Aimée Zito Lema
21 September – 29 October, 2017
Private view: 20 September,17:00 – 20:00
Looiersgracht 60 is proud to present the first major institutional exhibition in the Netherlands by Dutch-Argentine artist Aimée Zito Lema. A specifically commissioned on-site project will be exhibited alongside a selection of new works.
The artist’s experiences in two very different countries during her formative years: Argentina and the Netherlands, have sparked a lifelong fascination with memory. In ‘Imprinted Mater’, the artist uses her own memory as a personal archive, alongside images associated with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who lost their children during the dictatorship in Argentina between 1976 and 1983. Despite the dictatorship’s concerted efforts to silence the voice of an entire generation, that voice continues to resonate. Zito Lema investigates this tenacity by looking at how history is documented and perceived through representation.
The exhibition’s centrepiece is in the ground floor gallery; a captivating rib-like installation, stained completely with black ink and comprising both functional and non-functional display cases. Some of these contain artworks, while others have been deliberately left bare. The displayed works are reprinted and reformatted archival images of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. By cropping the images, zooming in on ligaments, garments or architectural features, adding pixels and shifting between digital and analogue processes, Zito Lema saturates the archival ephemera with new meaning. The constellation of abstracted and archival images created for this exhibition show the fragmented nature of traumas and the ways in which they are remembered.
For Zito Lema, there are countless ways to remember. The creases on a piece of paper, the scars and wrinkles on our skin, the spaces haunted by history – all are maps to a past experience. The artist therefore chose to pay special attention to the many traces of the past visible at Looiersgracht 60. Her work Paper Memory (Madres de Plaza de Mayo) responds to the building’s history as a printing factory. Zito Lema tore up archival material from Archivo General de la Nación in Argentina to make recycled paper. The fragmented images of the protesting mothers lie in a basin at Looiersgracht 60, slowly disintegrating into pulp. Making ‘new’ paper from these fragments necessitates the loss of these archival images. The recycling process thus mirrors the forceful erasure of the people that disappeared during the dictatorship and highlights our inability to ever fully access their experience. Meanwhile the ‘new’ paper embodies the fallacy of the ‘blank page’: history is a continuous process of writing and re-writing over past histories.
The inextricable relationship between mother and child is a strong emotive element throughout this exhibition. While many of the works convey the anguish of the mothers of Plaza de Mayo, they also bear testimony to the strength of women fighting for justice. Exhibited alongside more intimate works, Zito Lema presents the mother figure (mater) as both fiercely resilient in her need for justice and tender in her love and affection. This is especially manifest in Zito Lema’s video work Imprinted Mater: A Score for Mother and Child. Conceived as a workshop, the piece was recorded on site at Looiersgracht 60. Two dancers, mother and daughter, explore questions relating to the body and memory through a varied series of exercises. The resulting footage was edited by the artist to create several films, which are displayed throughout the gallery. They play with the possibilities and choices involved in the documentation of an event and how this can be manipulated or interpreted.
Our experiences are formed through the way they are remembered and communicated to future generations — if they are communicated at all. Through art, memoy is afforded a new opportunity to become present, visible and heard. By subtly imprinting new memories, Zito Lema’s art not only awakens social awareness but also overcomes the oppression, violence and injustice that it represents.
The show has been curated by Soraya Notoadikusumo and Nadine Snijders, directors of Looiersgracht 60. The exhibition has been generously supported by the Amsterdam Fund of Arts (AFK).