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The Disappeared
El Museo Del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue @ 104th Street
February 23 - June 17, 2007

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photogrpahed by
Krisztina Fazekas

(Opposite photo: Art by Marcelo Brodsky Reflects the Viewers at the Museum)

Parents are supposed to die first. Losing a child without the closure of knowing exactly what happened to them and not having a body to bury must be an excruciating agony. All over Latin America there are grandmothers who still do not know what happened to their children and grandchildren. Their children (some of them pregnant women) were plucked from the streets by the military dictatorships that ruled in Latin American from the "late 1950's through the 1980's" and then they simply disappeared.

Marcelo Brodsky Buena Memoria (Good Memory), 1997 (detail)

We have all heard of the grandmothers of the Playa de Mayo, the Argentine mothers and grandmother who meet once a week to demonstrate in Buenas Aires' Playa De Mayo, but people disappeared all over Latin America: in Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Guatemala; Uruguay; and Venezuela.

The North Dakota Museum of Art has organized a traveling art exhibit which is now at the Museum of the Barrio. Here is a quote from their press release:

"El Muse del Barrio, New York’s premier Latino and Latin American cultural institution, will present The Disappeared (Los Desaparecidos) from February 23 – June 17, 2007. This traveling exhibition, organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art and curated by Laurel Reuter, brings together visual artists’ responses to the tens of thousands of persons who were kidnapped, tortured, killed and “vanished” in Latin America by repressive right-wing military dictatorships during the late-1950s to the 1980s.'

"The Disappeared (Los Desaparecidos) gathers 14 contemporary living artists from seven countries in Central and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay and Venezuela), all of whose work contends with the horrors and violence stemming from the totalitarian regimes in each of their nations during the mid- to late-20th century. Some of the artists 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 have lived in countries maimed by endless civil war. These artists whose work is represented in the exhibition are Marcelo Brodsky, Luis Camnitzer, Arturo Duclos, Juan Manuel Echavarría, Antonio Frasconi, Nicolás Guagnini, Nelson Leirner, Sara Maneiro, Cildo Meireles, Oscar Muñoz, Ivan Navarro, Luis González Palma, Ana Tiscornia and Fernando Traverso. Also included is a collaborative installation Identity/Identidad by a collective of 13 Argentinean artists."

Luis González Palma

Luis González Palma

The exhibit is incredibly moving. The art work is beautiful and sad. But the most devastating part of the exhibit are the photos and paintings of the disappeared. These were beautiful young people, many of them pregnant women. What kind of monsters could have kidnapped and murdered these Madonnas? There is also a photo of a river where the disappeared were drugged and thrown from a helicopter to drown.

Marcelo Brodsky

There is one part of the exhibit where there are photos of young couples who were expecting a child when they were abducted. According to the guide who was leading a group of students from Brooklyn's El Puente Academy of Peace and Justice, three children have identified themselves by looking at their faces in the mirror next to the photos of their parents.

Identity/Identidad by a Collective of 13 Argentinean Artists
Photos of the Disappeared with Mirrors In-between for their Also Missing Children

This exhibit should be on everyone’s' to-do list. The United States supported these dictators and as a country we ourselves are showing "tendencies" to just let people disappear with our prison in Guantanamo Bay and our secret prisons in Eastern Europe. You can argue that these prisons are not the same, that we are not executing prisoners without trails. But how do we know that? There is no oversight from our courts if someone should die "accidentally." Either we are a country that believes in the rule of law, or we are not.

Antonio Frasconi
Del la serie Los Desparecidos

Nicolas Guagnini Luis Camnitzer
From the Uruguayan Torture Series

Fernando Traverso
Interveneion urbana en la Ciudad de Rosario Don fotografia
The students viewing the exhibit are from
Brooklyn's El Puente Academy of Peace and Justice

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