Quique Cruz - Quijerema and Archaeology of Memory
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Quique Cruz

Quique Cruz Converts Darkness Into Light with Quijerema and Archaeology of Memory
The artist talks with RootsWorld's Bill Nevins

Quique Cruz sums up the story of his long life journey towards creation of an extraordinary work of art and human testimony called "Archaeology of Memory."

"The day after my nineteenth birthday, I was detained by Pinochet's secret police and spent one month as a desaparecido in the Villa Grimaldi torture center. Later, I spent one long year in four different concentration camps in central Chile. In 1976, I was expelled from the country and was allowed to return safely only towards the end of the dictatorial regime in 1989. It was not until I began a graduate program in Cultural Studies at Stanford University that I started to realize the nature of my past experiences as a survivor from the hands of Pinochet's special secret service. It finally dawned on me that I had been carrying around a fragmented history inside a hermetically sealed suitcase which I had never really wanted to unpack. It was the last suitcase that I had brought into exile, the one that was forgotten in the corner of my memory, hidden probably because of my fear of unwanted demons."

"I feel that one of the most important contributions that I have to offer to the discussion about memory, torture, the relationship between terror and aesthetics, political violence, and survival, is to pick up the pieces and try to assemble the dark puzzle that is the legacy of the dictatorial period"

I first met Quique Cruz one late Spring afternoon a few years ago on the sidewalk outside Berkeley's La Pena Cultural Center, the wonderful performing arts center that has long been a mecca for Bay Area and visiting artists. Quique and fellow Chilean-born musician Rafael Manriquez were getting ready to rehearse and standing in front of the extraordinary mural portraying people's martyr Victor Jara amid a pantheon of progressive and revolutionary heroes. Strikingly, the mural displays Jara's hands as being disconnected from his body but still playing his guitar while Jara smiles and sings.

It was a fitting place to meet two artists who themselves are heroic survivors of the 1973 US-backed General Pinochet-led fascist coup which overthrew Chile's democratically elected government and resulted in the death of Chilean President Salvador Allende and coincided with the death of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

The ensemble Quijerema

Maestro Quique Cruz is a Chilean-born musical composer/multi-instrumentalist and writer who has performed, taught and recorded music since the age of fourteen. In addition, he has created, participated and consulted in multimedia productions involving theater, dance and visual arts and film. He is the leader of the Latino fusion jazz trio Quijerema. Quijerema is a performing arts quartet that celebrates and expands the cultures of the Americas through original music, poetry and multi-media art installations. Members of the ensemble play over thirty instruments, and have performed worldwide and appeared on regional, national and international radio and television. Quijeremá performs in theaters, festivals, museums, cultural centers and other venues. They also perform and conduct workshops for schools. In addition to performance, Quijeremá specializes in scoring music for film.

An NEA Fellow and a Doctoral candidate at Stanford University, Quique Cruz has won many awards. He seems always to be engaged in more than one musical, literary, film, TV or artistic project.

He composed the score called "Tinta Verde," for the documentary film Pablo Neruda, Presente! (Quijerema 2004) He just finished working with noted film composer Mark Adler on the documentary film "The Fall of Fujimori" (2005 Sundance). He is the composer for the new feature film "Pisagua" by noted Chilean filmmaker Cristian Galaz.

Besides performing Latin American folk music and fusion jazz, Cruz has performed onstage and on record with a number of well-known artists including Jackson Browne, Mimi Fariña, Pete Seeger , Jorge Strunz, and Sting.

Cruz has been a research fellow via the Ford Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, working on issues of memory, violence and exile and writing on issues of aesthetics and political violence.

This social research scholarship melded with Quique Cruz's musical art and his own experience as a survivor of political persecution and terror in his multi-media master work, Villa Grimaldi: Archaeology of Memory in Three Cantos. This extraordinary collaborative performance art-piece includes: a musical suite, a book and a documentary film and a multimedia installation. The work gathers the art and the experiences of six artists who were detained in one of the most infamous torture centers during the Chilean military dictatorship of Pinochet: Villa Grimaldi.

For several years, Quique Cruz interviewed, photographed and filmed a group of artists - poets, painters, writers, playwrights, musicians - who have created a narrative that explores the contradictions of terror and aesthetics, the notion of pain and beauty and how to convert darkness into light.

Trailer for the PBS presentation

"Villa Grimaldi: Archaeology of Memory in Three Cantos" is an art installation designed to be exhibited in a museum or cultural gallery, that is a life-changing artistic experience. It is to be hoped that we will soon enjoy national and international presentations of this great work as well as performances by Quique Cruz and Quijerema. - Bill Nevins

More info about the "Villa Grimaldi…"
The ensemble Quijeremá

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