Disappeared (2013)

Artist: Irene MacWilliam

Medium: Textiles

Artist Statement: Irene made this piece at the invitation of curator Roberta Bacic for the exhibition “RETAZOS TESTIMONIALES: arpilleras de Chile y otras latitudes”, Argentina, 2013. Through the people-shaped voids on the black fabric, words such as “fear,” “denied” and “disappeared” are visible on the red backing cloth. It confronts us with the estimated 30,000 people killed or “disappeared” during the Videla dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) and is a chilling reminder of the fate of the disappeared in her native Northern Ireland and globally.


Artist Biography: Conflict Textiles is home to a large collection of international textiles, exhibitions and associated events, and is mainly comprised of arpilleras (brightly coloured patchwork pictures) and quilts and wall hangings, all of which focus on elements of conflict and human rights abuses. Conflict Textiles is an ‘Associated Site’ of CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet) at Ulster University, Northern Ireland. Making visible the struggle for the disappeared remains at the very core of the collection. Roberta Bacic is the curator of Conflict Textiles and is a Chilean Collector, Curator and Human Rights Advocate living in Northern Ireland. \n Arpilleras (pronounced ‘ar-pee-air-ahs’) can be described as three-dimensional, appliquéd tapestries of Latin America that originated in Chile. These became the medium for women, generally working collectively, to denounce the human rights abuses and repression of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile from 1973 to 1990. The art of making arpilleras subsequently spread to women’s groups in Peru and more recently to Spain, Brazil, Argentina, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Canada, New Zealand and Ecuador. Stories of political conflict, anti-war protests, repression, survival, denial, death, disappearances, displacement, indigenous land struggles and transition to democracy continue to find expression in textile form. \n The Conflict Textiles selection of artworks for the Transformative Memories exhibition consists of 12 hanging textiles or arpilleras, one memory box and one set of embroidered, printed handkerchiefs mounted as bunting.