The work of León Ferrari (1920-2013, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is driven by the desire to reveal the history of Western violence and authoritarianism, showing the mechanisms employed in the construction of power. Throughout his career spanning various decades, Ferrari investigated and decried the relationships between military, political and religious forces that established societal standards and the social imaginary. Ferrari’s production transits between different languages, such as drawing, calligraphy, assemblage, sculpture, installation and video, often resorting to irony to question the values that pervade the various institutions (Church and State, primarily) which define a good part of the Western societies.
In Palabras ajenas [The Words of Others], published in 1967 by the Argentine publishing house Falbo, Ferrari carries out a sort of “literary collage” – as he himself defines it – composed of excerpts from history books, literature, the Bible and, mainly, the written press (national newspapers and magazines and telegrams from foreign agencies). The episode that catalyzed the work was the Vietnam War, which had intensified in 1965. Ferrari condemned the way the press was manipulating the human horror and suffering, neutralizing critical thought and overexposing the public to shocking images. In Palabras ajenas there is an extensive dialogue between characters such as Adolf Hitler, Pope Paulo VI, God, US President Lyndon B. Johnson and war correspondents, local journalists, soldiers, prophets and political advisors. Ferrari’s aim was to collect the discourses of those who constituted the prevailing Western thought and take them out of context to confront them, underscoring the atrocities and the camouflaged messages of violence in the political and religious rhetoric.
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).