Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis: Pedro Lemebel y Francisco Casas

According to the documentation available on this website —collected through an endeavor that began in 2010— we can confirm that Pedro Mardones Lemebel (1952-2015) and Francisco Casas Silva (1959) formed the collective Yeguas del Apocalipsis (Mares of the Apocalypse) in 1987, in Santiago de Chile. Beginning that same year, they undertook a series of interventions and politico-artistic positions, in different parts of the country, and continued until 1993. Formed while the country remained under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the collective made work throughout the final years of this period and during the Chilean “democratic transition.” In the second half of the nineties, Casas and Lemebel came together at various points to enact a range of actions and events outside of Chile, which, taken together, signify the early and fragmented internationalizing of their work.

In presenting the history of the Yeguas de Apocalipsis, this archive considers not only the artistic actions, but also the varied politico-intellectual alliances that Lemebel and Casas established over the course of their work, as their artistic practice cannot be detached from the social and political juncture at which they took place. The art actions that we present here are those that left a documented trace, and do not cover the total number of appearances by the Yeguas del Apocalipsis (many of them realized spontaneously, and without prior invitation). The heightened importance of physical bodies gave the interventions carried out by Lemebel and Casas the sense of a happening, which allows us to describe their production through the language of performance. However, the word performance implies a certain stance, especially among those who, working from Latin America, seek to produce conceits that trouble the international centers of art. The Yeguas took a critical stance before the art system, mistrusting its models and modes of validation, choosing instead to slip in and out of “performance” as a category. In fact, they didn’t see themselves as part of any literary or artistic tradition, nor did they affiliate themselves with any movement from the era. As a result, their practice occurred outside art institutions, as they chose to privilege alternative settings and the public space of the city.

As with the many alliances forged by the Yeguas de Apocalipsis in the intellectual and political sectors, we consider it fundamental to render visible the associations, positions, and debates that involved Lemebel and Casas as political, historical, and cultural actors. We consider the production of the Yeguas del Apocalipsis to extend beyond the artistic gesture and into a larger narrative of affinities and collaborations. As the documentation here shows, from the beginnings, the interventions created by the Yeguas del Apocalipsis can be considered part of both the unofficial cultural scene and the political movement that opposed the dictatorship and rejected the agreement sealing the “democratic transition.”

In the visual arts, the Yeguas del Apocalipsis established an irreverent relationship to the signature practices and strategies of the highly conceptual “Escena de Avanzada” (an association of Chilean artists united, as delineated by Nelly Richard in the eighties, by certain notions about contemporary art practice). In the literary scene, they associated themselves with a new generation of writers, which included Malú Urriola, Sergio Parra, Carmen Berenguer, Tatiana Cumsille, and Nadia Prado, among others. They also created interventions within the Chilean punk scene, which occurred in alternative spaces of production where a wide variety of musicians, poets, painters, photographers, and videographers could all be found together.

At the same time, the collective’s work complimented and stood in solidarity with human rights associations, civil disobedience, and resistance movements that opposed the military dictatorship. Francisco Casas and Pedro Lemebel were critical interlocutors with and actors in the nascent gay movement in Chile, creating dialogues and alliances with groups like the lesbian-feminist collective Ayuquelén and MOVILH, the Movement for Homosexual Liberation. Casas and Lemebel took a dissident stance toward the official forms of “homosexual militancy,” which focused exclusively on the demand of rights and recognition from the State, encouraging instead an approach that combined the politics of the Left with the politics of desire, denouncing both the violence of the dictatorship and that of the HIV-AIDS crisis.

The Yeguas del Apocalipsis built themselves a grammar of contempt, one that turned out to be socially provocative and intimidating, a language that denounced and rendered visible relationships of power, while leaving space for parody and the corrosive humor of affect. Lemebel and Casas alternated planned actions that relied to a rhetoric of sacrifice with sporadic interventions, ones that appealed to contingency and the anti-solemnic gesture. They turned questions of location and timing into a political act, choosing settings and days according to their symbolic value and national relevance. However, as the testimonials in the archive allow us to see, many of their interventions occurred without documentation, outside of any formal chronology, remembered only through the orality of urban myth.

As we hope to demonstrate through the documentation made available in this archive, the interventions of the Yeguas de Apocalipsis occurred at decisive, often uncomfortable intersections within the political and cultural landscape at the end of the twentieth century, constituting a key precedent for thinking about the relationship between art, politics, and sexuality from Latin America.