Exhibition Review at Big Bend Coffee Roasters
BEATEN WITH A HAMMER
An Installation by Bettina Landgrebe
Voice Amira de la Garza
A constellation of objects suspended in mid-air creates an impression of a gathering cloud. Approaching the work more closely, what appears as a cloud dissolves into individual human hearts; a common denominator of our humanity: a symbol of love, hope, and life. On further inspection, each heart is inscribed with answers to the following questions: Name, Age, Date and Method of Death.
While reading/listening to the systemic tone of a female voice reciting the fate of these human hearts, a terrifying emotion shutters through the room.
The body of these hearts is absent. The corporal silhouette that housed these vital organs is invisible; this body, we find out, was prematurely and unnaturally taken from these hearts.
But it is not only the body that was violated. The body of their relationships with their family, their community, and their culture was also disrupted. These hearts belonged to females of varying ages and backgrounds: to a girl, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a wife, a cousin, a niece, a godmother, a friend, a lover.
However, we must remember that the death of these women will not be primarily remembered by the heinous transgressions that took their life. The life of these females goes well beyond this exhibition. They were and remain richer and more colorful than this installation or anyone could ever try to capture. But what this exhibition strives to do is to cast a stark and unflinching eye at a common red thread that is shared by these human hearts; that is, collected in this room, a system of violence emerges.
A war is being waged on the culture of women and civil society along the border city of Juarez, Mexico. 476 hearts are testimony to this war. A war that is waged against empathy, civility, love, hope, family, community, and towards the softer, fragile side of life, which the war of terror and totalitarian domination views as a threat to the complete command and control of society.
It is not a war contained amongst warriors, but it is a war that devours life and replaces it with human greed and the vanity of power. The physical and psychological warfare perpetrated against women is a testament to this naked disregard for life after war. There will be no life after war.
The artist answers most of the questions -- Who? What? When? How? -- but what the artist does not answer, and leaves for the visitor to ask, is the Why? Why is this happening? Why is this emergent cloud gathering? Why is there no justice? Why is there no international outcry?
There is not one answer, but many. What is clear and indubitable is that a militarized violence is gathering; a violence that intends to disrupt the basic fabric of society.
Returning to the room we take note of 100 hearts, arranged in a tight circle on the floor. They are nameless. They are bodiless. They await to be drawn into the cloud. This is an ominous warning. Whether we actively or inactively participate in its emergence, along the border of America and Mexico, a cloud is gathering, and we should take heed from the memory of these women who will be preserved and remembered for their dignity and sacredness.
Sven Zbinden, Marfa