Thursday, August 26, 2010

Violence Against Women, Part II

This spring in Philadelphia there was an extraordinary exhibition "Ni Una Mas/ Not One More/The Juarez Murders". It was held at Drexel University's new art space the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. Although I was unable to attend the exhibition, I have received the catalog, and various other reference points, including photos posted on facebook and videos online.

The Juarez Murders have been going on for a long time: since 1993 more than 800 girls and women have been murdered. These killers target young women who are working in maquiladoras (sweat shops) in the "free trade zone". Mexico has 4000 maquiladors and one million workers. Women are lured to work in them because of the hope of making money for a better life, but in the factory life they exist outside of Mexican social structures. Inside the factory, they are prey to employers who treat them as sex objects. On their way to and from work, they are vulnerable to anyone on the street. Many Mexicans see these zones as places of economic prostitution between Mexican and the US.  according to gender theorist Jessica Livingston:
"Global captialism depends on these women to assemble its commodities. While multinational coporations profit from the maquiladors in Juarez, the murdered women and their families bear the cost of global capitalism."

Diana Washington Valdez is the courageous and intrepid reporter for the El Paso Times who has analyzed why the killers have not been caught. She states that the murders come from different power relationships, gangs who kill as initiation rites, elites who know they can get away with it and kill for pleasure, serial killers and copy cat killings. The police and other authorities are often complicit in the cover-ups or lack of investigation.

Celia Alvarez Munoz's work is featured on the cover of the catalog Ni Una Mas, it shows a simple pink shift dress, with a razor with cocaine on its edge, at the crotch, blatently referring to the interersection of sex, drugs,workers, and death. These cut offs by Munoz raise the same issues with the red sequined zipper that resembles a flow of blood. These two works are part of a larger installation by the artist Fibra y Furia, Exploitation is in Vogue

The exhibition "Ni Una Mas" included a tribute to Frank Bender, who as a specialist in facial reconstruction  used skulls of murder victims in Juarez to reconstruct their faces and help to identify them. He was in great danger as he worked on the faces, even drugged by high officials and threatened.

The exhibition also included well known artists like Kiki Smith, Yoko Ono, Coco Fusco, Nancy Spero, Tim Rollins and KOS. All together there are 19 artists in the catalog. 

Some of them made works specific to the exhibition, others contributed work that pertained specifically to the subject, and others were more indirect.

Yoko Ono made a "heal" button, and a poem "Our body is the scar of our mind. We are the oasis of our planet, we can move mountains, heal planet, heal earth, heal us."

From the photographs, the Art March (see the video linked above) was the high point of the event, taking the message into the streets with a march of hundreds of people wearing pink tea shirts that referred to the pink crosses for the women murdered in Juarez. The exhibition addressed real issues, calling people's attention to the problem and demanding that solutions be sought.

Of course, the powerful array of forces lined up in Juarez makes it difficult, but at least the gallery made a committment to making a statement and to publicizing the murders. If such an exhibition could take place in galleries all over the country it would really make a difference. Wake up Art World! Down with Narcissism.

1 comment:

Jeffrey W. Bussmann said...

Thank you for linking to my photo; fantastic blog!