PRINT September 2020



Lotty Rosenfeld, Una milla de cruces sobre el pavimento (A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement), 1979–80. Performance view, Santiago, Chile, 1979. Lotty Rosenfeld.

ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT and respected Chilean artists of her generation, Lotty Rosenfeld is best known as a founding member of CADA (Colectivo Acciones de Arte) and for an incisive solo practice that interrogated power and the occupation of public space during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Her work Una Milla de cruces sobre el pavimento (A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement), in which the artist turned traffic lines into crosses, or plus signs, or X’s, was first enacted on Avenida Manquehue in Santiago in 1979. This insurgent gesture, which she performed and documented throughout the 1980s and beyond in strategically selected sites such as the roads in front of Palacio de la Moneda (Chile’s presidential palace) and the White House, was an iconic if elliptical registration of political refusal. Rosenfeld’s + both marks (here) and accuses (you).

Refusal was also one of the core tactics of CADA’s actions during the Pinochet years, including their hugely influential NO + (No más/No More), begun in 1983. The title phrase encapsulates Rosenfeld’s awareness of the evocative visual quality of the +. Its open-endedness, when inscribed on walls and banners, was an invitation for viewers to complete the phrase: NO + FEAR. NO + DEATHS. NO + VIEJO LOCO (“crazy old man”). CADA, which comprised Rosenfeld, artist Juan Castillo, sociologist Fernando Balcells, writer Diamela Eltit, and poet Raúl Zurita, created what remain for me among the most extraordinary and meaningful art actions undertaken by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Rosenfeld’s insistent NO was a feminist refusal as well, and her legacy is today perhaps most felt within recent feminist activism that pays homage to her as a disobedient woman who intervenes in traffic—a woman who will not acquiesce in the face of patriarchal domination. In the ’80s, she actively participated in Chilean feminist organizing efforts, among them Mujeres por La Vida, whose rallying cry, NO + PORQUE SOMOS + (No More Because We Are More), pivots on turning a phrase of pure negation into one of collectivity, affirmation, and solidarity. In the aftermath of Rosenfeld’s death, from cancer, on July 24, tributes have poured forth in Chile and across Latin America in the form of social-media circulations of large-scale projections of NO + and SOMOS + on the Telefónica skyscraper in Santiago (coordinated by Delight Lab and a group of Rosenfeld’s close friends) as well as many local re-creations of Una milla (sparked by a call issued by Coordinadora Feminista 8M and Brigada Laura Rodig), which decry state aggression toward the indigenous Mapuche community.

Other echoes of Rosenfeld’s impact can be felt in the feminist dance/chant Un violador en tu camino (A Rapist in Your Path), choreographed by the Chilean performance group Las Tesis, which went viral in the fall of 2019. The action involves an assertive, physical reclaiming of space: Self-identified women gather to point their indicting fingers and to proclaim, in essence, “No more.” And when a “wall of moms” assembles to form a human barricade in the face of militarized armed forces marshaled to terrorize peaceful citizens in the US, I feel that Rosenfeld, as a feminist who contravenes in space by erecting a line against the normal order, is once again conjured.

Rosenfeld is familiar to international art-world audiences in part because of her inclusion in 2007’s Documenta 12, where her lines were prematurely scraped off the streets by workers confused by her deliberately confounding sign system, and because of the presentation of a selection of her projects at the 2015 Venice Biennale, along with those of Paz Errázuriz, in the Chilean pavilion curated by Nelly Richard. To her intimates, she was known for her profound kindness, her capacious generosity, and her eagerness to collaborate.

In April and May, my friend and colleague Natalia Brizuela and I spent many hours discussing Rosenfeld, hoping to convene a three-way conversation that would approach her work dialogically, as a means of honoring her own dialogic practice. In the end, because of her illness Rosenfeld was unable to participate, but we recognize traces of her everywhere. This past summer—the summer of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter, with gendered battle lines about public space being drawn from the micro (standoffs around masks) to the macro (debates about racist policing), Rosenfeld’s work had never felt more current. Refusal, which she so brilliantly modeled, is utterly necessary in the present moment, but her expansive embrace of the radical joy of feminist collaboration is an equally essential model for the future. At the crux of Rosenfeld’s + is its moreness—a generative and persistent yes.

Julia Bryan-Wilson teaches at the University Of California, Berkeley and is an adjunct curator at the Museu De Arte De São Paulo.