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Artist Statement: Muriel Hasbun

Image of Comandante Filomena taken at the Museo de la Revolución, in Perquín, El Salvador
Photo: Muriel Hasbun

X post facto came literally after the fact—thirty years after I had left El Salvador at the age of seventeen, and seventeen years after the Salvadoran peace accords. It also came after my father’s death, while I packed away and made sense of the objects that remained.

Janet’s photograph had come into my consciousness like a lighting bolt. It was then, as I stared at it, dumbfounded, at the Museo de la Revolución, that I remembered what my father had told me. He had been asked to identify Janet’s body after she was captured and killed in 1984. But his dental archive could not produce casts or x-rays of her smile. She was never his patient.

I only remembered Janet through the eyes of a ten year old. She had been a beauty queen, with long black hair… But the way she held the M-16 in the photograph was an utterly different reality, unspoken and untold. Janet had become Comandante Filomena.

The memory of Janet and her portrait haunted me as I looked at my father’s archive. Like a medical examiner or a forensic anthropologist, I examined x-ray after x-ray. At first, they all seemed as anonymous as a document signed with an X. But I began to see landscapes, graven by our lives. X post facto would become an emotional register for my experience during and after the Salvadoran civil war.

This is how the body remembers. It creates crevices and strange fossils. Encrustations and indentations. A sea of sediment upon sediment. A place revealed.

The 32 photographs of X post facto, selected and derived from an archive of over 1,000 x-rays, link me to the faces of those who perished or to the phantom limbs of those who suffered violence in my country of origin. Documents turned into metaphor, the images become relics, traces, signposts. They mediate a site where we might explore the territory of our shared history. Recorded in the flesh.