back to Exercises of memory (Ejercicios de memoria)

Exercises of memory: Edgar Endress

Edgar Endress. The memory of the snails (2001)

This video is composed of two stories, “la Procesión” and “Calle Amthauer 1394”. They are based on an autobiography of my childhood memories and the central theme of these videos deals with my experience as a child during the first decade of the Chilean military regime. Southern Chile is geographically isolated from big demonstrations and long political speeches, which gives ground to a more poetic space, where the oppressor lives the routine together with the oppressed. A place where everything that happens is sealed with a translucent veil. A landscape where the dislike of the regime is expressed through a symbolic framework of daily facts and anonymous gestures. This video shows these kind of gestures in my family history, revealed through my childhood experience and that experience got its information from the misinformed media, censored by the regime and through my parents’ filters.

During the change of command ceremony in 1990, Pinochet handed over the command to the first democratic government. During the broadcasting of the ceremony, I had the feeling that I was just a spectator, that as family members we had played a safe and distant role. It was at that moment when I asked my father: “What have we done to help overthrow Pinochet?” My father, without averting his eyes from the TV, answered a futile “not much”.

Years later, I started to recover from my memory some fragments of resistance acts, little moments of expression where the oppressed took his mask off and showed his true feelings. I understood the act of resistance as “hidden transcripts”, as defined by James Scott in his book “Domination and the Arts of Resistance”; where the oppressed creates a symbol system that only a small number of people can decode. Also, I understood these acts of resistance in the context of Chile’s southern geography, characterized by its communal structure as the main pillar of subsistence and economic development and as the element that defines social relationships. In that context, left wingers, “informers” and supporters of the dictatorship, who usually held some kind of degree of family, blood or social ties, learned to maintain a theatrical balance within their common workplace.

In the context of the dictatorship, Pinochet managed to effectively cast an invisible cloak of fear. There was a generalized feeling of constant paranoia, of being constantly watched. This paranoia surfaced in a series of possible consequences that ranged fear of losing the job to torture or disappearance.

Maybe, one of my first recollections about personal acts of resistance is the story of my mother, whom at that moment worked at a state school. I remember the day she came back from work, sat down in front of my father, quietly opened her black leather bag and took out a VHS. My father took the cassette in his hands and put it in the hiding place for important things, behind the clay pots, the highest spot in the kitchen, where we used to keep a blank gun and, occasionally, a few crackers. This cassette was seen and shared by teachers who opposed the regime; it included some foreign news about the situation in Chile and the film “Missing”. Some days later my mother, my father and I watched the video; my sisters were playing in the kitchen. I remember the fear I could feel in my mother’s face, she carefully closed all the windows, then the shutters and curtains and set the volume to the lowest level. Some days later the cassette was passed on.

The act of watching the VHS, understood as a political act, has no consequences whatsoever. As a personal act, this event is a catalyst and it is registered as an event of resistance that creates a framework which defies the status quo.

The memory of the snails tries to incorporate these personal acts that create an act of personal resistance, a hidden transcript, where real feelings arise against oppression. Within a geographic space, the line dividing collaborators, supporters and opposing parties is weak and sometimes utilitarian.

Edgar Endress

About Edgar Endress

Edgar was born in Osorno, Chile, in 1970. He holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Syracuse, State of New York. Since 1995 he has been working in video, photography and installation.

The work of Edgar Endress has been exhibited at the New York Video Festival, World Wide Video Festival, Queen Sophia Museum, Contemporary Art Museum, Boston, among others. Among the most important awards he received was a grant by the film society of Lincoln Center and Grad Marnier, as well as a scholarship granted by Creative Capital, New York.

Participant artists

Alejandro Schianchi / Carlos Trilnick / Claudia Aravena / Edgar Endress / Eduardo Molinari y Nicolás Varchausky / Graciela Taquini / Guillermo Cifuentes / Gustavo Galuppo / Iván Marino / Julieta Hanono / Leandro Nuñez / Mariela Yeregui / Raúl Minsburg / Ricardo Dal Farra / Ricardo Pons

Edgar Endress currently lives in Virginia and works as a full professor of digital arts at the University of George Mason in Fairfax, United States.