Journal of Romance Studies

Urban photography as counter-monument in Urruzola’s Miradas ausentes (en la calle)

Journal of Romance Studies (2013), 13, (3), 32–43.

Abstract

In 2008, photographer Juan Ángel Urruzola pasted sixty gigantic black-and-white photo-murals of Uruguay’s detenidos-desaparecidos on the walls around the centre of Montevideo. If the inauguration of the Memorial en Recordación de los Detenidos Desaparecidos in 2001 had symbolized an end to the politics of silence characterizing Uruguay’s post-dictatorship ‘transition’ to neoliberal consumerism, Urruzola’s street art reflected the now flourishing national culture of memory which gradually emerged over the decade of the 2000s. Yet, while Urruzola’s alternative cartography of remembrance complemented the precedent set by such official sites of memory, the public’s often hostile response to the photo-murals suggested a memorial experience more reminiscent of that associated with the German ‘counter-monument’. Indeed, just as the reaction to Urruzola’s images demonstrated the continued polarization of Uruguayan society with regard to how the authoritarian past should be addressed, it also demonstrated how such memory art could provoke a wider public engagement with today’s memory politics and could thereby extend the postmemorial community beyond the limited constitution of visitors to official monuments.

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Rojinsky, David