“Subversion immersed in beauty is revolution”, write LasTesis. The collective formed by Chilean artists Dafne Valdés, Sibila Sotomayor, Paula Cometa and Lea Cáceres thus begins their new work Burn the fear, a manifesto published simultaneously in Latin America and Spain by the Planeta publishing house, which compiles the main theoretical and denunciation approaches of the activists.
The book collects the violence that women (also four of them) and LGTBI people go through – “the experience of one is the experience of all”, they say – to, from there, make a call to action, to transform this system, to “burn fear”.RELATED
From Valparaíso, Sibila Sotomayor attends elDiario.es by video call to talk about her new job, but also about the “censorship attempts” by the Chilean police, the constituent process that the country is experiencing and the global impact of the performance ‘A rapist on your way’, which made them world famous.
How did the idea of writing this manifesto come about?
It was born from an invitation from the Planeta publishing house to translate our ideas into a manifesto. However, for us that of the manifesto responds a little to masculine, a little patriarchal, logic of ‘here I come with my truth’. It is important to clarify that, more than a manifesto, it is the expression of what we think as a collective and leaves many channels open to generate other reflections.
We tried to make it easy to read, but not to lose its theoretical support. A book is one more support to reach other people through whom we could not reach through the performance, of the visual, audiovisual, or sound. We work in different formats in order to better disseminate this idea and reach more people. We work around reiteration, repeating and repeating, because it is the only way these ideas remain. With this book we are looking for a bit the same effect that seeing one of our performances or listen to one of our songs.
If the word “manifest” is not entirely comfortable for you, what would it be then?
The category of non-fiction is sufficient, because it speaks of a collective experience that many other people can identify with as well.
The book dissects the set of violence suffered by women and LGTBI people, and brings them together because separately they may seem isolated or minor.
Yes, it is a survey of the different forms of violence. Could you read an essay [capítulo] on its own and it would make sense, but when you read it as a whole it tells you about the structural problem. We tried to make it illustrative and true to our vision, even in our writing style. There are more concrete moments, of data, others more poetic that have to do with the way we write because we are artists, and other more theoretical moments. The idea of collage, of juxtaposing styles, shapes, materialities … is also here. We wanted to add the songs that we have done at different times and that we believe link very well with the ideas we want to express.
Why have they chosen that title?
The word “burn” was quite an issue because just in June of last year we received two complaints for inciting violence and contempt for authority. Suddenly, we cannot occupy the word fire and it is a very important word for the feminist struggle: burning the patriarchy, burning neoliberalism, this idea of burning and never again. We cannot occupy the symbolic power that fire possesses, it was super complex.
However, we made certain concessions. They will not denounce us for saying that we burn fear because it is not the same as saying that we burn the patriarchy, even though it is implicit in it. The voice that emanates from this book comes from a very angry place, from sadness, from fear. It is important that you do not remain in a place of complaint and denounce these types of violence that operate constantly, not only in our country and on our continent, but on a global level. It is a call to action –burning fear– through the different tools that each person has: from the everyday, from their home, from their family nucleus, through art, territorial organization, expression in space. public.
From what he explains, they have raised self-censorship.
Yes, it is inevitable because we live in a country where we are governed, ruled, governed by laws made in dictatorship. We are in a right-wing government that allows – if it does not encourage – highly violent forms of repression and, furthermore, it is allowed. They can mutilate people for demonstrating in public space (not in a pandemic), they can keep us in a state of exception or with a curfew for a year. We are in a place of vulnerability and visibility is our best defense, but also what exposes us the most.
Institutions that are guilty of mutilating, raping, murdering at present sometimes infiltrate our calls, seek to denounce us, fine us, constantly persecute us. They are attentive to everything we do. That puts us in a place of fear and makes us wonder how to go about manifesting what we want, but without risking ending up in jail. There are trade-offs that must constantly be made between what we want to say and not exposing ourselves too much. Fortunately, we have had a lot of support both in our country and from international organizations that are concerned about our preservation.
The two complaints were filed, F inally.
Yes, but the persecution continues in other ways. It is not the only thing they have done. We have not made visible the different strategies they have found to harass us, persecute us and try to censor what we do.
What impact has the pandemic had on this work? They mention confinement and curtailment of rights several times.
The book is written in the context of a pandemic and that was the historical moment that we were living in. It is inevitable that this permeates. In addition, many of the violence that we denounced were exalted, such as domestic violence, the most emblematic – unfortunately – in confinement. There is an angry touch, but at times also sad, of this confinement and of what it has done to us as women and dissidents, especially to those of us who have chosen to express ourselves from the body and in public space, which suddenly we cannot inhabit.
They write in the first person plural, but there are parts with a more personal tone, from their individuality: “We are also mothers”, “we have married”, “we have divorced”, “we have aborted”, “we were also mistreated”. .. How much staff is there in this book?
Everything that appears there has happened to one of us four, if not all of us, two or three. What is in this book is biographical. We speak of being born in exile, of being illegal migrants, that is a reality in our collective. We are not interested in going out and saying ‘that happened to him’ because we prefer to speak from the collective, because this happens to many other people. There is nothing added [en el libro] to try to represent people who are not in the group.
They also speak of the criticism they have received from “the macho leftists who believe that feminism came to attack the people’s struggle.”
In our first work we make a critique of Marx based on the Marxist author Silvia Federici on the thesis that Marx did not take into consideration unpaid domestic work, reproductive and nurturing work to sustain the capitalist gear. The capitalist system does not exist without that. Our position is critical, especially with the political parties, which are very misogynistic and sexist, with very old speeches and where dissent has no place.
The idea of the “working man” is typical of a very old imaginary that does not go according to the times. Our perspective is closer to transfeminism, to the theory queer, to the intersectional perspective. This bothers a lot and has even led the macho left to call us fascists, when we are, obviously, anti-fascists. We couldn’t be feminists if we weren’t. For them, feminists are the destroyers of the class struggle because the struggle comes first and then the ‘secondary demands’. We constantly receive violence from that sector and it is impressive because you expect it from the conservative or neo-fascist sector, but when they come from the other side and tell you exactly the same … Some call you a communist and others call you a fascist.
In the end, what is the problem? Misogyny. They hate us for being women and dissidents, and for raising their voices, because whoever is taking the microphone is not the partner to talk about the class struggle. We do not invalidate that, we simply say that there are other types of violence that are put aside because we focus on a single problem. We also believe that there is a solution to attack the class struggle and neoliberalism: attack the patriarchy. If we think about social transformations from a feminist perspective, we will be able to solve many of the transversal demands at the social level. However, there is a large sector that continues to see us feminists as enemies and destroyers.
They made themselves known to the world by performance “A rapist in your way.” Was it a turning point in your career and your lives?
It was something unexpected, not wanted, because it was a very local action. Probably, we need more historical distance to try to understand why this and not something else. There are certain indications, such as the context of popular uprising, the denunciations of political-sexual violence, but also that it is a global problem. To this day it is impressive to see videos of people in India, Mozambique, Paris or Montevideo doing what we create in the living room of this house [desde donde habla], which was where we got together because we don’t have another space to work.
We take this new place of enunciation and visibility with great responsibility. Now we are balancing this work with our other occupations and family responsibilities because if we were to dedicate ourselves only to this, we would not be able to pay the bills.
Do you have hope in the constituent process in Chile and in that new joint Constitution?
You have to be realistic and understand the power that the conservative sector has in our country and how it is trying to get into the constituent process in whatever way. But neither are we going to be pessimistic and say that nothing is useless. This is a highly important historical process that should have taken place a long time ago. It is impressive that we still have a Constitution made 40 years ago, in a dictatorship, when we have been in a so-called democracy for 30 years.
As a people and society we will have to be attentive and pay attention to that, indeed, we have the representativeness that we need in that space. We made the decision not to get involved in institutional politics, but it is a joke that raising parity has been discussed. In addition to [la Constitución] being parity does not mean that it is feminist. We hope that the people who arrive [a escribir el nuevo texto] are mostly feminists. But it is going to be a difficult and very long process. Years of struggle remain, but it cannot be that it will continue to cost us lives. We have the right to fight this fight without institutional violence or police repression.