Recovered Memory

An Argentine Artist Resurrects the Disappeared

It is maybe a particular problem of the 20th century: to decide who you are when your country turns on you. Brodsky was one of the very lucky ones, because he survived hiskidnapping attempt. The soldiers grabbed him on May 17, 1977, on the corner of a busy public square. As they held him by the arms and the head, he screamed for help. He estimates 150 people were standing there watching him. Paralyzed. He remembers hearing shots, but never saw what made the soldiers let him go. A conflict within the group maybe. Or perhaps a second group had come along and claimed him. But once they let go of him, he ran and found a taxi home. Only then did he realize he was bleeding. He had been shot. As soon as his leg wound healed a bit, he crossed the border into Brazil, and his exile began.

Upon his return three years ago, Brodsky set up a network of photo agencies, Latin Stock, which is now the largest in South America. Then, the opening of Buena memoria in 1997, 20 years after his own near disappearance, was "like a new birth." Brodsky feels that at this point people in Argentina are tired of the political discourse about the Dirty War, but still need "to work on the internal consequences of this repression." I was struck by the fact that Brodsky spoke of his kidnapping attempt as though it was no big thing. More accurately, of course, it was no unusual thing. Many survived by sheer luck. Many brothers and best friends were lost. "Art is losing amnesia," he says. A show like Buena memoria creates a way for people to begin talking about these losses and a pain that can't be ignored.

Artist Marcelo Brodsky (left) and his best friend, Martin Bercovich, in their 1967 class photo. Bercovich disappeared in 1976.
Artist Marcelo Brodsky (left) and his best friend, Martin Bercovich, in their 1967 class photo. Bercovich disappeared in 1976.

Buena memoria is at SABA Gallery, 116 East 16th and online at www.zonezero.com.

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