The Wailing of the Walls is a project that was born of Luttringer’s eventual desire to explore in depth her own experience and to extend it, through the power of testimony, to that of the almost one hundred women she came to meet while producing the work. These women are but a few of the thousands who lived through similar experiences of kidnapping, torture, and “disappearance.” Indeed, the word disappeared came to be used on a daily basis and took on a new and sinister meaning. It became a way of referring to those who had been kidnapped by the state security forces to be either detained in clandestine centers or murdered—those who had disappeared from daily life and were lost without a trace. During the period 1976–1983, there were over five hundred clandestine detention centers in Argentina.
Concrete benches, filthy latrines, abandoned rooms, illegible graffiti, and walls torn down by time. Walls that served to stifle the desperate screams, the cries of those tortured and raped, and the indescribable, agonized moans of those who, although they were freed, remain aware of their open wounds—who feel that they will never get out of that hole.
Juan Travnik, Photographer, Curator, and Teacher, Buenos Aires
Excerpt from his eassy in FOTOFEST2006 catalogue
PAULA LUTTRINGER El Lamento de las Muros(The Wailing of the Walls)
El Lamento de las Muros (The Wailing of the Walls), combines photography and text to give expression to those who were kidnapped and tortured in clandestine detention facilities in Argentina. Luttringer interviewed seventy-five women who shared their experiences with her. Luttringer uses excerpts from their stories to accompany large back and white images of the remains of the now abandoned jails. Having had this experience herself, the works speak from the heart of the artist and the women she interviewed. The text forms a powerful expression of the violence endured behind the concrete walls of secret prisons.
Paula Luttringer was born in La Plata, Argentina, in 1955. Her studies in botany were cut short in 1977, when she fled Argentina to live in exile after having been kidnapped and held for five months in a secret detention center. Upon returning to Argentina in 1995, she turned to photography as a means of expression. The subject matter of her photographic work concerns the meeting point between her country’s recent history and her own personal one. In 1996 she was chosen by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires to exhibit her work as one of twenty photographers of the “New Generation.” In 1999 she won the best portfolio prize at PhotoEspaña for her project El Matadero(The Slautgherhouse). The following year, she was awarded an artist’s grant by the Fondo Nacional de las Artes (National Arts Fund) of Argentina for her project El Lamento de los Muros(The Wailing of the Walls), which also won her a fellowship in 2001 from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York. Her works have entered the collections of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA), Buenos Aires; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. She currently lives and works in Buenos Aires and Paris.