12-28 November 2010
Shoreditch Town Hall Basement, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT
An portrait project featuring 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 large scale project has been 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 will each paint one of the murdered women, confronting us with and safeguarding in our memory the dead and disappeared. The exhibition raises important questions about the capacity of art to represent tragedy and commemorate the dead, as well as the potential for art to affect an audience and the collective nature of grief. It is curated by Ellen Mara De Wachter, a curator and writer based in London.
Theories as to why these murders continue range from serial killers to organ fielding, the use of women as prizes for the drug cartels, and the escalating problem of 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. The Mexican authorities have seriously mishandled each investigation into these murders.
“This project began in 2005 when I was commissioned to make a feature for BBC 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.”
Despite the media coverage of the issue, the murder of 186 Women in 2009 and disappearances of many more including Adriana Sarmiento Enriquez on 18 January and Daniela Ivania Hernandez Hernandez on 4 March 2008 from Juárez attests 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, spreading to devastating effect in Guatemala and beyond. Amnesty International has reported that in Guatemala more than 2,200 women have been murdered since 2001. In August 2006 the Mexican federal government dropped its investigations into the murders, concluding that no federal laws had been violated.