“The Forgotten Exhibition and a Reading of Four Chilean Artists”
Curated by Mariana Marchesi and Sebastián Vidal Valenzuela, “La exposición olvidada y una lectura a cuatro artistas chilenos” (The Forgotten Exhibition and a Reading of Four Chilean Artists) restaged two historical shows to renew a lost link between Chile and Argentina. The exhibition invoked in the first part of the title was “Hacia un perfil del arte latinoamericano” (Toward a Profile of Latin American Art), organized in 1972–73 and made up of 143 heliographs—made using a cheap process that allowed the show to travel via mail all over the world—each about twenty-three by thirty-three inches and produced by one of sixty-nine artists of different nationalities. The idea behind this project by Jorge Glusberg, director and theorist of the Centro de Arte y Comunicación (CAyC) in Buenos Aires, was to convene artists under the premise that “there is no such thing as Latin American art, but there is a common problematic resulting from these countries’ revolutionary situation.” This statement points to the political contours of the exhibition, created to account for that shared Latin American moment. The works reached the hands of Nemesio Antúnez, director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago at the time, but the military coup of 1973 made exhibiting them impossible, and so this episode was omitted from the historical record in Chile. Redressing this omission, Marchesi and Vidal mounted the show in its entirety along with a display of historical documents. The heliographs occupied all the walls in the room and referred to themes such as ecology, the political situation, and art itself—acquiring special relevance in Chile’s politically convulsive present.
The second part of the exhibition was a restaging of “Cuatro artistas chilenos en el CAyC de Buenos Aires: Díaz, Dittborn, Jaar, Leppe” (Four Chilean Artists at the CAyC, Buenos Aires: Díaz, Dittborn, Jaar, Leppe) (1985), originally curated by Glusberg and Nelly Richard. Marchesi and Vidal reinstalled the work of the participants, which involved actively engaging with the artists, not least because, in the case of Gonzalo Díaz, the original works were never returned from Argentina. As silk-screened prints, however, his works could be remade. Eugenio Dittborn exhibited a video and two of his pinturas aeropostales (airmail paintings), whose primary condition is their ability to travel by mail, so it was possible to show the originals. Alfredo Jaar’s installation O adeus (The Goodbye), 1985, had never again been shown; it addresses the return to democracy in Brazil and Argentina, as if anticipating what would happen in Chile a few years later. Carlos Leppe, in keeping with his way of working, had made a site-specific piece that could not be re-created. In this case, Marchesi and Vidal chose to reproduce a single element of the 1985 work: a black obelisk, which they placed in the center of the room while showing images of its original staging on the surrounding walls. Leppe’s work was titled Proyecto de demolición de la cordillera de los Andes (Project to Demolish the Andean Mountains), 1985/2020, in reference to the geographical landmark that is the natural and symbolic boundary between the two countries.
The two parts of the exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes were much more than mere reinstallations of works: They represented the settling of a debt. Both projects are historically important, indeed key for the development of art in both Chile and Argentina, and indicative of two distinct moments of collaboration between the two countries, framed in contexts radically transformed by the Latin American dictatorships.
Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.