“<i>A ganar la calle</i>:” The politics of public space and public art in Santiago Chile, 1970–1973
My dissertation, "'A ganar la calle': The Politics of Public Space and Public Art in Santiago, Chile, 1970-1973," is a cultural history of political change during Salvador Allende's socialist government. This is a study of the alternative sites and forms of political expression that marked Allende's presidency, that have gone relatively unexplored as political exercises in their own right. Analyzing archival texts, public forms of visual expression, and oral histories concurrently, I examine the complex ways in which citizens engaged the urban environment and claimed public space as a legitimate avenue of entering into national political debates.
I divide the thesis in two sections. In the first section, "City Streets," I look at left- and right-wing marches and protests as important avenues of political debate. I map the city's political geography as it changed in relation to these forms of grassroots mobilization, paying close attention to the trajectories that marchers traced through public spaces and the placards, fliers, and symbols they carried with them through city streets. I begin the second section, "Lines of Sight," with a focus on public art, especially the political posters and murals that were plastered or painted on city walls. These forms of public art were fleeting entries into public space and political dialogue. Continually painted over, torn down, and re-painted, they generated a rich visual language which previously marginalized actors used to articulated an intricate, ever-changing political discourse and narrative; in doing so, they redefined the nature and limits of legitimate political discourse. In short, these artifacts were an integral part of the visual and material culture of Chilean politics. To conclude this section, I study documentary film and photographs not as transparent documents but, instead, as flexible and creative forms through which authors and viewers created and engaged subjective political narratives out of the building blocks of urban reality. Ultimately, my focus on these varied, often ephemeral documents reveals the fluid, processual nature of politics.