Until the 25 May Teresa Margolles’ exhibition El Testigo (The Witness) will be on show in Centro Del Arte Dos de Mayo. With The Witness, Margolles continues to explore life in Cuidad Juarez, a city plagued by drugs and violence and a city that was also the subject of her 2011 exhibition here at Matadero Madrid, Las llaves de la ciudad (The Keys to the City). Whilst The Keys to the City used one particular person’s trials within the city to speak for the situation as a whole, The Witness calls upon various video testaments from residents, the front pages of a local newspaper, photography and installation to conjure the particular struggles of living in this Juarez.
The first space of the exhibition features televisions playing personal accounts of murders and violence, including by the police. The TVs these play on are placed one end of tables with the visitor invited to sit down at the other and listen to their testaments through a set of head phones. This impression of a one-on-one conversation is incredibly moving and their situation highlights the stark contrast between the dangerous society of this Mexican border city and the pristine exhibition space outside of the television screen; a feeling that continues in the following room
Lining the walls of this room, surrounding the visitor, are rows and columns of front pages from Juarez´s local newspaper PM. With worryingly little variation, these front pages a constructed from a sensationalist headline referencing a murder, a shockingly stark image of the murder and, beside the picture of a dead body, a half-naked woman. These headlines and images, coming from a 2010 during which over 3000 murders took place in Juarez, show an unsettling similarity between the voyeurism of violence and sex and, even more disturbing, the media’s manipulation of this.
Among the other works displayed, including an installation of the materials of a demolished dwelling in Juarez and a photography series of abandoned buildings, the image that draws the exhibition together is the first to be seen immediately upon entry. This work, El Testigo, is a photograph of a tree that unwittingly bares witness to the reality that surrounds it, pocked with bullet holes that have determined its growth. It draws together the various themes of the exhibition into one overarching question; who and what is the witness? This is especially poignant in an arts space designed for people to observe and consider works.
Margolles exhibition that was held at Matadero 2011 took a different approach to the social and economic issues that surround life in Jaurez, focusing on the personal struggles of Antonio Hernández Camacho. The owner of a small business on one of Juarez’s busiest streets, Antonio finds it hard to get by on his key engraving alone and has to work north of the border with USA to make ends meet. After extortion and other issues arose he was forced to close his business. This is a personal story that was told in our Nave 16 space to represent the larger context of the economic and social life in this dangerous border city in an exhibition that also visited San Francisco, Dublin and Boston. This exhibition will be open at CA2M until 25 May whilst at the exhibition space in which we held The Keys to the City we will be opening Maya Watanabe’s exhibition, El Péndulo (The Pendulum), this Friday 28 March.