Regional Desertification

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Over the years, northern Chile has lived through the consequences of the boom and bust in nitrate mining. Therefore, unsurprisingly, this mineral takes on various different forms in the people’s collective memory.

But what can we do with this region’s other social, historical and economic stories, which are as yet unwritten? Both local and foreign traditions have coexisted here for a long time, and with this in mind I have taken part in several projects to help disseminate contemporary art in northern Chile.

When speaking about contemporary Chilean art, and given my experience as a curator in the north, I try and help the audience grasp the essence of what territory itself means within the Chilean context. Furthermore, my aim as a curator is to open up new, hitherto unknown geographies.

Today, the contemporary art scene in this country is a vacuum. However, its expansion northwards has revealed new creative processes there, as well as giving a voice to local artists. So within several curatorial projects, I have tried to lay the path for contemporary art to reach unexpected places. For example, in recent years, several artists have undertaken creative processes there in the driest desert in the world, which has helped boost this expansion to the north. Even so, it is fundamental that alternative proposals like these are analysed within the wider context of the region, and of the arts.

These previous statements invite us to reflect on the current art scene, suggesting new ways to open out contemporary artistic processes. A country or a region’s art scene is invariably riddled with paradoxes, and it is no different in northern Chile: there is a great deal of precariousness in the region, which affects everybody. So, fortunately, there is a lot to be said for northern Chile as an emerging site for artistic practice.

Art is a political process which follows historical patterns. Here, however, contemporary artistic creation is opened up to attractive new horizons in this regard, eschewing prescriptive aesthetic frameworks, and questioning the limits of what an artistic space can be, yet remaining sensitive to the context.

An equally important aim is to try and find the overlaps between this curatorial framework and the multicultural nature of the region, which has a long history, as a way of looking into the roots of memory.

Finally, mapping these landscapes means bringing together several different ways of thinking. As a curator, I consider myself well-positioned to foster contemporary art practice as way of facing up to this desertification process.

A Body in the Bone-Dry Desert Sediments: Contemporary Art in Northern Chile

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