No importa lo que pasa en la hoja de papel, lo importante es lo que pasa dentro nuestro. (“It’s not important what happens on a sheet of paper, the important thing is what happens within us.”) —Mirtha Dermisache
Despots, from those who composed the efficiently murderous junta that ruled Argentina to the petty kakistocracy that runs the United States today, curb the written word because they fear its expressive power. They haven’t learned that what they should fear is not written language but, instead, the very impulse to write. It is more prevailing than literature, capable of surviving where art cannot.
The writings and artistic practice of Mirtha Dermisache are a testament to this. Her work, which she created while living under the junta in Argentina, is lasting and subversive even though she barely penned a legible word. One could argue that writing is a state of being in conflict—with oneself, with one’s subject, with one’s government, or with one’s community. But the unconscious impulse to write comes before the word, and it does not always take the form of language. Everything that follows—in how we traditionally conceive of writing—is an attempt to capture that compulsion, to make approximate marks that convey our thoughts to others. This is what John Berger referred to when he wrote, “The boon of language is that potentially it is complete, it has the potentiality of holding with words the totality of human experience.” Prose, he came to believe, expressed something that was far from truth because it was too artificial and too trusting; it did not “speak to the immediate wound.”