Marcelo Brodsky

from Buena Memoria, 1st year, 6th division, Class Photo 1967

1996

Not on display

Artist
Marcelo Brodsky born 1954
Original title
de Buena Memoria, 1er año, 6ta division, foto de clase 1967
Medium
Inkjet print and crayon on paper
Dimensions
Image: 1170 × 1745 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2014
Reference
T14158

Summary

1st Year, 6th Division, Class Photo 1967 1996, reprinted 2014 is an enlarged print of a school photograph from Marcelo Brodsky’s project Good Memory (Buena Memoria) 1996. The photograph was taken in the artist’s first year of high school at the Colegio Nacional in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1967. Brodsky’s annotations in different colours appear over the image, providing details of what happened to the children pictured during and after the military dictatorship in Argentina, which lasted from 1976 to 1983 (though the dates are often extended to 1955–83 or 1969–83). Some annotations provide tender updates on the individual’s life – ‘Alicia tiene un montón de hijos’ (Alicia has a mountain of kids); some tell of personal tragedy – ‘Pablo murió de una enfermedad incurable’ (Pablo died of an incurable disease); and some describe the individual’s fate at the hands of the military junta – ‘Martín fue el primero que se llevaron. No llegó a conocer a su hijo, Pablo que hoy tiene 20 años. Era mi amigo, el mejor’ (Martín was the first they took away. He never got to know his son, Pablo, who is 30 now. He was my best friend). Some of the young people, including Pablo and Martín, have their head circled or struck through, indicating that they are among the dead or ‘disappeared’. The photograph exists in an edition of five, of which this copy is number three.

Good Memory is an extended photographic essay, of which 1st Year, 6th Division, Class Photo 1967 is the centrepiece. In total the project consists of fifty-five images and two videos – Memory Bridge (Tate T14275) and A Space to Oblivion, both 1996. The larger part of the project consists of photographs Brodsky took of his former classmates who were still alive once he had tracked them down. In these images, 1st Year, 6th Division, Class Photo 1967 also appears, either blown up as a background or being held by the subject.

The first exhibition of Good Memory was in the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires (CNBA) in 1996. It was staged during a ceremony called Memory Bridge, which Brodsky recorded and made into the video with the same name (Tate T14275). The ceremony was organised by the Argentine Historical and Social Memory Foundation and Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) in memory of the school’s ninety-eight former students who were ‘desaparecidos’ (disappeared or missing). During the ceremony, their names were read out. The act of naming the ninety-eight students and announcing them as present symbolically reversed the ‘disappearing’ of the victims and the erasure of their memory. The video of the ceremony lasts one minute and fifty seconds.

Good Memory is a deeply personal project for the artist – several of his former friends and classmates, as well as his older brother Fernando, last seen in 1979, were among the disappeared. Three of the children pictured were later imprisoned by the military regime; two of them, including Brodsky’s best friend Martín, were never seen again. Curator Gabriela Salgado has described the artist’s research process and its wider sociological and historical significance:

As he began to make contact with his classmates, he made an intervention on an enlarged copy of the original black and white portrait with text summarising their lives during the nearly thirty years that had passed. But those pencil marks inevitably defined more than individual fate, for what they describe [are] the fatidic socio-political events that transformed the lives of an entire generation of Argentines. The group photograph became a portion of history, the picture of an entire nation.
(Gabriela Salgado, ‘Bridging Oblivion with Remembrance: The Good Memory of Marcelo Brodsky’, http://www.escala.org.uk/collection/contributors/gabriela-salgado/text/AUTH529, accessed October 2012.)

An economics graduate from the University of Barcelona, Brodsky was trained as a photographer at the International Centre of Photography, Barcelona by the Catalan photographer Manel Esclusa and lived in Barcelona for the period of the military dictatorship in Argentina. Brodsky’s work seeks to communicate to younger generations the experience of state terrorism in Argentina and generate dialogue between the different generations affected by the consequences of the military dictatorship.

Further Reading
Marcelo Brodsky, Buena Memoria, Buenos Aires 1997.
Andreas Huyssen, Marcelo Brodsky: Memory Works, Salamanca 2003.
Valeria Gonzalez, Eduardo Cadava, Paola Cortes-Rocca and others, Visual Correspondences: Brodsky, Esclusa, Vasconcellos, Ortiz Monasterio, Parr, Hoheisel, Buenos Aires 2009.

Tanya Barson
October 2012
Arthur Goodwin
February 2019

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