Teresa Margolles @ GSS, 8 May-30 Jun
One of Mexico’s foremost artists, Teresa Margolles’ show at Glasgow Sculpture Studios concludes her five-month residency in the city. Ciudad Juárez, a city notorious for its horrific violence, rape and drug trafficking, is Margolles’ home and her source material. Just reading about her art takes a strong stomach. In a typical work, she took water from the morgue used to wash the murder victims from Mexico’s drug wars and had their relatives mop the gallery floor with it.
Here she focuses on the London riots last summer – an unusual period of social unrest for the UK, but perhaps less remarkable to someone hardened to the brutality of daily existence in Juárez. In the unsoiled, pristine whiteness of GSS’ new premises, the work could have been shocking or repulsive – foreign matter dirtying the gallery. Instead, you find a single diamond in a case and a phrase carved into the wall: 'A diamond for the crown.'
Following the riots, Margolles collected burnt detritus from streets and had it turned into a diamond. With the text on the wall, there’s no mistaking her implication: capitalism. But it’s difficult to conjure memories of that time. The gallery seems sealed off from life and the subject almost erased from the work. Next door, Luis Alvarado’s photographs of 1960s-80s Juárez portray a culture of vibrancy, people and celebration – a humanity absent from these works.
Up the road from the gallery is an offsite work – a billboard covered with fabric stained with dirt from Mexican crime scenes. Context apparently being integral to the work, you have to wonder what she thinks passers-by in Maryhill will make of it. While the power of her works in Mexico may stem from her integration with the local community, here her relation to the subject matter seems truly alien. [Jac Mantle]