On March 15 and 16, 2013, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley will present Spiraling Time: Intermedial Conversations in Latin American Arts, part of its yearlong Time Zones series examining time-based arts in an international context. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, symposium participants have been invited to share here some brief reflections on what interests them about time and temporality. This posting is by Andrea Giunta, Professor of Latin American Art History and Criticism and Director of the Center for Latin American Visual Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, who will deliver the opening keynote address, Feeling the Past.
The past haunts us. It drives our need to recover archives; to activate fragments of a time lived before (by one or by others) into a new experience. Memory is one of the most recurrent themes in contemporary art. It is considered to be characteristic of Latin American art, but it is not. European cities (particularly Berlin) as well as those of Latin America (especially Buenos Aires) have become huge memorials. Centotaph cities. They are full of sites, museums, plaques, monuments and urban routes marked to delineate the return of different experiences of violence from the twentieth century: the Holocaust, the disappeared. States of terror. The opposite of this culture of terror is the culture of memory. The question is how to remember. How can the relationship between aesthetics and effectiveness be activated? What should be remembered? How do we conceptualize the art of memory? To what extent are these representations performing the past, turning it into a new experience that transforms our original records? I intend to analyze images and spaces that are programmatically conceived of in order to make us to feel the past, those that condense the experience of past violence into another experience. I will examine experiences that search to process memory from the meditative power of images this time, instead of from pain and fear. I will analyze the visual culture of memory as it has come about in Latin America during and after the dictatorships that marked the second half of the twentieth century. In this regard, I will consider some examples of art produced during the dictatorships which proposed to develop codes of resistance and denunciation from the opacity of language. Secondly, I will consider more recent cases related to the art of memory. I will analyze in what ways these images are linked to activism and to what extent they can be considered inter-related with reparation policies. I will focus on notions like liex de memoire (Pierre Nora), Present Past (Andreas Huyssen), acting out (Dominick LaCapra) or post-memory (Marianne Hirsch) to evaluate their applicability to the field of art production connected with the latest dictatorships in Latin America (particularly Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru). Finally, I will analyze the relationships I see between the art of memory –recently promoted by different State policies—and contemporary democracies. Memory, in this case, is not so much the ability to bring a particular aspect of history to mind, but a program of transformation for individual consciousness, that of a particular viewer that contemplation might mutate into another hypothetical one: a citizen capable of opposing human rights violations.