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miércoles, 24 de marzo de 2010

March 24: A virtual community in mourning

Esta es la notita que escribi ayer y me tuvo en fiebre mediatica durante todo el dia, sin resultados a la vista. Aca esta. Para mis Viquis/kkis (G, B, e I)

I got up early and I checked my Facebook page. It feels strange. Most of my Argentine friends have removed their pictures profiles and they have left the space empty. Where there used to be playful and colorful portraits there are now just shadows.
March 24 is the 34th anniversary of the coup d’ etat in Argentina. The dictatorship (1976-1983) left 30,000 missing: the ‘disappeared’, this infamous status of those somewhere between the dead and the living. Tomorrow there will be massive demonstrations around the country. Last weekend a campaign started on Facebook proposing that profile pictures be removed. Some of the shadowy outlines that are now appearing on the web have also included some traditional human right’s statements: ‘Nunca más’ (Never again), ‘Juicio y castigo’ (Trials and Punishment), ‘No los olvidamos’ (We don’t forget you), or simply the number: ‘30,000’. The contrast with the usually colorful images is powerful. As if Facebook itself was supporting the campaign promoting the removal of images, in a virtual iteration of the famous ‘Siluetazo’ (Silhouette campaign), the initiative that, on the borders of politics and art, called for justice in the 80s.
Last Saturday I updated my Facebook status. I wrote: ‘Facing March 24 we take pictures out of our profiles so as those who still ask why the dictatorship was so terrible can imagine how it feels to have so many beloved missing. 1976-1983: it was state terrorism, not a war. A virtual community in mourning...’ I copied and translated one of the many statements that circulated in the web. Ines, my friend complains. ‘You should not write in English, here was where these things happened’, she says. ‘I am in a global campaign’, I joke.
Perhaps because I am living abroad, doing my PhD at Queen Mary (University of London) on the aftermath of Argentina’s dictatorship, this initiative totally occupies me. I try to focus on a paper I need to submit this week but I keep on checking the website looking for the appearance of new shadows.  I can see the same status iterated once and again in the different profiles. Many friends living abroad post their new bilingual status. Some of them continue posting regular comments, but the spectral absence of pictures makes everything anew. There are some jokes going on as well. After removing his picture, a filmmaker protests: ‘It was so hard to find a nice picture anyway’.
In London, my former supervisor, Vikki Bell, professor at the Sociology Department of Goldsmiths signs up for the campaign: ‘joining the removal of profile picture 'virtual community of mourning' March 24 anniversary of coup in Argentina’. We have become friends and she has her own project researching Argentina’s transition to democracy. I feel like weeping.
My boyfriend, a physicist working in neurosciences, changes his profile from Los Angeles, California, where he is running experiments with epileptic patients. We skype at the strange hours in the night and he tells me I should write something about it. ‘Are you kidding? I need to finish my paper, deadline is tomorrow’, I say. Instead of working, I keep on searching for new spectral updates and changes of statuses. There are many. ‘I never thought that a virtual community could be so exciting’, posts my lovely friend Gabriela. ‘My fingers hurt from typing’ writes my thesis focused friend Pau, but she has also removed her picture profile. There are also heated debates going on. There are some who argue that the removal of pictures is not the right action to commemorate the missing ones. ‘They were not NN. The disappeared had faces, ideas, bodies. I will keep the picture of them’. In fact, HIJOS, the organization that gathers the children of the disappeared since 1996, has decided not to remove the pictures from the Facebook profiles but to post the faces of the missing ones instead. I check them at their Facebook page and they are beautiful, young, smiling, frozen in time. ‘My dad, disappeared the 26th August 1976’, writes someone. ‘They are still with us. Still alive. They will never disappear, the disappeared. Beyond silence, beyond forgetting. Our beloved’, writes another one.
In recent years, massive trials have restarted to condemn the military responsible for the genocide. CELS informs us that there are more than 1400 military implicated in these cases that involve crimes committed during the period of state terrorism. 22 have been sentenced. Just two of them are definitive. The organisation asks for celerity in the trials as part of the virtual campaign. Although the trials could not be more important I think we need something beyond legal justice, I think we need something even beyond forgiveness. How could murdering, killing and executing be ‘forgivable’?
When democracy was recovered in 1983, the network of organisations created by the victims of state terrorism assumed the form of a peculiar family. In Argentina, we have the Mothers, the Grandmothers, the Children and the relatives of the disappeared. Seemingly, only those related to blood to the missing had the authority to claim for justice. However, in recent years this situation has changed. New voices started presenting other ways of being affected. One chapter of my thesis also addresses this situation. It is an analysis of a theatrical performance, Mi vida después (My life after) (2009), directed by Lola Arias, a young Argentine director who had no relatives disappeared. On stage, six actors born between the late 1970s and the early 1980s give accounts of themselves by embodying their parents’ youth. They show their pictures, they read their letters, and eventually they enact their deaths. A pile of old clothes works as the perfect vehicle to step into a time machine and enact the parent’s lives. Not all of the actors are children of the disappeared; there is also the son of a priest and a girl who is the daughter of Luis Falco, an intelligence officer working for the military. Her father abducted a baby born in ESMA, the infamous detention centre in Buenos Aires, and falsified his identity. Now, Vanina, the actress, and Juan Cabandie, who recovered his identity, are prosecuting Falco in the courts. Although there is no blood connection between them, they still think of each other as siblings.
This new system of kinship is also present on Facebook campaign. People are requesting the images of the disappeared to post in their profiles. They are not biologically related; they just assume the other’s loss as part of their personal mourning. The necessity of the bloodline connection is surrendered. I believe it is so: a virtual community in mourning that travels the world, a community in difference, one that can have a spectral sort of agency in these times. It is not enough, of course, but it feels right. On March 24 we remove our pictures’ profiles.

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