Journal of Romance Studies

Toying with history: Playful memory in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios

Journal of Romance Studies (2013), 13, (3), 44–61.

Abstract

This article analyses the use of Playmobil figures in Albertina Carri’s autofictional film, Los rubios [The Blondes] (2003). Deploying what the author calls a ‘playful memory’ of the traumatic past in Argentina, Los rubios is a pioneering example of a new trend of post-dictatorship cultural remembrance that takes a desacralized, non-solemn and de-monumental approach to the past. Young writers and filmmakers, many of them children of disappeared parents like Carri, employ dark humour and make explicit references to children’s games and toys in their representations of the 1976–1983 military regime. The use of toys in the reenactment of traumatic episodes of history, however, is not new, for it echoes similar artistic re-appropriations of a vicarious past by second- and third-generation artists of the Shoah. Drawing on this transnational corpus, the article argues that toy art and playful memories not only redirect our gaze away from the experiences of the adult survivors and towards those of their descendants, offering a new (child-like) perspective on twentieth-century liminal experiences. They also connect state violence to the violence inherent in everyday objects of childhood. Moreover, the nature of anthropomorphic toys such as Playmobil – deformations of their worldly counterparts (Young), a sort of ‘dead among us’ located between the animate and inanimate world (Stewart) – is particularly suitable for depicting both the neither-dead-nor-alive figure of the disappeared and the distortions of memory. Finally, against those who consider playful memories acts of dispassion and an insult to victims, this article suggests that in their rejection of realism and mere reproductions of the past, playful memories revitalize the intergenerational transmission of history by offering images of ‘sacred’ events (meaning events that resist representation) at the same time as – in Ernst van Alphen’s words – hinting at the ontological impossibility of completely and comprehensively mastering trauma.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Agamben, Giorgio (2007a) ‘In Playland: reflections on history and play’, in Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience (London and New York: Verso), 73–96. In Playland: reflections on history and play Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience 73 96 Google Scholar

Agamben, Giorgio (2007b) ‘In praise of profanation’, in Profanations (New York: Zone Books), 73–92. In praise of profanation Profanations 73 92 Google Scholar

Aguilar, Gonzalo (2006) ‘Los rubios: duelo, frivolidad y melancolía’, in Otros mundos. Un ensayo sobre el nuevo cine argentino (Buenos Aires: Santiago Arcos), 175–191. Los rubios: duelo, frivolidad y melancolía Otros mundos. Un ensayo sobre el nuevo cine argentino 175 191 Google Scholar

Amado, Ana (2004) ‘Ordenes de la memoria y desórdenes de la ficción’, in Lazos de familia: Herencias, cuerpos, eds Ana Amado and Nora Domínguez (Buenos Aires: Paidós), 13–81. Ordenes de la memoria y desórdenes de la ficción Lazos de familia: Herencias, cuerpos 13 81 Google Scholar

Andermann, Jens (2011) New Argentine Cinema (London and New York: I.B. Tauris). New Argentine Cinema Google Scholar

Bernstein, Jeffrey A. (2011) ‘Child’s play. Reflections on Agamben’s conception of contemporary historical exigency and its Winnicottian dimension’, Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 16.1, 49–64. Child’s play. Reflections on Agamben’s conception of contemporary historical exigency and its Winnicottian dimension Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 16.1 49 64 Google Scholar

Bruzzone, Félix (2008) Los topos (Buenos Aires: Mondadori). Los topos Google Scholar

Carri, Albertina (2007) Los rubios: Cartografía de una película (Buenos Aires: Artes Gráficas Buschi). Los rubios: Cartografía de una película Google Scholar

Chabon, Michael (2009) ‘To the Legoland station’, in Manhood for Amateurs. The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son (London: Harper Collins), 51–57. To the Legoland station Manhood for Amateurs. The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son 51 57 Google Scholar

Goldman, Karen (2007) ‘La princesa plástica. Hegemonic and oppositional representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie’, in From Bananas to Buttocks. The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture (Austin: University of Texas Press), 263–278. La princesa plástica. Hegemonic and oppositional representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie From Bananas to Buttocks. The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture 263 278 Google Scholar

Hirsch, Marianne (1997) Family Frames: Photograph, Narrative and Postmemory (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press). Family Frames: Photograph, Narrative and Postmemory Google Scholar

Hirsch, Marianne (2012) The Generation of Postmemory. Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press). The Generation of Postmemory. Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust Google Scholar

Kohan, Martín (2004) ‘La apariencia celebrada’, Punto de Vista 78, 24–30. La apariencia celebrada Punto de Vista 78 24 30 Google Scholar

Kohan, Martín (2006) Interview with the author, 1 July. Interview with the author Google Scholar

Macón, Cecilia (2004) ‘Los rubios o del trauma como presencia’, Punto de vista 28.80, 44–47. Los rubios o del trauma como presencia Los rubios 28.80 44 47 Google Scholar

Moiseeff, Iván (2010) Mazinger Z contra la dictadura militar (Buenos Aires: Clase turista). Mazinger Z contra la dictadura militar Google Scholar

Nouzeilles, Gabriela (2005) ‘Postmemory cinema and the future of the past in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios’, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 14.3, 263–278. Postmemory cinema and the future of the past in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios Los rubios 14.3 263 278 Google Scholar

Page, Joanna (2009) Crisis and Capitalism in Contemporary Argentine Cinema (Duke: Duke University Press). Crisis and Capitalism in Contemporary Argentine Cinema Google Scholar

Petrignani, Sandra (1988) The Toy Catalogue (London: Boulevard Books). The Toy Catalogue Google Scholar

Quilez, Laia (2008) ‘Sutiles pretéritos. (Post)memoria(s) y (auto)biografía(s) en el cine documental contemporáneo’, in Cineastas frente al espejo, ed. Gregorio Martín Gutierrez (Madrid: T&B), 83–99. Sutiles pretéritos. (Post)memoria(s) y (auto)biografía(s) en el cine documental contemporáneo Cineastas frente al espejo 83 99 Google Scholar

Radstone, Susannah (2013) ‘“The place where we live”: memory, mirrors and The Secret River’, Memory Studies 6.3, 286–298. “The place where we live”: memory, mirrors and The Secret River Memory Studies 6.3 286 298 Google Scholar

Robin, Régine (2012) La memoria saturada (Buenos Aires: Waldhuter). La memoria saturada Google Scholar

Sarlo, Beatriz (2005) Tiempo pasado: Cultura de la memoria y giro subjetivo: Una discusión (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI). Tiempo pasado: Cultura de la memoria y giro subjetivo: Una discusión Google Scholar

Schwartz, Gary (1998) ‘Introduction: teach it to the children’, in Your Coloring Book. A Wandering Installation, Katzir, Ram (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), 35–42. Introduction: teach it to the children Your Coloring Book. A Wandering Installation 35 42 Google Scholar

Semán, Ernesto (2011) Soy un bravo piloto de la nueva China (Buenos Aires: Mondadori). Soy un bravo piloto de la nueva China Google Scholar

Spiegelman, Art (2011) MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic (London: Penguin). MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic Google Scholar

Stewart, Susan (1993) On Longing. Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Duke and London: Duke University Press). On Longing. Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection Google Scholar

Taylor, Diana (2002) ‘“You are here”: the DNA of performance’, TDR 46.1, 149–169. “You are here”: the DNA of performance TDR 46.1 149 169 Google Scholar

Van Alphen, Ernst (1997) Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory (Stanford: Stanford University Press). Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory Google Scholar

Van Alphen, Ernst (2002) ‘Playing the Holocaust’, in Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imaginary / Recent Art, ed. Kleeblatt L. Norman (New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: The Jewish Museum and Rutgers University Press), 65–84. Playing the Holocaust Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imaginary / Recent Art 65 84 Google Scholar

Winnicott, D.W. (1991) ‘Why children play’, in The Child, the Family, and the Outside World (London: Penguin), 143–146. Why children play The Child, the Family, and the Outside World 143 146 Google Scholar

Winnicott, D.W. (2005) Playing and Reality (London and New York: Routledge). Playing and Reality Google Scholar

Young, James E. (2000) At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press). At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture Google Scholar

Agamben, Giorgio (2007a) ‘In Playland: reflections on history and play’, in Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience (London and New York: Verso), 73–96. In Playland: reflections on history and play Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience 73 96 Google Scholar

Agamben, Giorgio (2007b) ‘In praise of profanation’, in Profanations (New York: Zone Books), 73–92. In praise of profanation Profanations 73 92 Google Scholar

Aguilar, Gonzalo (2006) ‘Los rubios: duelo, frivolidad y melancolía’, in Otros mundos. Un ensayo sobre el nuevo cine argentino (Buenos Aires: Santiago Arcos), 175–191. Los rubios: duelo, frivolidad y melancolía Otros mundos. Un ensayo sobre el nuevo cine argentino 175 191 Google Scholar

Amado, Ana (2004) ‘Ordenes de la memoria y desórdenes de la ficción’, in Lazos de familia: Herencias, cuerpos, eds Ana Amado and Nora Domínguez (Buenos Aires: Paidós), 13–81. Ordenes de la memoria y desórdenes de la ficción Lazos de familia: Herencias, cuerpos 13 81 Google Scholar

Andermann, Jens (2011) New Argentine Cinema (London and New York: I.B. Tauris). New Argentine Cinema Google Scholar

Bernstein, Jeffrey A. (2011) ‘Child’s play. Reflections on Agamben’s conception of contemporary historical exigency and its Winnicottian dimension’, Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 16.1, 49–64. Child’s play. Reflections on Agamben’s conception of contemporary historical exigency and its Winnicottian dimension Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 16.1 49 64 Google Scholar

Bruzzone, Félix (2008) Los topos (Buenos Aires: Mondadori). Los topos Google Scholar

Carri, Albertina (2007) Los rubios: Cartografía de una película (Buenos Aires: Artes Gráficas Buschi). Los rubios: Cartografía de una película Google Scholar

Chabon, Michael (2009) ‘To the Legoland station’, in Manhood for Amateurs. The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son (London: Harper Collins), 51–57. To the Legoland station Manhood for Amateurs. The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son 51 57 Google Scholar

Goldman, Karen (2007) ‘La princesa plástica. Hegemonic and oppositional representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie’, in From Bananas to Buttocks. The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture (Austin: University of Texas Press), 263–278. La princesa plástica. Hegemonic and oppositional representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie From Bananas to Buttocks. The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture 263 278 Google Scholar

Hirsch, Marianne (1997) Family Frames: Photograph, Narrative and Postmemory (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press). Family Frames: Photograph, Narrative and Postmemory Google Scholar

Hirsch, Marianne (2012) The Generation of Postmemory. Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press). The Generation of Postmemory. Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust Google Scholar

Kohan, Martín (2004) ‘La apariencia celebrada’, Punto de Vista 78, 24–30. La apariencia celebrada Punto de Vista 78 24 30 Google Scholar

Kohan, Martín (2006) Interview with the author, 1 July. Interview with the author Google Scholar

Macón, Cecilia (2004) ‘Los rubios o del trauma como presencia’, Punto de vista 28.80, 44–47. Los rubios o del trauma como presencia Los rubios 28.80 44 47 Google Scholar

Moiseeff, Iván (2010) Mazinger Z contra la dictadura militar (Buenos Aires: Clase turista). Mazinger Z contra la dictadura militar Google Scholar

Nouzeilles, Gabriela (2005) ‘Postmemory cinema and the future of the past in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios’, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 14.3, 263–278. Postmemory cinema and the future of the past in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios Los rubios 14.3 263 278 Google Scholar

Page, Joanna (2009) Crisis and Capitalism in Contemporary Argentine Cinema (Duke: Duke University Press). Crisis and Capitalism in Contemporary Argentine Cinema Google Scholar

Petrignani, Sandra (1988) The Toy Catalogue (London: Boulevard Books). The Toy Catalogue Google Scholar

Quilez, Laia (2008) ‘Sutiles pretéritos. (Post)memoria(s) y (auto)biografía(s) en el cine documental contemporáneo’, in Cineastas frente al espejo, ed. Gregorio Martín Gutierrez (Madrid: T&B), 83–99. Sutiles pretéritos. (Post)memoria(s) y (auto)biografía(s) en el cine documental contemporáneo Cineastas frente al espejo 83 99 Google Scholar

Radstone, Susannah (2013) ‘“The place where we live”: memory, mirrors and The Secret River’, Memory Studies 6.3, 286–298. “The place where we live”: memory, mirrors and The Secret River Memory Studies 6.3 286 298 Google Scholar

Robin, Régine (2012) La memoria saturada (Buenos Aires: Waldhuter). La memoria saturada Google Scholar

Sarlo, Beatriz (2005) Tiempo pasado: Cultura de la memoria y giro subjetivo: Una discusión (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI). Tiempo pasado: Cultura de la memoria y giro subjetivo: Una discusión Google Scholar

Schwartz, Gary (1998) ‘Introduction: teach it to the children’, in Your Coloring Book. A Wandering Installation, Katzir, Ram (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), 35–42. Introduction: teach it to the children Your Coloring Book. A Wandering Installation 35 42 Google Scholar

Semán, Ernesto (2011) Soy un bravo piloto de la nueva China (Buenos Aires: Mondadori). Soy un bravo piloto de la nueva China Google Scholar

Spiegelman, Art (2011) MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic (London: Penguin). MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic Google Scholar

Stewart, Susan (1993) On Longing. Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Duke and London: Duke University Press). On Longing. Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection Google Scholar

Taylor, Diana (2002) ‘“You are here”: the DNA of performance’, TDR 46.1, 149–169. “You are here”: the DNA of performance TDR 46.1 149 169 Google Scholar

Van Alphen, Ernst (1997) Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory (Stanford: Stanford University Press). Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory Google Scholar

Van Alphen, Ernst (2002) ‘Playing the Holocaust’, in Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imaginary / Recent Art, ed. Kleeblatt L. Norman (New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: The Jewish Museum and Rutgers University Press), 65–84. Playing the Holocaust Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imaginary / Recent Art 65 84 Google Scholar

Winnicott, D.W. (1991) ‘Why children play’, in The Child, the Family, and the Outside World (London: Penguin), 143–146. Why children play The Child, the Family, and the Outside World 143 146 Google Scholar

Winnicott, D.W. (2005) Playing and Reality (London and New York: Routledge). Playing and Reality Google Scholar

Young, James E. (2000) At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press). At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Blejmar, Jordana