In "Últimas Palabras" (Last Words), an actor and a speech instructor rehearse a text based on the final statement made by Alfredo Astiz at his trial. This ex-commander of the Navy during the last military dictatorship in Argentina is currently serving a life sentence. He took part in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of several Argentine and European citizens, and participated in the death flights and crimes committed in the School of Naval Mechanics.
Also known as the "Blond Angel of Death", Astiz was notorious for his chameleon-like ability to shift character, passing himself off as a victim of repression in order to infiltrate human rights organisations as a spy. This lead to the kidnapping and death of twelve human rights activists, including three of the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
In his closing argument, Astiz shows no remorse after having been found guilty of crimes against human nature. Instead, his text is a theatrical reversal of the situation, in which he defiantly describes himself as a military hero who merely followed orders, and who is now the victim of persecution.
The re-enactment of his last words is a study of the relationship between the political art of oratory and that which Hannah Arendt has called "the banality of evil". Stripping the text of explicit links to the Argentine context renders it surprisingly familiar. With its references to the "War on terror", and its insidious appropriation of progressive rhetorics for its own ends, it echoes a neo-conservative discourse that can be heard with growing frequency in other geopolitical contexts as well.
As such, this exercise serves as an alert to the subtle ways in which these kinds of political discourses seek to justify military rule, overlooking the violence and undemocratic methods inherent to it.
This work has been realised by artists Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum during their Mondriaan Foundation residency at Lipac - Ricardo Rojas Cultural Center in Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Watch an extract from the video: