127 min., 2009
Synopsis: Filmed in Argentina, Not reconciled (nobody knows what a body is capable of) is a free adaptation of the drama Hamletmachine by the German playwright Heiner Müller, which was staged in Buenos Aires by the group El Periférico de Objetos in the second half of the nineties. The film runs through several historical moments at which tools derived from the tradition of the aesthetic avant-gardes were put at the service of the social movement, in the Argentinean context, and pauses to look at experiences like the “siluetazo” in the eighties, and the participation of political art collectives (Arte en la Kalle, Grupo de Arte Callejero [GAC] and Colectivo Etcétera) in the new Human Rights movements, and in the practice of the “escraches” (the public actions that locate and publicly denounce unpunished collaborators with the massacre perpetrated by the last civil-military dictatorship in Argentina), which the movement H.I.J.O.S. (Sons and Daughters [of Disappeared Detainees] for Identity and Justice, against Oblivion and Silence) began to carry out in the mid-nineties.
“Non-reconciliation is [...] a way of making films, of putting films together. It entails a stubborn rejection all the forces of homogenisation”
(Serge Daney: “Un tombeau pour l’oeil. Pédagogie straubienne”, 1975).
“In primitive and oriental music, when a theme is used in two or more voices at once, with each taking on their own form based on the different performers and interpreters, then as long their interpretative imagination is not blocked, heterophony will arise [...] If several people travel along the same path, or even if they just set off from the same point, they will be perceived as a unified group. Even if each of them moves in an extremely individual way, the perception will not change: one might walk slowly, another one may dance, and a third may even play the role of a pedestrian of the air”
(Mauricio Kagel, Tam Tam, 1975, commenting on his musical work Heterophonie).
“Instead of being producers of works, artists could become producers of projects that, by generating participation, would allow a popular aesthetic experience to develop and grow”
(Rodolfo Aguerreberry, 1993, on the siluetazo, also known as la siluetada).
“We don’t forget, we don’t forgive, we don’t seek reconciliation.” These are the words that usually end public declarations made by human rights group H.I.J.O.S., (Sons and Daughers [of Disappeared Detainees] for Identity and Justice, against Oblivion and Silence) generally in the presence of the (unpunished) persons who had been responsible for, or had directly collaborated with, the repression perpetrated during Argentina’s last military dictatorship. Formed in 1990, H.I.J.O.S. initially brought together (above all, but not exclusively) the sons and daughters of the 30,000 people who were detained and forcibly “disappeared” by state-controlled repression. The group, which essentially continues the legacy of the pioneer struggle of the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, and was also activated by the suffocating neoliberal hegemony of president Menem’s term of office under democracy, launched a new wave of politicisation among a young generation. These young people proved to have an extraordinary, joyful and furious capacity for invention and creativity in the new forms of conflict – putting the body back in political action. The participation of art-political groups (such as Arte en la Kalle, Grupo de Arte Callejero/GAC and Colectivo Etcétera, all of which appear in this video) in this revitalised Human Rights Movement is just one element of the way this generational innovation took shape.
The film Not reconciled (nobody knows what abody is capable of) initially began as an attempt to look at how, in the specific context of Argentina, some of these groups would become a singular example of the kind of re-connection between art, politics and activism that was also taking place in other parts of the world. But over a period of four years, the project has outgrown this aim. It is difficult to define exactly what this film is “about” in the end. What we can say is that it traverses different moments and ways in which, in Argentina, the tools inherited from the thwarted utopias of modern and avant-garde art were updated and placed at the service of the reconstruction of social connectivity, civil resistance, the demand for justice, and the struggle for an active memory that fans the flame of desire and of politics of radical change (in the sense that Walter Benjamin sought: through the recovery of the memory of those things that they would have us forget, so that, in a sudden blaze, it can provide light in times of crisis, when a new danger threatens).
The film is ordered into five acts, adopting a structure that replicates German playwright Heiner Müller’s Hamlet Machine, which was adapted to Argentina’s theatre scene with something of an uproar by El Periférico de Objetos in the second half of the same decade, the 1990s. It starts by looking at the classic centre of Buenos Aires from the heights of the majestic Hotel Bauen (“a business without bosses”, recovered by its workers in 2002, following the neoliberal collapse). It reflects on the thwarted modernity of Argentinean concrete art in the forties. It stops to examine one of the most awe-inspiring examples of the participative socialisation of creative tools for collective production of images as a way of structuring social protest: the “Siluetazo” or “Siluetada”, which provided a singular multiple body to the Disappeared, beginning in the still-dangerous final months of the last dictatorship (1983). It questions whether the monumentalisation and a certain “officialisation” of the memory of the Disappeared could constitute a new space of conflict, where the things that those who suffered reprisals were fighting for are not cut short, and can continue in a different form.
Ultimately, the film aims to show that due to all of these elements Argentina has, for decades, been experiencing conflicts and struggles around forms of memory and justice, that are a model for the current situation in other places. In particular those places where the phantasmatic power of a former, bloody dictatorship continues to prevent us from implementing appropriate justice, a justice which might be based on memory that is not reconciled.
(English translation: Nuria Rodríguez)
Distribution and online viewing: Hamaca Media & Video Art Distribution.