Toying with History in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios
The inclusion of toys, superheroes or games as a means of representing the dictatorship creates a clear autobiographical link to the violent contexts that shaped the births and upbringings of the artists studied in this book. But in this chapter I look beyond such autobiographical motivations, exploring other reasons behind the role that toys and play have in the collective memory of authoritarian rule in Argentina. Following Ernst van Alphen’s study of toys as memory play and what he calls a “pedagogy of remembrance through play,”1 as well as James E. Young’s considerations of toys as cultural icons and what he terms “the play of memory,”2 I ask how autofictional works in Argentina give objects of play alternative uses to those prescribed by the market? To what extent do toys and play transmit the dictatorial past to us in ways that monuments, testimonies, traditional conceptions of pedagogy and historical genres fail to do?
The playful memories and toy art that have emerged in the 2000s in Argentina demonstrate two crucial novelties in relation to previous politics of remembering. First, they extend our understanding of the recent past (and its effects in the present) by displacing the focus of the object of memory: our gaze is relocated away from the experiences of the adult survivors and towards those of their heirs. One of the most innovative elements of this generational perspective is that it reformulates the hegemonic notion of victim present in previous accounts of the dictatorship by stating, for example, that children of the disappeared were not just adoptive or second-hand witnesses but were also just as much victims as their © The Author(s) 2016
J. Blejmar, Playful Memories, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40964-1_3
parents. As I suggested in the Introduction, the terms “post-dictatorship generation” or “second generation” sometimes give the wrong impression that their members were born “after” the events, when many of the works addressed here remind us that the military persecuted, kidnapped and disappeared members of different generations, including young children and babies. At the same time, however, these works often use play and humor precisely to create a memory that is not just about victimology and the spectacle of suffering. Second, playful memories reintroduce a memorial role to childhood objects of consumption whose own history and politics have been erased by the neoliberal forces of the market, thus connecting state violence to the violence inherent in everyday objects and practices during both dictatorship and democracy.3
These two aspects of playful memories, I argue in the first section of this chapter, help to refashion images of the 1976-1983 period, countering a certain tedium that many young people feel when thinking about these years as a result of the way they have been taught in schools or via mass media. In the second section, I explore these hypotheses by looking at filmmaker Albertina Carri’s controversial use of stop-motion and Playmobil figures to reconstruct her parents’ disappearance during the dictatorship, as seen in her pioneering 2003 film Los rubios. Finally, in the conclusion, I refer to certain trends in the toy industry that look for (hyper)realist depictions of the worldly counterparts of their products. I compare these trends with the criticisms directed at Los rubios and other playful memories that are reluctant to depict the past and the “reality” as it was. I suggest that, ultimately, these exigencies of realism result in playbacks, repetitions or reproductions of the past that are of dubious use for the cultural transmission of trauma.