Sophie Halart

Information about Sophie Halart

About Sophie Halart

After graduating with a PhD in History of Art from University College London, Dr Sophie Halart was appointed as a FONDECYT Postdoctoral Fellow at Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile, starting March 2018. Within her doctoral thesis, ‘Epidermal Aesthetics: Skin and the Feminine in Argentine and Chilean Contemporary Art (1973- present)’, she investigated the production of Argentine and Chilean artists from the 1970s up to now. Examining the surface – both material and symbolical – of their works, the thesis identified the presence of an “epidermal aesthetics”, paying particular attention to the topos of skin as a site of resistance and self-determination. She was the co-editor of the book Sabotage Art: Politics and Iconoclasm in Contemporary Latin America (I.B. Tauris, 2016). Her current postdoctoral research project examines the discussion established between the maternal and materiality in contemporary Chilean art.


"Mater chilensis: toward a maternal re-reading of the Chilean neo-avant-garde"
In Chile, the 1973 military coup bore stakes that ran beyond the socio-political scope and was also experienced as an “aesthetic coup” at the level of arts and culture. The neo-avant-garde scene Escena de Avanzada that emerged at the end of the 1970s was perceived as a delayed reaction to this initial trauma. Composed of a constellation of artists pivoting around the theoretical figure of Nelly Richard, it developed political and poetic strategies of disruption against the junta’s totalizing narratives. While key members of the Avanzada were sensitive to feminism and womens rights issues, the works produced during these years have generally been interpreted through the rupturist filter characteristic of avant-garde theory, thus pushing gender to a secondary plane of interest. 

Recent exhibitions such as “Perder la Forma Humana. Una imagen sísmica de los años ochenta en América Latina” (2012-2015) and “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985” (2017-2018) have successfully tackled this historic omission by shedding light on the central role played by women artists from the 1960s onward.  In this presentation, I also contend that a critical re-examination of the accepted belligerent – and male – avant-garde lexicon is in order. I argue, more specifically, that the most subversive aspect of the Chilean neo-avant-garde scene of the 1970s and 80s might in fact be found in its re-deployment of the “maternal” as a force seeking to re-weave the social bonds that had been so profoundly maimed by the climate of general suspicion, censorship and fear established by the junta. Looking at works produced by CADA, Diamela Eltit and Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis, I offer a historiographic re-reading that conceives of the maternal as a destabilizing category for male, heroic and linear narratives shared by military and avant-garde discourses alike.