The Words of Others by León Ferrari (Buenos Aires, 1920-2013) is a literary collage created between 1965 and 1967. It was published in 1967 by the Argentinian publisher Falbo, and will be presented in its entirety in Spanish. This reading of The Words of Others is seven and half hours long, during which the audience is free to watch for as long as they like or come and go as they please.
The Words of Others condenses the history of Western violence, as caused by the complicity of political and religious powers; a theme that Ferrari explored throughout his trajectory as an artist. The piece visualizes, through words, scenarios as diverse as the punishments and redemptions of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the horrors of WWII - Nazi Germany, concentration camps and the Nuremberg Trials, as well as more immediate contexts in the life of the artist such as the Vietnam War and the imperialist expansion of the U.S. during the Cold War. Ferrari elaborates an extensive dialogue between diverse characters including Adolf Hitler, Pope Paul VI, God, and the American President Lyndon B. Johnson. These characters act as protagonists, who are accompanied by the voices of war correspondents, local journalists, military officers, prophets and political actors. Their conversation is sketched together through the collaging of quotations culled from history books, literature, the Bible, the written press, magazines, national newspapers, and cables from foreign agencies.
Ferrari’s literary collages were conceived to be read in public, thus functioning as historical archives in flux. In The Words of Others, the most extensive of his literary collages, the artist’s purpose was to borrow the ideas of those who have constructed Western thinking and force them to be taken out of context. He wanted to confront and compare these ideas amongst themselves, highlighting the atrocities and messages of violence camouflaged within the inflammatory rhetoric. In a similar manner, the text explores the role media and news outlets played in the dissemination and reception of world conflicts and wars.
The Words of Others was read publicly and only partially on two occasions. One was in 1968 under the artistic direction of Argentinian artist Leopoldo Maler at the Arts Lab in London. The other was in 1972 at the Teatro Larrañaga in Buenos Aires, under the supervision of the independent theater director Pedro Asquini. In 2017, The Words of Others was presented for the first time in its totality and translated into English at REDCAT in Los Angeles.
Through this presentation of The Words of Others, an essential piece of León Ferrari’s artistic body of work is given its due and homage is paid to his practice and person. It is also meant to function as a gesture in defense of culture, democracy and human rights; which were key issues and imperatives for the author.
The directors are grateful for the collaboration of the Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari Arte y Acervo (FALFAA) who allowed us to conduct research into the León Ferrari archive during these last couple of years.
This reading of The Words of Others forms part of the project The Words of Others: León Ferrari and Rhetoric in Times of War curated by Ruth Estévez, Miguel A. López and Agustín Díez Fischer. It was produced for REDCAT with the support of a grant from the Getty Foundation, and originated as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an important project that explored Latino and Latin-American art in dialogue with the city of Los Angeles.