degree in Photography (ARCOS, Chile) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Film Arts (UTDT, Argentina). She has won the Latin American Prize of Imagen en Movimiento Biennial (Argentina, 2018), the National Young Photography Prize (Chile, 2017) and the Young Biennial Art Prize of Buenos Aires (Argentina, 2017). Her work has been supported by the National Arts Fund (Chile, 2011/2012/2020), the BECAR Fund of the Ministry of Culture of Argentina (2017) and the INCAA Fund (Argentina, 2019). She has exhibited in the Contemporary Art Museum of Chile, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Chile), the Parque de la Memoria (Argentina), the Contemporary Art Museum of Bolzano (Italy), the Fine Arts Museum of Chile and in UNSEEN (Netherlands), among others. She lives and works between Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile.