With all death in the air
“That woman was naked. A goddess, naked and dead. With all death in the air”
The paragraph is part of the text that the disappeared Argentine journalist Rodolfo Walsh wrote in 1955 about the kidnapping of Evita’s corpse, one of the most important women in Argentine history. From all this potency, the Argentine photographer Maria Eugenia Cerutti extracted three elements: an open question about women, a spirit of the time and a title.
Con toda la muerte al aire is a visual investigation into the death of Alcira Methyger, murdered by her partner Jorge Burgos. It was the same year that Walsh wrote, the country suffered a coup d’état and the bombing of the civilian population occurred in Plaza de Mayo, a few meters from the government house: 1955.
Although the murdered of Alcira was one of the most resounding events in Argentine criminal history, it took more than half a century before we could put into words what had happened. A femicide. What happened to Alcira was a femicide.
At that time, the case was known, instead, as “the Burgos case” or “the Barracas ripper”. The first news about it was when a priest found a wrapped torso in paper wood in Hurlingham, Province of Buenos Aires. Later, in a nearby location, two legs appeared inside the same type of paper. In Riachuelo, the Prefecture found a basket with a skull, two arms and part of a thigh.
It took a while because there was not much technology, but finally they recognized Alcira and they learned that she worked as a housekeeper in the porteño neighborhood of Barracas. Later they identified the femicide: Jorge Eduardo Burgos, a 30-year-old man, who worked for her family’s paper company.
Cerutti is a photographer, she studied Communication Sciences and is the author of the book Kirchner fotografías and co-author of the book 132000 volts, el Caso Ezpeleta, for which she won the FNPI Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano Award. She worked at the Clarín newspaper from 1998 to 2016.
In Con toda la muerte al aire, Cerutti did a deep archive work and research. She approached the case through four principal files: the General Archive of the Nation, the case file (which is exhibited in the Federal Police Museum), the Clarín Archive and the Biblioteca Nacional’s Newspaper Archive. “The intention always was this thin border between fiction and reality”, she says.
“My objective was to find pictures that could rebuild a time, but at the same time, were triggers of other senses: when they were less closed and more open and evocative in terms of semantics, they interested me more ”, she tells.
Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel resonated in her head as a reference. She sought to rethink how cases were handled in the past, to reinterpret speeches. The idea was not to tell “a distant case” but to put on the table the repercussions today. Thus, understand “what are the ways of accepting or criticizing these facts, how is the use of language”.
When she approached the book, the creative process was as a team: Cerutti, Ricardo Baez and Martín Bollati. The project is made up of two books: one is the reissue of the writing that Jorge Burgos himself wrote from prison. In it, says Cerutti, the femicide recounts the romance and ends up admitting the crime: “Although it is the murderer’s voice, it is a speech that we were interested in publishing because it is still in the minds of many: femicides continue to occur.” The other book, which dialogues in tension, is a visual chronicle that gathers, reinterprets archive material, intervening photographs and texts from newspapers and magazines of the time. Yo can buy it online from anywhere in the world or in the largest bookstores in Argentina