Magazine article Sculpture

Words Hurt: A Conversation with Milagro Torreblanca

Magazine article Sculpture

Words Hurt: A Conversation with Milagro Torreblanca

Article excerpt

Milagro Torreblanca was born in Chile but has lived in Argentina since she was little. With expertise in scenography, murals, and restoration, she creates works that challenge the viewer's critical point of view, causing discomfort and catching the attention by surprise. The historical burden carried by Latin American countries, where state violence, terror, and subjugation are rife, pushes Torreblanca to address violence not through allusion alone-her materials themselves provoke violent situations. She then combines them with words that carry a destructive power as effective as guns or knives. These words create violent verbal bonds: they punish, discriminate, abuse, offend, and establish boundaries between "being or not being," between "belonging or exclusion." Torreblanca focuses her work on that point where the body of the other becomes a target, highlighting the role of forgetfulness and selfish - ness, as well as the blindness of eyes that don't want to see.

María Carolina Baulo: For many years now, you have spoken out against political, social, cultural, and psychological violence. Did emigrating from Chile to Argentina in the political context of the '80s affect your work?

Milagro Torreblanca: It is impossible to escape my own experience and the history of the place of belonging. To put mind and body under the silence of "curfew," to witness death, the yoke of fear, and constant repression, leaves an impression that never stops beating. We weren't allowed to speak and believed words were risky. Both family and events in Chile bond me to a certain way of seeing things. I remember one day, among many uncertain days, when I lost my innocence. There were no screams, no physical blows against me, but I was trapped against my will in a crowd. Nobody died beside me, or maybe we all died in an instant. During that day, I was part of a "flock," together with thousands of others who were also forced to leave their schools and jobs to go to La Alameda-the main avenue of Santiago-to welcome General Augusto Pinochet (his entry to another country was refused so he returned). I couldn't escape that fate; I couldn't choose. Some years later, we escaped without farewells to Argentina, where there was another perverse dictatorship seeking to create a common enemy by encouraging a war with Chile over the Beagle Islands. To arrive with the excruciating pain of exile in a hostile world that made a functional enemy out of us as "Chileans" was very hard; I got physically and mentally ill. All of this contributes to making my work self-referential. But those things didn't just happened to me-when referring to my wounds, I'm also talking about others. Mine is rational work, a product of my search into all types of violence. I investigate, read, and produce work that is not complacent or friendly, and it invites viewers to reflect on inherent human violence.

MCB: There's a huge aesthetic appeal at first glance, but when you get closer to the materials and grasp the concept of the work, something strange happens: it causes an intense estrangement, as strong as the initial attraction. Could you talk about this experience with the series "Scars," "DNA," "Homo Sacer," and "I love you, I'll kill you?"

MT: At the opening night of the National Salon of Visual Arts some years ago, a man got really mad at 2500, a work from the "Scars" series. I thought he might get violent and attack me with a knife. The episode, which was dramatic, turned into a mediocre performance, and I walked away like a coward. I decided it was pointless to theorize with someone like that, but my friends joked about me hiring the man to make a scandal. At another exhibition, no one stopped to look at Homo Sacer, a real human skull carved with words of gender violence, because it was so repellent. Invisibility is also a way to respond. There is a collision, so to speak, between the work and the person who sees, touches, and interprets. I don't pretend to sanctify that union. …

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