Beyond the Record

Beyond the Record centers around the selection of three photographic series by the renowned Salvadoran artist and activist Muriel Hasbun (b. 1961): Pulse: New Cultural Registers (2020–22), X post facto (2009–2013), and Saints and Shadows (1991–2004), which provide a mini-survey of her career. Hasbun’s complex body of work is especially pertinent in the context of art historical reevaluation of photographic practices that surged in response to the US interventions in Central America in the 1980s, such as the recent exhibition Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities (Tufts University Galleries, 2022), in which she was included. Hasbun draws upon a diverse array of archives, including family albums, medical records from her father’s dental office, documents from her mother’s pioneering contemporary art gallery El Laberinto, and even a seismographic repository of El Salvador to meditate on the complex negotiations involved in the construction and preservation of personal and collective identities and memories.

The work of Houston-based artists of Salvadoran descent Stephanie Concepción Ramírez (b. 1984) and Jessica Carolina González (b. 1995) extends Hasbun’s reflection by examining the effects of the conflict and trauma on the children of survivors and refugees, and their resonant political and psychological demands. In their work, all three women engage deeply with both personal and official archives (both in El Salvador and in the US) to address violent legacies of the Salvadoran civil war and its effects on Salvadoran communities both in their home country and abroad. They ask pertinent questions about loss, mourning, affective recovery, and rebuilding the communities that are often exiles or refugees. While doing so, they also ask pertinent questions about the common assumptions related to the indexical character of the photographic medium. In their work, a “record” reveals as much as it obscures, always superseded by imagination, desire, and affect.

Dorota Biczel, Ph.D.