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Desatorador, performance intervention, 1990—2005—2020.

Emilio Santisteban

Durational performance artist

Desatorador. performance de Emilio Santisteban
Performance Desatorador de Emilio Santisteban

Photo  © Carola Requena  1990

Performance Desatorador de Emilio Santisteban

Photo © Sergio Urday 2005

Performance Desatorador de Emilio Santisteban

Photo © Sergio Urday 2020

Started in 1990 and concluded in 2020, Desatorador consisted of three activities separated by two fifteen-year periods of inactivity. Its performativity is found in a minimal ritual that establishes, in the public, the sense of a domestic hygiene routine to conjure a kind of ethical cleanliness in the ties between civil society and the state.

In the activities, which last three full-day days, I walked through the great Metropolitan Lima with a sanitary unloader that constitutes the intermediate instrument of the performative that enunciates the performance, proceeding with it to suck my breast (the citizenship), the paternal house (in 2020) and the facades of representative buildings of state powers, control entities and sectoral executors, financial, industrial, commercial, service, media and cultural companies, trade associations, political and non-governmental organizations, churches, institutes of higher education and universities, as well as law enforcement agencies.

The effort of walking long for whole days, the unrest on one's own chest, and the permanent reiteration of the action point to the responsibility that each generation of ordinary citizens has in the political and civic culture of the country from their own home to the most high spheres of power.

A feature of communitas, although pale, can appear in feelings of complicity that may arise among passers-by, before the eloquence of performing a social, cultural and political unobstruction. There is also the risk of unfortunate symbolization, of citizen misunderstanding by blaming others for that —call it underdevelopment, inequity, ineptitude, difficulty, corruption, etc.— whose disruption is conspired in the activity. In the tension between the two, communitas and guilt, there is the struggle between performance and misfortune at every step, between season and season of the destructive behavior. And it is there that the drama is found.


On the other hand, periods of inactivity dissolve into a certain historical citizen inertia, which makes each activity an intergenerational re-attempt to subvert, through a spell, the failure of our political society.

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