The Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA) is currently hosting Argentina’s first major exhibition on Brazilian artist, Claudia Andujar: ‘Marcados‘ (Marked). You can catch it until 31st July.
From the outset, Andujar’s ‘Marcados Para’ (Marked For) diptychs pose the fundamental question underlying this exhibit: what can someone be “marked” for? The diptychs intelligently respond with two possibilities: to identify and to obliterate identity.
Born in Switzerland to a Jewish family in 1931, Andujar spent her adolescence running from Nazi prosecution. Her father, her father’s family, her school friends and her first love were all marked with the yellow star. One that at once reiterated their identity as Jewish as it stripped them of their identity as humans. Alas, she experienced first hand the double-edged reality of being marked.
Many years later, however, she was the one to be fixing the marks in place.
Brazil, 1981: Claudia Andujar is now working as a photographer and is to embark on a series of journeys into the Amazon rainforest to document the Yanomami. Travelling with two doctors, she undertakes a “medical rescue expedition” to provide vaccinations and document the existence of this community.
The result: a series of portraits of marked individuals, each wearing a plate with a number around their neck:12, 25, 18…
Andujar explains that they’ve been marked to be documented. To be helped. To be saved.
But the whole point of the exhibition is for us to consider the other, darker side of the mark, and to question any and every attempt at marking individuals whatever the explicit aim may be.
After all, what is a document but an archive to be? The mark may speak of an attempt to save the Yanomami. But it’s impossible to speak of preservation without ignoring the imminent possibility of loss that led to the need for the document to begin with.
We document to remember.
Another question: what have they been marked for?
To be sentenced to the past.