Critics’ Picks

View of “La promesa” (The Promise), 2012–13.

Mexico City

Teresa Margolles

Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo (MUAC)
Insurgentes Sur 3000 Centro Cultural Universitario Delegación Coyoacán
October 6 - January 6

The 2012 recipient of the Artes Mundi award, Mexican artist Teresa Margolles is known for her poignant works that center around drug-related violence in her homeland. Her past work has explored the failures, victims, and unseen consequences of organized crime and its antagonist forces embodied by state security services. Her current exhibition, “La promesa” (The Promise), features a site-specific, eponymously titled 115-foot-wide mound of debris, which is shaped like a mass grave and consists of what once was a low-income house in the suburbs of the border city Ciudad Juárez. In the past decade, migrants who have left other regions in Mexico to escape poverty have settled in Ciudad Juárez to work at its transnational maquiladoras or assembly factories. While once a land of promises, it has now become a place where crimes mostly related to drug trafficking have increased dramatically to the point that over 115,000 people have been forced to emigrate, leaving their homes abandoned.

Dismantled over eleven days, the home—and with it the problems of the region—have been transported 1,120 miles to this museum. Over the course of the show, a constructed wall created with this rubble is being painstakingly and almost ritually displaced day by day by a group of volunteers. By the end of the exhibition, the debris will pervade the entire gallery space, almost resembling the sands of Ciudad Juárez’s desert, where dreams and lives of people now dissolve like powder into anonymity.