Banco / Marco de pruebas [Testing Bench / Frame]
247.65 cm x 574.68 cm x 436.88 cm (97 1/2 in. x 226 1/4 in. x 172 in.)
(Santiago de Chile, Chile, 1947 – )
Latin America, Chilean
Medium and Support:
Mixed media installation
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1989
Gonzalo Díaz’s installation, Testing Bank (Frame), unites three concepts: the testing bank, assembly line, and pictorial frame. The two paintings serve as backdrop to the political metaphor conveyed by the arrangement of the installation.
The installation can be divided into three levels of interpretation. The first level presents balustrades (architectural supports) as symbols of the Chilean political situation. The balustrades come from a colonial (creole) neo-classical building, a style which represents the architectonic context of the birth of the Chilean Republic in South America.
In the second level, which is comprised of a modeling bench for the balustrades, a neon light, and a baldachin (canopy), three ideas converge: serial production, graphic labeling, and institutional protection. The baldachin provides shade which allows protection from the sun, and shields human acts from divine vigilance. The neon light is a human-made product that illustrates the fact that the work depends on the application of mechanical rationale.
The third level refers to conservation and classification of symbolic objects by political institutions. This is illustrated by the balustrades which are shown in their final state. They are protected by acrylic and metal within a glass security case.
The backdrop of the installation:
The two paintings situated on the wall behind the installation, which can be seen only through the installation, expose the general concerns of Gonzalo Díaz’s artwork. The paintings comment upon the occupation of the Chilean territory and its conceptualization as a “cultural landscape”.
Located at the top of the paintings are images of Chile’s major natural borders, the Pacific Ocean and the Andean mountain range. Below are a series of juxtaposed images and portraits of two women. The women, Sister Teresa, the first blessed Chilean, and Zulema Morandé, a fatality of domestic violence, serve as political symbols. The image of Sister Teresa is situated under the Andes, Chile’s backbone. Under the rocks of the beach, symbolizing the Pacific border of the country, lies Zulema Morandé, the woman destined to marry a brutal husband who murdered her. (He was subsequently acquitted in a fraudulent trial.)
The women are almost contemporary and are related by the use of the body in spiritual and physical subjugation. The Blessed gives herself to God and is thus spiritually subjugated. The wife, the “victim of domestic violence”, is physically subjugated. Several images incorporated into the paintings originally came from the investigation conducted by the police. Through these images Gonzalo Díaz conveys the Chilean cartography of pain. To further emphasize this point, the artist incorporates a diagram of the wounds on the body. This diagram is combined with a chart describing the movements of the planets in Copernican theory, and followed by an enumeration of theological virtues. There are as many theological enumerations as fragments of a social body, all subjected to the violence of the Chilean State’s apparatus of repression.