AURAS ANÓNIMAS, AN ARTWORK AGAINST OBLIVION
In the year 2000, a photograph of Cesar Herrera illustrated the sad news of three men deceased by the armed conflict in Colombia. That day, the artist Beatriz González cut out that image and deposited it with many others previously published in the newspapers. It is from these photographs that in 2009, the Colombian artist would intervene the popular columbarium of the Bogotá cemetery to carry out her work Auras Anónimas (Anonymous Auras).
On the one hand, González's proposal in this work is to highlight the indifference and forgetting about these tragedies unnoticed in the media chaos. On the other hand, desire/ necessity to remember those victims. Thus, the artist intervenes the architectural monument, today in ruins. "I have always worked with memory, but my memory comes from the media. I am very surprised how quickly people forget images that are seen in the news. My way of fighting against this phenomenon is to use those images in my drawings and in my works ", explains the artist in a text by Paula Bossa.
Through repetition, 8957 tombstones with silhouettes of freighters carrying dead people extend throughout the Central Cemetery. In this way, the silhouettes create icons that allude to memory, the original function of the columbarium: a sacred space for the memory of those deceased loved ones. And, in turn, the images forgotten by the ungraspable flow of the press are indicated in the work.
The repetition has been a visual strategy widely used in the work of González since the 80s. This can be seen in works such as Zócalo de la comedia (Comedy Socket, 1983) or Zócalo de la tragedia (Tragedy Socket, 1983). In the case of Auras Anónimas cutting and copying technique is maintained, according to the writer José Ruiz, to insist on a figure that represents the recent history of the Latin American country.
However, the newness of this work is its evolution. Built with little resistant materials as an ephemeral artwork, five years later it’s deteriorated: fallen tombstones, water leaks on the roofs, etc. As a consequence the fragility of the installation led to a limited visit to the public. And here's the interesting thing, given the relevance that González's work has taken, a group of professors from Harvard University stressed the importance of restoring Anonymous Auras.
In short, what we must emphasize is the immortality, at least symbolic, that the columbaria intervened by González have assumed. Initiated as a work that sought to bring to mind the figures of the forgotten victims, Auras Anónimas has managed to establish itself masterfully in the collective unconscious of those who have travelled through the Central Cemetery.