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The murder epidemic of women artists and activists is devastating to the City of Juárez in Mexico. The art of Teresa Margolles continues to report its tragic features, opening our eyes wide.   

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Image Credit: Instagram: @isabelcabanillas_mx

 

These are dark times for women artists and activists, especially in Mexico, one of the countries in the world with the highest rate of gory deaths and people mysteriously vanishing. At the end of January 2020, a feminist artist - the twenty-six-year-old Isabel Cabanillas - has been brutally murdered, while riding her bike home, in the Mexican border city of Juarez. The violence against women keeps perpetuating itself uncontrolled. What happened to Cabanillas has a name, femicide, and she was well aware of its seriousness. Isabel Cabanillas looked at the world with wide-open eyes. But, simultaneously, she was being watched and targeted for taking part of in a vocal feminist group that defended women, immigrants, and the environment. Not by coincidence, a common theme in her work were constellations of eyes in acid colors that she painted on murals and sweatshirts. A magical and mysterious art as an antidote to human misery and hatred.

 

© Isabel Cabanillas

 

Among the many Mexican artists who continue to fight against feminine and cross gender-based violence, social injustice, marginality, and corruption, Teresa Margolles (Culiacán,1963) stand out for a brutal realism that shakes deeply. She represented Mexico in the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 with a solo show titled “What Else Could We Talk About? Embassy/Cleaning”. The plan was extreme and powerful at the same time. 

 


© Teresa Margolles, Mexican Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2009.

 

© Venice Biennale. Teresa Margolles, Ciudad Juarez Wall, 2010. Photo Francesco Galli. 

 

First, Margolles closed the windows of the United States pavilion with fabrics covered with the blood of murdered people in the north border of Mexico. Subsequently, she conceived a repeating performance by mopping the floors of the exhibition space with a “body fluid” obtained from humidifying fabrics that previously absorbed the remains of crime scenes in northern Mexico. Her works have been exhibited in numerous museums and institutions, like "La bùsqueda/The Search" (2014), a perturbing and beautiful piece. It consists of a sound and visual installation - eight bus shelter’s glass panels, dirty and dusty, taken directly from the streets of Juarez that vibrate energetically - as a monument to memory and denunciation. Viewers come across fliers of worn-out, almost erased, Mexican women faces. Sadly, we deduce what has happened to them. It’s everyone’s duty - not only women artists’, like Margolles who directly does it - to witness, report and pass down this tragic history of violence. In dark times, we must live with wide-open eyes and speak loudly and clearly.

Written by Petra Chiodi

Cover image: © Venice Biennale. Teresa Margolles, La bùsqueda/The Search, 2014. Photo by Andrea Avezzù and Italo Rondinella.

 

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