This is the only case study which does not represent an effective peace agreement. “The permanent stop to armed violence” decreed by eta in 2011 is the most recent –and nearest– reference to the will to put an end to the conflict. Prior attempts to start a negotiated peace process, such as the Conversations of Algiers (1987-1989) which give this exhibition its title, did not conclude with any type of agreement. Despite all the meetings held between the Spanish government and eta, peace has been repeatedly put off. Amongst the first contacts made in 1976 (of which documented news exists) and the attack with a car bomb in the Barajas Airport terminal in 2006, a dozen ceasefires have occurred, one after another, without the end to violence being definitive.
Putting the Conversations of Algiers into the public eye gives us the necessary distance, it allows us to reduce the plot tension between the information and the representation. While not only speaking of war and terrorism violence of any type, it also handle the numerous attempts to reach an agreement –the Geneva or Madrid Conferences, Zürich, Ajuria-Enea, Navarre, Lizarra, the Anti-Terrorism Agreement, the different ceasefires, even the latest Declaration of Aiete– in order to help us understand this tumultuous historical process. As the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben says, “Only rhetoric can face terror.”
The exhibition’s curator, Carles Guerra, writes the following: “Adopting the Conversations of Algiers as an axis for this case study involves rejecting the iconization of the historic event. If said image or icon does not exist, it is because informational obscurity has gotten in the way in terms of the interactions between the Spanish Government authorities and eta representatives. Peace negotiations, conducted in secret, have not included the testimony of the press. Only the results have been shared, often having been transmitted as fait accompli. As a result, the Conversations of Algiers challenge our very notion of the events. We know that they have taken place, but we do not have images thereof, except for revelations from the parties who participated in the negotiations. As we do not have images of the Conversations of Algiers, what we have before us is an exception that we cannot ignore.”
Given these conditions, what this case study can provide is a set of cultural artifacts whose meaning shall undergo traumatic distress. The delirium that has taken possession of perception twists their meanings. Controversy becomes a way of seeing things when there are not clear representations. Rhetoric alleviates us when faced with the impossibility of contemplating pure terror, naked violence, rawly exposed. This is not an attempt at commemorating the past, or making a show out of violence and its explicit punishment. This is not an attempt to numb the effects of violence with its symbols… no. Really, we do not yet have a peace agreement. Trauma, breakdown, postponement. Delirium and truce.
Pedro G. Romero
Co-director of the Peace Treaty project