Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA)
Ford Lecture Hall
1430 Johnson Lane
UO campus

Dr. Stephanie Wood will give a presentation about the open-access digital collection called ¡Presente! Art and the Disappeared at the JSMA on March 10, 2017. Prof. Carlos Aguirre will provide an introduction.

Stephanie Wood (Center for Equity Promotion, College of Education) and Carlos Aguirre (History), along with June Black (formerly of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art), are three members of the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies “Research Action Project for Human Rights in Latin America” who have undertaken research into the intersection of art and human rights in Latin America, with research funds provided by CLLAS.

Before her move to Idaho, June Black laid the groundwork for several museum visits and created  guidelines for selecting and approaching works of art. In winter term 2016 Dr. Wood visited Mexico and the University of Essex in the U.K. The latter has an outstanding collection of art works in this vein. In mid-2016 Prof. Aguirre visited museums and memory sites in Argentina and Chile, taking more photographs and gathering relevant materials for study.

One offshoot of this research has been the development of an open-access digital collection called ¡Presente! Art and the Disappeared, the subject of a presentation that will take place at the JSMA on March 10, 2017. The collection, which is growing monthly as more permissions come in, involves the close study of details of works of art in a variety of mediums, such as photographs, prints, posters, textiles, sculptures, and installations. Research assistance and translation work that is making the site bilingual (English/Spanish) has been provided by Melanie Hyers and Jesús León-Monsalve (of CEQP); undergraduate assistants Colin Takeo and Connor Shields are working to process images and build the searchable database.

The emerging website allows the user to click on details of the works of art in order to view magnifications with attached analysis about the content, composition, message, and methods, with some of the comments being provided by the artists themselves and the rest authored by Dr. Wood. One of the overriding questions is: how do artists work to reestablish the presence of people who have been forcibly disappeared as a result of state terrorism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries? How do these works of art fight erasure and oblivion, re-inscribe memory, support families, and ask tough questions despite the potential for paralysis and fear?

Works of art can provide powerful imagery that contribute to social and cultural memory. For example, the textile appliqué work known widely as arpilleras and produced by women in Chile who were protesting the abuses of the Pinochet dictatorship of the late 20th century now stands as an iconic type of protest. The arpilleras have conveyed a meaningful message in a medium that might have appeared on the surface to be non-threatening, given that this was stitchery produced by women and often in a religious setting. But the women’s relentless call, “¿Dónde están?”, asking for the whereabouts of the people who were extra-judiciously disappeared and summarily executed, garnered not only national but international attention and outcries for an end to the abuses. Photography, paintings, sculpture, performances, and many additional media have also been wielded by artists across Latin America to draw attention to injustices and abuses of many kinds, lodging potent, enduring messages in our hearts and minds.

BIO: Stephanie Wood holds a doctorate in Latin American history from UCLA and is the author or co-editor of six books and dozens of articles on early Mexican ethnohistory. She is a two-time Fulbright Scholar and has held eleven grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a grant from the American Council for Learned Societies, and two grants from the National Park Service. While working in the field of Digital Humanities (since the 1990s), she has been the lead editor on a large number of free online digital collections, such as the Nahuatl Dictionary, with over 100,000 users from 149 countries, plus the Mapas Project of pictorial Mesoamerican manuscripts, and the Early Nahuatl Library of alphabetic manuscripts, all with transcription, translation, and analysis.

BIO: Carlos Aguirre is professor of Latin American History at the University of Oregon and the author and editor of several books on the history of slavery, prisons, archives, and intellectuals.