Bebe Blanco Agterberg: Theater of Broken Memories

Anyone looking at Agterberg’s work can sense a dark history, but what exactly lies at its core is not immediately clear. This is what makes her images of her fascinating: she not only investigates the malleability of memories but also how people, willingly or unintentionally, try to fill the voids within. Politics, media and citizens play the leading role in her work: they are inextricably linked, but they also find themselves in a continuous power struggle.
Like an optical illusion, a memory can also be manipulated or distorted: by your own brain, but in some cases also by external factors. An example is the Spanish amnesty law of 1977, which introduced the Pact of Forgetting . After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, the government took the decision to officially forget the 40-year dictatorship. Legally, that meant crimes under Franco’s dictatorship were not prosecuted. In public spaces, it meant that visible remnants of these crimes were obscured. Thus the Spanish collective memory before the Pact was fragmented, distorted and blurred.

This history forms the starting point for Bebe Blanco Agterberg’s images where a visual tension is felt that Agterberg manages to capture in an almost surreal and sometimes apocalyptic way.

“How to live in a state built upon silence?
This is a photographic work based on a true story. It is a constructed story that includes images about how memories intertwine with reality and how they have a lasting impact on daily life. The project is a reflection on the transition period in Spain that followed after the dictator Francisco Franco peacefully passed away in 1975. Spain needed to decide how to move from a dictatorship to a democracy. It wasn’t possible to have a clean break – a clear “problematic” before & “fixed” after. Some of the practices continued and still lay deep within the foundation on which Spain is built today.
One critical tool that was created in order to forget was the “Pact of Forgetting” (Pacto del Olvido) in 1977. The pact was an imposition that existed in different spheres. No one was held accountable for crimes they committed, facts were altered, new stories were presented by the government, and people slowly started to fill in the gaps of their memories with new information. Nothing was certain anymore and the pact became an assumed ‘historical truth”. The project looks more widely through the reconstruction of memory how society can cope with atrocity. The work is there for a combination between the fabricated and the more documentary image and investigates how forgetting became a political tool.
In times of crisis, which face should we trust?” (Bebe Blanco Agterberg)

A portrait of Bebe Blanco Agterberg

About the Author

Bebe Blanco Agterberg (Netherlands, 1995) is a visual storyteller based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She examines history and the reliability of the image in the post-truth era, which forms a gray area where fact and fiction live close to each other. This is the area where Agterberg positions herself.
The projects she makes explore the relationship between politics, media and citizens. How these three opponents feed each other, need each other, but also exist in a constant power struggle.Her visual language is based on what she sees in the media and she is specifically interested in what has been manipulated. Agterberg uses artificial light in order to give a cinematic feeling to the work, which is based on emotions that tries to lure its audience into believing what is created in front of them. In her work she takes on the role of a director that investigates what truth means in modern times.
Agterberg graduated with honours from The Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague and is a member of Futures, a Europe based photography platform that brings together the resources and talents of 14 cultural institutions. She also works as an image editor for the Dutch journalistic platform; De Correspondent.
Bebe Blanco Agterberg is the sixth recipient of the Florentine Riem Vis Grant. Established in memory of Florentine Riem Vis (1959-2016), the grant is awarded each year with the aim of enabling young artists to further develop their artistic careers.


Bebe Blanco Agterberg: Theater of Broken Memories
until March 5th 2023
Foam Museum – Amsterdam – Netherlands


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