Chile or Utopian Imagination

Memory and 50 Years Since the Coup d’état in Chile

From 11 September to 11 November 2023 - Check programme
Luis Weinstein, Villa Francia, Santiago. Chile. 1985, 1985. Museo Reina Sofía
Luis Weinstein, Villa Francia, Santiago. Chile. 1985, 1985. Museo Reina Sofía
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía

Chile or Utopian Imagination is a programme of activities which gathers film, textile and community art, critical thought and poetry to explore memory in relation to the project of Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular (Popular Unity) Government, the coup d’état and Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile by way of the work of different artists and thinkers.

During the thousand days the Unidad Popular government was in power, the deep-seated social, economic, cultural and affective transformations that had taken place in Chile were brought to an abrupt end by Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état. Owing to the large number of deaths that transpired under the dictatorship’s repression, the project led by Salvador Allende remained unfinished, a discontinuation that gave rise to trauma which transformed hopes, desires for equality, lifestyles and ways of relating to the world — effects that are still notable today.

The end of the Unidad Popular utopia and the establishment of the dictatorship resulted in more than 40,000 victims (recognised by the Comisión Valech II report) and Chile’s transformation into the first neoliberalism laboratory on a global scale. But what knowledge is there from the defeat of this utopia? What reflections emerge today from this emotional and institutional rupture?

Critically analysing different ways of staging a traumatic past enables differentiation between a type of passive memory and another that displaces the traces of events to go back and insert them as living matter in an urgent temporality. Thus, the cycle of hope-defeat-hope returned with the social flare-up of October 2019 and denoted the resurgence of feelings which ignited an awareness of the need for community work via new socio-affective strategies. Setting out from this perspective, the programme punctuates the gaze of the exile and the contradictions of dictatorial power, the intergenerational transmission of trauma and the healing of damage, the impact of neoliberalism, the ghost of the end of utopia in Chilean society and new forms of writing and activism to generate utopias.


Roberta Bacic, was born in Chile and lives in Northern Ireland. She is a professor of Philosophy and English and a researcher in issues related to human rights. She is the founder of the Conflict Textiles Arpilleras collection, through which she explores the world of arpilleras (burlap works) during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile and the use of artisan textiles as an art form which enables the repression and violence endured, particularly by women, to be condemned.

Cecilia Barriga is a Chilean director, screenwriter and audiovisual producer who has lived in Madrid since 1977. She has documented the situation women face around the world and has explored feminist thought and activism and the construction of identities, both individual and collective. Furthermore, she has closely followed citizen movements such as 15M in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in the USA and the student protests in Chile. Her work has been exhibited internationally in contemporary art museums, on television and at film festivals such as the Indie Film Festivals in New York and Honk Kong, the Mostra de Cinema de Dones de Barcelona, the Festival Viña del Mar in Chile, and festivals in Havana (Cuba), Amiens and Creteil (France). y Creteil (Francia).

Carolina González Castro is the managing director of the Museo Reina Sofía Foundation..

Elicura Chihuailaf is a writer and poet of Mapuche origin who was awarded Chile’s National Prize for Literature in 2020. His work is chiefly bilingual, in Mapudungun and Spanish, and the foundational nature of his practice fosters the flourishing of Mapuche poetry in a modern, written and bilingual style.

Delight Lab is a studio for art, audiovisual design and experimentation around light, video, space and sound, and is conducted by visual and sound artist Andrea Gana and artist and designer Octavio Gana. Together they carry out interventions related to social and environmental issues, and develop projects with Mapuche communities for the preservation of their sacred territories and spiritual culture.

Carolina Espinoza is a journalist who holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Spain’s National University of Distance Education. She has worked for media outlets in Chile and Spain, where she has lived since the year 2000, and her research strands are centred on exile and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. She is currently an adviser for the Study Centre inside the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.

The arpilleras group from the Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc (Badalona) is a collective of women who, from reflection, co-existence and shared action, use the language of arpilleras as a tool of expression to give a voice to those without one. Since its first encounter in 2009, the group has devised exhibitions on themes of community and social commitment to call attention to human rights violations and to foster a culture of peace.

Elvira Hernández is among the most unique voices in contemporary Chilean and Latin American poetry. Her books, published in Chile, Argentina and Colombia, most notably include ¡Arre! Halley ¡Arre! (1986), Meditaciones físicas por un hombre que se fue (1987), Carta de viaje (1989), La bandera de Chile (1991), El orden de los días (1991), Santiago Waria (1992) and Álbum de Valparaíso (2003). In 2018 she was awarded the Jorge Teillier National Poetry Prize and the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Award, among other honours.

Mauricio Redolés is a Chilean poet, musician and performer. In 1975, he became a political exile and moved to England, where he lived for ten years. In London he studied at City University, obtaining an A Level in Sociology, and published his first poetry works and released his first tape, Canciones & poemas.

Alejandra del Río Lohan is a poet whose practice spans poetry on paper and performance, work with children, artistic interventions, video-poems and recordings. She is one of the most representative voices from the 1990s generation in Chile.

Álvaro Silva Wuth is a visual artist who makes small-scale wire sculptures. In 2013, he made the piece Últimas palabras (Final Words), the whole transcript of Salvador Allende’s final speech in one sole 70-metre copper wire thread that was unfolded in front of the Ateneo de Madrid in a ceremony of commemoration to mark 40 years since the coup d’état in Chile. In 2017, he donated the work to the Salvador Allende Foundation and was invited to display it in Santiago de Chile’s Plaza de la Constitución, on 11 September of the same year, opposite the Palacio de la Moneda.

Marina Vinyes holds a degree in Humanities and studied Contemporary Film and Audiovisual Studies at Pompeu Fabra University. In 2017, she wrote her doctoral thesis Una palabra propia. Experiencia y relato en las arpilleras chilenas (Self-expression. Experience and Narrative in Chilean Arpilleras), and at present she is a PhD candidate in Visual Arts and Philosophy at the Universitat de Barcelona and Sorbonne University in Paris, where she lectures in the Literature Department. She also oversees the film programme at the Filmoteca de Catalunya.