Letter from Chile: Bolano, Matta, Superrealismo & the Collapse of the Quantum Wave 2009
A stunning blue-eyed Chilean youth hands me the paper as I prepare to write this letter. He introduces himself as Byron. Like the poet? “Yes,” he says in English, “but I am too young to know if I am gay.”
There is a popular saying here: you can overturn any rock in Chile and find a poet. This was certainly true of my trip to the middle of this sliver of a nation where verse and the visual arts are inseparable from a tumultuous land in constant evolution. Telling of the national character that finds symbol as key to unlock life’s mysteries, the natives couldn’t get over the poetry of the U.S. president George Bush being hit in the head with a shoe flung by an angry reporter.
I spent a month in the Museo en la Casona relishing the Chilean fusion of art and life that I had exhibited in New York City through a series of performances integrating poetry, music, dance and visual art since my first trip to Cobquecura in December 2005. The instinct that drove me direct to mid Chile from JFK was fueled by desire to get to the root of the nation that birthed the genius of two Robertos: Matta, the painter, and Bolano, who was being heralded as a major force in world literature with the English translation of his posthumous epic novel, 2666.
This title, inexplicable to those who don’t read numerology, is a flashlight into the subterranean epicenter of a culture formed by fissures from active volcanoes and earthquakes characterizing life on the Pacific plate. Along with my professional quest, I was propelled by a personal desire to complete a 24-year cycle of disappearance into the Southern Hemisphere at the Winter Solstice to embrace a mythology that confined my own literature to the underground.
Cobquecura, a remote fishing village, is named by the Mapuches “pan de piedra” (bread of rock), the town fills the fertile valley that conjoins sea, with its black sand beaches, and countryside, with farms nestled among forests. Two blocks from the central plaza, Silvia Fernandez Stein, a native of Chile, and her American husband Robert Stein have established a combination art & archeological museum, cultural center and bed & breakfast in a restored colonial mansion. Her goal is to revive the vision behind the Allende cultural revolution. After she was apprehended and tortured by the military for aiding the families of desaparecidos in the making of arpilleras, a unique Chilean art form, she was granted political asylum in the United States.
My hostess appointed as my guide Fidel Torres, inheritor of the Chilean tradition connecting journalist and poet. This lover of literature was named after his father, a close friend of Pablo Neruda. Fidel is teacher of Chilean literature at the University of Bio Bio (UBB) and assistant to Alejandro Witkers Valesquez, a cultural shaman whose repository of stories and knowledge of the region have filled several books.
Fidel arrived at the casona armed with history. Immediately, he sat me down at his computer to initiate me into El Ultimo Combate de Salvador Allende that unfolds with a number, 5:15, the time that initiated Chile’s September 11 catastrophe, in 1973. The destruction of an Aquarian dream is related through testimony and film footage of the coup. The chilling marriage of poetry with mathematics is transmitted through Allende’s final impassioned address to the Chilean people as the numbers on the screen culminate to the inevitable horrifying climax. “Take it off!” I screamed. He removed the video to insert a documentary on the renowned poet, Gonzalo Rojas, who immediately seduced me into his erotic world, carrying on the tradition of Neruda by creating poetry so robust that it blooms on the page. Fidel kept switching between the two — the iron might of the military hammering the president’s final message to a lacerating point contrasting with the luminous eroticism of Rojas poetry – clearly intended to initiate me into the beauty and horror at the root of his national heritage.
This insight into the characteristically Chilean lack of boundary between poetry and life/death/politics set the stage for my own immersion in a wave that unfolded like a dream during my month long stay in Cobquecura. In the absence of Silvia, my only preoccupation, apart from writing, was to make sure the bounty of this fertile land was present on the table to greet my many visitors. And inevitably in rural Chile there is always food connected with its source – such as the cow whose mooing awoke me in the morning – accompanied by poetry. At the center of the courtyard is an octagon temple built on the slabs of granite that gives the town its name. This is the spot, with its open view to the night sky, where I wrote my book, Icon of the 21st Century, during my previous visit.
I was knocked out by my first visit to the museum’s gallery, which provided a view into this emerging archetype. The sharp stained glass imagery of Suenos de Cabalgar, by the Mayan painter Easel Araujo Funes cut to the source of “el feminino” channeled through my temple writing. My interpretation of this contemporary Mayan art, which I wrote into a wall statement (newyorkcobquecura.blogspot.com) set the tone for my visit in Chile: “el feminino” (a term I was to later pick up in Santiago during a panel with the Chilean poet Ludwig Zeller, and his partner/collaborator Susana Wald, who is translating Sumerian poetry dedicated to Inanna, the ancient icon of the hieros gamos) incorporating a simultaneous integration between worlds – the subterranean unconscious (future), the body (present) and super-consciousness (the future) pictured by the Mayans as the World Tree at the Galactic Center. Easel arrived with his beautiful German partner, Melanie Emrich, who told me that he was painting her image before she appeared, living proof of the quantum reality of this artist. Together they formed a stunning image of the hieros gamos. They brought with them a celebratory group of artist friends from Chillan, including three Mexicans restoring the marvelous Siqueiros mural in the Escuela del Mexico. There was dancing and laughter that culminated in the requisite Chilean asado. The musical poetry of the mysterious Guacolda, whose body is a repository of local folklore, transformed the octagon temple into a stage for the encantamiento of lo feminino that I could only imagine in my writing.
The following weekend Fidel invited me to the nearby town of Chillan to experience a celebration of Witkers new book marking his 75th birthday. The reception afterwards was filled with the cultural heavyweights of such a richly endowed region forged from the collision between the Spanish and indigenous cultures.
Back in Cobquecura, la casona hosted a dance and music recital of local youth who had completed a month long workshop. This was immediately followed by a performance of Persephone’s death and rebirth by a colorful band of African influenced musicians and dancers with their many instruments. The presentation was followed by the requisite barbeque prepared by local anthropologist Cesar Aguila and his beautiful wife, Janet, a tapestry artist.
The following week, Fidel invited me to the opening of an exhibition celebrating a unique collaboration between the Chilean master of printmaking, Guillermo Nunez, and the great poet Gonzalo Rojas. Como puedo decirte que tuve miedo? (How am I able to tell you that I was afraid?) Integrated poetry and visual art to a chilling effect, capturing the observer as participant in the soul’s struggle to reconcile a horrific tragedy fostered through CIA intervention. The simple graphics of a red white and blue tie, a penetrating symbol of the U.S. imperialist noose, was the organizing principle for holocaust iconography imbedded in the handprints on the pages held by barbed wire between floor and ceiling grounded by a pile of rocks grouped in threes. Three is the number of creativity and the noose is the sacred geometry of the mandorla, an ancient shape of the integration of heaven & earth representing a stepping beyond “either-or” thinking – to stand in the tension of opposites long enough for something new to emerge. Here number, shape, visual language and poetry converge in the soul’s mechanism of coping with a tragedy the mind cannot comprehend.
Yet, the event itself was about pleasure as well as pain. I had my first live interactive experience with the greatest living poet of Hispanic language through something I could directly relate to: the erotic pleasures of the Chilean market. Talk about the integration of art and life! As we are served empanadas and pastries with Pisco cocktails and cappuccino, I reflected how the U.S. had once again dropped its noose through the global financial meltdown after spurring this nation’s addiction to consumerism through the so-called Chilean economic miracle.
Attending the reception was Hernando Leon, a multimedia artist who had just arrived in Chile from Dresden where he lived in exile until 1991, when he began dividing his year between Germany and his native land. He took us next door to the theatre where he had just completed a mural containing the Cobquecura legend, La Loberia, with its mythos of La Loba Blanca, which I was to reinterpret (nycobquecura.blogspot.com) as the collapse of the quantum wave under the January 26 Solar Eclipse.
Over drinks with an anarchist, who insisted the torture was still taking place in the south against the rebellious Mapuche, Leon talked about how no category fits his work that, like the myths it depicts, incorporates multiple levels of consciousness and cuts through the strange disconnect left by the legacy of fascism and Chile’s adherence to Napoleonic law which continues to classify Mapuche rebels as terrorists.
The following evening, at the 2008 Bio Bio Regional Culture Awards in Conception, there was ample evidence of a cultural shift towards “el feminino.” She took the form of a stunning opera singer who lorded over the proceedings from a platform. She was a dramatic still presence with long black hair and a flaming dress with blood red lipstick, whose eroticism overshadowed a sexualized dance performance on the floor fusing of the Spanish and Indian into a holistic love integrating the opposites.
Afterwards, I stood with Leon staring up at the mural on the ceiling detailing the history of Chile. He said it was by his teacher but he doesn’t care for the style. “Not enough levels,” I said. “That is the difference. He looked up at the ceiling and then at me and said “SUPERREALISTA.”
SUPERREALISTA! This word, combining Spanish and English, Indian & European, North and South, resonated with me as the obvious successor to magical realism, which later generations of Latin American writers rebelled against, even if it meant entering the noose of American realism.
Superrealismo speaks to the paradigm leap of 2012 and the multiple levels of reality that comes with the surrender to the 21st century icon, which appeared in the heavens on January 23, 1997 in the form of a hexagon (in Santiago I was taken to the alchemical workshop of Professor Claudio Cortes Lopez, a Renaissance Man born on January 23, who showed me photographs of the geometrical paintings he made of the icon in the 1970’s). The focus is the abyss known as the black hole at the center of the galaxy, the unnamed 13th constellation (pictured as the human astride the serpent) where the Winter Solstice lines up with the Galactic Center at 11:11 Greenwich Mean Time on 12.21.2012. Matta was born at 11:11 on 11/11/11. My friend in Santiago, Ernesto Gallardo, has written a brilliant book, Matta: Mito & Realidad redefining the artist for the 21st century as a superrealista interpreter of local myths and magic before leaving Chile to join the international Surrealist movement.
On the eve of the solstice, Leon showed up at the museum, marking my personal passage to this global paradigm leap with his genius. Armed with a video of the documentary Camino a Ictapa (Road to Ictapa) which provides insight into the fusion of art and life in this living relic of the Allende revolution. At 75, Leon is cultural tour de force who maintains the revolution’s dedication to creating art single-handedly in public forums – as murals, cinema or scenarios for theater, dance and opera. His genius for defying the mercantile system is inseparable from the message of memory in his transformational imagery. This has him following in the tradition of Matta, who returned to Chile in 1971 to collaborate on a public mural with Ramon Brigida, which was restored immediately prior to my visit after being covered by 16 layers of paint under the military regime.
During the course of his ongoing monologue, Leon revealed a startling piece of information that served as the key to unlock my own door of perception. He said there was a cultural tribune established under the Allende revolution that voted on a style based on mathematics (sacred geometry). Surely this forgotten history explains the mysterious title of Bolano’s posthumous masterpiece, 2666! While six is the hexagon structure of the DNA molecule, the secret of life, it is also the number of the hieros gamos. The structure of 2666 consists of the sacred geometry of the pentagram, which represents Venus, due to the planet’s perfectly symmetrical cycle. So, by absorbing the underlying message of the repression and return of “el feminino,” the reader/participant is initiated into the Aquarian archetype – the divine marriage of opposites – which Wolfgang Pauli, the father of modern science, predicted as emerging from under the collapsed quantum wave.
From my view of the cultural tapestry unfolding before me during my stay in Cobquecura, Chile seems to be picking up where it left off in the Allende revolution, a decentralized movement as a portal into the paradigm leap. If it took so long for the cultural to renew itself, it is because the Pinochet regime death squads were so effective in destroying its twin pillars, the intellectual and indigenous wealth of the nation (the dictatorship ensured that books were prohibitively expensive even as they fostered an addiction to consumerism with their free trade policies). As the Munoz exhibition so graphically revealed, and talks with Leon confirmed, those who weren’t disappeared were tortured and eventually succumbed to suicide. The intention was to leave the country without the minds to carry on the promise that Chile holds for the world – to birth the 21st century icon of the hieros gamos through its unique fusion of myth and superrealismo distilled in its natural erosion of boundaries between art forms, a reflection of its landscape.
The integration of opposites can be summed up by the title of my blog (newyorkobquecura.blogspot.com), which reflects the local enthusiasm for the internationalization of Chile’s decentralized cultural experiment, after an underground gestation for three decades. The effects of the Stein’s decentralized experiment rippled upwards to the capital, where the “official” Chilean art world was stunned by the images of the unknown Leon, a genius who had been hiding in plain sight. It proved the effectiveness of the Pinochet dictatorship in repressing cultural memory, a preoccupation of Leon and other exiles I met in Chile. Carried in their bodies and transferred to their bodies of art, the revolution giving birth to Matta’s dictate written across his huge painting recently gifted to the Museo de Solidaridad Allende: “Hagamosnos la guerrilla Interior para parir el hombre nuevo” (We make the interior guerrilla to birth the new man”).
This vision of the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage of opposites, is now coming into full flowering, like the return of spring to a Persephone long trapped in the underworld, which was provided a visual narrative by Enrique de Santiago’s riveting El Rapto de Perserpina, a massive three panel painting awaiting me in Santiago.
The triumph of art over repression, hope over fear, took me back to the central image that launched my personal adventure into underground literature: a wall of graffiti in Buenos Aries which transfixed me in 1984: “You can kill one flower. You can kill a thousand flowers. You can kill all the flowers, but you can’t stop spring from coming.”
For the world existing beyond verbal language, Bolano created, in the mathematical style of the Chilean revolution, a global literary work celebrating the rise of “el feminino” with a pentagram design imbedded in the book’s structure encased by the mathematics of a newly emerging archetype. This incorporation of sacred geometry into art conceived by the architects of the Allende revolution is now transforming global literature in attunement with the cosmology detailed in Icon of the 21st Century, a work I began in New York and completed in the octagon temple of Cobquecura. After tracing this icon in the avant-garde for a decade, I arrived back in New York to witness it manifested in the collective consciousness with the entrance of the Obamas into the White House.
But while this euphoria over the inauguration of a living symbol of a New Paradigm was the initiation of the quantum wave for the collective consciousness, my personal journey to uncover and embody this archetype reached a climax on January 30, when I stood before Matta’s 1960 painting La Mere M’onde with his fourth son, Ramuntcho, whose crystalline energy is like a transportable museum piece. “This is a portrait of my mother just before I was born,” he says. “It’s a mother, it’s a world, but it is a wave. If you go next to a mother, you feel like you are the wave next to you that irrigates you. That is a portrait of my mother. That means if you look at people, you become fascinated with the complexity of the human being, and then you begin to respect other people because this complexity is a gift.”
His poetry provided a way into the painting. And it was all there—the tension between the opposites, Uranus (light) & Saturn (shadow) that rule Aquarius, the jade colored energy of universal love flooding the smoky surface and forming into delicate crystalline balls. A life journey revealed in a chain of central imagery – an incandescent silver iron projecting a yod shaped rod enfolding a shimmering sphere encasing a surrounding a biomorphic figure, like an hourglass, the cellular structure breaking open to embrace the light of an infinity shape revealing its parts – an Uroboros atop a luminescent jade crystalline mandorla, the microcosmic vision of a universal cosmology in formation within the womb.What a Superrealist experience! Surrendering to this portrait of the Aquarian wave about to break while absorbing the energy of its collapse, I thought of the mathematics ruling the birth of the son. His Aquarian birthday (2/04) and the time (15:15) adds up to 666, the structure of the icon bringing me full circle from Bolano back to Matta and the birth of a movement preparing for the centennial of his birth.
c. 2009 Lisa Paul Streitfeld
This letters was written in January 2009, 15 months before the devastating Chilean earthquake. The epicenter was just a mile from Cobquecura.