Goodbye to the Chilean queen

On Friday 23 January the Chilean writer, artist and activist Pedro Lemebel died of cancer. One of the most important and provocative queer voices of Latin America, Lemebel’s anti-establishment writings and performances are landmark works. Diamela Eltit, Visiting Simón Bolívar Professor at the Centre of Latin American Studies, wrote this piece on him (published originally in Spanish in the Chilean magazine “The Clinic”) and has kindly agreed to its posting on our blog. To see a list of works by and on him held at the Library, please click here.

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Pedro Lemebel (second from left) in conversation, 2011 (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons, click to enlarge).

It seems unreal writing about Pedro Lemebel, when only a few days have elapsed since his death. Perhaps it isn’t real, as in the world of the arts the notion of death remains ambiguous. This is precisely because, faced with absence, there remains the presence of an oeuvre that is very much still there – alive, available and ready to inhabit the varied presents of the future.

Las yeguas del apocalípsis (1987) signalled the founding of a collective (Pedro Lemebel and Francisco Casas) that would reveal the transvestite body as both the object and subject of critical intervention. Their performance art, staged in various ways, maintained a relationship with their predecessors, who had portrayed the homosexual body from an aesthetically challenging perspective. Continue reading