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Curatorial Practices
Politics of the body: Forms of resisting
by Nancy Garín

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BODY POLITICS*: Forms of resisting “in and from the body”.

(*) speeches, history, memory, repression, authority, biopolitics, institution, archive, legitimizing processes, counter-histories, “pop/ular culture”, collectivism, associationism, social body, unauthorized bodies, rituality, punk practices, cultural activism, action, performances, theatricality, public space, neoliberal condition, necro-politics of the body-, health, propagation, affect, AIDS politics and activism, AIDS feminisms, trans politics, self-management (of bodies), education, intergenerational knowledge, transversal bodies.

The seminar “Politics of the Body” was held on April 19 and 20, 2012 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) in Santiago de Chile as a project by Equipo re,(1) a research platform founded in 2010 in Barcelona that seeks to articulate the field of art with critical action.

In addition to the two-day seminar at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, the full program of activities consisted of a gathering-workshop at the headquarters of the Movimiento por la Diversidad Sexual (Sexual Diversity Movement – MUMS)(2), a poetry gathering at the Museo de la Memoria organized by the writer Camilo Brodsky, and the “Diálogo y Performance” session held at the Universidad de Concepción and organized jointly by the artists Guillermo Moscoso and Leslie Fernández with the support of the university. A presentation of the project organized by La CRIA(3) was subsequently held at the Centro Cultural de España in Buenos Aires (CCEBA).

Well-known academics, artists, activists and members of different associative movements, both historically and currently active addressed the Seminar at the MAC, which was made up of four presentation and discussion roundtables: “Inherited Body: context and discourses”, “Base body: popular culture and resistance”, “Invisible body: the Politics of HIV/AIDS, and “Transversal Bodies: nature-culture debate”.

The following seminar participants deserve special mention: the philosopher Federic Galende, the sociologist María Emilia Tijoux, the social anthropologist Rodrigo Ruíz, the artists Miguel Benlloch, Mauricio Bravo, Guillermo Moscoso, Gregory Cohen, Jordi Lloret, Raúl Zurita, Tomás Harris, José Miguel Cuevas, Elvira Hernández, Camilo Brodsky, the social activist María Consuelo Infante and Gonzalo Cid, and groups such as MUMS and Caja Negra, among others.

To get a better idea of the experience and outcome of this project, we held a combined interview with four of its leading players: Equipo re, the research platform that drew up the project and that was recently chosen to take part in the Museo Reina Sofía research residencies program; Miguel Benlloch, artist, performance artist, Andalusian cultural activist and member of the BNV production company, who took part as an international guest for his work in counterbiopolitical struggles over the past 30 years; Leslie Fernández, artist, academic and researcher at the Universidad de Concepción, who coordinated the activities in Santiago; and Rodrigo Ruíz, a Chilean sociologist, researcher and activist who provided an analysis of the memory/body axis.

Nancy Garín: How did the Body Politics* project come about?

Equipo re: The project was the result of almost two years of research, which materialized with the launching of a seminar and a series of parallel activities in which the idea was to explore and vindicate areas of visual, performance and collective production that were acts of resistance “in and from the body” to the policies of repression during the dictatorship in Chile, the initial years of democratic transition, along with their current reactivation. Based on an approach to their political, social and art contexts and the “inherited body” of discourses that compose it, the research we conducted and all the public programs we prepared focus on the various contributions being made to the counterbiopolitical struggle by popular culture, AIDS policies and the current trans, student, ecological and indigenous demands.

The project forms part of a previous investigation of dissident cultural practices during the Franco dictatorship in Spain undertaken by a larger group of persons who work within the framework of MACBA’s Independent Studies Program (2008-2010)(4). Based on that experience, those of us who formed the Equipo re decided to de-territorialize it and broaden it to generate more dissociated, open and intersecting readings of the “other forms of politics” that arose in opposition to biological control systems in different contexts over the past fifty years.

It is no coincidence that we carried out those actions in the framework of today’s Chile. Chile has been the main laboratory for implementing the neo-liberal system, so the methods and strategies for resistance, critical and protest actions devised during the dictatorship and so-called transition to democracy remain valid and are reference points today in struggles against neoliberal attitudes to biopolitical regulation.

During the years of the Chilean military dictatorship, the individual body and the collective body, the so-called social body, were of fundamental importance not just to the state’s apparatus for oppression but for those engaged in resistance and opposition to the regime. The dictatorship’s repressive policies were clearly aimed at exerting biopolitical control over any kind of opposition. There was direct repression of any attempt at resistance of the body or of bodies, through policies of mass detention, forced disappearance, torture as a systematic, permanent practice, exile, and their total expulsion from the public space, via curfews and a state of siege that continued for more than ten years. It was an interiorized, ongoing repression for vast social sectors but at the same time it turned into a potential for resistance, a driving force, an instrument of struggle and of providing visibility to such struggles. A number of examples testify to this, through various forms of protest and forms of aesthetic production that made use of the “body” as an instrument of visibility and discourse –productions that remained on the fringes of artistic representation as well as militancy. These visual-production practices were close to and related to popular culture, anti-dictatorial, sexual liberation, etc. social movements, and we continue to find them today.

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