Sunday, May 16, 2010
ARTMARCH for Juárez
On Saturday, ARTMARCH for Juárez marked the opening of the ambitious new exhibition Ni Una Mas at Drexel University’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. Envisioned as a mass demonstration and collaborative work of performance art that will serve as a vehicle for social change, both the march and the exhibition respond to the epidemic of femicides that has taken place in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico (El Paso’s border-hugging twin city), since the early 1990s. The murders continue today, largely with impunity. The tally of victims is nothing short of catastrophic: there are differing official totals which report anywhere from 400-700 killed or missing women in the last decade, but with unreported and undiscovered victims, the actual number could be in the thousands.
The rally began at the 33rd Street Armory, where hundreds of participants assembled, some coming from Drexel, with many contingents representing their fraternity or sorority, but others hailing from Philadelphia at large. Each was provided with a Ni Una Mas t-shirt and a Yoko Ono designed button emblazoned with the word “Heal”, the title of the artwork she contributed to the exhibition. Women wore pink shirts, the color of the memorial crosses stuck into dusty desert soil for victims in Juárez, and men wore black shirts. At 3:00 p.m. the event began with instructions and rehearsal for the call and response chants by Joe Gregory, Head of Drexel’s Art and Art History Department.
Introductory comments followed, including speeches by Abbie Dean, a Drexel Trustee and Curator at Leonard Pearlstein Gallery; Gary Steuer, Chief Cultural Officer for the City of Philadelphia; Diana Washington Valdez, Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist of the El Paso Times; and Marisela Ortiz, founder of Mothers of Juárez and the mother of a victim. Of particular note was Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, who proved himself an incredibly rousing and motivational orator. Finally, Norwegian artist Lise Bjørne Linnert gave a short but powerfully cathartic performance piece.
ARTMARCH was then off to the streets with its police escort, leaving the Armory and processing down Market Street, before turning North on 36th and then East on Filbert to arrive at the new site of Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. Women marchers formed a central column of pink, flanked on either side by files of the black-shirted men. When prompted by Joe Gregory through a bullhorn, participants chanted the slogans “Ni Una Mas,” and “Save the Girls: Not One More” to an accompanying drumbeat .There was also an instrumental cue by a brass band: when they played a dissonant note, the women participants would each shout the name of a different Juárez murder victim.
Arriving at the gallery, the women threaded carnations bearing the name of a victim or the designation “Unidentified” into a chain-link fence. An iconic pink cross, which has become the painful visual symbol associated with Juárez, was also planted at the site.
Please check back for the continuation of my Ni Una Mas coverage, when I will review the exhibition.