An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom


“Since 1993, 14,525 murders have been committed in Ciudad Juarez bordering on the United States, of which 1,248 have victimized women. Most of these crimes against men, women and children remain unpunished.”
Extract from Men and Women of Juarez, Julian Cardona, Mexico, 2012

A new exhibition entitled “An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom” was on show recently at the VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow. The programme states:

“Since 2009 Brian Maguire has travelled on a number of occasions to Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. Described as the most violent city on earth, this is a place where the most heinous of crimes are often met with impunity. On a journey to uncover and bring to international attention the endemic injustices and cyclical nature of the violence that occurs in this place, Maguire has involved and collaborated with a number of artists, journalists and human rights activists. This exhibition has brought together five artists, who through their practices challenge the absence of humanity that allows for these conditions to continue.”

I’ve blogged here recently about one of the many tragic deaths of the Mexican drug wars – Maria Santos Gorrostieta, who was abducted in front of her daughter, beaten to death and dumped by the side of the road. But – as this exhibition illustrates – Maria is just one of the many innocent victims caught up in this senseless slaughter. It is almost impossible to gauge an accurate figure of the number of women who have been murdered in the Ciudad Juarez region. Wikipedia says:

“There are various media reports with different numbers ranging from hundreds to thousands of female homicides in the Ciudad Juarez region. For this reason Amnesty International reports, ‘Inadequate official data on the crimes committed in Chihuahua, particularly accurate figures on the exact number of murders and abductions of girls and women, has led to disputes around the issues that obscure the quest for justice.’ According to Amnesty International, as of February 2005, more than 370 young women and girls have been murdered in the cities of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua … the statistics of female homicides per capita in Juarez is significantly higher than any other major city in Mexico or the United States.”

But it hardly matters what the actual figure is – after all, every one of those numbers was a real person not just a statistic. This is something that the artists try to get across in this exhibition.

The main part of the exhibition is made up of “The Portraits” by Brian Maguire. These portraits of the murdered women/young girls are painted from images given by each woman’s family (Maguire painted a second version of each portrait to give to the families involved).


Beside each portrait is the story of how the woman featured was murdered. It does not make for easy reading or viewing, but it is essential, nonetheless. Essential in that it gives each of these murdered women a voice, it presents the human face behind the numbers.

Norwegian Artist Lise Bjørne Linnert’s contribution is an international participatory art project which has involved the collaboration of thousands of individuals since 2006. It is a wall installation of 6,100 hand embroidered name tags. The embroidered names that make up this delicate wall are of women who have been murdered or gone missing in Ciudad Juárez since 1993.


4,400 individuals in 352 globally-arranged workshops were involved, embroidering two names: one, the name of a murdered woman from Ciudad Juárez, the other, the name of a victim of similar crimes from the participant’s locality. It is a wonderful and very moving piece. The viewer can also participate by embroidering their own name tag in a space provided in the gallery.

Apart from being an excellent exhibition in its own right, “An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom” highlights an awful issue that is woefully ignored by the mass media. Recommended.


4 thoughts on “An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom

  1. Derek, thank you for this thought provoking post. I’ve written about the cartels in two of my novels. We cannot imagine the horror these criminals perpetuate in the name of “business.”


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