In 2019, academic and writer Nelly Richard presented her research Unfinished Timelines (Chile, the First Laboratory of Neoliberalism) in the Museo Reina Sofía, an exhibition which offered a critical re-reading of the dictatorship-transition in Chile from its lines of continuity, leaps and bifurcations. The exhibition set forth a dialogue between contemporary Chilean artists Patrick Hamilton and Felipe Rivas San Martín, and the feminist student uprising of May 2018. In the form of an epilogue, this room retrieves that project, which situates Pinochet’s coup d’état as the origin of neoliberalism.
The military coup d’état in Chile ushered in Augusto Pinochet’s seventeen-year dictatorship. The emblematic images of the bombing of La Moneda and the death of Salvador Allende appear in the photographic series by artist Felipe Rivas San Martin, along with QR codes, technology which, developed in the 1990s for IT data and commercial exchanges in the neoliberal present, looks to rationalise and make operative all data on networks of storage and control. The pictographic insertion of the QR code, which pierces the historical memory of the Chilean dictatorship and transition, leads us to question the violence applied to destroy symbols and the community affection for a Left tradition forged around the ideology of the overthrown Unidad Popular government.
The consolidation of the Pinochet dictatorship combined state terrorism and the doctrine of shock economics developed by the Chicago Boys — Chilean economists who were the favoured disciples of Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago — to turn Chile into the first laboratory of neoliberalism on a global scale. Focusing on this motif, artist Patrick Hamilton breaks down the archives of neoliberal construction cemented in El ladrillo (The Brick, 1973), which summarises the bases of political economy under the Chilean dictatorship: dismantling the State and strengthening the free market, privatising companies, reforms to the social security system, modifications to labour legislation, and so on. The red of his archive images reminds us, chromatically, that neoliberalism was savagely imposed with blood and fire on a devastated Chile. In being covered in the colours of the anarcho-syndicalist flag, the brick object counters the exploitation of labour and the effects of real estate speculation on the combative restitution of the history of revolutionary unionism.
With the paradoxical twist of the title, which introduces a reference to queer culture — Resistance to Damage. QueeR Codes — Rivas San Martín’s series evokes this militant Left, which eliminated from its virile discourse the folds and textures of sexuality and gender. Both negated dimensions appeared explosively in the marches and protests in Chile owing to the feminist revolution of May 2018. Its mobilisations picked up once again the “No + lucro”, or “No to profit”, with which the student movement in 2011 had challenged both market laws and the neoliberal grammar manufacturing docile subjectivities. This feminist insurgency shook up not only the patriarchal architecture of established powers — religious, cultural, social, political — that had continued to lay down the law in the Chilean transition, but also spread the libertarian drive to collectively experience a world untethering itself through the whole of society.