REPETITION ACT: FEMINISM IN FLAMES (ACTO DE REPETICIÓN: EL FEMINISMO EN LLAMAS)
FELIPE RIVAS SAN MARTÍN
A basement. The recorded sound of burning fire fills the room. A row of plastic bags hanging on the wall, with the remains of books burned inside. A black plinth with a book entitled Feminism Without Women covered by a transparent acrylic box. On the floor a black suit and a tie, a metal tray and a matchbox “Los Andes.”
I get into the room slowly, I put the suit over my clothes, take the book and burn it page by page. As the room fills with smoke, the audience reads a brochure with the following text: “What could it mean that eight years ago, some of my books, not all, but only those containing certain words, words like feminism, homosexual, woman, sex, identity, rights, queer, minorities, have been violently burned by my father in the backyard, in Santiago of Chile and then I, having found the charred remains, had saved them in plastic bags and deposited in a wooden box? What might it imply that today myself, dressed in the costume of my father, perform the act of burning one of my books and ritualize that act as a gesture of repetition, to update the burning of a book titled Feminism Without Women?”
Father authority is a performative matter. What does it mean to repeat an act? When you repeat an act of authority, is the result the same as the previous act? Maybe to repeat a violent act in which oneself was violated constitutes something like a psycho-magical performance. When the smoke began to fill the room, the audience started to choke. Someone commented later: “the suffocation that we feel should have been the same drowning and sorrow that Felipe felt.” Sharing an experience with others by forcing them to endure the choking converts the performer artist into a sort of dictator. But at the same time, repetition is never true to the original, in copies there are always a leak that betrays and subverts power. The book I’m burning is entitled Feminism Without Women. It’s a queer and post-feminist book. It’s a book written by my friends, where I write myself, a book for which I have great appreciation and political commitment. Then, to burn that book is not simply a repetition of (homophobic, patriarchal, gender) power. A burning book is not just a burned book, it is also a book that can generate a fire.