Tom Lavin y Günter Schwaiger


25 Mantuano street, Madrid


Support: Austrian Cultural Forum Madrid, Área de las Artes del Ayuntamiento de Madrid.

Collaboration: Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica

Acknowledgements: Luis Gonzalo Martínez, Natasha García Lomas, ediciones despacio mobcoop ediciones, Ángel Sáenz; Martin Eller, and the members and friends of ARMH who have shared their testimonies.

foto Theda Acha

A project on the dissappared of the Franquist era

The Fascist coup d'état led by General Francisco Franco against the Spanish Republic in 1936 was met with unexpected grassroots resistance, leading to a long and bloody civil war. Though many decades have passed since that time, Spanish society is still haunted by many ghosts from the past.
The military campaign led during the coup was complemented by the organization of a program designed to exterminate any and all opposition. It was carried out by State security forces, in particular the Civil Guard, the Falange fascist party, the clergy and civilians who supported the coup.
One system that was used in rural areas to carry out the extermination was the following: in every town, people who supported the coup were required to draw up a list of those who opposed it or were suspected of doing so. This list was turned over to the fascists of the neighboring town, who captured the named individuals and assassinated them on the outskirts of town, where they were buried without any further ado.
In this way, destinies and testimonies were lost in obscurity, and this same darkness was ensured for future generations. The system was not only gruesome, but also highly efficient. The decentralized system left no documentation or record of the scope of this operation, nor of its duration. Civil society's involvement in these crimes threw an impenetrable shroud of silence over that period in Spanish history, and the mass graves of Franquism are a taboo subject that few are willing to discuss.
The Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory (ARMH) is a private organization formed in 2000 with the objective of locating as many mass graves as possible, exhuming and identifying the bodies, and burying them in cemeteries, in order to restore the memory of Spanish society. In 2003, one containing six bodies was uncovered in the town of Santa Cruz de la Salceda, province of Burgos. The exhumation was documented by Günter Schwaiger in the film Santa Cruz, For Example… The documentary, released in 2005, shows the work carried out by a team of archaeologists who carefully extract the bones from the ground. The families of the desaparecidos observe the process as they wait to transport the remains to the local cemetery. Interviews with townspeople—relatives of the desaparecidos as well as public figures such as the mayor or the Catholic priest and passersby—provide a clear vision of the tensions still existing around this subject seventy years later.
For the video installation Mass Grave, the film was projected on a wall and combined with other elements, including a map of Spain that Tom Lavin outlined on the floor in earth gathered from the mass grave at Santa Cruz. As members of the public walked over this map, they came into direct physical contact with the very soil where the bodies of six victims of the repression had laid for nearly seventy years, and at the same time, their steps moved the soil and blurred the map until it was unrecognizable, thus metaphorically repeating the disappearance of our historic memory: a memory that has been stolen and distorted, and a human drama of incalculable proportions.
The exhibition was rounded out with diverse documentary materials pointing out the connections between the crimes committed so many decades ago, the efforts to uncover the truth, which are inherent to democracy, and the personal experiences of the spectators themselves on coming into contact with earth from a mass grave, as they are forced to choose between remembering and forgetting.



18.12.09 - 31.01.10

Ca l'Arenas Centre d'Art

Museu de Mataró


04 - 28.03.09

Sala de exposiciones Da Casa das Campas

Vicerreitoría do Campus de Pontevedra


ECAT - Toledo

23.09.06 - 01.10.06

ARGEKultur Salzburg

Salzburgo, Austria

15.08.06 - 01.09.06

Centro Cultural de España en México



Instituto Cervantes de París



16.12.05 - 28.01.06