|Pink crosses for the women of Ciudad Juárez
12-30 November 2010
Shoreditch Town Hall Basement, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT
Private View: 11 NovemberAn exhibition of new work by 200 artists including Tracey Emin, Maggi Hambling, Swoon and Humphrey Ocean, responding to the widespread murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
This ambitious project was conceived by artist Tamsyn Challenger in response to the brutal murder and rape of more than 400 women over a decade in the US border town of Ciudad Juárez and the region of Chihuahua in Mexico. 200 artists have each painted one of the murdered women, confronting us with and safeguarding in our memory the dead and disappeared. The exhibition is curated by Ellen Mara De Wachter, a curator and writer based in London.
“This project began in 2005 when I was commissioned to make a feature for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. I travelled to Mexico and met with some of the families and was struck by their need to hand me postcards that had been generated as another aid to finding their loved ones. These images were black, white and pink and poorly produced but they started the concept in my mind and on the long flight home I had a half formed idea for what has become the project 400 Women. The concept relies heavily on a large-scale collaboration and, for me, each participating artist represents one of the murdered women, in some way invoking her, so that she can challenge humanity. Each image produced will stand as a statement against gender violence.”
Explanations for the murders, which continue to this day, range from serial killers to organ fielding, the use of women as prizes for drug cartels and domestic violence. Most sinister of all is the possibility of so-called sexual violence tourism. The continued disappearance of women in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America evidences a culture’s disregard for the rights of women. Despite media coverage of the issue, the murder of 186 Women in 2009 and the disappearance of many more attest to the fact that little is changing. The killers continue to enjoy impunity in the region, which has had a knock-on effect throughout the country and the region. Amnesty International has reported that in Guatemala more than 2,200 women have been murdered since 2001.The Mexican authorities have seriously mishandled each investigation into these murders and in August 2006 the Mexican federal government dropped its investigations into the murders, concluding that no federal laws had been violated.
The majority of the murdered women were extremely poor. Challenger has obtained over 100 images through Amnesty International’s Mexican team, the group Nuestra Hijas de regreso a casa, and the Casa Amiga Rape Crisis centre in Ciudad Juárez. For some women no image is extant. In these cases, the artist involved will use the woman’s name as they wish within the piece.
·Each image will be on a uniformly sized canvas of 14” by 10” (portrait) echoing the “retablo” (which means ‘behind the altar’), the iconic imagery of the Catholic Church that remains such a strong force and power in Mexico.
·Tamsyn Challenger trained at Winchester School of Art and KIAD. Her work has been exhibited in the Truman Brewery and Candid Arts in London. She has worked as a collaborative artist with the Magdalena Festival in Barcelona and with Triangle theatre. Tamsyn’s first solo show ‘The Tamsynettes’ was at Transition Gallery in Bethnal Green in March 2010. She has also produced documentary work for the BBC, ‘My Male Muse’ receiving Radio 4’s ‘Pick of the Year’ accolade.
·Ellen Mara De Wachter is a curator and writer based in London.
·Lise Bjorne Linnert is a multimedia artist based in Norway. Desconocida Unknown Ukjent uses embroidery to highlight the struggle to address the abuse, trafficking and murder of women. The project was initiated in 2006 in response to the situation in Ciudad Juárez and consists of workshops during which participants embroider the names of the murdered young women onto labels. So far over 2,200 people have participated in the project, embroidering more than 4,000 nametags. The project was awarded the Luleaa Summer Biennial Award in 2007.
Shoreditch Town Hall Basement is a unique venue in the heart of artistic Shoreditch. Built in 1866 and now run by the Shoreditch Trust, the building has been used for exhibitions of work by internationally renowned artists and community projects alike. http://www.shoreditchtownhall.org.uk
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