Teresa Margolles’ work focuses on the collective turmoil of the Northern Mexican social experience where drug-related organized crime has resulted in widespread violence and murder.
Anonymous traces of past lives, burial and memory are drawn together in her practice. Since graduating with a diploma in forensic medicine in the late 1990’s, Margolles has examined the economy of death, whereby the morgue and dissecting room bear witness to social unrest.
For Margolles, sculptural installations and performance bring the physical reality, and materiality, of death to the fore. Typically activating the blind spots of our imagination, Margolles collapses the distinction between art and reality, as in her work for the Venice Biennale in 2009 where the floor of the exhibition space was mopped continuously with water from a morgue in Mexico. By means of artistic intervention, Margolles brings attention uncharacteristically close to our understanding and relationship with death.
Artes Mundi 5 Exhibition
Teresa Margolles examines the economy of death through sculptural interventions and performances, having trained in forensic medicine and worked in a morgue. Plancha and Sonido de la primera incision torácica durante la autopsia a una victim de asesinato (Sonidos de la morgue) are both ‘multisensory’ sculptures. In Plancha water, which has been used to cleanse dead bodies in a Mexican morgue, drips from the ceiling onto hotplates. each drop evaporates on impact with a noticeable hiss. The work narrates the transition in death from present to absent and the processes of decomposition. Ultimately it honours the anonymous lives that have been lost. Sonido de la primera incision torácica durante la autopsia a una victim de asesinato (Sonidos de la morgue) continues the exploration of death through the morgue context. Visitors were invited to an intimate experience of the sounds of an autopsy through a single set of headphones.
In stark contrast to the multisensory engagement of her other two works, 32 años. Levantamiento y traslado donde cayo el cuerpo asesinado del artista Luis Miguel Suro is mute. This piece has been pivotal in terms of the direction Margolles’ work has taken, exploring the impact of violence, and how it permeates into everyday lives. Taken from the studio of a close friend, it is a section of ﬂoor on which he was found murdered. The empty surface, which has borne witness to a horrific crime, marks the absence of the person, showing loss as a result of the act rather than evidence of the act itself.