Fernando Sánchez Castillo
Rich Cat Dies of Heart Attack in Chicago, 2003
Video, sound, 22 min
Courtesy of the artist
On 13 December 1968, Brazil adopted its Institutional Act 5 which gave President Artur da Costa e Silva full legislative powers. Soon after the Congress was dismissed, the Constitution was suspended, and mass arrests swept the country. Just then the big Brazilian newspaper Correio da Manhã published an article Rich Cat Dies of Heart Attack in Chicago. Official censorship prohibited any mention of real events connected with the state coup and the paper had to release an improbable story such as this as a kind of declaration: if the government prohibits to publish the truth about real events in the country the only thing left to the press is to write about absurd things.

In his lm Castillo tries to create a visual representation of the state coup in Brazil which was impossible at the time due to severe censorship. In the absence of evidence about those events the nation's traumatic experiences can be either demonstratively silenced or expressed through allegories bordering on the absurd. To the accompaniment of music by Bach, Handel, Brahms, and other composers a weird game is going on, a game of politics or rather with politics: a brass head of an overthrown leader is pushed down a staircase, played with as if it were a football, thrown into a pit, rammed into the ground with a tractor. The horrible events of the coup have been reconstructed in an interesting way, as dramatization of playing and ritual actions. It is as if Castillo visualizes the ideas of Johan Huizinga, who includes war and politics into expressions of so-called homo ludens – the playing nature of human. The absurdities we see on the screen convey a protest against historical oblivion and invented historical memory. This visual interpretation of the national trauma caused by the coup, the military regime and the forced silencing of those events, creates a striking awareness of its magnitude.
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