DIANA DOWEK'S PAISAJES AND THE PUBLIC: SHAPING THE DISCOURSE AND MEMORY OF ARGENTINA'S DIRTY WAR
Diana Dowek’s (b. 1942) Paisaje con Retrovisor II (Landscape with Sideview Mirror II) (1975) depicts the grassy fields of Argentina punctuated by the sideview mirror of a car. In it, the viewer sees a mutilated corpse—a relic of the state brutality perpetuated during the Dirty War. The Argentinian Dirty War (1976-1983) was a period when the military exacted extreme violence against the Argentinian people, including “disappearing” individuals deemed “subversive.” The military dictatorship described “subversive” as any individual with connections to left-wing Peronist ideology and thereby represented a domestic threat to national security. Dowek’s landscapes interject rearview and sideview mirrors of cars into grassy vistas to reference and, at times, picture the atrocious kidnapping, torturing, and killing of individuals. While her subject matter explicitly critiques the Argentinian military, the unique mirror composition implicates a secondary complicit perpetrator: the Argentinian public. Dowek frames the Argentinian landscape as the major site of violence suffered by los desaparecidos. The mirror provides an indirect viewing of the violence emphasizing the indirect culpability of Argentinian society. The paintings have experienced renewed life in the twenty-first century. Argentinian museums have been exhibiting them at this crucial moment in the nation’s history, when the memory of the Dirty War threatens to expire with the people who lived through it. In this context, they speak to the generation after the war, or the “post” generation, imparting their traumas into the national memory. As they did in the past, now, in the present, Dowek’s landscapes force the Argentinian public to grapple with its relationship to the Dirty War.