by Carlos Soto-Román

Carlos Soto-Román's intervention borrows documents related to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile from the 1970s onwards, and declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States in 2000. The United States was a strong ally of the Southern Cone dictatorial regimes, and backed and supported them through operations such as Operation Condor. This includes the relationship between CIA and its Chilean counterpart, the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA). The video is a new iteration of the book Chile Project: [Reclassified], published by Gauss PDF in 2013 and Libros del Pez Espiral in 2016.

—Bruno Ministro

On Borradura

by Bruno Ministro

In this work, Soto-Román appropriates redacted political documents to proceed with even more erasures. For instance, the application of correction fluid by the author expands the redacted blackouts inserted by CIA before the release of the documents in 2000. While CIA’s blackouts considered some information to be sensitive, Soto-Román considered almost all information to be sensitive. And it is. Rather than a contradiction, we are invited to reflect on this as a radical expressive gesture. To quote the author: “Why must our documents be coherent / If it is precisely the order that we want to subvert?” In the work documented here, we find a practice of mimicking that does not intend to mimic. Soto-Román engages in an act of decomposing and rearticulating the documents, not for the same purpose, but working instead with the reverse goal in mind: to expose, to remember, to subvert. Content is no longer visible, but the act of erasure itself is. The blackouts and the white shapes silently outline the form of the absent information. Other techniques applied here—scratch (“raspadura”), smudge (“borrón”), and strikeout (“tachadura”)—still imply partial legibility. This means that the words are still present in their absence. Correction fluid, sandpaper brush, fingers, and all kinds of pens and markers are media used for obfuscation procedures. Even large strings of duct tape and a considerable amount of powder extracted from several pills are used to make invisible the words inscribed on the surface of the paper. Interestingly, the voice-over script used in the video was also subjected to all these different techniques of erasure. Looking at other common practices of oppression in dictatorships, including those adopted by Pinochet’s regime, we can argue that erasure somehow finds its counterpart in violent detention and forced disappearance. In fact, both are acts of erasure of the dissenters. Thus, presence is always a form of absence in the hands of dictatorial regimes. In a related way, the material practice of inscription in Soto-Román’s work is a radical gesture of des-inscription, or disappearance in itself. We can thus state that, in this case, to remediate is also to demediate.

On Borradura

by Juliana Spahr

Archives tell all kinds of truths, many of them terrible. In 1973, a faction of the Chilean army led by Pinochet overthrew and killed the democratically elected President Salvador Allende. This coup would not have been possible without the support of the CIA, collaborating with International Telephone & Telegraph. In 2000, the CIA documents about the coup were declassified. Carlos Soto-Román works with this archive of documents so as “to give silence the importance that it deserves.” Calmly and methodically, he interrogates and remediates them. At moments we see him performing his own erasures on pages that are often also full of the black squares of state redaction. At other moments, he is crossing words out, as if to redact their histories. At other moments, he is covering them up with white-out. In the middle of the video, there is a page with the word “Pinochet,” left legible. As Soto-Román whites out the words around it, words about time, worth, and human rights, he talks about this practice where he puts into “questions the documents that describe violence.” Then, once all the remaining words from the CIA document have been erased, apart from “Pinochet,” he grabs a ballpoint pen and crosses out this word, making it illegible. This is a video that wrestles with a terrible history.

Carlos Soto-Román is a pharmacist, poet, and translator. He holds a Master’s in Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania. In Chile, he has published several works, including La Marcha de los Quiltros (1999), Haikú Minero (2007), Cambio y Fuera (2009), 11 (2017), Densidad d=m/v (2018), and Antuco (2019). He resided in Philadelphia, PA, where he was a member of The New Philadelphia Poets collective. He was a student of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and a MacDowell Fellow. In the United States, his publications include Philadelphia’s Notebooks (Otoliths, 2011), Chile Project: [Re-Classified] (Gauss PDF, 2013), The Exit Strategy (Belladonna, 2014), Alternative Set of Procedures (Corollary Press, 2014), Bluff (Commune Editions, 2018), and Common Sense (Make Now, 2019). In the United Kingdom, he has published Nature of Objects (Pamenar Press, 2019). He was the curator of the collaborative anthology of American poetry Elective Affinities. He lives and works in Santiago, Chile.

Bruno Ministro is a junior researcher at the Institute for Comparative Literature at the University of Porto, Portugal. He has received a PhD in Materialities of Literature from the University of Coimbra. Since 2017, he has been a co-editor of the PO.EX Digital Archive, hosted by University Fernando Pessoa. In recent years he has participated in several projects and events related to modern and contemporary literature, mainly on the subjects of experimental poetry, electronic literature, and various hybrid genres. His current research concentrates on intermedial poetics and politics, for example at the intersection of literary studies, media studies, and cultural studies.

Juliana Spahr is a poet and scholar of 20th-century literature. Her poetry moves between lyricism, explanatory prose, and theoretical discussion. Her most recent book of poetry, That Winter The Wolf Came, addresses questions of global struggles, especially those located at the intersection of ecological and economic catastrophes. She has previously published four collections of poetry and two volumes of prose that might be memoirs. Spahr’s scholarly work focuses on literature’s complicated role in political movements. She is also the author of Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment (Harvard University Press, 2018).