Curating what is no longer there

“I cannot write poetry. Poetry no longer exists inside me” Javier Sicilia.

How to remember that which has been taken, that which is lost not simply during but in the aftermath of terror and violence? How to give form to something that is essentially a gaping hole, a void that may never be filled? This week’s reading further reminded me of the monumental task at hand when attempting to curate an exhibit that dwells on such incredible loss.

Across each of the different narratives in the Memory issue of Revista, Harvard Review of Latin America, is a pain that is at once collectively understood and yet so personally experienced. For a ninety-year-old mother it is a memory kept alive by the light bulb left on by her disappeared son, still for others it is a taxi cab that memorializes the drivers who lost their lives at the hands of the paramilitary and guerrilla leaders. In the absence of what was and no longer is, loss manifests itself in unique and varied forms.

Diving into the curatorial discourse of Paul O’ Neill in, “The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture” provides an interesting lens to examine our attempts to bring together these varied and distinct memories. As he notes the exhibition is a medium that is part of a “consciousness industry, (with) complex tools of persuasion that aim to prescribe a set of values and social relations to their audiences.” (90). I am greatly interested in the kinds of values we as curators will impose on this work, either unconsciously or not. How throughout his process of co-investigation can we “productively engage with the past” as Pamela Yates points out, in ways that animate rather than overshadow this experiences.

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