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Or the temptations of the representation of the self[one] 


Matrix of the Polaroid and Polaroid II essays, the artist Bernardo Puente abandons the traps of duplicated and manipulated photographic representations of the portrait of General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989) to work exclusively and timelessly with the intentionality, language and symbolic forms of dictatorial power. 

photographic con-fabulation

At first glance, there seems to be a certain complicity between the artist and the subject represented. Perhaps the same one that existed with most of the servile Paraguayan photographers and visual artists (and some spies and informers) who represented the image of a politician and military man whose government regime was one of the most violent and long-lived in Latin America.

Puente has framed an image originally retouched and printed on plastic at the end of the 20th century following the cheesy aesthetic of his own contemporaneity and –first temporal conspiracy- he has re-framed. Ready to hang and fulfill an almost fetish symbolic function of domestic idolatry, the artist has faced the same twin image, but arranged on the reverse. 

This time Bernardo Puente has not forced to unfold the images. He has made a second portrait, one of those that abound in Asuncion Sunday flea fairs (seeking to reunite with those nostalgic for the regime), he has framed and re-framed it in the same way as his identical one. The work is nothing more than a deeply marked reading from aesthetics to the profound and terrifying representation of the Stronista regime.

this is my body

With an exegetical and rhetorical essay, Puente assigns the deceased dictator an anachronistic ability: that of taking a selfie. The portrait then becomes a self-portrait: it is Stroessner himself photographing himself, strong, uniformed, powerful, serene, timeless. He does it in principle -second collusion- to feed his insatiable ego of power: his selfie is a stage; of massive scope, which sought to occupy every room of every institution of the Paraguayan State: office, police station, of every school, of every hospital. The now-defunct dictator manages to completely appropriate the scene; there is no background, a detail that does not seek to enhance his self. Paraguay, symbolically, is none other than Stroessner. Or at least, that's the temptation.


The power of the representative device


Puente has made the dictator appear in person. Both portraits are and are not exactly the same. The positive presence of General Stroessner is redoubled on the twin side: it intensifies, it exhibits itself with all its being. The fold, without color and showing the artificial collapse of the plastic makes for a terrifying negative. The representation of the hidden side of the portrait is at the same time the legitimizing presence of its existence: the intense charge of the discolored side acts as a constituent effect of the subject. 

The artist then dismantles the all-powerful narrative of the image and exhibits the double power of representation: to make it imaginarily present in a unique world. There, at this point, the general does not have the prominent and pompous elements of his image as the "Only Leader" in a republic idealized by outdated henchmen and silenced only by force of terror. 

Innocent selfie attempt, the regime is perceived as such.  

Ana Barreto Valinotti

Asuncion, October 2020


[one]Term used by sociologist Erving Goffman

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