Two years ago, Tate Modern happily announce the purchase of a work, a photograph to be more precise, by Argentine artist Marcelo Brodsky titled “1er año, 6ta. división”, 1967″. At the time, no one paid attention to the ethical questions that such a purchase raised. The work in question is a picture of the ‘Nacional del Buenos Aires’ school cohort where more than half disappeared in the hands of the military regime after unspeakable sessions of torture. Needless to say that many of those parents are still looking for their kids’ bodies and their mourning period has not even started.
A year ago, I asked in my Argentine blog (loveartnotpeople.org) whether it was ethical of Brodsky’s to transform and Tate Modern to legitimise such a personal depiction into a Duchampian readymade taken out of context. This de-historisation of aesthetics is reinforced by the fact that after checking with a couple of the families, I was surprised by the fact that they had not been asked permission by the artists or the British institution before making those images public and ‘artistic’. Besides, transforming that image into art entails acknowledging their deaths.
To make things even worse, Brodsky’s photo includes annotations such as ‘Claudio was killed by the Police’ o ‘Martin was the first one to be taken. He never go to see his son’ or ‘Ana lives in Israel since 20 years ago’ in primary colours which injects a sense of innocence that adds up to the theatricality of the whole exercise. If we bear in mind that according to Marcel Duchamp, the ready made was the logical outcome of painting, the way Brodsky deploys it can only be considered as opportunistic and … kitsch. But how is it even possible that an institution like Tate Modern decided to add to its collection such a memorial. Are they being ironic? If so, they owe an apology to the relatives of the missing peope who haven’t yet had the opportunity to mourn their loved ones. J A T