Slogan slogan slogan, shout shout shout

Workers at a protest, from The Battle of Chile, Dir Paricio Guzman, Venezuela /France/Cuba 1973-1979.

Workers at a protest, from The Battle of Chile, Dir Paricio Guzman, Venezuela /France/Cuba 1973-1979.

It’s all about shouting at the ICA today. Leandro Cardoso and Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre (who explains that “Uruguay is the only country in the world where god is spelled with a lower-case g”) present a workshop on Latin American political chants. After listening to unidentified recordings of protests and manifestations, we’re asked as a ‘listening exercise’ to think about what these sounds of demonstrations, speeches and streets clashes might be. The particpants (mostly students) reckons that some are ‘melodious’, others sound ‘tribal’, and one ventures to speculate on the number of amplification and recording devices that the voices have been filtered through to reach us. It turns out that all the recordings are from Chile in the three years running up to the CIA-back coup and murder of Allende (which Leandro pronounces almost as ‘Agenda’), some of them stripped and looped from the soundtrack to Patrico Guzman‘s Battle of Chile.

Our education over, we turn to practical exercises. We chant the word ‘freedom’ until it becomes meaningless to us (pretty quick, that) and then one participant is given Leandro’s mic and told to address and exhort us: we are told in turn to shout him down. Thirty people with their bare voices shouting down one man with an amplified voice is quite exhilarating, though I quickly feel the legacy of too many cigarettes: a street-corner orator I’ll never be.

We go on to follow the recordings and join in the chants: a la Plaza and trabajadores al poder! There’s something sublime about chanting together, even in the hallowed halls of art and isolated from politics. Leandro laughs at the students chanting about the workers and opines that though some talk about ‘re-enacting’ political events, we are not Chileans, and we are not in Chile thirty-five years ago, as if our worlds are incommensurable.

Meanwhile, outside Parliament, as MPs angrily debate their grocery receipts, Tamils protesting against the government genocide in Sri Lanka have broken the bounds of permitted protest. An email from an entity called CommunitySafe comes round to our desks:

A large number of Tamil protestors have spilled onto the road area surrounding Parliament Square, They have also advanced onto Westminster Bridge, this has brought traffic into the area to a total standstill. Please do not make any attempt to travel towards or through this area on either foot or by vehicle. Roads are likely to remain closed for some considerable time. Please refer to media outlets for updates.

Avoid Tamil protestors today. Maybe in thirty-five years time, we will be shouting Tamil slogans in the ICA galleries.

5 responses to “Slogan slogan slogan, shout shout shout

  1. The Chilean slogan “The workers united will never be defeated” was chanted at the rallies in Ponders End in support of the sacked Visteon workers.
    I think it made more sense there than at the ICA.

  2. Hi Grim and Dim,
    I agree with you the chant/slogan you mention (which is common to all of Latin America) makes more sense in a rally. Though how effective it still is.. I’m not so sure. The whole point of the workshop was precisely based around this tricky relationship between the meaning and the effectiveness of chants in different contexts and times in history. We have focused on the ‘sound qualities’ of original historical material to explore our own experience of those sounds.

    There’s some material in the documentation page of the show if you are interested.

  3. Thanks for the response Leandro. I’m not sure what it means for a slogan to be “effective” – and I’ve shouted an awful lot in my time. At Visteon what was “effective” was maintaining the occupation, building pickets and collecting money. Because the workers dared to occupy and workers outside gave them the solidarity they needed, they won at least a partial victory. Chanting slogans just made us feel good – and thus, hopefully, more likely to do the solidarity work that was required.

    The only case where a slogan is more effective than this would be one where it reflected a widespread popular demand that couldn’t be granted without major political repercussions. “Bread Land Peace” in Russia would be the classic example. “Wont Pay Can’t Pay” during the Poll Tax campaign is another.

  4. Pingback: Latin American Political Chants « * * * * *

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