At the beginning of the 1980s, Peru experienced a violent internal conflict due to activities of the insurgent guerrilla groups Sendero Luminoso and Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru, and the military forces of the retaliating Peruvian government. It resulted in almost 70,000 deaths, many of which have never been accounted for. Although the official state narrative recounts its own history of conflict as a state of exception, which today is all but resolved – the fact remains that 16,000 people are still missing and 6,000 mass graves remain to be exhumed.
Forensic archaeologists have begun to tackle this immense task but unlike in other regions where the victims are recovered more quickly, Peru’s fallen citizens have been reduced to bones over the passing of time. The film traces the exhumation of these fragments as they are carefully separated from the surrounding soil. No longer constituting a body, the title Liminal refers to the in-between state of the matter or the bones being identified and the subject to whom they belong passing from “missing person” to “deceased.”
Liminal (2019) is a video that is made like a painting. Fragments of bones between layers of earth are slowly analysed piece by piece as Watanabe mimics the care and attention of archaeologists. The state of Peru still denies the extent of the violence. The video moves seamlessly between beauty and tragedy urging the necessity of grief and recognition for the sake of reconciliation.