In 2008 Swoon and I created this memorial to Silvia Elena, a 17–year old girl who was murdered in Juarez, Mexico, in 1995. We installed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco as a part of “The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art and Politics” and then at Honey Space in New York. The piece combines text, sound, excavation, shrine elements, and an intricate paper cut-out/block print created by Swoon.
Beyond functioning as a memorial we wanted to create a window into the tragic and ongoing issue of femicide. Defined as a pattern of murder targeting women, which authorities have often systematically ignored, femicide has haunted communities throughout the Americas. To date, over 500 women and girls have been confirmed killed in Juarez, and more than 1000 more have disappeared. Most of the victims are young, poor, and have been sexually assaulted prior to their deaths.
Swoon and I traveled together to Juarez in 2008 where we met Ramona Morales Huerta, whose daughter was one of those killed. We went with Ramona to visit her daughter Silvia's grave. We recorded interviews with Ramona, captured the sounds of the streets of Juarez and the desert where bodies have been found, and pored over pictures of Ramona's lost daughter. From this experience, came this installation.
The audio installation is designed to replicate the sense of uncertainty I felt as we tried to make sense of what was happening in Juarez. Ramona’s words were purposefully left un-translated and at Yerba Buena I forced people to engage with the sound through a tangle of headphones. We later re-installed the piece at Honey Space in New York, where the sound drifted and sometimes erupted disconcertingly from speakers hidden under rocks and rubble. I’ve created a slideshow of images from the two installations with a 2-minute clip of the 8-minute loop used in the installation. Photographs courtesy of Tod Seelie, Caledona Curry, Monica Caniloa and Ira Schrank.
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