Oct 31, 2007 — Argentina’s “dirty war” nearly thirty years ago changed the life of artist Laura Murlender forever. At age nineteen, Murlender was abducted by government forces, chained, and tortured for eleven days. She is one of the few “disappeared” who survived. On October 30 at the Yeshiva University Museum, she spoke about her ordeal in public for the first time in thirty years.
Murlender’s talk was part of “From Darkness to Life,” a panel discussion dealing with the process of creating art as a crucial response to personal experiences of political oppression and human rights abuse. Moderated by Gabriel Cwilich, PhD, associate professor of physics at Yeshiva College, the panel included Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder and director of Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and Nora Strejilevich, writer and professor of Latin American literature. Poet María Negroni, who was scheduled to appear, was represented by translator Mariano Amato.
The panelists began by describing their own experiences in Argentina during this period of state-sponsored terror. Rabbi Schneier spoke about his diplomatic visit to the country in 1981 and what he was able to accomplish there. “As a result of the Appeal of Conscience mission, 400 people [being held under martial law] were released. However, this does not bring back all of the ‘disappeared,’” Rabbi Schneier said.
Strejilevich, like Murlender, was a “disappeared,” and she talked about the power that words have had for her in coming to terms with her ordeal. “The goal of a dictatorship is to cancel history,” Strejilevich said. “Survivor narratives must defy this erasure. I struggle with the lexicon of terror and use the truth of my own word—the word of a survivor.”
Amato read from Negroni’s book La Anunciación.
The event was co-sponsored by the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs and served as a supplement to the exhibition “From Darkness to Light: The Paintings of Laura Murlender,” which will be on display through November 11. This exhibition is sponsored, in part, by the Friends of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. For more information, call 212-294-8330, x8805 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.