Straw towers

Yes, there are many reasons to believe that art and culture abound in social crisis period because art is linked to contextual manifestations, to the instincts and to human being impact on their environment. And it is true, murals, art actions, alive music during the protests, dances, poetry fill this new world that seems chaotic, however in which certain reasons that encourage the creation, the self-convening, and to create, create, create without waiting prevail. From this protest, in the eighties important artists were born in Chile, as Los Prisioneros, CADA group, even Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis.

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Examples like the previous ones can be found in thousands, such as Corpartes that in 2018 presented the imperious exhibition of Ai Weiwei, which addressed the problem of migration in the world; and this year the -almost premonitory- exhibition of Anish Kapoor where you can see a giant cube of blood slowly advancing through the exhibition space. Without going any further, we find Chilean artist Victor Hugo Bravo and his complete visual work; Rocío Hormazábal modeling for El pie del presidente by Manuela González; Cheril Linett and the Yeguada Latinoaméricana. Brian,el nombre de mi país en llamas by Diego Ramírez; the literary work of Diamela Eltit. “Mano de Obra” which was presented again at the Teatro la memoria, “Muerte accidental de un anarquista” (Accidental death of an anarchist) at the Teatro UC. El otro Chile by Portavoz and Staylok; Luchín de Guerrillerokulto.


Once we have affirmed the innate creation produced by social crises and the artists’ awareness, then we can ask ourselves; how concrete is the tower on which cultural institutions lay their foundations? Is there a relationship that generates dialogues with its audience? How has art been a reflection on the Chilean reality and not merely a product of the cultural industry?

Within the world of arts and cultures we ask ourselves daily what will happen to all the functions that were suspended in theatres; the book launches; the inaugurations? It seems that in this tower the concrete is softening, because a great part of the cultural spaces closed their doors for more than 10 days, some still do not open them.

How concrete is the tower on which cultural institutions lay their foundations?

However, after the closing there were reopenings to form town councils, moments of reflection on social problems. Culture, once again, takes charge of the conflict that the politicians do not manage/want to resolve. After the councils, the theatres, the art galleries, the cinema have begun to reopen! But the spectators, anxious to distract their minds from the thriving reality, have not lined up to see the latest films on the market; the readers, who were anxious about the book launches now stored in boxes inside the publishing houses, have not asked about the novelties and the hit in sales book is the 1980 Constitution with its infinite reforms. That tower, which was full of spectators addicted to the consumption of the Chilean cultural industry, which lined up for the massive concerts and eagerly awaited the champagne glasses at the art openings to appear on the social pages; which strolled proudly in the book launches where renowned intellectuals participate boasting of their achievements, that tower is increasingly weakened and instead of concrete its bases seem to be straw.


Obra de Rocío Hormazábal, "El pie del presidente". Foto por Manuela González @manuela_gs
Obra Manuela González (@manuela_gs), Rocío Hormazábal as a model, “El pie del presidente”.

With good reason, we can ask ourselves concretely, directly and openly, why are free functions being given in theatres? Why are galleries and museums closed or empty? If artistic activations in the street have been increasing, are artistic institutions lacking support in both their audiences and their spectators, thus becoming desolate spaces? In other words, in what way are art and its institutions representations or critical reflections of what happens in this society and, therefore, find support and protection in it, in times of crisis?

A month after the social demonstrations and the political crisis, it seems that the world of cultures and arts has fallen into a bottomless pit, in which the relationship between the critical reflections of society does not become latent for society itself. A somewhat crude paradox, but according to the current audience level, quite certain. And the same thing seems to happen with those “lovers” of art who also consume through monetary exchanges, have they already subscribed to the Municipal? Are they still buying works of art? Because when the country was stable, with the growing economy of which politicians have boasted for years, with business guarantees, it was extremely simple to give support to artists who need it so much; it was easy to feed the weakest. But now, when we really need it, are we still building towers on straw?

A month after the social demonstrations and the political crisis, it seems that the world of cultures and arts has fallen into a bottomless pit, in which the relationship between the critical reflections of society does not become latent for society itself.

While it is true that last week the State restored the 20% that it intended to subtract from culture in the public budget, we do not know if this will be enough to generate the support that private enterprise generated. Let’s face it, our work hangs by a thread. Because it is true, now it will be more complex to count the sponsorship of private companies through the Law of Donations. That money has already gone to other countries that are more stable than ours. We will no longer count on the marketing expenses by which taxes are evaded to deliver money to culture. That money, too, went to economically more solid places. There will only be the addictive Fondart, which already has the funds; to which the nominations are already made, and whose juries are in deliberation.


Few artists have really cared about self-supporting their creations, both in music and in film and writing. It will probably be to them that we will have to look with more pride, with more envy, with more desire to discover how the arts will survive this abandonment of the audience and sponsors, because even though we have tried to educate the population with hundreds of mediation programs, with the training of cultural mediators and the compulsory educational program, the truth is that education in this country is so precarious that we should be grateful if someone understands what we mean when we talk about culture, as a phenomenon that occurs beyond television and streaming services.

Cover image: Hermanadas en la revuelta, performances of Cheril Linett in 2018. Photo: Valeska Flores.



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