“Evidence: Artistic Responses to the Drug Cartel Wars” at Intersection for the Arts

by Admin on 06/26/2013

Intersection for the Arts’ current group exhibition “Evidence,” which includes painting, video, photography, printmaking, and installation by artists Miguel A. Aragón, Roberto Gomez Hernandez, Fiamma Montezemolo, Ernesto Ortiz, and Gianfranco Rosi & Charles Bowden features artistic responses to the drug cartel wars. Yet, what is unique about this exhibition is that these responses do not depict the brutality of the violence within these wars, nor do they implement statistics and data to shock audiences, but instead revive empathy for the victims from these saddening atrocities and arouse compassionate, emotional responses towards the issues. Eloquently stated by Intersection for the Arts, “With public consciousness about the drug cartel wars diminishing from lack of reportage and news coverage, these artists continue to put forth a platform for discussion about one of the most pressing issues or our time.”

Intersection for the Arts reminds us of the reason behind the dearth of information surrounding the drug cartel wars: “Journalistic coverage of the drug violence has declined over the years, as several dozen journalists have been murdered for covering narco-related news. Some media networks simply ceased reporting on the drug war, while others have been directly infiltrated and corrupted by drug cartels… the drug cartels have also kept pace with non-traditional journalistic outlets, torturing and murdering bloggers and social media users.” With the hesitance of news media and social media to report or provide information based upon the concerns of safety and their lives, artists like those in this group show have shown how art has taken up the issues manipulating objective information to illustrate a subjective response, which brings in audiences deeper into the real issues, and heighten the significance of the violence. Roberto Gomez Hernandez’ New Digital Media Regime, an unassuming camera perched on a tripod pointed to an inactive blank gallery wall, replays videos of performed violence disseminated through social media. Viewers are invited into an intimate-like space to view these videos, the panel wide enough just a few people to see it at a time, unlike its intention to be spread across the globe. The blank wall in front of the camera heightens this emotional response, this absence pointed right in front of them, as well as the intimate space to view the video conflates distance between space and the action on the screen.

Although many may associate drug cartel wars with Mexico, “Evidence” brings to attention it has infiltrated into nearly 200 cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. Intersection for the Arts writes, “Over 100 killings and dozens more kidnappings and home invasions connected to the drug cartels, have occurred in the U.S. between 2008-10. The proximity of this violence becomes even more evident considering that a substantial amount of financing for the drug cartels comes from American drug consumers.” In Miguel Aragon’s burnt residue embossing based upon newspaper photographs of murders ocurring in Juarez, Mexico for control of the United States drug trade, vibrant color replaced by scorched paper, which illuminates to audiences the effects of America’s actions upon a country, a city and further even to the people many miles away. Aragaon says, “I feel this is the reflection of Mexican society at the moment; we cannot avoid seeing these events but we try to continue living a purposeful life.” Lives of Mexicans, many who are not even participants in these wars, are irrevocably changed by the actions of America’s consumers. Aragon’s images invite audiences to see what they may not have even realized. A special unique empathetic bond may be formed. “Evidence” at Intersection for the Arts provides artistic responses to a distressing topic, but succeed far greater in exhibting such artworks that incite reflections and connections with audiences to a topic not at its level of importance it should perhaps be.


Evidence: Artistic Responses for the Drug Cartel Wars will be at Intersection for the Arts through August 31.