Santiago, Santiasco, Sanhattan: The capital city of the most westernized Latin American’s country is very far from that kind of Eurocentric idea of a Baroque and decadent Latin town full of picturesque people. It’s a consumerist-oriented seven millions inhabitants’ metropolis far from European and North American’s idea of a South America made up of natives, poverty, social fights, and red dictatorships (the same as military dictatorships).
Chile has apparently solved its hanging problems with Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990) and after many years of a transitional government and a decade of privatizations (with the consequent dogmatic approach to the marvellous things coming from the foreign countries: starting from private undertaking which bought all country’s infrastructures which once were state-controlled) is now the leading country of a developing continent.
The Video and New Media Santiago Biennial appears in this context as the exact representation of the new modern and reassuring identity construction of the country, which wants to go beyond recent history to welcome a technology and market economy present. So besides video reviews coming from the whole world the Biennial presents hyper-technologic “products” sponsored by Sony without dwelling upon social and political use of new media (see the interview to the Troyano’s collective). So Chile is now acclaiming a present made up of future, evolution and novelties without reckoning with history, with a still narrow-minded society (divorce has been just legalized, abortion is still a taboo subject) controlled by the same juridical and political structure created by Augusto Pinochet after his violent coup d’état. Constitution, legislative and political system and bureaucracy are still the same.
But something escaped the mainstream and kind of illusory mechanism of the Santiago New Media Biennial. The project Troyano:Elena presented a project of Chilean historical memory recovery based on the interwoven use of a web site, satellite transmitters, an historical research, a group of researchers of the Universidad de Chile, and two Italian artists/activists. So the operation called Memoria Historica de Alameda is a research on Chile recent history presented in Santiago ‘s public spaces through different media.
Targets of this operation are the city’s inhabitants and the project official web site users who can see a series of multimedia materials recalling the Chilean capital recent history. The chosen public space is Alameda street , the main Santiago ‘s artery now unsuccessfully renamed Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins . In Alameda street there are the main edifices of the city, for example the presidential palace, the Moneda , sadly known for the aerial bombing of 11 September 1973, when the legitimate president Salvador Allende was killed and Pinochet took the power.
Memoria Historica de Alameda was projected and realized by Netzfunk online project self-defined as a “electromagnetic network of lost artists aimed at producing and distributing subversive instruments and materials” in collaboration with the University of Turin, which between May and July 2005 developed the Laboratory of Gentle Aesthetics and Technology , at the Doctorate of Philosophy, Aesthetics and theory of Art of the Universitad de Chile .
But how does the “locative media” project Memoria Historica de Alameda work? In collaboration with the students of the Doctorate of the Universidad de Chile they researched and archived a series of multimedia materials (videos, pictures and voices) on Chilean dictatorship period, found in public or private archives (films, environmental sounds, records and interviews to activists of the Fronte Nacional, the coalition supporting president Allende).
These materials were then assembled and presented by means of a GPS satellite coordinate along Alameda street . The persons involved in the operation had a sack provided with a satellite reception system, earphones, and a palm and they can walk on Alameda street enjoying multimedia materials automatically downloaded on their palms (through the GPS system).
With Memoria Historica de Alameda the city becomes a flowing sensitive and “historical” space. This way history gains a present consistency and becomes a warning for the future as the authors of the project underline.
So this is a very ethical and social project that uses technologies (usually aimed at controlling) to build a physical and mental space where History becomes a present condition and it should give food for though to every social individual to face that incongruence that are very difficult to solve, even the election of the first Latin America’s female president (the socialist Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile from 15 January 2006) is not enough.