Adventures on paper and in travesía : the School of Valparaíso visualizes America, 1965-1984
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Since 1984 faculty at the School of Architecture and Design at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV) have experimented with the concept of the traveling studio. In contrast to the typical, one-off trip abroad undertaken by most schools, the Valparaíso group has made their trips an annual journey into their backyard: the wildernesses of South America. Most importantly, these curriculum-based trips, known as travesías (crossings), are rooted in the School of Valparaíso’s manifesto: Amereida I (1967). This poem emerged from the first travesía of 1965. The revamped School of Architecture at the PUCV had only been up and running for a decade when a group of professors decided to embark on a two-month journey through the wilds of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. This trip was the first opportunity to test their radical philosophy: making poetry the source of their creative process. As they met with locals, installed small-scale works, and elaborated performances, the poetic word was always present. Moreover, this first travesía inspired the participants to collectively write Amereida I, an epic poem that blends the Aeneid, conquest-era chronicles, and abstract drawings of the South American continent. At the heart of Amereida I is a summons to perceive the continent’s abandoned “interior sea” through direct observation and experience. Though many of the School’s activities give poetry a central place, the travesías alone can fully carry out the ambitions outlined in Amereida I. This dissertation explores the arc of inspiration and realization between the first travesía, Amereida I, two exhibitions held at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, and the 1984 travesías. What unites these activities is the South American continent. Over the course of 19 years (1965-1984) the School of Valparaíso visualized America in a number of ways: impromptu murals, drawings within a poem, chalkboard renderings, and finally movement through real space. Through this visual thread I will address several questions about the School of Valparaíso—are they closed off to the world; does their rhetoric resonate beyond their community; and, what are they proposing through their version of America?