When talking about memorial politics, especially in South America, it is almost impossible to dismiss and consequently not to acknowledge affective politics as the non-institutional origin of memorial politics. In this article I specifically refer to the last military dictatorships in South America during the decades of the 1970’s and 1980’s. During this period state terrorism was implemented and many people, mostly youngsters, were tortured, murdered and victims of enforced disappearance. The enforced disappearance practice resulted in the birth of the victims’ relatives groups, which in time became a social struggle for truth and justice (as they call it). The first term, truth, demands the state to clarify and investigate the circumstances in which the people disappeared. While the second term, justice, refers to the amnesty of the military junta (Colectivo Cultural Entreletras 2006 (* 6 )).
Within the genealogy of affective politics exists a continuation or a common thread (if not even a convergence), between guerrilla visual practice and the struggle of the relatives of the disappeared, which also achieves an intense use of visuals. This same convergence becomes what we in the present day know as memorial politics in its complexities, in which the governmental politics of memory and civilian practices are inextricably melted together (especially in case of Argentina, where the Instituto de la Memoria/Ex-ESMA*1 *( 1 ) is one of the most illustrative examples of this kind of politics).
In fact, if we consider the approach and strategies of the main movements for political dissidence opposing the last dictatorial regimes in Uruguay (such as the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional – Tupamaros and 26 de Marzo), Argentina (i.e. ERP-People’s Revolutionary Army) and Chile (i.e. MIR –Moviemiento Izquierda Revolucionaria), we might already notice how fundamental the role of affect and some kind of artistic-performative practices were.
The huge alphabetization work carried out in Argentina’s poorest suburbs and rural areas as well as in the famous Cárcel del pueblo (the people’s jail) in Uruguay are two among various applications of performative pedagogy and “reality-theater” strategies. Thus, we might claim that the latter were used in order to get attention, create a proactive audience that would, at best, become an actor or supporter of political change.
The Uruguayan artist and theorist Luis Camnitzer suggests in his book Didáctica de la liberación (Camnitzer 2009 (* 5 )) a brilliant and innovative reading of Tupamaros political practices as artistic activism. Camnitzer highlights the context in which art slips into political activism as well as the incredibly high percentage of artists who took part in the movement and who played a fundamental role in applying (more or less consciously) artistic approaches directly to guerrilla action.
From a historic perspective Tupamaros re-contextualized guerrilla (by definition a rural practice) into an urban context. Because of the geographical condition of the country which is almost completely flat, and more importantly has only one big city, Montevideo, in which more than 60 percent of the population lives, a classical guerrilla would never have worked. So Tupamaros were obliged to adapt a guerrilla into the urban context of the capital*2 *(2 ). This implied an almost ontological redefinition of guerrilla itself. According to Camnitzer this redefinition was implemented by the direct juxtaposition of artistic/visual tools and the guerrilla fight (Camnitzer 2009: 25 (* I5 )).