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Art & Culture

Chilean Artist Ignacio Gatica Explores Neoliberal Aftermath of the Chilean Coup in Washington, D.C. Exhibition

  • Craig Miller
  • |
  • May 5, 2023
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  • 4 minute read
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Chilean Artist Ignacio Gatica Explores Neoliberal Aftermath of the Chilean Coup in Washington, D.C. Exhibition
Key Takeaways
  • Chilean artist Ignacio Gatica's solo exhibition, Sujeto Cuantificado: Quantified Subject, investigates the consequences of neoliberal policies implemented after the Chilean coup, which led to the rise of Augusto Pinochet.
  • Gatica's art combines technology and architecture to present sleek and alluring forms that reflect the aesthetic of balance and order, reminiscent of the austerity and control employed by Pinochet and the Chicago Boys.
  • Stones Above Diamonds (2020–23), Gatica's most ambitious piece, features a circular stock ticker displaying financial data from the New York Stock Exchange, which visitors can interact with by swiping artist-made credit cards through a reader.
  • Gatica's examination of language's use and manipulation in concealing neoliberalism's true intentions echoes French Marxist philosopher Guy Debord's arguments in Society of the Spectacle (1967).
  • Gatica's artwork explores similar abstractions of value, focusing on the global perspective, such as displaying the debt of middle-to-low-income countries based on 2022 World Bank data in Preface to an Automated Stratosphere (2022).
  • Through his art, Gatica seeks to create a space for poetic emancipation, where the viewer can engage with the human experience beyond the confines of consumer-driven society and imagine alternative ways of living, thinking, and interacting that prioritize human connection, empathy, and equity.

 

Fifty years after the coup in Chile, which led to the rise of Augusto Pinochet and the implementation of neoliberal policies, Chilean artist Ignacio Gatica’s solo exhibition, Sujeto Cuantificado: Quantified Subject, investigates the consequences of these economic shifts. 

Displayed at the von ammon co. gallery in Washington, D.C., Gatica’s artwork delves into the themes of unbridled capitalism and consumerism, both of which have shaped Chile and other parts of the world.

The Legacy of the Chicago Boys

Gatica grew up in a Chile transformed by the Chicago Boys, a group of Latin American economists educated under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago.

They spearheaded neoliberal reforms in Chile, which encompassed deregulation, privatization, and free-trade liberalization.

Activist Naomi Klein referred to these policies as a “shock doctrine,” which dismantled Chile’s public sector and social safety net.

The Gallery and the Artworks

Upon entering the 3,500-square-foot gallery, visitors are greeted by a minimalistic atmosphere, deliberately curated to emphasize absence and counterbalance materialism.

Gatica’s art combines technology and architecture, presenting sleek and alluring forms that reflect the aesthetic of balance and order, reminiscent of the austerity and control employed by Pinochet and the Chicago Boys.

Gatica’s most ambitious piece, Stones Above Diamonds (2020–23), features a circular stock ticker displaying financial data from the New York Stock Exchange.

Visitors can interact with the piece by swiping artist-made credit cards through a reader, which then alters the display to show phrases collected from protest graffiti in Santiago and New York. 

This transformation shifts the focus from stock prices to a collective message addressing debt, consumerism, and the illusions of late capitalism.

Language, Credit, and Transaction

Curator Isabella Achenbach emphasizes that credit and transaction are central to Quantified Subject, existing through language, translation, and everyday gestures.

Gatica uses language and exchange as tools to disrupt the financial mechanics and introduce poetic humanity to his work, standing in stark contrast to the uniform and reductive language found in capitalism.

Gatica’s art combines technology and architecture, presenting sleek and alluring forms that reflect the aesthetic of balance and order, reminiscent of the austerity and control employed by Pinochet and the Chicago Boys.

Reflecting on Neoliberalism’s Intentions and Implications

Gatica’s examination of language’s use and manipulation in concealing neoliberalism’s true intentions echoes French Marxist philosopher Guy Debord’s arguments in Society of the Spectacle (1967).

Debord posited that capitalism would eventually degrade humanity to the point where real experiences would be replaced by mere representations.

Gatica’s art criticizes consumer-driven society and the language that fuels it, believing that it drives this change.

International Debt and the Connection between Chile and the US

Gatica’s other works, such as Preface to an Automated Stratosphere (2022), display the debt of middle-to-low-income countries based on 2022 World Bank data.

The LED screens create a visual parallel to the National Debt Clock near Times Square, which shows the growing public US debt.

Gatica’s work explores similar abstractions of value, focusing on the global perspective.

In 2019, millions of Chileans protested against inequality, which led to a new president and a referendum to rewrite the national constitution.

Gatica felt a connection between the protests in Chile and those in the US, documenting slogans painted on walls in lower Manhattan and on plywood barriers in deserted streets.

His artwork Stones Above Diamonds (2020–23) allows visitors to interact with the stock data, inserting these slogans and bringing attention to the tumultuous times.

Poetic Emancipation

Gatica hopes that his exhibition, Sujeto Cuantificado: Quantified Subject, can serve as a catalyst for conversation, reflection, and resistance against the dehumanizing forces of neoliberalism.

By drawing attention to the consequences of unbridled capitalism, consumerism, and the manipulation of language, Gatica aims to provoke critical thinking and inspire viewers to question the economic system that dominates much of the world.

Through his art, Gatica seeks to create a space for poetic emancipation, where the viewer can engage with the human experience beyond the confines of consumer-driven society.

By challenging the narratives perpetuated by neoliberalism and exposing the profound effects it has had on both Chile and the world, Gatica invites his audience to imagine alternative ways of living, thinking, and interacting that prioritize human connection, empathy, and equity.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

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