Performative Testimonial Practices: Teatro Testimonial in Postdictatorship Chile
in Versus n. 116, Politiche della memoria. Uno sguardo semiotico, pp.107-128
In this article, I explore and interrogate from a semiotic point of view the ways embodied practices can potentially provide an expressive, productive and even restorative outlet for the after effects of past trauma. I propose the concept of testimonial practices to describe a performative re-elaboration of testimonies that seeks to externalize, share and cope with trauma from an embodiment perspective. I will examine a post-conflict theatre variety developed in postdictatorship Chile called teatro testimonial that performs testimonies on scene to problematize if and how these practices externalize painful experiences and construct collective bodily memories. I start by comparing the emblematic Latin-American literary genre, testimonio, with European testimonial narratives to distinguish the particular heritage that testimonio delivered to teatro testimonial. I then critically oppose the semiotic characteristics of testimonial texts and testimonial practices in order to identify the specificity of embodied strategies in the (re)presentation of traumatic experiences. I finally analyze three pieces of Chilean teatro testimonial that illustrate distinctive characteristics of testimonial practices, namely the intersubjective re-tracing of traumatic experiences, the resistance to archivialization and the desire for indexicality.