Gloria Mundi

Paz Errázuriz first solo exhibition in Paris is presented at mor charpentier under the premise to be, rather than a retrospective, a transversal review of her work. It shows some of her most emblematic series, while trying to draw attention to less known images. Throughout her photographs, we contemplate a critique of both normative identities and society’s gaze over individuals.

“I have done my photographic work in Chile. It’s something of an obsession, an enchantment. This inquiry into identity is something I’ve done so many times, for such a long time, and it continues to interest me. It’s kind of a need to do my own thing without caring what may or may not be accepted. And in order to achieve this, to carry out these projects, I have worked as a portrait photographer.” 

Paz Errázuriz

Gloria Mundi

The photographic work of Paz Errázuriz has been an unbiased witness of the Chilean society since the late 1970s. Decades that were marked by the repression of a cruel military dictatorship, as well as the later economical development that has left behind large areas of poverty and exclusion. A surprising image such as El caminante (1987), one of her early pictures, captures the immediacy of an instant in the route of a —probably drunk— passer-by. It is taken from a certain distance, as if she didn’t want to alter reality with her presence. This distancing is not common in her following work, which is characterised, on the contrary, by a personal implication beside the subjects of her portraits, devoting weeks and months to earn their trust before shooting for the first time. There is nothing voyeuristic about her gaze. One of the most prominent examples of this engagement is her famous series La manzana de Adán (1982-1986), where she depicts the private world of a group of transvestites working in the brothels of Santiago de Chile during the dictatorship. The artist created close ties of affection with them and their families, that have lasted over time. The exhibition presents a close-up portrait of Pilar, one of the main figures of the project. The colour photographs included in the series remained unreleased for decades, as only the black and white prints were published. The rediscovery of these images offers a vibrant and more complete perspective over the whole ensemble.

Many of Errázuriz photographic series follow into what art critic Nelly Richard has called the “aesthetics of the periphery”, finding the subjects for her portrays in the edges, whether they are defined by geographical boundaries or social exclusion. However, the artist rejects the notion of “marginal”, and there is no moral connotation whatsoever in her artistic practice. As we stated before, her images come from a profound and sincere empathy. Actually, as she has explained, all of her work is extremely self- referential: to photograph certain subjects is to deal with her own obsessions with the body, old age, etc. The artists of a wandering circus that the photographer followed while capturing different aspects of the live behind the lights, the fantasy and the decors in the series El circo (1981), could be situated in one of the aforesaid “edges”. Just like the troupe of traveling “lucha libre” wrestlers with whom she departed on tour for the production of Luchadores del ring (1988-1991). The result of both experiences is, in any case, profoundly captivating and charged with an almost surreal, dream-like, appeal.

One of the themes that strongly reveals throughout the exhibition, and that has been less commonly pointed out, is that of a fragile masculinity. Far from heroic models, it presents itself as defeated or even severed, in series like Boxeadores (1987) and Exéresis (2004). The emblematic series of portraits she took at the Federación Chilena de Boxeo, present these precariously equipped men in a manner that reveals fatigue and vulnerability. Her pictures of ancient statues missing genitals, beside historical consideration, offer the spectator an androgynous, non-hegemonic body. Over the years, Errázuriz has evolved into digital photography, but she hasn’t lost a bit of her creative drive or her connexion to the reality of the Chilean society.

El caminante

The unusual panoramic picture El caminante, is part of a diverse series of photographs —Personas— of anonymous people in Santiago de Chile. It is somehow a glimpse into a collective portrait of the city, offering an insight view of the misery and social exclusion in the late years of the military dictatorship. Some of them are staged portraits, and other, like this one, feels like a candid picture. Like a series of film stills or a storyboard, she captures several instants of the awkward stride of a —probably drunk— passer-by, before he finally settles down in the sidewalk. It is taken from a certain distance, as if she didn’t want to alter reality with her presence. Actually, Errázuriz took the shot from a car, while stopped on a red light. This distancing is not common in her work, which is characterised, on the contrary, by a personal implication beside the subjects of her portraits. El caminante is a rare example of her practice, not only because of this peculiar approach, but also because of the format and the sequenced narrative of the work.

El Caminante, 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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“Showing an unworthy image is a betrayal. There is a commitment involved. Taking a photo is terrible, very aggressive, the act of those who allow themselves to be photographed is quite brave. There are a number of silent pacts that you cannot betray.”

Paz Errázuriz

Boxeadores

The series of portraits of boxers in a working-class sport club in Chile, are arguably among the most famous images of Paz Errazuriz career. They personify the physical sacrifice of exercise as they stand in front of the camera in heroic poses and an empty, absent, gaze. The artist captures a performative representation of masculinity, and explore the stereotypes that determine the acceptance and desire to belong into the institutions that regulate social live.

During her career, Paz Errázuriz had the habit of printing a smaller version of her most important series. These small editions, sometimes only up to two or three copies of each picture, often include alternative photographs that were not included in the main series. They are all vintage silver prints that have been in the artist’s studio since their production.

Boxeadores (I), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (II), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (III), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (IV), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (V), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (VI), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (VII), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (VIII), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (IX), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Boxeadores (X), 1987

Paz Errázuriz

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Exéresis

Exéresis is one of the few photographic series that Errázuriz took outside of Chile. These pictures of antique sculptures were taken in several museums across Europe and the United States. The artist’s interest is focused in the torsos of male statues which genitals are missing —”Exeresis” meaning the surgical removal of any part of the body or organ. The reason or historical circumstances where these statues lost their penis is not relevant for this matter. The series evokes a masculinity that is defaced and no longer heroic or triumphant; replaced by an ambiguous genderless body.

Exéresis (Group I), 2004

Paz Errázuriz

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Exéresis (Group II), 2004

Paz Errázuriz

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“In photography by women I perceive an awareness about the care and cultivation of human relationships, especially when it comes to portraiture and even more so when the people photographed have been marginalised socially—the “others”, as most of my portrait subjects are.”

Paz Errázuriz

La manzana de Adán

During the 1980s, Paz Errázuriz engaged in one of her most celebrated series of photographs. Over several years, she regularly visited the transvestite workers of different brothels in Chile, and created a strong bond of trust and friendship that allowed her to document this very intimate scene. Her presence during the nighttime parties, and the everyday life of the models, was not that of a voyeur, but rather an ally. Errázuriz kept a long-lasting friendship with two of them, Evelyn and Pilar, that are portrayed many times in the most iconic images of the series.

The artist received a Salomon R. Guggenheim scholarship that allowed her to complete this project. The pictures, however, remained unpublished until 1990, the subject being considered too subversive by the authorities. La manzana de Adán includes different series of both black and white and color photographs, capturing the essence of a bold and resilient community.

Originally, some of the photographs were printed using the Cibachrome technique, a discontinued positive-to-positive photographic process used for the reproduction of film transparencies on photographic paper. A modern edition of the complete color series allows to discover many nuances to the intimate daily life of their protagonists in full color: the parties, the make up, their private lives, etc.

La manzana de Adán (Pilar, Talca), 1982-1986

Paz Errázuriz

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El circo

This series reveals the particular interest that Paz Errázuriz has always taken for portraying groups of people that function outside of the regular paths of society. Her photographs, documenting the backstage of a Chilean traveling circus, shows the ambition to create a dazzling illusion with the precarious means of a poor production. Errázuriz’s work in this series shows a very compelling vision of this masquerade, with an overall feeling of surreal oddness.

“Paz Errázuriz’s oeuvre took the magician’s dream and joined it with the dictator’s nightmare, the masks of beauty with the nakedness of the beast, the midnight sparkle of rhinestones with the filthy rags of the used cardboard collector. She combined segments of identity, turned fractions of memory and desire upside down, freed the tightly bound map of the city with the clandestine purposes of a photographic gaze that worked as an agent of promiscuities.” 

Nelly Richards, Art critic

El circo (Mago Capriario, Santiago), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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El circo (Miss Piggy I), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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El circo (Miss Piggy II), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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El circo (Untitled), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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El circo (Untitled), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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El circo (Mago II, Santiago), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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“It is a constant in the photographic trajectory of a self-taught artist like Errázuriz to have tried to step into improper spaces where gender exclusion was practiced, to have also penetrated into areas which were forbidden by hegemonic morality, or to have traveled the periphery in pursuit of a nomadic or wandering way of life.”

Juan Vicente Aliaga, Art critic and curator

El circo (Carpa Lonquimay), 1981

Paz Errázuriz

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Luchadores del ring

For the production of this series, Paz Errázuriz travelled the north of Chile in a bus with a group of wrestlers. This experience gave her the opportunity to witness a totally hidden side of the wrestling business, their private environment. Aside of the fighting characters that these men impersonate on the ring, the artist is able to unveil a family life, wives and children that travel with them, and a certain singularity in their way of living. Instead on putting her focus in the strength or the performance, Errázuriz chooses the intimacy and fragility.

Luchadores del ring (La momia y su hijo II), 1988-1991

Paz Errázuriz

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Luchadores del ring (Black Demon), 1988-1991

Paz Errázuriz

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Luchadores del ring (La momia), 1988-1991

Paz Errázuriz

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