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commissioned by the National Musuem of Women in the Arts 

Title: Madres Buscadoras, Fragmentary Memory, Chile

Themes: memory / women / geology

Technique: silkscreen on handkerchiefs, Atacama desert sand bags, clay shovel

Structure: Clamshell box wrapped with felt and silk screened title

Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.5 x 2.5 inches (closed), 21.5 x 31 inches (open)

Collection: National Musuem of Women in the Arts (NMWA), Washington DC

Exhibition: Currently on view at the National Musuem of Women in the Arts through November 2024 within the exhibition Holding Ground: Artists' Books for the National Museum of Women in the Arts

This commissioned artist book for the NMWA is inspired on the theme of geology of memory. The work brings together the enormous and vast bidimensional space of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile and the chant of the mothers of the disappeared entitled Cueca Sola into a memorial book. The ongoing search of the mothers of the disappeared during the civic-military dictatorship still breathes underneath the earth as a live memory. The book is contained inside of a clamshell box with sandbags from the desert, handkerchiefs and a clay shovel.


Link of the chant of Cueca Sola and a translation below.


NMWA Label: “There was no way of imagining that the austere act with which, on March 8, 1978, the folk group of the Association of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared made their live debut would leave such a deep mark and such an extensive geographical reach for Chilean culture. recently. There, on the stage of the Teatro Caupolicán, in an act commemorating International Women's Day, a “cueca sola” dance was shown for the first time, an artistic concept welcomed and explained by a country then under a dictatorship that combined codes of the popular creation and denunciation. His synthesis, austerity and dramatic charge produced a high impact, and not only in Chile.
The cueca alone was, first, a song. That was the title of a composition by Gala Torres that introduced into the structure of the cueca lyrics of lamentation and denunciation like never before.

The burden of denouncing her singing required a different dance and body disposition than usual in the cueca. Thus, the folkloric group of the A.F.D.D. put one of its members, Gabriela Bravo, in charge of following the traditional pattern of the cueca with a crucial distinction: the woman had no one to dance it with. The photo on her chest was the image of a husband arrested and made to disappear by the repression agencies of the Military Junta in power —in his case, the doctor Carlos Lorca—, and in whose memory the woman waved her handkerchief from a visible desolation. The cueca was no longer a scheme of conquest and celebration between two courageous participants, but the staging of unbearable sadness. Singing and dancing rose as an instrument of denunciation, but not as a vociferous proclamation but from a moving austerity, capable of immediately transmitting their message, without the need for explanations or speeches, to audiences in Chile and abroad […]”
(Marisol García, from Chilean Cueca)


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