Arts & Entertainment: Interfering Artists Coming in from the Chile Cold; New Art in Chile Is Flowering Now the Pinochet Regime Is over. Terry Grimley Reports
Grimley, Terry, The Birmingham Post (England)
When General Pinochet's regime ruled unchallenged in Chile in the mid-1970s, artist Juan Castillo started a group called Cada, which staged a number of so-called 'interferences'.
One of them involved giving people milk - which might not seem a particularly political act, were it not for the fact that the Allende government, deposed by Pinochet, had a slogan about half a litre of milk for children. It also distributed thousands of subversive leaflets from helicopters and even, on one occasion, from six aircraft flying in military formation.
In the latter days of Pinochet, the group initiated a graffiti campaign with the slogan 'No +' (No More), which was taken up with enthusiasm by the wider population.
Such activities were potentially very bad for artist's health, but how times have changed. Today Castillo's exhibitions are sponsored by the government and is one of ten Chilean artists in a group exhibition which has just opened at Mac, Birmingham, and will be officially opened by the Chilean ambassador Sr Pablo Cabrera, on March 18.
However, Castillo left Chile in 1982 and now lives in Sweden together with no fewer than 30,000 of his compatriots.
This may indicate why curator Ernesto Munoz selected the title Overseas for his survey of recent Chilean art.
'All these artists have lived abroad, although some returned about ten years ago,' he explains. 'There are 200 Chilean artists in Paris, and they can be found in all parts of the world.'
Among the other artists in Overseas , Hugo Marin is another former Swedish exile who has now returned home. During the Allende years he ran a cafe, the House of the Blue Moon, a meeting place for artists and intellectuals, which was closed down when Pinochet came to power.
Ismael Frigerio has also returned home, after 20 years in New York, while Elias Adasme continues to live in Puerto Rico.
Juam Castillo left Chile, initially for Paris, after the worst excesses of the Pinochet regime were already over.
'I left because I felt a need to leave, and did not go back for 15 years,' he told me through an interpreter.
'I come from the north of Chile, so my first exile was to Santiago. After that, it didn't really matter.'
It seems to be a paradox that while some of the country's leading artists choose to remain in exile, Chile itself now boasts a buoyant arts scene, with a recent proliferation of commercial galleries which it is claimed has made Santiago a livelier art centre than Buenos Aires.
'Like every part of the world, there is very conventional art,' Ernesto Munoz explains.
'At the moment there is a great market for it but I didn't want to bring that kind of art here. I went to studios and found artists who represent some new spirit. I went to see artists like Juam Castillo and Elias Adasme who are abroad.
'Here we are showing work from the last few years, in which artists are not making such political art as they were before. …