Los Desaparacidos: exposition on disappearances in Latin America

June 2008 -

"In the second half of the twentieth century, Latin America was dominated by right-wing dictatorships and internal conflicts. Although nearly half of the missing persons and forced disappearances in that period occurred in Guatemala, that is still generally ignored in our country. The topic is and will continue to be a taboo: a wound that can only heal based on broad dialogue."


Work by Luis González Palma

Stefan Benchoam, Guatemalan artist, participated in the first performance festival organised in Antigua Guatemala on 7 and 8 June 1008 within the framework of the exposition Los Desaparacidos (The Missing). The exposition consists of a collection of work by twenty-five Latin American artists who have used their photography, mechanical works, illustrations and sculptures to illustrate the theme of 'missing persons and forced disappearances'. The artists have all experienced the atrocities: when their friends and relatives disappeared, in resistance, as refugees or as inhabitants of countries torn apart by civil war.

Luis González Palma, with his photo collage Tensiones herméticas (Hermetic Tensions), was the only Guatemalan artist to participate in the exposition. "Art can work outside of political activism to raise questions about sensitive social issues. My photographs were made in various periods and can be interpreted in a number of ways. But the absence, uprooting, isolation and pain they express create an emotional experience between the work and the viewer."

The exposition and the festival both took place in the same period as the National Memorial Day for the victims of Guatemala's civil war, held each year on 21 June. "Although the theme is confrontational, to us it is a reality that we must learn to live with. In general, visitors' reactions are positive: they consider it a platform for dialogue. Sadly, the national media devoted virtually no attention to the performance festival. That tells you something about the low level of acceptance of performance as an art form, and certainly also about the stigma that is still assigned to this theme," said Benchoam.

That realisation is confirmed by a girl that stops to look at the work by González Palma: "Don't you agree that this piece is subtle for the very reason that it expresses fear, that this is still a current topic?"