The Haunted Nomos: Activist-Artists and the (Im)possible Politics of Memory in Transitional Argentina

Bell, Vikki and Di Paolantonio, Mario. 2009. The Haunted Nomos: Activist-Artists and the (Im)possible Politics of Memory in Transitional Argentina. Cultural Politics, 5(2), pp. 149-178. ISSN 1743-2197 [Article]

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The article considers the role that contemporary visual art and activist-artists have played in transitional Argentina, beginning from the premise that they might be understood as involved in the staging of a wide-ranging shift implied by the term transition. We have chosen three points of entry into this exploration, discussed in three sections: first, the debates around the future of the building Escuela de Mechanica de la Armada (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, which was used as a clandestine detention and extermination center during the dictatorship (1976-83); secondly, the memorial project that is El Parque de la Memoria, which is still under construction in Buenos Aires; and, thirdly, the reexhibition of visual artworks from the period of the dictatorship brought together as the group show Cuerpo y Materia (2006), curated by María Teresa Constantin as part of the public marking of the thirtieth anniversary of the military coup.

Drawing on the sociolegal perspective of Robert Cover, we consider these sites as engaging questions of memory, temporality, and membership that are both normative and, potentially, worldmaking in his sense. It is argued that the aesthetic, as a register that does not (wish to) articulate its demands on law in the latter's terms, nevertheless critiques and calls on law insofar as these sites (re)mark the present against (im)possible Justice. In the relations between the absent bodies of the disappeared, the desires of the "social" body and the abstract regulative body of the law, it is the "liveliness" of the haunted nomos that kindles hope that in conjuring with ghosts, people will continue to contest, to propose, and to reconsider their commitments in the pursuit of Justice.

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23 Apr 2010 10:01

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29 Apr 2020 15:54

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