The Purification of La Perrera
How should a nation, traumatized by dictatorship, rehabilitate its places of death and suffering? One tool we have is art.
In 1996 the Santiago, Chile arts and music collaborative “arte de communicación” invited me to design a purification ceremony for the Cultural Center of Experimental Art “La Perrera”. Formerly a dog slaughterhouse, it was said that, despite its conversion, the building's past still put off many.
To help cleanse the space, I designed, with the help of university theatre students, a performance piece in which an archetypal Dog danced with Death and then drove it out of the building, to the wild cheers of the crowd. The extended music rave that followed was framed as as victory dance for the Dog, who had finally vanquished Death from the slaughterhouse. La Perrera was subsequently reported to have grown in appeal.
Held in the waning years of General Augusto Pinochet’s grip on power, the purification of La Perrera was also a reminder of the many still uncleansed sites of not dog but human torture and suffering.
“You were an essential part of one of the most
fun and meaningful and rewarding experiences of my life. Thank you.”
--John Barbour, founder, arte de communicación