Review by Sinead Nunes, Editor
`Remember Them’ features work by a group of international artists that highlight the huge number of female disappearances and murders – estimated at more than 2000 since 1993. These have been committed in Ciudad Juárez, a city described as the most violent on earth.
The exhibition is described by its curators as a “particularly important exhibition”, illustrating the “terrible loss” of life which seems unending in South America. In Ciudad Juárez, a television set is manufactured every 3 seconds, whilst computers are churned out every 7 seconds: the loss of human life feels just as mechanical and frequent in this investigative exhibition, which reveals the enormity of this issue.
The exhibition explores the idea of “disappearing”. Many of Mexico’s missing women are never found, and this fact changes the original meaning of the word to become something more sinister, more calculated: “to be disappeared”.
The work that resonated most with me was that of Mexican photographer Julián Cardona, whose ambition is to capture The Truth on camera. Each image in the series is a stark black and white rendering of everyday life in Ciudad Juárez. The Truth #12 Maria Elena de Santiago is informed of her daughter’s death, June 29 2000 depicts a tragic scene, as a family is torn apart by this news. Rather than intrusive, Cardona’s presence at such a moment feels justified: someone must tell their story.
Cardona’s work also asks: is their suffering made worse by poverty? The families in these images have very few material belongings, and after losing a mother, a daughter or a wife, are left destitute. Often, the police in the images either ignore, or are implicated in the crime, leaving the situation hopeless.
I also found Lise Linnert’s public participation piece very moving, as I was enveloped by the enormity of the continuing tragedy. Norwegian artist Lise Bjørne Linnert invited 4500 members of the public to help her embroider the names of over 6000 missing women on to scraps of fabric reminiscent of school uniform name tags. Linnert uses our relationship to names (the first thing we ever learn to write) and applies it to her work: every carefully stitched name brings an identity back to life. The scale of the piece, which covers an entire wall in the gallery, as well as the community aspect of having so many people contribute to the work, humanises the number, making us see the victims as individuals, rather than statistics.
Lastly, Mexican contemporary artist and 2013 Arts Mundi prize winner Teresa Margolles’ film is a shocking and thought provoking political piece.Irrigación follows a water distribution truck, as it dispenses 5000 gallons of water mixed with blood and other bodily matter on the road between Alpine and Marfa, Texas, USA. Margolles collected the body fluid from multiple sites of violence in Ciudad Juárez. The film, very candidly, shows how the remains of these people are shed so easily and forgotten by the authorities, and implicates America in the crimes for creating such conditions. The water falling on solid, dark tarmac is also poignant: nothing will grow here.
The exhibition highlights the extreme juxtaposition of good and evil in human nature, as innocent families are destroyed by this horrific epidemic, whilst the authorities stand aside and allow the carnage to continue. This is a shocking, humbling and exhausting exhibition, which deserves a huge amount of recognition for bringing such a real and unsolved problem to our attention.
“Remember Them” continues at Victoria Gallery and Museum until 1 February 2014