Art of the Counter-Archive: Rosângela Rennó’s Books and the Secret Files of the Dictatorship

This article examines Brazilian artist Rosângela Rennó’s books 2005–510117385–5 and A01 [COD.] – A27 [S | COD.23], which engage with photographs stolen from public collections in Rio de Janeiro. Both books triggered a conversation about institutional precarity and its effects on national memory and cultural heritage—one that took place a few years before the 2018 fire at Rio de Janeiro’s Museu Nacional, which destroyed much of its invaluable archive of twenty million items and was understood as a national tragedy. It discusses Rennó’s books in light of 1960s and 1970s Latin American Conceptualisms, arguing that they propose new ways of understanding the secret files of the 1964–85 dictatorship—a still unresolved issue in Brazil. Tackling the dynamics of public museums, private collections, and incentive laws and activating the generative potential of circulation, Rennó’s work provides both a commentary on the role of institutions and national memory and at the same time a warning against the unregulated circulation of the neoliberal market. Ultimately, it offers a critique of the archive’s potential to be coopted to authoritarian ends and a model for a public, circulating counter-archive of collective memories.

ARTMargins Online, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp. 26-50.


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