On her visit to New York City last winter, artist Teresa Margolles, Neuberger curator Patrice Giasson, and several others headed to Staten Island to the street where Eric Garner died as he was being placed under arrest, victim of a NYPD chokehold. In preparing for her new work, Margolles dragged a large cloth over the sidewalk where the violence occurred, staining it using a technique she developed to absorb micro-substances. This cloth became the canvas on which artist-embroiderers from Harlem Needle Arts, with input from Margolles, created a work that commented on the tragedy and voiced the artists’ concerns about violence faced daily by the African-American community.
“The textile is a microphone,” Margolles said, explaining her general approach. “It triggers conversation because of its power of having been in contact with the dead body.” In the case of Garner, she said: “It shows the violence against black men. That’s what we want to talk about...Injustice.”
Created with the support of the Neuberger Museum of Art, american Juju for the Tapestry of Truth, 2015 and five other powerful works will be on view July 12–October 11, 2015 at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread, an exhibition of the artist’s new multi-media work, involving the participation of local artist-embroiderers who worked freely on the pieces.
This exhibition continues Margolles’ long exploration of violence. A multimedia artist working in photography, video, sculpture and performance, Margolles has spent the last two decades exploring the socio-political issues related to violent death in Mexico and its impact on the victims’ family, friends, and communities. She’s addressed the anonymity surrounding hundreds of unidentified bodies in Mexico’s central morgue, the unprecedented violent nature of crimes resulting from that country’s drug war, the massive disappearance of women in Ciudad Juarez, and even messages left behind by those who committed suicide.
“Margolles provides focus and brings viewers in close proximity to death to broaden their understanding and stimulate their thinking,” Giasson explained.
In Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread, all of the works are the result of the artist’s collaboration with native embroiderers from Panamá, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico and the United States, all of whom share her concerns about violence, particularly against women. After explaining her vision for the project, Margolles provided each group with a fabric that had been marked through contact with the bodies of those who had suffered a violent death. She urged the embroiderers to create patterns on the discolored textile as a way of triggering conversation about the violence and social problems plaguing their respective communities. These conversations are video-recorded and included in the exhibition.
Born in Culiacán, Mexico in 1963, Teresa Margolles is one of Mexico’s leading artists. She was a founder of SEMEFO, the acronym for Servicio Médico Forense (Forensic Medical Service), which commented on social violence through provocative art performances from 1990 to 1999. Margolles holds a degree in forensic medicine. Throughout the 1990s, she worked in a morgue, where ideas that expressed her views about violence, death, and social unrest took shape. Many of the corpses were victims of drug abuse or violence, and many were unclaimed. “The idea was to bear witness and trigger the imagination to help tell the stories that accompanied the works she created,” says Giasson.
Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, and curated by Patrice Giasson, Alex Gordon Associate Curator of the Art of the Americas. Generous support for the exhibition has been provided by the Alex Gordon Estate. Additional support comes from the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and by the Purchase College Foundation.