N.N. (NINGÚN NOMBRE)
MANDY CANO VILLALOBOS
N.N. (“Ningún Nombre,” or No Name) are initials commonly used in South America to mark the graves of unknown bodies. Adopting this title, my performance addresses the thousands of murders that scarred South America in the implementation of Operation Condor. This U.S.-supported political maneuver aimed to combat the spread of leftist ideas during the Cold War era.
Isolated under a spotlight, I sewed over the faces of victims from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. To the right of me, unsewn images were neatly stacked and labeled according to their country of origin. Methodically, I retrieved individuals from this pile and sewed over their faces. Once each person was covered in white cloth, I let the sewn image fall to the floor. As the installation proceeded, this second pile accumulated into a heap of indistinguishable victims.
In performing to a U.S. audience, I present an awareness of our country’s past transgressions. I also emphasize the view held by many United States citizens of their continental neighbors-a distancing and generalization of foreign cultures and people. The depersonalized connotation of the project’s title highlights this, while the covering over of individual portraits provides a dual analogy for both concealment and recognition. Additionally, “N.N.” depicts the difficulties that confront these countries haunted by genocide. As networks of family members and survivors seek to remember their loved ones, former and current governments wrestle with the consequences of the past, sometimes suppressing and other times memorializing the circumstances that surround the desaparecidos. Thus a sense of futility plagues nations apprehensively edging toward some form of reconciliation. I too struggle with a sense of futility. I question the likelihood of reconciliation-reconciliation between the United States and the Latin American countries affected by Operation Condor, as well as reconciliation within those countries themselves. As an act of both remembering and forgetting, I envelop thousands of faces with cloth and thread. Yet any sense of conclusion or closure eludes me. I nevertheless continue to sew, wondering if the significance of my act lies less in achieving a goal and more in the persistence of the action.