The Presentness of Grief: A Case Study of the Argentinean Memorial Park Installations

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In the context of current debates around guilt and responsibility raised in response to the Argentinean last dictatorship (1976-1983), this piece offers a critical approach to the installations built at the “Parque de la memoria” (Memorial Park, 2001), a public space that has been created as a site of remembrance of the victims of State Terrorism. Located on the banks of the River Plate where most of the 30,000 “disappeared” where thrown, the park not only includes a huge monument that holds the names of the victims, but also it encompasses several sculptures. Within an international contest, a renowned jury selected 12 among 665 artistic projects presented from 44 different countries. This paper will focus on three of these artworks: Pieta Argentina, by Rini Hurkmans (Holland), Reconstruction of the portrait of Pablo Miguez, by Claudia Fortes (Argentina), and Spatial memory, by Per Kirkeby (Denmark). Since the official purpose of the sculptural park is keeping the memory alive for future generations, I will explore to what extent these particular artworks embody an affective interpellation of the local audience. Assuming that making trauma present is opposed to simply representing it, I will make the case that memory can only arise as a new story of the ‘now’ through a performative engagement with the viewers. For if the capacity to grieve becomes a point of departure to furnish a new political community (Butler, 2004), I will explore how and in which terms the installations are able to challenge the idea of memory as a duty (Derrida, 2001). The main hypothesis of the article is that Argentina has gone through a successful experience of grieving that has transformed the whole society. In particular, it argues that the work of mourning is still being negotiated though bodily transactions addressed in the now-time.


Keywords: Memory, Mourning, Performative, Affects
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Cecilia Sosa

PhD Student, Department of Drama, University of London
London, UK

Since my graduation in Sociology in 1998 (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 9/10 overall score), I started an ascendant career in cultural journalism, specialized on theatre, arts, and visual performance. In 2007, the British Council awarded me with a Chevening Scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies in the UK. In September 2008 I completed the MA in Critical and Creative Analysis at the Sociology Department of Goldsmiths (dissertation mark: 85%). I am currently doing my PhD in Drama at Queen Mary (University of London) where I have become engaged with a performative paradigm to understand the Argentinean recent past from a novel perspective. I am researching my home-country unusual experience of mourning through an experimental “archive of feelings” that will cover a wide range of genres: visual artwork, memoirs, interviews, films, theatrical and non-theatrical performances. This archive will help me to grasp the formation of a new public culture across different generations. My research interests lie at the core of the untended linkages between theatricality and political intervention, trauma and kinship, body-gendered and queer performance.

Ref: A09P0207