A Limitless Grave: Memory and Abjection of the Río de la Plata

  • Estela Schindel
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


Emerging from the brown, turbid waters of the Río de la Plata,1 a few metres away from the shore at the north of the city of Buenos Aires, a figure with human form can be seen floating. It is a life-size sculpture and its polished metallic surface reflects the water, with which it blends. The figure has its back turned to us and thus we are unable to catch its eye from the river bank. The impossibility of seeing the face evokes an anxiety at its incompleteness. There is a truth that will never be known in its entirety; a history that will never be completed. The work is part of the Parque de la Memoria (Memory Park) located on the banks of the river in commemoration of the victims of state terrorism in Argentina. Claudia Fontes, creator of the sculpture, carefully positioned the work so that its face cannot be seen. The sculpture is called ‘Reconstruction of the Portrait of Pablo Míguez’, and evokes a disappeared 14-year old (Figure 13.1). Fontes studied available documentation in detail in order to reconstruct the figure as faithfully as possible: she looked at available photographs, talked to members of the victim’s family and researched the kind of clothing a teenager from that time might have been wearing, as well as the gestures that he may have adopted. Then she prevents us from seeing this. To cite the artist’s own words: ‘I like to think that the final image (…) is created in the mind of the spectator, by means of the evocation of his trace. This, for me, is the condition of the desaparecido: s/he is present, but we are prohibited from seeing him or her’ (Claudia Fontes, quoted in Battiti, 2012, p.33, my translation).


State Terrorism Muddy Water Detention Centre Representational Gesture Sailing Boat 
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© Estela Schindel 2014

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  • Estela Schindel

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