GUATEMALA CITY.- The Disappeared brings together the work of twenty-seven living artists from South America who, over the course of the last thirty years, have made art about los desaparecidos or the disappeared. These artists have lived through the horrors of the military dictatorships that rocked their countries in the mid-decades of the twentieth century. Some worked in the resistance; some had parents or siblings who were disappeared; others were forced into exile. The youngest were born into the aftermath of those dictatorships. And still others live in countries maimed by endless civil war. Disappearance was inevitably linked to torture. Laurel Reuter, curator of the exhibition and director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, was struck by the timelessness and truthfulness of the art. For example, when Identidad, a collaborative installation made by thirteen Argentinean artists, opened in Buenos Aires, three people discovered their long-hidden identities. They had been taken at birth from those who opposed the government and adopted into military families. Through their art, these artists fight amnesia in their own countries as a stay against such atrocities happening again.
Artists in exhibition:
Marcelo Brodsky, Luis Camnitzer, Arturo Dulcos, Juan Manuel Echavarría, Antonio Frasconi, Nicolas Guagnini, Sara Maneiro, Cildo Meireles, Oscar Muñoz, Ivan Navarro, Luis Gonzáles Palma, Ana Tiscornia and Fernando Traverso.
Collaborative work by Argentinean artists Carlos Alonso, Nora Aslán, Mireya Baglietto, Remo Bianchedi, Diana Dowek, León Ferrari, Rosana Fuertes, Carlos Gorriarena, Adolfo Nigro, Luis Felipe Noé, Daniel Ontiveros, Juan Carlos Romero & Marcia Schvartz.
Having just turned forty, Marcelo Brodsky found himself back in Argentina after having lived in Spain for many years. This new beginning was an opportune time to work on his identity. According to Brodsky, "Photography, with its precise ability to freeze a point in time, was the tool I used for this purpose." With a desire to know what had become of his class mates, Brodsky began to go through photographs of his youth. A 1967 eighth-grade class photo was selected and used as the centerpiece for Buena Memoria.
"I decided to hold a 25th reunion of my classmates from the Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires," said Brodsky "so that we could see each other again. I invited those who I was able to find to my house, and proposed doing a portrait of each of them. I blew up a huge version of the 1967 picture, the first one in which we were all together, to serve as a backdrop for the portraits, and asked each to include an element of his or her current life in their portrait."
Uruguayan Torture Series
suite of 35 etchings
Some years ago I began to think of art as a political instrument. In the late 1960s, I started making political art, declarative work. To me, that was not satisfying because any possibility of mystery disappears as soon as the artist makes a clear statement. That produced a big crises in me. Gradually I learned to elicit creativity from the viewer instead of promoting my own creativity. This art is not about me; its about you. I just set the stage. A little later, I faced the situation in Uruguay. I moved there, from Germany where I was born, at age one. Then in 1964 I came to the United States. A de facto dictatorship had begun in Uruguay in 1969 and was made legal in 1973. I was a militant student; most of my friends ended up in jail, in torture. Meanwhile, I was in New York, very comfortable, relatively wealthy.
I developed thirty-five etchings for this suite, most do not overtly depict violence. Instead I try to produce a situation in which neither the image nor the text reveal too much. Only when they are seen together does something happen. The etchings feature everyday objects rather than exotic information from somewhere else. I photographed them in my basement. The body parts, my own. The image and text are relatively meaningless in themselves. Once they click together, an insight occurs about the violence. That configuration is not just about being tortured, empathizing with the victim, but also with the torturer and oneself as accomplice.
Untitled is constructed of 66 human femur bones screwed together to form a fragile Chilean flag. It is a continuation of an artistic investigation called The Anatomy Lesson, where a gathering of human bones painted with colored symbols lies scattered on a white towel on the floor. Untitled is a sad and eloquent representation of a nation that did not protect its citizens. It is a gesture I have tried to comprehend. I have looked for a body (or shape) with which to endow the flag of Chile, and I found it in human bones.
NN (no name)
I found this mannequin abandoned in a courtyard of an old textile factory in Bogota. It was a mannequin of a child. Made of burlap and plaster, it caught my attention. I took it to my home and kept it for nine years until I decided to bring it out again.
I photographed this mannequin as if I was doing an emotional autopsy, looking closely at the different parts of the body and its different wounds. It was a body that I immediately associated with the mass graves and the massacres, which keep occurring in Colombia. Here was a corpse that presented cuts that could have been done by machete and other cutting instruments. This childs body became a metaphor of mutilation.
In the long history of Colombias violence, massacres keep repeating, accompanied by mutilations of the corpses. These mutilations have been known as cortes or cuts. In the 1950s the cuts took place in the countryside in a war between conservative and liberal peasants. Among the many different cuts there was one named picadillo de tamal (tamal being a national dish and picadillo meaning minced). In this corte the body was cut into small pieces so the identification of the body was erased.
Today the paramilitary forces in the countryside have continued these practices. In some massacres the stomach of the victim is cut open and disemboweled so the body when thrown into the river sinks to the bottom. Other corpses that are thrown into the rivers float and if the vultures do not eat them, the corpse that are rescued are buried under a cross written with the words NN (no name).
Juan Manuel Echavarría