the hands of juan Peron the hands of juan Peron
Mano derecha de Juan Perón - jabón approx. 20 x 10 x 5 cm
Juan Perón's right hand - soap sculpture approx. 20 x 10 x 5 cm

While the hands of Perón were stolen in his tomb in 1987, something about this dismembering gave him a new status, say a real death, as well as it conferred a new life to the detached parts of the corpse.

The role of Perón is known about the shelter of the Nazis after 1945. That is the point: there is nothing secret about that, but it appears that there was a need of undeniable evidences, as the facts recently proved. Quite the opposite: the exfiltration became institutionalized by the Argentinian government, in an almost ideological way. Talking about the trial of Nuremberg, Perón said that the attitude of the allies was a shame. In a very catholic perspective, he made a call for redemption for the defendants, that the victors did not behave as they might to.

Perón even declared that he acted in the name of the Argentinian people, assuming by this way the totalitarian nature of his position. Because, of course, when one man claims to take care of the will of the whole population, he deserves to be named a dictator (one subject acts for the Other’s jouissance, as known in the theory of Lacan). That is the paradox of the desecration of his tomb: by dismembering the hands as the instrument of an intolerable gesture, those anonymous persons (representing the multiple) re-consecrated Perón as a leader of the nation. Rest in peace!

The stupid but important question is: what did they do with the removed hands?

The story doesn’t tell, but the less we can say is that they by this fact acquired a status of fetish, a magic Gegenstand we better be careful with. We know that totalitarism goes hand in hand with signs supposed to be taken over by everybody. Detached from these signifiers, the body of Perón gets something ideal. And the artist we intend to talk about took cognizance of these facts. Juan Pablo Castel himself is more famous for a news item than for his works. But the hands he sculpted with soap can be correlated with this episode of the history of Argentina. As we can tell, there is something about his hands and this intolerable act he made. Something like: he was not himself anymore, the hands became independent, and he could just look at them doing their misdeed. He was passive.

So he knows how dangerous a part of something is when detached from the whole, in a perverse explanation. The fact that the hands of Perón disappeared from the corpse, say a body fragmented, has something frightening for Castel, to the extent that his own hands acted beyond his drive, objectivizing themselves.

And so, Castel desubjectivized himself after the drama, we mean he couldn’t identify himself with his own history. His work became something about the places and the times where he lived, in some kind of a pragmatic way. He was supposed to fill those places and times for a while, as an agent, driving them possible as well as his own existence.

According to this logic, the episode of the dismembered hands was an occasion to extract the signifier that established Castel as “news in brief” character. He identified this story with the history in a wider sense by sculpting hands with soap. We can see the profanation of the tomb of Perón, like we said, as an attempt to raise him again as a “father of the nation”, him who had washed his hands in the shelter of the Nazis. The sculptures are a reification of this fact, a kind of metaphor of a clear conscience, heard as clean hands. But the dismembered hands disappeared as a sign of the guilt of Perón but didn’t in the reality. If we have a look at the work, we see the papal sign of blessing, cynically understood as the signal giving clear conscience in general.

But this signal cannot be useful for Castel, there is no redemption for him. This work has also a function as soap: the one to subtract of the reality these hands clean as soap by holding it in the palm of his hand and rubbing. Those sculptures have sense being ephemeral; we need to use them as a daily object, to consider them for their function rather than for their magical load.

Useful for Castel who had to have clean hands for want of having a clear mind, and to work his heart out.

Kaduk Bardaj

the hands of Juan Peron the hands of juan Peron the hands of juan Peron
mano derecha de Juan Pèron - jabón approx. 20 x 10 x 5 cm
Juan Pèron's right hand - soap sculpture approx. 20 x 10 x 5 cm