To Be a Witness

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June 1, 2012
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Mirta Kupferminc

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a daughter of immigrants. My mother is Hungarian and my father Polish; both are Auschwitz survivors.

Our European and Jewish cultures influenced my education, how we lived, and my point of view regarding life and its values. My Argentine and Jewish identities are completely blended, and that is how I am understood in Argentina’s art world, which has a deeply international inflection.

“Who we are” is an amalgamation of who we think we are and what others think about us. The following anecdote demonstrates an observer’s influence — how we are seen by others — on our own cultural production.

I created a mural installation (below) titled, “To Be a Witness,” which shows a young man covering his eyes with his hand. I intended this to represent the Sh’ma prayer, taking note that the installation also includes two letters: “ayin,” which is the last letter of the first word of the prayer, and “daled,” the last letter of the last word. Joining the two letters creates the word “ayd,” the Hebrew word for witness.

But when the observer learns that I am Argentinian, sees the image of a man covering his eyes, and learns that the piece’s title is “To Be a Witness,” the assumption is that the image is a reflection on dictatorship and the disappeared people in Argentina during the 1970s.

My work always relates to migration and the multiple places where we may happen to live. The place that influences me stretches far beyond Argentina, where I was born and where I now live. I’m influenced by crossing frontiers, and that is why I often include in my work upside-down landscapes and winged chairs.

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Mirta Kupferminc, born in Buenos Aires in 1955, has exhibited her work in Argentina, Cuba, China, England, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Spain, Taiwan, Uruguay, and the United States. Her work has earned numerous local and international awards. Since 1980, she has been developing a highly focused art-teaching performance. Kupferminc works intensively on international human rights issues. Her work can be viewed at mirtakupferminc.net.

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