- The Eye that Cries:Macro and Micro Narratives of Memory in Peru post Shining Path
James Young, in his 1993 work on Holocaust memorials The Texture of Memory, asserts that in order to understand the built response to a traumatic event, it is of vital importance that one examines the interior life of the monument–that is, the field of forces that came together to spur the process of its creation, and the relationship that it sustains as a piece in the bigger geographical puzzle. He claims that one of the most important aspects of the memorial process is to preserve the “biography” of the monument–in other words the record of its coming-into-being: “…a monument becomes a point of reference amid other parts of the landscape, one node among others in a topographical matrix that orients the rememberer and creates meaning in both the land and our recollections. For like narrative, which automatically locates events in linear sequence, the memorial also brings events into some cognitive order. In this sense, any memorial marker in the landscape, no matter how alien to its surroundings, is still perceived in the midst of its geography, in some relation to the other landmarks nearby” (7). I would argue that this network of relationships must be extended to include not only the monument in relation to its physical surroundings, but also to its re-presentations and re-workings as it is portrayed in literary works.
This paper will consider the relationship between monument and “biography” by examining two projects that intervene in the memorial landscape of Peru post Shining Path: Dutch artists Lika Mutal’s monument The Eye that [End Page 283] Cries, inaugurated in Lima in 2005, and Karina Pacheco Medrano’s 2010 short story collection Alma Alga. Peru’s landscape continues to be marked by the haunting traces left by the violence of the Shining Path—an internal conflict which began in 1980 and began to decline with the 1992 capture of leader Abimael Guzmán. While the violence has dissipated, the question remains: How does one construct a space to remember and to mark the loss of bodies now absent?
Mutal’s The Eye that Cries is an urban intervention that attempts to provide a physical space in which to commemorate the “victims” of the period of national violence fought between the government and the Maoist group. This memorial tries to reflect the fragility of collective memory, attempting to capture the violence of this fraternal conflict. According to a 2007 article by Katherine Hite, “The Eye that Cries: The Politics of Representing Victims in Contemporary Peru,” the form of the monument seeks to capture both the immensity of the loss of life, as well as the sanctity of each individual body now absent. The central stone was brought to the city by Mutal from the Cerro de Lacco—a pre-Colombian site—and serves as a fountain that represents a crying eye. Around this central stone is a labyrinth composed of thousands (32,000, according to Hite) smaller stones. Each of these pebbles bears the name of a supposed victim of the conflict. To reach the central fountain, one must traverse the circular labyrinth—reflecting on the form of the piece at both the macro and the micro level.
In the case of this private initiative—and by an outsider—it is interesting to think about the forces at play in the construction of the monument. According to Hite: “For Mutal…the act of sculpting Pachamama brought back memories of the traumatic experience of coming face to face with violence and death as a young child in Holland during World War II. She remembered a boy being pushed by a German soldier into a truck and taken away… ‘I realized’ Mutal said, ‘that The Eye that Cries was in part my search for personal redemption of my human condition.” According to Paulo Drinot, in a 2009 article “For Whom the Eye Cries: Memory, Monumentality, and the Ontologies of Violence in Peru”:
The monument serves not simply to remember the past but more importantly to inscribe literally into the most basic stuff of Peruvian territoriality (its pebbles...