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People on Fire (work of art)

Artwork Info

76 1/4 x 109 7/8 inches (193.7 x 279.1 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from various donors, by exchange

Object Number

Key Ideas

  • In People on Fire, Guillermo Kuitca pays tribute to people from Argentina by displaying their names in red and pink boxes. He uses empty boxes to acknowledge the individuals who experienced “forced disappearance” by the Argentinian government during the Dirty War.
  • The Dirty War in Argentina lasted from 1974 to 1983. During that time a military junta (a committee of military leaders) kidnapped, tortured, and killed people who did not agree with their political beliefs.
  • Kuitca’s work includes abstract, restructured versions of maps that focus on people’s relationships with space rather than the actual location of specific places.
  • Most of Kuitca’s body of work deals with space and architecture. It includes house plans, theater diagrams, and rooms from his imagination.

Learn More

Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca uses maps and charts as metaphors for locating oneself and navigating through life. In People on Fire, the connecting lines represent people (rather than towns), and their names are displayed in boxes that are color-coded by gender. The empty boxes represent people who were taken and killed by the Argentinian government during the Dirty War. The contrast between the connecting lines and the empty boxes highlights the loss suffered by many Argentinians during this period of political conflict. 

In 1976 Jorge Videla, Orlando Agosti, and Emilio Massera created the military junta that overthrew Argentinian President Isabel Eva Perón. For seven years, this group kidnapped, tortured, and killed anyone who objected to their rule. The people who were taken in the middle of the night and never returned became known as los desaparecidos (“the missing”). Approximately 30,000 people were “disappeared” by the extremist group until Argentina’s democracy was restored in 1983. The collective trauma of Argentina’s Dirty War continues in the present day for the families of those who were lost.

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers: 

  • Watch a video of the artist discussing his work: “Opening-day Artist Talk with Guillermo Kuitca.”  
  • Watch an interview with the artist: “Guillermo Kuitca in Conversation with Hans Hirch, Director of Vienna International Film Festival.”
  • Watch a video about Argentina’s Dirty War.


Resources for Students:


  • A painted map of Argentina labeled with people's names in red and pink boxes.

    People on Fire