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Counter-Time: Group Material’s Chronicle of US Intervention in Central and South America

Group Material, Timeline: A Chronicle of US Intervention in Central and Latin America, 1984. 'For Artists Call Against US Intervention in Central America', P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. Photograph: Dorothy Zeidman. Courtesy the artists and Four Corners Books
In this examination of Group Material’s Timeline, Claire Grace considers the ambivalent relationship to time and historicisation embedded within their use of a graphic, linear timeline. For some in the early 1980s, time seemed to circle back on itself. Shadows of the Vietnam War loomed large as the Reagan Doctrine, at the time still emergent, galvanised late-Cold War CIA and military operations in South and Central America, in particular in El Salvador against the FDR and the FMLN, and in Nicaragua against the Sandinista Liberation Front. Images of state-sponsored atrocities appeared regularly in The New York Times, magnifying the long-running history of United States military action elsewhere south of the border. As the crisis mounted, activists across the Americas responded in kind. In New York, political exiles and local sympathisers formed a network of diverse organisations, both small and large, including CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), Casa Nicaragua, Taller Latinoamericano, INALSE (Institute of El Salvadorian Arts and Letters in Exile) and others, including, in the summer of 1983, Artists Call Against US Intervention in Latin America.