Tag Archives: visuality

Ejercitando la Mirada Ch’ixi. Cuatro Semanas en La Paz, Bolivia.

Posted by Guillermo Severiche – MFA Student at Creative Writing in Spanish at NYU

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La función más efectiva del colonialismo, según Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, ha sido la de hacer que las palabras no designen, sino encubran. Los discursos públicos se han convertido, dice también, en formas de no-decir ya naturalizados; y esto luego estalla en actos colectivos violentos e incluso irracionales (pienso en las diferentes manifestaciones que ocurren en el mundo con sus consecuentes muertos y heridos, por ejemplo). Es por eso que las imágenes merecen ser consideradas como fuentes cognoscitivas de alto valor teórico e histórico respecto a su tiempo de producción, ya que pueden decir cosas que las palabras no alcanzan o no tienen permitido presentar. Pero este tiempo no permanece aislado ni ajeno al bagaje de lo que muchos otros hicieron en el pasado: vivimos en un presente poroso, atravesado espontánea y también sistemáticamente por los resabios de los actos benévolos, rebeldes, violentos, opresivos y egoístas de la historia que perviven en lo que vamos haciendo y atestiguando día a día. El presente, dijo Silvia en un encuentro, es una superficie sintagmática en la que los diferentes horizontes políticos y sociológicos vuelven a aparecer todos juntos, apelmazados a veces, contradictorios también.

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Visual Evidence, Historical Memory, & the Production of Knowledge in Post-Franco Spain

Exhumation in NavarraThe application of forensic science to the study of political violence in contemporary Spain has become an integral part of national and local attempts to recuperate and re-narrate an aspect of the country’s history that has often been ignored or simply forgotten: the political violence and forced disappearance of persons both during the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing Fascist dictatorship led by Francisco Franco.  Focusing on the intersection of forensic science, photographic practice, and memory discourse, I began my research in Madrid by contacting anthropologists, photographers, and art historians to discuss the different ways in which visual representations of exhumations of mass graves have been deployed as a strategy for making memory politics and once-silenced experiences with violence more visible within everyday Spanish life.  Many of these discussions revolved around a sense of urgency that was characterized by the need to collect the stories of an aging generation as well as an awareness of the reticence on the part of some to revisit the country’s violent past.  This tension between attempts to remember and desires to forget often became the backdrop to discussions about the role of visuality in present-day negotiations regarding the political and social functions of historical memory in Spanish society.

Recently assuming a more visible, public space, exhumations of mass graves have become sites in which personal testimony, private experience, and the politics of narrating the nation’s past have begun to overlap and coexist.   In fact, the acts of unearthing unmarked graves and exhuming the remains of fusilados have become the conceptual, as well as literal and physical, processes through which narratives about experiences with political violence during the Civil War and the dictatorship are produced.   As material, osteological, and biological evidence of violence is uncovered and made visible, the fosa has become a key site for the production of knowledge regarding Spain’s violent history. Continue reading