Turning a Drug War into Art

Over five thousand dead in the past year, gruesome beheadings, child kidnappings and murders and a helpless populace: Mexico has become consumed by a never-ending drug war. So it’s not surprising that drug violence has seeped into the work of Mexican artists, most notably the country’s current representative to the Venice Biennale. Teresa Margolles brought to Venice art that tells of a scarred story, from her upbringing in drug lord-ruled Sinaloa to her job at a morgue sifting through the bodies of battle victims.

Her work is moralistic and confrontational. Paintings in a misted room. Only later is it explained the mist is from the water found on dead drug violence victims, and the paintings are created with dipping paper used to clean bodies at the morgue. Jewelry with centerpieces that are actually shattered — the broken pieces are taken from cars at score-settling crime scenes. Margolles says her art is macabre because so is the rising death toll in her home. And now she’s back with a new exhibit at LABOR Gallery in Mexico City.

In the photo above from the Tate Liverpool Biennial in 2006, Margolles’ piece “Untitled” represents a post-mortem examination table.

From the description of the work: “An internal element heats the top surface of the metal sculpture while a device suspended from the ceiling intermittently releases drops of water onto the boiling hot surface below. The droplets, formed by water used to wash bodies in a morgue in Mexico City, hit the surface with a sound like gunshot, instantly evaporating and surrounding the viewer in their vapor.”

Photo via the Tate

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