Sebastián Bustamante

Portrait of Sebastián Bustamante

Sebastián is a British-Chilean artist-photographer, curator and researcher based in Abergavenny and Birmingham. Sebastian has exhibited in various venues in the UK including in London, Essex and Bristol and has had his photography published in news media. He has also had his research on art published in academic journals and online academic blogs. Sebastian’s principal research focuses are on memory, place, archives, and identity. Sebastián worked at the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America from 2015-2018 where he researched and taught on art from Latin America as well as curated displays and exhibitions. In 2006 Sebastián began a longitudinal transnational project exploring his identity and the legacies of dictatorships in Latin America utilising archival materials and his photography, incorporating his scholarship on the interstice between art, memory, and activism in his project El Otoño.


El Otoño

A civic-military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet seized control of Chile on 11 September 1973, abruptly ending Salvador Allende’s “Chilean Road to Socialism.” The Pinochet regime began an extensive terror campaign against leftists and former supporters of Allende. Dreams of a more egalitarian society ended on that day. Economic violence echoed widespread state brutality including kidnapping, arbitrary arrests, torture, executions, and enforced disappearances. Exiles who managed to escape maintained the dream of Allende’s short-lived socialist experiment. My own experience as a next-generation exile nurtured a certain longing for Chile in me. During a trip to Chile in 2006, Augusto Pinochet died weeks after I arrived resonating with Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch – El Otoño del patriarca (1986), a novel which narrates the life and death of an eternal dictator.

Material presented in this exhibition belongs in the interstitial space of exile. My attempts to understand the complexities of this fractured place and time reflects Julio Cortazar’s seminal 1968 novel Rayuela (Hopscotch), which broke boundaries by activating readers and making them hopscotch through the book, jumping from chapter to chapter. The figures I encountered in Chile, such as the relatives of the disappeared, experience a different liminality, unable to bury and mourn their missing whose fate is still unknown after 30 years after the dictatorship ended. El Otoño attempts to honour the missing, those who stayed, those who left, and those still trying to build a better future.