- Indocile Bodies of the NationArgentine Performance in Times of Hate
“I make no bones about being a racist—it’s not out of spite, just part of my culture.” “Avoid racism avoiding negros.”1 “Zero tolerance.” These are some of the statements Roberto Jacoby and Syd Krochmalny copied out on the walls of Buenos Aires’ Casa de la cultura, seat of the National Endowment for the Arts (FNA), as part of the launch of their graphic and performance-based project Diarios del odio [Daily Hate] (2014–15), staged in 2017 by the theatre company O.R.G.I.E. (Organización Grupal de Investigaciones Escénicas)2 and directed by Silvio Lang. In black charcoal, they scribbled hundreds of anonymous posts left in the comments sections of Argentina’s two biggest newspapers, La Nación and Clarín, hate speech largely targeting Argentina’s first female president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, then coming to the end of her second term (2007–15). Three years later, the performance piece Purgatorio [Purgatory] (2018) would also make use of this archive of public voices in order to put flesh on the bones of disparaging statements made by politicians and celebrities during the government of the conservative alliance Cambiemos (2015–2019).
Just a few years apart, Diarios del odio and Purgatorio both echo a turbulent political and social context where public space was convulsed by a booming hate economy. Among the targets were the feminist and LGBTIQ activists who, since the early 2000s, had fought for recognition of rights and publicly exposed how so many lives were treated as disposable in contemporary society. Those lives were stigmatized by racial and gender dogma, lives not worth living, lives persistently cut short by femicides and travesticides nationwide, mere bodies to be disposed of, cast on the trash heap, as has been highlighted vocally and persistently by the mass demonstrations known as Ni una menos3 [Not one woman less] that began in Buenos Aires in June 2015. It’s precisely these popular performative strategies whose body of language and language of bodies reappear, in a different guise but just as effectively, in Diarios del odio and Purgatorio. With slogans like “el miedo va a cambiar de bando” [“fear’s switching sides”] or “ya no nos callamos más” [End Page 41] [“no more holding our tongue”], a collective voice fights back against the quiet administration and filtering of what can be said, achieved, and shown.
The wall of voices that kicked off Diarios del odio saw twenty-five artists invited to collaborate on the white walls of the Casa de la cultura. If anonymous voices eke out a space in the virtual forum, here the artists left a mark made of messages meant to sink into oblivion. In black text on a white background, the speed and facelessness of the virtual world were inscribed on a more durable medium, thus raising a public memorial to vilification. Side by side on the walls sit different styles of handwriting and markings: tracing the black charcoal over these surfaces, the artists’ hands amplify the voices of hate, send them echoing around a space where they were not meant to be heard. These same scrawls and strokes were later published in verse form in 2016.4 In both the installation and the book, the selected fragments bore witness to the construction of the Other as an object of hate, as the filth, trash, and excrement of a society whipping itself mercilessly into a classist, racist, sexist and homophobic frenzy.
The following year Diarios was brought to the stage in a production featuring theatre, performance pieces, music, and choreography. It was the first outing for a company seeking to probe the forces at play in the formation of contemporary subjectivities. O.R.G.I.E explores how public debates are initiated and polemics stoked, whether virtually or in the media, how certain voices question what can and can’t be said even as they nurture and espouse explicitly hate-filled classist, racist, and gender-normative rhetoric. Onstage there are no markers of individuality, no names or...