Ex-Voto | Fernanda Núñez: Curatorial Text | Carla Ayala

27 April - 18 May 2022

Violence, Body and Representation
Tension in the everyday space through Ex-Voto by Fernanda Núñez


The political crisis taking place in Chile since October 2019 and the global health emergency provoked by COVID-19, causing confinement, isolation and the immediate - or, in other cases, retroactive - economic crisis, have spawned several events evidentiating how bodies are exposed to violence in their individual, social and political dimensions, and how vulnerability becomes a common factor.


For Rita Segato, Argentinean anthropologist and writer, violence is an exercise of power exerted on the body of another, as a territory, and not presented as an exception but on a structural form;[1] thus, violence is an excess and "becomes extreme when it happens without limits."[2] It is not configured as an event (which appears unprecedented and interrupts a linearity), but expands and covers the everyday, bound to all aesthetic and political scenarios. In this regard, vulnerability (as mourning and loss) stemming from violence is a basic condition of our corporeal life. The body, being socially constituted, is exposed to others, open. From the field of philosophy, Judith Butler states that such vulnerability is exacerbated under certain social and political conditions, especially when violence is a way of life and the means of self-defence are limited.[3]


Fernanda Núñez's Ex-Voto, through the articulation of fourteen dioramas - eight scenes and six anatomical dissections - exposes the question of violence as a structure conceived in the everyday space and how this, simultaneously, becomes in corporeal dimensions.


In popular culture, an ex-voto - word originating from the Latin for "from the vow made" - seeks to depict a narrative that fluctuates between the social, the tragic, the miraculous and gratitude. These images are both a visual testimony and an account of the ways in which people respond to adversity, attributing to a superior force the ability to change the course of their lives through a miraculous act. Pain, danger, loss and injustice are immortalised through paintings on an altarpiece or the construction of relics, establishing a link between the human and the divine.


Devoid of the religious dimension, Fernanda Núñez's proposal attempts to link the public-open space and the intimate-private space through the configuration of small altars-dioramas. Questioning and putting in tension the linear notion of history, understanding it as the crossing of heterogeneous fragments of different scales, the dioramas are a device for the artist to rescue interrupted, silenced, erased, forgotten and, above all, denied stories. Domestic stories whose central axis are the layers of violence that constitute them. The dioramas propose ways of relating to adversity through the representation of everyday life, configuring events that are not exceptional but rather naturalised and constitutive of layers of transversal violence: social inequality, loneliness, loss, pain, illness and domestic violence, among others. In addition, corporeal fragments (transformed into relics) are exhibited, which describe how inner life is affected by such violence and vulnerability.


The rustic and playful practices and the found and school materials used do not respond to an exercise in mimesis but rather to the construction of clumsy atmospheres and forms related to the presentation game of the human theatre. The precarious model emerging from the plasticine is a search for the adaptation of reality through emotion and malleability. Meanwhile, the infantile aesthetic poses the irony of spectating our context as a children's game; a doll's house, managed by external entities.


Finally, it's worth highlighting the driving force that mobilises this exhibition; for now, as spectators of a world that constantly reproduces itself in the face of the totalisation of viewpoints and the media, we take pleasure in contemplating the crisis. The unequal political and representational space on which contemporary brutality depends is mediated by the production of images and their ways of shaping truth. However, it must be from this critical statement that forms of resistance are based, allowing us to think violence through human relations.


Carla Ayala, Bachelor of Arts and Education.

April 2022.

[1] Segato, R.L. (2010). Las Estructuras Elementales de la Violencia: Ensayos sobre el género entre la antropología, el psicoanálisis y los derechos humanos. Madrid: Prometeo Libros.

[2] Rojas, S. (2017). Escribir El Mal: Literatura y Violencia en América Latina. Santiago, Chile: Cuadro de Tiza.

[3] Butler, J. (2009). Vida Precaria: El Poder del Duelo y la Violencia. Buenos Aires: Paidós.