A genealogy of affective politics

Visual practices of dissidence in post-dictatorial South America

Similarly to the Siluetazo movement (or Silhouettes), the Tupamaros performative practice eventually enters into political activism history and not into art history. Ana Longoni and Gustavo Bruzzone analyzed Siluetazo’s history and its positioning in political activism history, claiming an acknowledgment of this movement into art history in their book El Siluetazo (Longoni and Bruzzone 2007star (* 8 )).

“The realization of silhouettes is the most memorable of the artistic-political practices that lent a potent visuality to the public space of Buenos Aires and many other cities of the country on the demands of the human rights movements in the early 1980s. This consists of a simple design in the form of the outline of a man-sized body on paper, later pasted on the city walls as a way of representing the „presence of an absence of the thousands of prisoners who disappeared during the last military dictatorship.” (Longoni 2007star (* 9 ))

The Siluetazo and Tupamaros practice witness a shift between art and political activism. In the case of Siluetazo the movement can be characterized by a slip of artistic practice into political activism, whereas in the Tupamaros case the opposite movement seems to take place, since political practice shifts into artistic production.

Besides an epistemological question regarding the boundaries of each discipline, this dialectic arises, more importantly, a reflection on the historicization moment which ultimately implies the legitimization of one single practice within a precise field: in this case political history or art history (which generally has a hard time to recognize such practices due to the implicit re-questioning of its own specificities).

Thus, on the one hand we are witnessing an attempt to reflect and legitimize interventionist art as such into the hegemonic narration of art history which is reluctant to acknowledge them (for sure structural difficulties arise also when the mainstream system agrees to legitimize them, most of the time by trying to assimilate them). On the other hand, we also witness the opposite phenomena, trying to decode an artistic value into political activism.

It seems, at least in the post-dictatorial, South American context, that artistic and political tools and methodologies have a strong tendency to intertwine. In addition, this interaction is more likely to entangle under critical political conditions.

This article focuses its analysis on the Argentinean case, which might be considered as the clearest and most illustrative example of affective politics. Therefore I will trace a possible genealogy on the basis of this study case. The main reason behind this choice resides in the fact that nowadays Argentina is the only country that abolished the amnesty law and opened trials (juicios) against the military junta. This achievement was only possible thanks to society’s endurance demonstrating during the past decades.

The purpose of this article is to trace (or rather to imagine) a possible genealogy of those different paths to articulate cultural dissidence, in order to make visible where they met and are inextricably bound together.

In the following sections I will further elaborate on the question of affective politics; from the guerrilla movements to the struggle of the relatives of the disappeared and their specific use of visuals as well as the collaboration with art collectives.


Agamben, Giorgio (1995): Homo sacer: Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita. Giulio Einaudi editore.


Alberro, Alexander/Stimson, Blake (1999): Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.


Avelar, Idelber (1999): The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning (Post-Contemporary Interventions). Duke University Press.


Calloni, Stella (2006): OPERACION CONDOR: Pacto criminal. Editorial Sciencias sociales.


Camnitzer, Luis (2009): Didáctica de la liberación. CENDEAC.


Colectivo Cultural Entreletras (2006): Memoria, Verdad y Justicia. A los 30 años x los treinta mil:.Editorial Baobab.


Hollander Nancy (2010): Uprooted Minds. Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas Caro. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.


Longoni, Ana/Bruzzone, Gustavo (2007): El Siluetazo. Los Sentidos Artes Visuales.


Longoni, Ana (2007): El Siluetazo (The Silhouette): On the Border between Art and Politics. Sarai Reader 07 Frontiers.


Margulies, Phillip (2006):The Writ of Habeas Corpus. The Right to Have Your Day in Court. The Rosen Publishing Group.


Taylor, Diana (2003): The Archive and the Repertoire. Performing cultural memory in the Americas. Duke University Press.

ESMA’s (NavyMechanicSchool) history from detention camp to human right headquarter and museum, online: http://www.memoriaabierta.org.ar/eng/camino_al_museo3.php.

According to Camnitzer this redefinition of the guerrilla practice passes through art performativity (Camnitzer 2009: 79–83).

Grandmothers association; online: http://www.abuelas.org.ar/english/history.htm ; Mothers associations, online: http://www.madres.org/navegar/nav.php and Mothers funding line, online: http://www.madresfundadoras.org.ar/pagina/whoweare/85.

“Tucumán Arde” is the name of a project by an artist collective in Argentina which started in 1968. The artists conceived art as an effective instrument for social change, and through the Tucuman Arde project they sought to bring the distressed social conditions of the Tucuman province to the attention of a large public. The project was conceived of as an intervention in mass communication, a circuit of counter information against the official one of the dictatorship (Alberro and Stimson 1999).

Actually, nowadays it would probably be more correct to talk about post-dictatorial fiction(s) rather than
politics of memory as Idelber Avelar (1999) suggests.

Grupo Etcetera, online: http://grupoetcetera.wordpress.com/about/

Instead of the ritualistic protest and mourning of the Madres, H.I.J.O.S organize carnivalesque escrache or acts of public shaming. The word escrache is etymologically related to scracè= expectorar, meaning roughly “to expose”. (…) Because H.I.J.O.S entered the public arena more than a decade after the fall of military, they can afford to be more confrontational in their use of technique and public space.(…) Still their tactics serve to identify individuals responsible for gross crime against humanity. The performatic interruption, no matter how unwelcome, does not threaten their life. Like the Madres and Abuelas, H.I.J.O.S claim institutional justice, not private vengeance. (Taylor 2003:p.180-183)

The H.I.J.O.S (sons and daughters of disappeared people) association, online:http://www.hijos-capital.org.ar/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21

Arde!Arte group, online: http://www.ardearte.com.ar/

An author that extensively wrote about this subject is Stella Calloni (2006) which is strongly recommend in order to further deepen investigation on the Condor Plan. For more general information please consult: Explanation of the Condor Operation and the United States: A Network of Southern Cone Assassination and American Avoidance 2005, online: http://www.oocities.org/thadoc78/Operation_Condor.htm and Deep politics forum community, online: https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/showthread.php?963-Operation-Condor.

The picana (was) an electrified prod used on sensitive body parts such as genitals and temples (…)
The Picana symbolized their (the torturers) eroticized violence and power. Just as weapons in every culture have symbolized masculinity, the picana crystallized the phallocentricity of the torture ritual. (Caro  Hollander 2010: p.115)

The writ of habeas corpus is an order written by a judge, demanding that a prisoner be brought to the
court so that the judge can decide whether the person is being lawfully imprisoned. (Margulies 2006: p.7)

Giulia Cilla (2013): A genealogy of affective politics. Visual practices of dissidence in post-dictatorial South America. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten #02 , https://www.p-art-icipate.net/a-genealogy-of-affective-politics/