Nicolás Franco

Yesterday and Today

2013, printed 2019

Not on display

Nicolás Franco born 1973
Original title
Ayer y Hoy
53 photographs, inkjet prints on paper, mounted on foamboard
Frame: 404 × 303 × 35 mm (each)
displayed: variable
Presented by Juan Yarur Torres in honour of Diana Yarur Sabal 2020


The Chilean artist Nicolás Franco’s work Yesterday and Today 2013 consists of fifty-three photographic prints that can be arranged in variable configurations including a grid or a straight line. They depict the artist’s experimentation with remnants from the pages of the propaganda photobook Chile: Ayer Hoy (Chile: Yesterday Today), from which the work takes its name. Published in 1975, two years after the military coup in Chile that removed the first democratically elected president in the world, Salvador Allende, the publication is notable for its use of photography and a clean graphic identity to formally represent the benefits of the new regime. In a series of black and white photographs with simple textual description, each double-page spread of the book illustrates scenes of disorder and chaos under Allende’s government (labelled ‘ayer’, meaning yesterday) on the left, contrasted with images of supposed peace and prosperity under the General Pinochet regime (labelled ‘hoy’, meaning today) on the right. Working with this notable example of the genre of propaganda photobooks, Franco removed the images from each page and used the remaining pieces of paper, the ‘frame’ of the original images, to create geometric shapes by folding the sheets in different formations. He then photographed the resulting shapes. In every instance Franco ensured that the words for ‘yesterday’ and ‘today’ remain visible. By repurposing a pre-existing object that was used for propaganda purposes and transforming it into abstract forms, Franco performed a conceptual process that literally and metaphorically folds and reimages time and history. In a text published on the artist’s website about this work, the art historian Paz López has explained:

Leaving those two words visible, juxtaposing them, he fractures lineal time –past, present and future – to leave apparent circular time, in which the past and the present seem to be made of the same material. Post-dictatorship Chile is not a present tense experience of complete democracy, but rather it is a wound in which, in every fold of existence, the tragic passions unleashed so efficiently by the 1973 coup, continue to exist.
(Lopez, accessed 8 October 2019.)

Born in the same year as the military overthrow of President Allende, Franco’s wider practice examines the history of dictatorship and political conflict in Chile and within Latin America more widely. Yesterday and Today directly refers to this historical moment. It also draws upon the legacy of geometric abstraction in the history of socialist movements where artists such as Kazimir Malevich (1879–1935) and El Lissitzky (1890–1941) proposed a visual culture devoid of representational images. Much of Franco’s work is process-oriented, with the artist reworking and altering historical photography to explore themes around the representation of history and how this relates to memory and the archive. For Yesterday and Today his decision to make various compositions through folding pages involved a process that marks the passage of time and encourages thoughts about how political history indelibly impacts subsequent generations.

Further reading
Paz López, ‘Yesterday and Today’, available online at, accessed 8 October 2019.
Eugenio Dittborn et al., Nicolas Franco. Obras/Works 2013–2017, exhibition catalogue, CNCA -FONDART, Santiago, Chile 2016.
Heike Munder (ed.), Resistance Performed: An Anthology on Aesthetic Strategies under Repressive Regimes in Latin America, Zurich 2016.

Michael Wellen and Fiontán Moran
October 2019

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