Forced Identities: Emerging Chilean Photography

“Not impressed, so what is the message?” was a comment I found scribbled in the guestbook before heading into the Identidades Forzadas photography exhibition at Estación Mapocho.

Santiago Chile
Exhibit by Nicole Heredia. Photo by Cristopher Felipe Sánchez Inostroza

With all that Chile has experienced in the last few months, a sense of solidarity has taken hold in the hearts, minds and hands of the Chilean people. The gallery on display at the Estación Mapocho during the month of April featured photographs that

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy Fabián España

helped bring us intimately closer to the works and faces of some of these contemporary Chileans.

The exhibit consisted of images of Chile here and now; moments of time in Chilean life that we very rarely have the privilege of seeing. The collection produced a sense of closeness to the subjects, yet also caused some discomfort as one was left debating whether one should look closer or look away.

The work, “No Entrar,” by Carola Farias was particularly evocative. Confronted with two parallel sets of canvases, we are invited into an assortment of Chilean teenage bedrooms.

A combination of angst, anticipation, naivety, hostility and pride exudes from the protagonists of the photographs, ironically contrasted with childhood items such as cuddly toys and childhood photographs.

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy Carola Farias

They illuminate the vulnerability and limbo that exists between youth and adulthood and an identity created within the intimacy of their bedrooms.

In the subtle and sombre photographs of Sebastian Barra titled, “Distorsionadas 2009,” the artist gave “value to spaces considered ugly, boring, without potential and without value.” Moreover, the idea of his work was to rejuvenate a forgotten, disgraced and discarded Chile and to make locations that would never before have been considered the face of Chile exactly that. When asked for his opinion on the idea of identity, Barra answered, “To be Chilean is too broad a concept. One can’t define the Chilean identity in one approach.”

In her 30-canvas exhibit, “De Lunas y Monstrous 2009,” artist Nicole Heredia’s clever use of landscape, the human body and disfigurement focused on the concept of “creating fictions while at the same time bridging the gap between the real world and the fictitious.” It is left to the observer to decide in which we live.

Santiago Chile
Exhibit by Miguel Jara. Photo by Cristopher Felipe Sánchez Inostroza

Other photographs included the uncomfortably intimate portraits by Miguel Jara titled, “SI 2009.” A triptych of light boxes, each piece presents us with the same face wrapped in different ways by tape and string. The simplicity of tape, string, face and light box, ingeniously executed by Hatta, put us in direct contact with what could be the social confines and constraints felt by Chileans today.

The first major exhibition for many of the photographers, their versatility in composition, form, materials and subject matter didn’t reflect one common idea but, as Heredia says, connected the work of the young artists

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy Mariana Gallardo

“all trying to achieve the same goals, not necessarily through the same means.”

“There is an internal retrospection of the artist which from there then becomes a free interpretation open to the viewer,” adds Barra.

If a utopia were to exist, Identidades Forzadas certainly wasn’t it. The pieces presented us with the dilemma of discomfort and intrigue, voyeurism and participation. One was left more informed, more in touch with and perhaps even more confused about the realities of la vida cotidiana Chilena (“Chilean everyday life”) and the distinct identities that exist within it.

And if the message of the exhibition wasn’t immediately clear to the guestbook scribbler, one question it posed was: do we experience unification due to a crisis or instead a crisis due to unification?

Identidades Forzadas exhibiton
18 March–30 April 2010
Estación Mapocho

Exhibiting Artists:
Celeste Rojas
Fabián España
Rosario Montero
Cristian Ureta
Carola Farias
Sebastian Barra
Kurt Petautschnig
Nicole Heredia
Miguel Jara
Alejandra Rivera
Mariana Gallardo

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