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Epidermal Aesthetics: Skin and the Feminine in Chilean and Argentine Art (1973- Present)

Halart, S; (2017) Epidermal Aesthetics: Skin and the Feminine in Chilean and Argentine Art (1973- Present). Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the motif of skin in both its material and symbolic manifestations in contemporary Latin American art. More specifically, it seeks to trace the presence of an “epidermal aesthetics” in a selection of works by artists active in Chile and Argentina over a period ranging from 1973 to the present. Taking 1973 as its starting point, my temporal frame coincides with the military coup staged by the Chilean armed forces and their implementation of a dictatorial regime that would last until 1989. Meanwhile, a violent military Junta also ruled over Argentina between 1976 and 1983. My contention is that, in their (re-)activation of a patriarchal and hetero-normative discourse, these regimes affirmed their power by resorting to a virile rhetoric that built itself on and against the bodies of women. By claiming a right to define the feminine and by associating it with the image of the Nation (Patria), the Chilean and Argentine Juntas effectively turned the skins of thousands of women into screens upon which they could project their propagandistic discourses. In this thesis, I examine the stakes of this particularly stringent form of political repression for female embodiment. Far from taking women as mere victims of state violence though, I argue that artists also found in the motif of the skin an appropriate topos to articulate practices of resistance which, by extension, led to a redeployment of the artistic field as one inhabited by “epidermal aesthetics”. If skin can constitute a carceral wall locking women inside themselves and a screen for the projection of idealised images of femininity, it also constitutes an interface to reinitiate contact with the other. Moreover, as the ground activating the sense of touch, skin is anathema to the visual hegemony imposed by the military governments’ policies of surveillance, repression and disappearance.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Epidermal Aesthetics: Skin and the Feminine in Chilean and Argentine Art (1973- Present)
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1556385
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