Leonardo Portus’s current exhibition at the Museo de Artes Visuales (MAVI) has been receiving much-deserved praise and attention. Estación Utopía (Utopia Station) has a compelling blend of gorgeous visuals, nostalgia, and history. Naturally, I add myself to that list. Any exhibition that includes dollhouse-like models always wins my heart. Moreover, Portus has accomplished a tremendous feat: transforming Metro de Santiago into an object of admiration. As it is the metro is still struggling to be seen as a comfortable experience since rush hour has the attendants stuffing passengers into the cars like sardines. Perceiving the metro as something beautiful is indeed a utopian fantasy.
One of the most notable elements to the show was the introductory wall text. I freely admit that I rarely read these words. But questions one doesn’t know the answer to are irresistible. Not only did I read the full text, I also translated it for your reading pleasure.
Did you know that the original name for the first station of Line 1 of the Metro, which would have been inaugurated by President Salvador Allende at the end of 1973, was “Violeta Parra”? Did you know that it was finally inaugurated in 1975 and this original name was changed to San Pablo? Did you know that the original route of the Metro’s Line 1 went to the Tobalaba Station in order to turn towards Vitacura and finally end at the Remodelación San Luis, an unrivalled public housing project from the Unidad Popular government, located in the Las Condes comuna and which today only some deteriorated blocks survive?
We have asked these and many more questions in order to know this history, which is unknown to so many. These are the points of departure for this project, mediated through the language of uchronia, applied to three models of fictitious Metro stations.
We could travel to a parallel reality where the modernist experiment of integrating art and architecture with a strong social stamp, which Chile lived up to the beginning of the 1970s, manifests; today we only have eloquent testimonies, like the project of the ceramic, kinetic mural in the underground passage of Carmen with Alameda, by the artists Vial, Ortuzar, and Bonatti; or the ensemble of contemporaneous works with the UNCTAD III building. All of these were examples of an anterior future that looks at us from a past, which summons us as a society.