El cuerpo de la memoria

(The Body of Memory) 1999
Museum of Fine Arts, Santiago, Chile

This work consists of a series of 90 Performances-Installations that I made daily, during almost two months, in the framework of the II Biennial of Young Art, in Santiago, between January 7 and March 7 of 1999.

The Performances and Installations were made inside and outside the museum at places related to torture and detention. Additionally I did barefoot walks from those places to the museum and from the museum to those places, through the city of Santiago.

I always walked with some physical sign of limitation of the body, tying my legs or my arms, etc., walked miles in silence and carrying a fragment of a white canvas stained with blood of slaughtered animal (as a shroud), which I had used 9 years earlier, in the Performance: "The blood, the river and the body", at the riverside of Mapocho River, at the height of Pio Nono Bridge, Santiago, 1990. This canvas I kept for 9 years and later I used it, teared it, fragment and knotted it in these performances.

For this cycle I realized a long investigation about various methods of torture, which were practiced systematically in Chile during the Military Dictatorship and which are currently used in many countries of the world. These methods of torture form the basis of my performances-installations, in which I approach the limits of my body and social limits, therefore there was an experience of permanent risk. There was no rehearsal.

This work makes an inner journey to the pain that underlies the collective memory, to the pain that was inflicted on thousands of people, through torture and the systematic violation of human rights in our country.
These actions expose the memory as a corporal and emotional echo, through mute minimum acts, opening the folds of the dark memories of that harsh reality, attached to the organism.
Memory is not only a functional activity of the mind, but a bodily experience: "we remember with the body". That is the premise of this work.

This work is a circular work, which randomly came to be composed of two phases:

The first phase of the cycle is from Performance-installation number 1 to 49. This contains the most public of all the work, consequently the majority of the interventions happen in diverse sectors of Santiago, in places (that were not so well known at that time) where torture or arrests happened.

The second phase of the cycle goes from Performance-installation number 50 to 90. All the works of this phase take place in a round room of the Museum (which is called the roundabout) and also directly outside the Museum. This phase is a return to the most intimate and personal. Continuing with the theme, but now focused on myself, I glimpse the physical and psychological borders, in greatest silence.

These performance-installations are minimalist, subtle and at the same time extreme. Where horror and beauty transform into a scream, into a prayer that is repeated until exhaustion.

The traces of this work were exposed 24 hours as an installation, until I returned to intervene the next day, by action of my body. It is a work in continuous movement. Which by its actions restored and exhibited a fragment of historical memory, through an elegy of the body, based on a fierce reality.
All the Performances were performed at 6:00 pm, every day, at the Museum. And at different times in public places. Sometimes there were two performances a day, one on the street and another at the Museum.
In all this work, I only used flour, wires, chalk and the canvas with animal blood from the Slaughterhouse.

From the 1st to the 7th of March, the last installation was exposed for one week to the public. It is a totally blank space, the whole floor is sprinkled with flour, the last fragment of the canvas hangs from the center of the room, whose entrances were blocked. The spectators could only observe the installation from the thresholds of the entrances. It was 7 days of silence.

Photo-Documentation: Ximena Riffo
Scroll to Top