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From Precarity to Planetarity: Cecilia Vicuña’s Kon Kon


This essay situates Chilean poet and artist Cecilia Vicuña’s 2010 film Kon Kon within its postdictatorship context in order to explore the relationship between performance, cultural memory, and neoliberal erasure. Returning to the coastal landscape of Concón, where she created her first precarios, or fragile installations, Vicuña documents how the privatization and deregulation of Chile’s natural resources—as a result of policies initiated under the Pinochet dictatorship but pursued into the present—has negatively impacted “the way of feeling for the land that is a memory of place.” Vicuña’s formally innovative film refigures precarity, as the fragility of life and culture under conditions of neoliberal globalization, into planetarity. Composed of both ritualized re-enactments of the artist’s oeuvre and documentary footage of the disappearing culture of the dunes, the film presents the dissonant flute-playing orchestras of the local indigenous fishermen as both threatened by, and performing an alternative to, the destructive forces of globalization. In turning to the bailes chinos of the fisherman, Vicuña—like Gayatri Spivak, whose theorization of planetarity is mobilized to elucidate this conjuncture—looks to precapitalist cultures to imagine a planetary future that collapses the distinction between nature and culture. At stake in both the bailes chinos and site-specific installations the film documents is the transmission of planetary forms of cultural memory that predate the neoliberal turn.

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