João Pina, Rencontres d’Arles 2016
LEST WE FORGET
After making photographs of 25 former Portuguese political prisoners in 2005, photographer João Pina became acquainted with and began to research Operation Condor, a secret military plan started in 1975, during the Cold War, by six Latin American countries: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Ruled by right-wing military dictatorships, these countries’ governments intended to eliminate political opponents and detractors, the so-called ‘communist threat’ and ‘subversive elements’. Those people were arrested, tortured and murdered. Many of them remain ‘disappeared’, their families devastated. We, who are still alive, are also victims of such crimes; their absence does not only dwell in those on the ‘other side’: we cannot remain indifferent to a past as if it were not part of our reality and of our future, ‘as if no genocide, massacres and forced disappearances had ever occurred, to oblivion imposed by law, through amnesties, the remission of penalties or pardons under the pretext of guaranteeing political stability when in truth, impunity was what was sought (Baltasar Garzón Real, Condor, Éditions du Sous-Sol, 2016)’
It took João Pina almost a decade to finish Operation Condor. His lens (the equipment/ the camera) works as an eye watching the effects of such a long period of dictatorship on our society, on survivors and families who still have to live every day with deep traumas—from acute depression to paranoia and mental issues which have transformed the lives of several generations. All the photographs here act as an outcry frozen in time: portraits laden with silence and memories of mothers who never saw their children return home; former political prisoners who can’t help but look at the scars left by the concentration camps; survivors mutilated by booby trap grenades in the Araguaia region; torture centres now taken over by dust; or even the sinister image of an aircraft used by the Argentine military to throw left-wing militants out into the River Plate or the Atlantic, now used as an ‘advertising object’ for a construction company on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. We stand before our own history. We can only wonder what kind of justice we want now.
Translation of the captions into French: Luciana Orgando, courtesy of Éditions du Sous-Sol.
Publication: Condor, Éditions du Sous-Sol, 2016
Exhibition venue: Musée départemental Arles Antique