A genealogy of affective politics

Visual practices of dissidence in post-dictatorial South America

Estética Extendida

The affective bond may already be identified in the strong role that solidarity played in the networks generated during the raise of the clandestine organizations and that affected both the civil population as well as the political exiled communities abroad. This process culminates in the collectivization of motherhood, implemented by Madres y Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo*3 *( 3 ). During the so-called democratic transition period (that starts in 1983) the first Siluetazo action took place (whose most significant antecedent may be found in Tucumán Arde*4 *( 4 )). The collectivization of motherhood takes a national dimension through this collective artistic action.

This is when the struggle of the relatives of the disappeared became a fight for memory and legal justice and where memorial politics’ practice finally achieves counter history writingstar (* 5 ). Visual politics could be, especially in a context of permanent repression, deturned to become “critical weapons”. Counter history writing practices happened when a collective process (solidarity) starts to articulate its de-identification with the hegemonic narration: the artists as citizens. I will name and include those practices as extended esthetic.

Institutional and governmental memory, as already mentioned, do coexist and melt with non-institutional practices. The latter are mostly time-based, ephemeral or performative and tend to privilege public spaces as context and people’s bodies as medium.

Políticas de aparición I

Let’s start from the end, or better said, from the hic et nunc.

While writing this article I commuted for a short period to the South of the world, between Argentina, Uruguay and Chile; officially in order to deepen my research for my PhD and my work as an artist.

I was born in Switzerland; my father is an exiled from the Uruguayan dictatorship. The common thread of my family is one of a genealogy of exiles. Exiles have determined our displacement on the planet since at least three generations. This is maybe a possible reason why I am attracted to work with it and deconstruct it. Tracing a genealogy is reassuring; it has to do with legitimacy and continuity. But it also means to step into history’s ruptures and acknowledge our own need for a meaningful narration.

My father was born in the exile of his parents. My grandfather was one of the founder members of the communist party in Italy; because of the Mussolini regime he was given political asylum in Uruguay.

Here I am, back (if I may say so) to this very side of the world, looking for more pieces of this human micro-political mosaic.

I am now writing from Buenos Aires, where Loreto and Federico from the Etcétera group*6 *( 6 ) are kindly hosting me. While having an asado and a beer we chat about affective and memorial politics and practices.


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/