Sept. 23, 2022

Images in Transition: Art and Politics in Chile’s Transition to Democracy

June 26 – August 4, 2023

Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile

The twentieth century in Chile was marked by a series of radical transformations. The military coup of 1973 against President Salvador Allende gave rise to harsh censorship, the systematic violation of human rights, and a state of terror that impeded free speech and the exercise of basic civil rights. The 1988 plebiscite marked the beginning of a difficult transition to democracy, one that continues to encounter obstacles. This seminar explores the connections between Chilean art and politics since 1973, focusing on responses to censorship and repression by visual artists, filmmakers, performers, writers, and collectives who were in the process of developing new ideas of liberty, human rights, and aesthetics, as well as free speech, memory, and peripheral cultures. These artists inserted their bodies and their work into the public sphere, reclaiming those spaces and radically transforming Chilean life. We will also consider the complex negotiations of the transition, the contemporary Chilean art and literary scenes, the implementation of neoliberalism, the feminist turn, the rise of recent political movements, and the creation of a new constitution.

A number of individuals who resisted and challenged the dictatorship – including distinguished artists, writers, politicians, photographers, dancers, and actors – will visit the seminar as guest lecturers. We will also travel to locations used by artists who worked in the public space, and we will conduct research in public institutions, private collections, and the archives of libraries, film institutes, galleries, and local museums.

In 2023, Chile will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the military coup with international symposia and other events around democracy and human rights. Seminar participants will have the opportunity to attend these historic events. The seminar will meet Monday through Wednesday; Thursdays and Fridays will be reserved for field trips. Once or twice each week, the class will host a guest lecturer: a scholar, artist, or specialist on the topic to be discussed that day. Community service projects will be available to interested participants.

The seminar will be based in Santiago, but will include trips to locations such as Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Ritoque, and Isla Negra, as well as a life-changing trip to San Pedro de Atacama. As the driest non-polar region in the world, the Atacama Desert has no clouds or light pollution, which makes it one of the best places on Earth to observe the night sky.

This course fulfills the Literature and Arts (LA) general education requirement, and it counts toward the certificates in Latin American Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese.

In addition to the seminar, students will take a Spanish language course that complements the seminar’s content with conversational tools and an introduction to Latin American and Chilean culture.