D.4 Documentary Photography and Film in Cold War Latin America

thu Oct 21 / jeu 21 oct / 11:30 – 13:00 PDT
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  • Florencia San Martín, California State University, San Bernardino

"Cold War terror in Latin America fortified liberal forces, militarized societies, and broke the link between freedom and equality," wrote historian Greg Grandin in his 2004 book, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War. In an era where US-backed military dictatorships and civil wars resulted in the exile, torture, death, and disappearance of millions, many democracies in Latin America begun the process of turning themselves into neoliberal states, promoting individual and private values supported by multinational corporations. As a response, many photographers and filmmakers took to the streets, protesting through the camera neoliberal repression, US imperialism, human massacre, and a new idea of global freedom. This panel invites contributions on the ways in which documentary photography and film critically addressed the idea of Latin America in the Cold War, engaging in discussions including neoliberalism, human violence, imperialism, and media.

Florencia San Martín (she, her, ella) is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Global Cultures at California State University, San Bernardino. She teaches and writes about contemporary art and culture from the Americas, decolonial methodologies, and theories on memory, race, gender, and the neoliberal present. Her work has appeared in ASAP/J, Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, TRANSMODERNITY: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, ILLAPA Mana Tukukuq, The Poiésis, and Seismopolite Journal of Art and Politics. Her research has been supported by institutions including the Patricia and Phillip Frost Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Rutgers University, and CONICYT, and she has been invited to talk at international institutions, including the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China, the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín in Colombia, and the Centro de Estudios de Arte in Santiago, Chile. Florencia is currently working on three book projects: a monograph based on her dissertation titled The Decolonial Project of Alfredo Jaar; a co-edited two-part volume on Chilean contemporary art; and the volume The Routledge Companion to Decolonizing Art History, which she is co-editing with Tatiana E. Flores and Charlene Villaseñor Black for Routledge. She also serves on the editorial boards of Visual Studies, The Poiésis, and Arts/MDPI, and was New York Coordinator for Art Nexus from 2017 to 2020.

D.4.1 "Somos más": Women's Protest, Visuality, and the Expanding Field of Photography in 1980s Chile

Ángeles Donoso Macaya, Borough of Manhattan Community College/The Graduate Center, CUNY

This presentation takes up an important question posed by Sarah Bassnett, Andrea Noble, and Thy Phu in their introduction to a special issue of Visual Studies on the visual legacies of the Cold War. There, the authors ask, "What can be seen, what can be known and, conversely, what has been obscured and remains to be recognized?" (2015, 119). The Cold War involved a geo-politics of visuality — a visual partition and division of conflicts; it entered the visual field of the West with a small number of images published in US newspapers that showed and rendered the suffering and horror of others — in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and the Congo.

Hence, continuing with the formulations I develop in my book The Insubordination of Photography (2020), in this presentation, I want to explore the visual archive of women-led movements that re-emerged in Chile during the dictatorship. My exploration starts with two simple ideas: 1) the circulation of similar or repetitive images published in independent media and feminist alternative media (zines, newsletter, bulletins) helped to expand feminist/women-led protests both in space and in time; 2) this visual expansion, in turn, enabled other ways of seeing and of enunciating "the protest"—this was the "women's protest" (la protesta de las mujeres). My analysis emphasizes the repetitive and record-like quality of the images and also highlights the occasional presence of other photographers in the frame, as aspects that allow us to appreciate and consider this visual expansion. Apropos the visualities enabled and disabled by the macro-narrative of the Cold War, I argue that the feminist/women-led protests of 1980s Chile, a movement that opened up and even transformed the public space at the local level, also incite us to interrogate the ways of seeing and of naming the Cold War regionally.

Ángeles Donoso Macaya is an immigrant professor, researcher, and community organizer from Santiago, Chile, based in New York City. She is a Professor of Spanish at The Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, 2020–22 Faculty Lead of Archives in Common: Migrant Practices/Knowledges/Memory, part of the Andrew W. Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research at The Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and a 2020–21 Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellow. Ángeles has published extensively about contemporary Latin American photography, visual arts, documentary film and contemporary literature. Her research centers on Latin American photography theory and history, counter-archival production, human rights activism, and feminisms. She is the author of The Insubordination of Photography: Documentary Practices under Chile's Dictatorship (University of Florida Press 2020; awarded Best Book in Visual Culture, Latin American Studies 2021), translated as La insubordinación de la fotografía (Metales Pesados, 2021). Ángeles is a member of the NYC-based feminist collective NiMuertasNiPresas and of colectiva somoslacélula.

D.4.2 Artists Archiving Memory

Tamara Toledo, York University

The war on terrorism declared by a brutal dictator over its citizens who opposed his regime did not silence the many artists and art activations that spread throughout Chile during the late 1970s and 1980s. Trained at the US School of Americas in Panama — where other notorious human rights abusers gained their expertise and Washington's administration's support to continue the spread of Cold War politics and neoliberal agendas — the dictator made it his personal mission to oppress voices of dissidence and struggle. Despite the thousands of tortured, disappeared and exiled victims, artists found the courage to overcome and challenge fear and silence through performance, intervention, and photography. Radical expressions that addressed the erosion of human rights, and operating within state surveillance, artists used ideas and language to critique repressive structures. They developed an aesthetics that not only voiced opposition but played an important role in the evolution of collective memory during a historical moment when denial, refusal, and erasure were promulgated. With photography as its main archival resource, hidden messages, new codes of representation, and experimental art forms emerged. Ephemeral activations were documented through photography as the only way to keep its memory alive. This paper will discuss the complex hidden visual languages used by artists in order to undermine a repressive dictatorship and how their work continues to influence forms of resistance today.

Tamara Toledo is a curator and PhD candidate in Art History and Visual Culture at York University. Co-founder of Latin American Canadian Art Projects-LACAP, Toledo has curated numerous solo and group exhibitions as well as the Latin American Speakers Series. Her practice follows an interdisciplinary, intercultural, and intersectional approach, and touches on issues of power, marginality, and representation within diasporic communities. Toledo has presented at conferences in Montreal, New York, Vancouver, Chicago, and Toronto. Her writing has appeared in ARM Journal, C Magazine, Fuse, and Canadian Art. Toledo is currently the Curator/Director of Sur Gallery.

D.4.3 Photography as Screen, Photography as Contract: Time, Memory, and Photographic Exhibits about the Civil Armed Conflict in Peru (Yuyanapaq, 2003) and Uchuraccay by Franz Krajnik (2018)

Daniella Wurst, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

This paper focuses on a comparative reading of the photographic exhibition Yuyanapaq: para recordar (2003) curated by Mayu Mohanna and Nancy Chappel and the 2018 exhibition Uchuraccay by Franz Krajnik (2018). The first exhibition gathered a photographic archive that presented a "visual narrative of the Peruvian Civil Armed Conflict in Peru" and constitutes an important visual archive and effort of reconciliation. Through a close reading, I argue that the curatorial discourse of the exhibition evidences the asymmetry of memorial production in Peru and showcases the tensions of national belonging and the imperative to remember. In contrast, the exhibition Uchuraccay (2018) by Peruvian photography Franz Krajnik revisits one of the most affected regions of past violence and showcases a closer look at how a community engages with the past, dismantling the stigmas about the Andean community that are still prevalent within the national imaginary. Moreover, I explore how the photographs and the collaborative work with the habitants of Uchuraccay represent the agency of the photographed subject and the photographic act as what Ariella Azoulay (The Civil Contract of Photography, 2008) calls "an event," a civil contract in which meaning is negotiated, and the photographic act becomes a potential site of collaboration, a product of negotiations between citizens that want to be recognized as such (2008:25). I explore how Krajnik's photographs are inspired by an Andean temporality that is rooted in the present and that places the memory of the past at the foreground of all future experiences. Thus, I reflect on the potentiality of the photographic medium to dismantle prevalent narratives that keep the past insulated and explore the ways in which photography can allow for the past to emerge in the present in profound and engaging ways.

Daniella Wurst has a PhD in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University. Her research focuses on temporality, cultural memory in Latin America, photography, and literature. She is currently teaching at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru and the Centro de la Imagen in Lima, Peru.

D.4.4 Underground Liberation Outside the Forms of Cinema

Patricio Orellana, Independent Scholar

In August 1965, the Center for Audiovisual Experimentation at the Di Tella Institute (by far the most prominent art institution in Argentina in the 1960s) hosted a series of screenings titled New American Cinema. Featuring films by Stan Brackhage, and Jonas and Adolfas Mekas, amongst many others, the series was widely attended and praised by the press, who saw it as a sign that Argentine culture was modernizing and catching up with artistic trends from the North. The following year, Oscar Bony presented four experimental short films in the same venue, in one of the first instances of Argentine visual artists using film as an artistic medium, but his works received very little attention and were quickly dismissed. My paper will focus on the reception of these screenings and on the letters exchanged by P. Adams Sitney (who co-organized the series) and Miguel Grinberg (who worked in it) with Jonas Mekas in New York, to inquire about the expectations and the desires that some modernizing discourses, that aligned themselves with the US in a Cold War context, projected onto the new artistic form of "experimental film." I will also analyze Bony's work's failure at responding to such expectations as part of the shorts' critical valence, which I will link to countercultural strategies of other visual artists reflecting on the moving image in the late 1960s.

Patricio Orellana is a scholar, translator, and curator. He will publish his first book in late 2021, based on his doctoral dissertation defended at NYU about youth and counterculture in literature and the visual arts of Argentina in the 1960s. Between 2018–20 he participated in the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum in New York, where he co-organized the curatorial project After La vida nueva, comprising a catalogue and virtual exhibition.