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Paula Luttringer at Light Work

Argentine photographer anchors Tracing Memory group show:

"Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told," writes the psychiatrist Judith Herman in her landmark book Trauma and Recovery (1992).

Herman's remark could apply to the images made by any of the four photographers in the group exhibition Tracing Memory, curated by Miriam Romais of En Foco and now winding up after two months at Light Work Gallery in Menschel Media Center on Waverly Avenue. One of the most striking offerings in any local visual arts venue all year, Tracing Memory includes work by Paula Luttringer from her much larger series El Lamento de los Muros (The Wailing of the Walls). Dr. Herman's remark applies especially to what drives the Argentine photographer, who herself has relied on Herman's work.

Luttringer was a 21 year old college student, pregnant and studying botany, when the Argentine militia kidnapped her on March 31, 1977. They held her for five months, during which she gave birth to her eldest daughter. Released abruptly during what she thought was transfer to a regular prison, she was forced to leave the country immediately to avoid another "disappearance." She went first to Uruguay, finally settling in France.

El Lamento comprises large-format square black-and-white photographs that Luttringer shot inside some of the remaining, long-abandoned secret detention centers of Argentina's "dirty war" of the 1970's, paired with excerpts from her interviews with other surviving women who were similarly held and tortured during the years 1976-83. Because she has travelled to locate these women, she has been able to assist some in finding each other after many years.

When published in book form on September 20, 2009 -- the date coincides with the anniversary of the release in 1984 of Nunca Mas/Never Again, the report by Argentina's National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons -- El Lamento will contain one hundred such pairings of image and testimony.

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