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Policia del Karma

Policía del Karma

Although Policía del Karma is clearly set in Chile’s capital city, its criss-crossed temporalities and alternative histories plunge us into an unfamiliar ‘uchronia’. Its grotesque human-machine hybrids are a result of the naked harnessing of human energy and sexuality to serve the aims of the secret police, who have dedicated themselves to hunting down citizens for crimes committed in a past life. In its use of scientific and technological advances to subdue and pursue its citizens, the state acts without any reference whatever to ethics. While this is a common theme in dystopic visions of the future, it is given a specific political edge here: Baradit and Cáceres claim in the epilogue that technology is never questioned but simply used, ‘as it is today in Latin America, where technology is used without the experience of producing it, as if we were still tribespeople staring in wonder at a mirror’.

With echoes of Matrix and Minority Report, this graphic novel is also anchored in the Latin American context by references to local figures and a particular blend of religious syncretism, combining Andean mythology – child sacrifice, native psychedelic plants – with the zealous Christianity of the Crusades and the Inquisition. Science, myth and religion come together to form a terrifying priesthood of power. The sepia tints of much of the artwork lend a grimy tone to this techno-spiritual regime and set into relief the precisely drawn studies of bodily human suffering. Polícia del Karma counters fantasies about the transcendence of the body that have accompanied our entry into cyberspace. There is nothing virtual or simulated about the industrial-era machines to which humans are brutally tethered here: everything is agonizingly corporeal.

Text: Joanna Page

Script: Jorge Baradit
Illustration: Martín Cáceres
Policía del Karma (Santiago: Ediciones B, 2011)
Reproduced with permission