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Francisco Copello

Venue: daadgalerie

Francisco Copello

Born 1938 in Santiago, CL – died 2006 in Santiago

Moving between performance, printmaking, photography, collage, choreography, and mime, the work of Francisco Copello is vital to understanding the emergence of performance art in Chile in the late 1960s as a political protest against a conservative society. However, his work has been largely excluded from the Chilean art historical canon—in part, because much of his professional trajectory took place in Italy and the United States.

On display are various collages from the 1990s consisting of photographs and other documentary material from earlier performances. They explore issues of gender ambiguity, mental illness, and the crisis of Chilean national identity in the aftermath of the violent interruption of the country’s revolutionary socialist experiment by the 1973 military coup. Pieza para locos [Piece for the Insane, 1973] pays homage to Francisco Goya’s Casa de locos [The Madhouse, 1812–19]. A hymn to freedom from a repressive society through the unconscious, this performance was meant to take place at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago on September 12 and 13, 1973—the two days immediately following the coup d’état. But it was canceled, and forgotten by Chilean art history. The artist’s collage Madhouse (no date) includes photographs of a different performance of the work from this same period. After emigrating to Italy soon after the coup, Copello went on to perform other dramatic actions dealing with the subjugation of his compatriots, for example the ironic Calendario [Calendar, 1974], or his better-known El mimo y la bandera [The Mime and the Flag, 1974–75], both of which served as source material for subsequent collages. The Casta Diva [Chaste Goddess, 1990] prints reference his 1985 performance at the Bronx Rehabilitation Center for 350 mental health patients; here he ironically addresses the displacement between the sexual and the mental, clinging to fantasy as a mode of escape.

Agustín Pérez Rubio

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