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Magazine

31 March 2013
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No. Memory and language

Paloma Checa

In 1988, in response to international pressure Pinochet’s government sought to ratify its legitimacy with a plebiscite. Confident that the success of a YES vote at the urns, would justify the permanence of the dictator in the government by popular demand. However, a union of opposition parties wanted to make their arguments en contra heard. To take advantage of their due fifteen minutes of television space they sought the help of a young publicist. Television is the arena where the two languages fought to prove to what extent each could appeal to the desires of the Chileans at the end of the 20th century.

‘NO’ is a Chilean film, directed in 2012 by Pablo Larraín. Based on the play ’El Plebiscito’ it was a candidate for the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language film in 2013. But the tape is not just a reflection on the caducity of a regime and its rhetoric. In this case to explain recent national history is also a question of talking about the renovation of languages of representation and their scenarios. At the end of the eighties, in the global context of a schizophrenic coexistence of codes, in Chile, modern military totalitarianism dies and the regime of the rhetoric of the mass media is consolidated. In 1983, the “Colectivo de arte de acciones” carries out its own NO+ campaign. To mark the tenth anniversary of the dictatorship, this group of conceptual artists plastered Santiago with posters saying no, they weren’t celebrating. They didn’t agree with the violence exercised by the regime; they didn’t want to deactivate the street as a scenario for democratic debate.

In Chile, the administration of a narrative about the memory of the violence has been tied to the institutions vindicating the value of the conceptual practices of the seventies and the eighties. What implications does this association have? The film NO (2012) participates in this phenomenon, and is an impeccable reminder of how the negotiation between regimes of representation is always political.

Paloma Checa-Gismero is Assistant Professor at San Diego State University and Candidate to Ph.D. in Art History, Criticism and Theory at the University of California San Diego. A historian of universal and Latin American contemporary art, she studies the encounters between local aesthetics and global standards. Recent academic publications include ‘Realism in the Work of Maria Thereza Alves’, Afterall, autumn/winter 2017, and 'Global Contemporary Art Tourism: Engaging with Cuban Authenticity Through the Bienal de La Habana', in Tourism Planning & Development, vol. 15, 3, 2017. Since 2014 Paloma is a member of the editorial collective of FIELD journal.

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