Posted: 12 May 2016 by Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning

Our recent week of events Argentina 1976-2016: Activism, Memorialisation and Complicity (7-10 March) created an opportunity for us to explore our holdings of art from Argentina. This week took the 40 year anniversary of the last military coup in Argentina as its starting point. The subsequent dictatorship (1976-1983) was an incredibly violent time in the country’s history resulting in killings, kidnapping, torture, illegal adoption of children and enforced disappearances.

We have a number of artworks in our collection which reflect on human rights, memory, accountability and justice in Argentina. We exhibited some artworks made during and after 1976. Our week of events on Argentina gave us the chance to further research our art from Argentina and we realised the important role art and artists played in challenging authoritarianism and its legacies in post-dictatorship Argentina.

Taking works by Fernando Traverso and Grupo Escombros as a starting point, art, activism and the city emerged as the first theme of the week. We invited speakers whose talks included ‘Art and Direct Action’ by Dr Gavin Grindon (University of Essex); ‘Return to the Street? Choices and Challengers in the study of Argentine protest art’ By Dr Holly Ryan (University of Sheffield) and ‘New affectivities on Stage, Contemporary Interventions in Argentina’s Aftermath of Violence’ by Dr Cecilia Sosa (CONICET, Argentina). This session allowed our audience to connect with recent research on Argentine art, activism and politics.

Our second theme, inspired by León Ferrari’s Never Again (1995) collages and Marisa Rueda’s They Also Pray (undated) sculpture, was complicity. The Catholic Church’s role in human rights abuses in Argentina is something that Rueda and Ferrari both directly challenged in their work and Ferrari also depicts key economic actors in his Never Again series. We collaborated with the Essex Transitional Justice Network on an afternoon of talks and a discussion panel. Professor Sabine Michalowski, Professor Sheldon Leader and Paula Fiorini presented and discussed on the theme of complicity and transitional justice, especially focusing on new research being done on economic complicity during the last Argentine dictatorship.

We closed the week with an ESCALA and School of Philosophy and Art History hosted seminar by Professor Vikki Bell (Goldsmiths, University of London) who discussed the work of Graciela Sacco and Marcelo Brodsky work in ‘Imagine this: Art as a Forum for Truth-Telling about the Violent Past.’ Those at the seminar were also given a chance to see a short film Professor Bell made of Brodsky remaking his work 1st year, 6th Division, 1967 (1996) for the Tate in 2014.

This event helped us bring together researchers and reconnect with our artists. It also led to meaningful collaborations for exchanging ideas across a number of disciplines. We would like to thank our artists, collaborators, students, colleagues and audiences for helping us with this week.

To see photographs of our exhibition see our Flickr page.

To read the curatorial text click here

Click here to see the event page with a full listing of speakers and themes.

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