Studio CNS / Counter Narrative Society

The Weight I Carry with Me… | Statement:

…Fieldwork, Survival Kits, Conversation Pieces, Ephemeral Encounters and Actions…

I was born in Chile and about 20 years ago I made the USA my home (in the San Francisco Bay Area of California). In 2007, I founded the Counter Narrative Society (CNS), a research unit that works to initiate counter narratives about bio-power, urbanism, culture and technology. In 2009, I joined the ACT program and under the CNS started to ask the question, What is mass punishment? In the process of tinkering with ideas, traveling and learning about practices and theories of social control, statehood, criminology and the habitus, I discovered that I was looking at the invisible punishing machine.

The invisible punishing machine is an idiomatic, science fiction-esque research concentration that I designed in order to examine aesthetically, morally, emotionally, and historically the underlying illegible social, spatial and technological causes that produce inequality and invisible punishment – a consequence of mass imprisonment, political persecution of individuals, the prison-welfare system, urbanization, neoliberal policies and social-urban control in the USA.

My interrogation of the invisible punishing machine through multidisciplinary practice was born from a seminal and devastating event in my life: In the mid 90’s my brother received a “15 years to life” sentence in prison. As a way to deal with this tragedy I became involved in activism and began to imagine creating art as a vehicle to help my brother, my self, my mother and the community at large, but for a period of four years I had to take a break. It was too emotionally difficult to deal with this kind of work. However in 2007, I decided to be involved again in my brother’s life and in prison activism. This meant that my life was going to change again because to be involved in the struggle to abolish incarceration, torture and inequality personally and politically is difficult. I now understand that imprisonment doesn’t only touch the individuals directly affected, but also the extended group of families and communities who must suffer largely invisible punishment.

From this experience, and others that I can only touch on briefly here, in November of 2010 I began a multifaceted long-term dialogical fieldwork called …when the invisible punishing machine is everywhere…The Weight I Carry with Me. It consists of organizing nomadic encounters and creating para-fictional actions to interrogate intimately how invisible punishment, alienation and social-urban control in the terrain of the USA has affected me, my family, my friends and the community at large who have suffered the invisible effects of state control, mass incarceration and inequality. In other words, it is a kind of work that seeks to study, witness and confront the invisible punishing machine that resides deep inside my body and in the habitus of control.

I am exploring this concern through the counter narrative method I call Paradoxical and Interrogative Remedies which symbolically uses the idea of poisonous treatments. On the one hand this method playfully counteracts undesirable and traumatic conditions by creating sometimes painful and difficult emotional, anomalous situations; on the other hand, this analytic method opens new possibilities for healing, socializing and communicating meaningful bio-political issues, which in the appropriate social and spatial conditions I produce radical live actions, performances, multimedia installations, tactical objects and multifaceted projects for artistic research, activism, personal therapy and radical pedagogy.