Collection

Fernando Traverso (1951 - )

350, Intervención urbana, Rosario (2001)
350, Urban Intervention, Rosario

Photographic print on paper
height: 30.5cm
width: 40.6cm
Photographic Installation

Donated by Fernando Traverso 2008

5-2008

Fighting sorrow; preserving memory

Any one approaching one of the bicycle silhouettes’ drawn by Fernando Traverso in the city of Rosario would face innumerable questions: What is that silhouette? Why is it black? Why is it drawn in that place? Is it real? What does it represent? His silhouettes are so provocative that it is difficult to avoid their invitation: to remember, to understand the empty spaces that inhabit the cities we live in… And there are answers: The bicis (the bicycles) are not any manifestation of art but an artistic expression of the sorrowed experienced by an activist artist who lost three hundred and fifty ‘comrades’ in Rosario during the dictatorship and who wishes to remember; to keep his comrades always present in his beloved city. Yes, the city now holds three hundred and fifty silhouettes of the bicis, the means of transport that students, trade unionists and others used at the time, most of which have been drawn in the places where they were left before their owners went missing.

These artistic expressions are not detached from transitional justice; the field that helps states deal with mass atrocities that took place during dictatorship or conflict. Indeed, Argentina has not been indifferent to this field and has tried to reckon with the past of approximately ten thousand disappearances and killings that took place in the country between 1976 and 1983, as a result of the dirty war carried out by the military junta. Argentina established a truth commission; a reparation programme; re-opened the trials of those who perpetuated those atrocious crimes and has taken measures to preserve memory, building important places like the Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos at the former site of the ESMA (Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada).

However, parallel to the efforts of the Argentinian State, artists, among others, have been crucial in Argentina to remember and to let others know how they saw or lived those terrible events in the history of their country and to pay tribute to those who were sacrificed. From filmmakers to artists, including Traverso, memory has not been left to the state to be preserved. Indeed, as Ruben Chababo, Director of the Rosario’s Museum of Memory indicates, “Rosario’s memory art is not in the museum, really, but out in the streets”. (1) The bicis are a good illustration of this. They have taken over their city to plague abandoned and cold spaces with the presence of those Traverso loved or respected. This is a unique way to show the many dimensions of memory and of remembering. The bicis represent a meaningful way to fight our capacity to forget and to turn those who went missing into permanent memories and moments in our lives, even in the lives of those who never met them. Once you walk any street of Rosario, and you know the history behind the bicis, you are destined to remember...

1. Hite, Katherine, ‘The globality of art and memory making: The bicis of Fernando Traverso”. In: Politics and the Art of Commemoration: Memorials to Struggle in Latin America and Spain. London: Routledge, 2011: 94.

(Text commissioned by ESCALA for the exhibition Connecting through Collecting: 20 Years of Art from Latin America at the University of Essex, 2014)

Clara Sandoval, 2014

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