Mujeres de Juarez.
Memory as the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information.
It was in 1993 when the local press of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, started talking about the frequent murders of young women. The complaint of these murders came from social activists identified with feminist ideas.
The precursor was Esther Chavez Cano, she was the leader of Group 8th of March. Esther found a common denominator of the murders: this was that the victims were non-identified, or from dispossessed families and many of them were workers of the assembling industry.
‘Mujeres de Juarez’ is a project that embraces memory to argue that the political crises that have endured, also lead to the development of a collective memory within society.
The painful memory is essential to the act of political protest. The protest through art is at a point of sharing a series of phenomena that imply society, politics and culture and express a complex narrative of interrelated nature.
I will mention a quick reference to the insights of Slavoj Žižek, who’s work inspires me to look into the nature of how politics draws into categories of memory. Specifically, the category para-politics which emphasizes that the state constructs an official memory which doesn’t repudiate the memory, but rather allows it to continue.
From this context I find that the research questions ask:
What is the interface between a painful memory in the aftermath of violence and the artist’s responsibility of keeping a memory alive?
What is the role of the artist as a political conscience against the government in the time of the present?
The practice led research refers to written archives from the police department, which describe, usually in a couple of sentences, the way the bodies were found in Cd. Juarez and its surroundings during the months of October to December of 1995.
From that graphic description, I made drawings which would represent that explanation, for each text and image would be screen- printed into corn tortillas. (Being corn tortillas the main source of nutrition for Mexicans).
Once printed they were left to dry, making them hard to eat.
The work has been exhibited as an installation. Some of the tortillas were packed in kilos and wrapped in newsprint the same way they would be given in a tortilleria.
A good metaphor that describes this project is that as Mexicans, the act of eating tortillas in this situation, would be representing us eating our own shit. Accepting the fact that the government feeds us with it.
This is an ongoing project since 2010 and the work has been exhibited in Mexico City, US and ArtHouses, Whitley Bay.
One of the reviews from the audience in that exhibition said:
Erika Servin's prints on tortillas may first appear beautiful and innocent, but on closer inspection they reveal the dreadful reality that is the abuse and murder of Mexican women. Helen Shaddock
In 2021 the work was presented in a group exhibition Re-Imagine organised by a collaboration between Pink Collar Gallery Durham and Las Iluministas, which is a feminist collective in Mexico, which main aim is to change the narrative of femicide.
As a Mexican woman and artist, my response to:
What is the role of the artist as a political conscience against the government in the time of the present? Is to promote the artwork as an act of MEMORY.
How the mind of an artist remembers that violent information and translates it to a political and social act is by creating a new a collective memory through art.
There is no response of the Mexican government to resolve femicides. Dialogue between authority and civil organisations has fallen since the beginning of term of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. At the same time the budget has decreased from entities such as National Institute of Women.
The political crisis continues and the collective memory does not forget.