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Each/Every: CADA's Radically Democratic Dramaturgy of Dissent

  • Jennifer Joan Thompson (a1)


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1 Translations, unless otherwise noted, are mine in collaboration with Fabián Escalona San Martin.

2 Colectivo Acciones de Arte, “AY SUDAMERICA,” 12 July 1981, box 3, folder “Documentos ¡Ay Sudamérica!,” Archivo Colectivo Acciones de Arte (CADA), Centro de Documentación (CEDOC), Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (MMDH), Santiago, Chile (hereinafter Archivo CADA).

3 Quoted in Paula Thorrington, “An Ode to Joy: Chilean Culture in the Eighties against Pinochet” (Ph.D. diss., Hispanic Languages and Literatures, University of California, Los Angeles, 2011), 97.

4 New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice, ed. Trencsényi, Katalin and Cochrane, Bernadette (London: Bloomsbury, 2014); Turner, Cathy and Behrndt, Synne K., Dramaturgy and Performance (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); Van Kerkhoven, Marianne, “On Dramaturgy,” Theaterschrift 5–6 (1994): 834.

5 Mouffe's theory is part of a larger project on politics developed with Ernesto Laclau. See Laclau, Ernesto and Mouffe, Chantal, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, 2d ed. (London: Verso, [1985] 2014); Mouffe, Chantal, The Democratic Paradox (London: Verso, 2000); Mouffe, , On the Political (London: Routledge, 2005); Mouffe, , Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (London: Verso, 2013).

6 Individual members pursued a number of complementary projects on their own, such as Lotty Rosenfeld's Una milla de cruces sobre el pavimento (A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement) or Diamela Eltit's Zona de dolor (Zone of Pain).

7 Others of their actions, such as A la hora señalada (High Noon), Residuos Americanos (American Residues), and El fulgor de la huelga (The Splendour of the Strike), were more akin to installations in galleries than performances; and the medium of Viuda (Widow) was print rather than the public space of the city.

8 Diamela Eltit, interview with author, Santiago, Chile, 30 June 2017.

9 Taylor, Diana, The Archive and the Repertoire: Cultural Memory and Performance in the Americas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 215.

10 Ibid., 14.

11 Castro, Francisco González, López, Leonora, and Smith, Brian, Performance art en Chile: Historia, procesos y discursos (Santiago: Metales Pesados, 2016), 27; Taylor, Diana, “Introducción: Performance, teoría y práctica,” in Estudios Avanzados de Performance, ed. Taylor, Diana and Fuentes, Marcela (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011), 730.

12 Adorno, Theodor, “Commitment,” trans. McDonagh, Francis, New Left Review 1.878 (1974): 7589; Rancière, Jacques, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. Rose, Julie (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

13 Rancière, Disagreement, 91.

14 Reinelt, Janelle and Rai, Shirin M., “Introduction,” in The Grammar of Politics and Performance, ed. Rai, and Reinelt, (London: Routledge, 2015), 118, at 9.

15 Bishop, Claire, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (London: Verso, 2012), 284.

16 See Richard, Nelly, Márgenes e instituciones: Arte en Chile desde 1973, 3rd ed. (Santiago: Metales Pesados, 2014); Richard, , “City, Art, Politics,” trans. Lockhart, Samuel and Biron, Rebecca E., in City/Art: The Urban Scene in Latin America, ed. Biron, Rebecca E. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 115–26; Richard, , The Insubordination of Signs: Political Change, Cultural Transformation, and Poetics of the Crisis, trans. Nelson, Alice A. and Tandeciarz, Silvia R. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004); Ivelic, Milan and Galaz, Gaspar, Chile: Arte actual (Valparaíso: Ediciones Universitarias de Valparaíso, 1988); Mellado, Justo and Richard, Nelly, Cuadernos de/para el análisis 1 (Santiago: Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda / Centro de Documentación Artes Visuales, 1983); Brunner, José Joaquín, “Lucha cultural y política,” in Ruptura: Documento de arte, ed. CADA (Santiago: Ediciones CADA, 1982), 5.

17 Richard's Escena de Avanzada refers to a heterogenous group of artists who created works in resistance to the dictatorship and who sought to break with the institutionalization of art, as well as with the politically committed artworks of the previous era. In addition to CADA the Escena de Avanzada included Carlos Altamirano, Eugenio Dittborn, Carlos Gallardo, and Carlos Leppe, among others. Richard, Márgenes e instituciones, 28. The term has been critiqued for arbitrarily grouping together works and positioning the “scene” as wholly original, thereby obscuring local and international precursors. See Vega, Francisco Godoy, “Cuerpos que manchan, cuerpos correccionales: Sedimentación y fractura de la escritura de/sobre arte en Chile en 1980,” in Baeza, Felipe et al. , Ensayos sobre artes visuales: Prácticas y discursos de los años 70 y 80 en Chile, vol. II (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2012), 101–44; and Macchiavello, Carla, “Vanguardia de exportación: La originalidad de la ‘Escena de Avanzada’ y otros mitos chilenos,” in Carvajal, Fernanda, Delpiano, María José, and Macchiavello, Carla, Ensayos sobre artes visuales: Prácticas y discursos de los años 70 y 80 en Chile, vol. I (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2011), 87116.

18 Richard, Insubordination of Signs.

19 Thayer, Willy, “El golpe como consumación de la vanguardia: Fragmentos,” in El Fragmento repetido: Escritos en estado de excepción (Santiago: Metales Pesados, 2006): 1546.

20 Richard, Nelly, “Lo político y lo crítico en el arte: ‘¿Quién teme a la neovanguardia?’” in Arte y política, ed. Oyarzún, Pablo, Richard, Nelly, and Zaldívar, Claudia (Santiago: Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes, 2005), 3346, at 40.

21 Valderrama, Miguel, Modernismos historiográficos: Artes visuales, postdictadura, vanguardias (Santiago: Palodino, 2008), 14.

22 Mouffe, Agonistics, xi.

23 Ibid., xii. The term “agonism” derives from the Greek αγων (agōn), which refers to an athletic contest in which the struggle with a worthy opponent is valued more highly than victory or defeat. In addition to athletics, the notion of agōn infused political, legal, and theatrical modes of display. In ancient Greek drama the term was used to denote a scene in which the protagonists of the play confront each other center stage. See Ince, Murat, “A Critique of Agonistic Politics,” International Journal of Žižek Studies 10.1 (2016): 117, at 13; Fisher, Tony, “Introduction: Performance and the Politics of the Agōn,” in Performing Antagonism: Theatre, Performance and Radical Democracy, ed. Fisher, Tony and Katsouraki, Eve (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 123.

24 Mouffe, Agonistics, 7.

25 Honig, Bonnie, “Toward an Agonistic Feminism: Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Identity,” in Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt, ed. Honig, Bonnie (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 135–66, at 160. See also Butler, Judith, Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

26 Decree Law No. 3 declared this state of siege, which was renewed every six months until it was replaced by a “state of emergency” in March 1978. Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación, Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (aka “Rettig Report”), 2 vols., trans. Berryman, Phillip E. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), 1: 97.

27 Decree Law No. 27, issued on 24 September 1973, disbanded congress. Decree Law No. 77 on 13 October 1973 disbanded political parties that had supported Allende. On 17 October, Decree Law No. 78 declared all other parties “in recess.” See Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación, 1: 94–5.

28 Oxhorn, Philip D., Organizing Civil Society: The Popular Sectors and the Struggle for Democracy in Chile (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 66.

29 The curfews were issued through edicts, which were then broadcast on the radio and reprinted in the national newspaper El Mercurio.

30 Errázuriz, Luis Hernán, “Política cultural del régimen militar chileno (1973–1976),” Aisthesis 40 (2006): 6278, at 66.

31 In music, the Nueva Canción (New Song) movement marshaled folkloric musical genres and political commitment, as is exemplified in the work of Victor Jara. See “La Nueva Canción Chilena,” Memoria Chilena, accessed 6 July 2018, In theatre, university, amateur, and union theatre groups, in some cases inspired by Brechtian or Soviet realist styles, performed in popular neighborhoods and for workers groups to foment political consciousness and represent class struggle. See Pradenas, Luis, “El Teatro Popular, desde el Frente Popular a la Revolución en Libertad,” in Teatro en Chile: Huellas y trayectorias, siglos XVI–XX (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2006), 331–40; de la Luz Hurtado, María, Ochsensius, Carlos, and Vidal, Hernán, Teatro Chileno de la Crisis Institucional: 1973–1980 (Santiago: CENECA, 1982); and Boyle, Catherine M., Chilean Theatre, 1973–1985: Marginality, Power, Selfhood (Rutherford: Farleigh Dickinson University Press [Cranbury, NJ: AUP], 1992), 3243. For visual arts and the Brigadas Ramona Parra see Trumper, Camilo D., Ephemeral Histories: Public Art, Politics, and the Struggle for the Streets in Chile (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016); Espinoza, Eduardo Castillo, Puño y letra: Movimiento social y comunicación gráfica en Chile (Santiago: Ocho Libros, 2016).

32 See Rivera, Anny, Transformaciones culturales y movimiento artístico en el orden autoritario. Chile: 1973–1982 (Santiago: CENECA, 1983), 54–5, 109.

33 Neustadt, Robert, CADA día: La creación de un arte social (Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2001), 18.

34 On 10 December 1974, the military government created the office of Asesoría Cultural de la Junta del Gobierno, and in 1975 issued the first concrete expression of the regime's cultural policy, entitled Política cultural del gobierno de Chile [Cultural policy of the government of Chile] (Santiago: Asesoría Cultural de la Junta de Gobierno y Departamento Cultural de la Secretaría).

35 The government encouraged the creation of private cooperatives to fund and promote the arts. See Rivera, 42–53; Richard, Márgenes e instituciones, 125–6.

36 Pinochet listed these qualities as characteristic of the “new democracy” he sought to build in a speech delivered on 9 July 1977 at Chacarillas Hill in Santiago, and printed in El Mercurio on 10 July 1977. See Ugarte, Augusto Pinochet, “Discurso en Cero Chacarillas, con ocasión del Día de la Juventud, el 9 de julio de 1977,” in Nueva Institucionalidad en Chile: Discursos de S.E. el Presidente de la República General de Ejército D. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte 1977 (Santiago: 1977/8), 1215, at 13, Memoria Chilena, accessed 7 October 2019,

37 Stern, Steve J., Battling for Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet's Chile, 1973–1988 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 196230.

38 Rivera, 124.

39 Taller Contemporáneo (i.e., Contemporary Workshop), “Declaración,” box 2943, folder 4, Fundación Documentación y Archivo de la Vicaria de la Solidaridad (hereinafter FDAVS).

40 Saldaña, Margarita Iglesias et al. , Centro Cultural Mapocho: Una historia por contar (Santiago: Ceibo Ediciones, 2014).

41 Ibid., 45.

42 For example, after two newspapers deemed the work of Grupo Cámara Chile (Chamber Group Chile) “subversive,” the group was unable to obtain financial patronage from private companies, and the press refused to publicize their activities. When it seemed as though it would lose its space and have to dissolve, a magazine aimed at advancing the work of the countercultural artistic circuit (La Bicicleta) issued a call to the community to support the organization. The call was effective, and the group raised enough money to continue functioning and maintain its space. See “S.O.S.,” La Bicicleta 2 (December 1978): 24–6; Grupo Cámara Chile, “Balance de su Trabajo Correspondiente al Año 1978,” 8 January 1979, box 2943, folder 4, FDAVS.

43 Ictus was the only company to resume performances after the coup, and it subsequently developed an identity as a site of resistance to the dictatorship. Catherine Boyle notes that Ictus was able to evade censorship by refraining from overt political comment and found protection in its prestige and relatively small, middle-class audience. Furthermore, its plays were “regarded as exhibition pieces by the regime, which can point to them as proof of the freedom of expression in the country.” Boyle, 55.

44 Colectivo Acciones de Arte, 3 October 1979, box 1, folder “Documentos Para no morir…,” Archivo CADA. The word for “blank” or “white” used throughout is blanca. In each instance that either of these words occurs in the English translation, the double meaning is also implied.

45 Weil, Jael Goldsmith, “Milk Makes State: The Extension and Implementation of Chile's State Milk Programs, 1901–1971,” Historia (Santiago) 50.1 (2017): 79104.

46 See interviews with Diamela Eltit, Lotty Rosenfeld, Juan Castillo, and Raúl Zurita in Neustadt.

47 Eltit, interview with Neustadt, 93.

49 For Wolf Vostell's happenings and influence in Latin America see Das Theater ist auf der Straße: Die Happenings von Wolf Vostell / El teatro está en la calle: Los Happenings de Wolf Vostell, exh. cat., ed. García, José Antonio Agúndez, Emslander, Fritz, and Heinzelmann, Markus (Bielefeld: Kerber, 2010). For Minujín see Spencer, Catherine, “Entrap, Engulf, Overwhelm: From Existentialism to Counterculture in the Work of Marta Minujín,” in Sabotage Art: Politics and Iconoclasm in Contemporary Latin America, ed. Halart, Sophie and Ezcurra, Mara Polgovsky (London: I. B. Tauris, 2016), 1334.

50 Colectivo Acciones de Arte, “Cronología de Actividades,” no date, box 1, folder 1, Archivo CADA.

51 Colectivo Acciones de Arte, “It is not a village,” 1979, box 1, folder 2, Archivo CADA.

53 Jean Graham-Jones notes that the multiple modalities in which censorship took place, as well as the multiplicity of ways artists responded to these practices, make it difficult to track how censorship and self-censorship influence artistic production. She therefore follows Chilean scholars, such as Roberto Hozven, in considering the ways artistic productions engage in countercensorial practices: “Countercensorship allows for agency and thus functions as a positive alternative to the double bind of external censorship and internal self-censorship.” Graham-Jones, Jean, Exorcizing History: Argentine Theatre under Dictatorship (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press [Cranbury, NJ: AUP], 2000), 21. See also Hozven, Roberto, “Censura, autocensura y contracensura: Reflexiones acerca de un simposio,” Chasqui 12.1 (1982): 6873.

54 Decree Law No. 827 (1974) imposed a 20 percent book tax and a 22 percent IVA (VAT) tax on the box-office income of all shows. The government granted exemption to works deemed to be of “high artistic or cultural value.” This standard was intentionally broad, allowing the government to enforce these taxes at will. La Bicicleta 4 (August–September 1979), 24.

55 Hozven notes that the inconsistency and arbitrary nature of censorship at this time allows it to have an even more expansive reach, in which all actions and behaviors could be the subject of censorship. Hozven, 70.

56 Neustadt, 25–6; Rosenfeld, interview with Neustadt, 48.

57 Jackson, Shannon, Social Works: Performing Arts, Supporting Publics (New York: Routledge, 2011), 6.

58 Rosenfeld, interview with Neustadt, 49–51.

59 Richard, Insubordination of Signs, 27.

60 Eltit, interview with Neustadt, 96.

61 Lotty Rosenfeld to Dirección de Aeronáutica, 18 June 1981, box 3, folder “Documentos ¡Ay Sudamérica!,” Archivo CADA.

62 Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo to Dirección de Aeronáutica, 17 June 1981, in ibid.

63 Foxley, Ana María, “Un ‘maná’ artístico,” Hoy 209 (22–28 July 1981): 45–6.

64 Huyssen, Andreas, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 7.

65 See Rancière, Jacques, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, ed. and trans. Corcoran, Steve (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010), 37.

66 Stern, 31–76.

67 Eltit, interview with author, 30 June 2017.

68 On 11 May 1983, there was a massive national strike and protest led by the Copper Workers Federation. Following the May protest, large demonstrations occurred almost monthly until October 1984, and again between September 1985 and 1986. See Stern, 250–61.

69 Colectivo Acciones de Arte, “No + (unedited footage I),” [1983], CADA Collection, Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL), accessed 7 October 2019,

70 Colectivo Acciones de Arte, “AY SUDAMERICA,” 1 July 1981, box 3, folder “Documentos ¡Ay Sudamérica!,” Archivo CADA. Emphasis in English translation is my own.

71 Ibid. Emphasis in English translation is my own.

72 In recent work Nelly Richard has acknowledged her role in the canonization of CADA and has reckoned with the irony that CADA's work—once operating on the margins of official cultural circuits—now occupies a place of institutional centrality. Richard, Márgenes e instituciones, 11.

73 Fisher, 3.

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Each/Every: CADA's Radically Democratic Dramaturgy of Dissent

  • Jennifer Joan Thompson (a1)


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