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Artist's Talk: Teun Voeten at PDNB Gallery

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, January 6, 2014

BORDER
Photographs by
Delilah Montoya, Jeffrey Silverthorne, and Teun Voeten

Discussion with Teun Voeten
Thursday, March 8
RECEPTION 5:30-6:30pm
TALK BEGINS AT 6:30pm

Exhibition through May 5, 2012


Slide lecture by Teun at SMU the evening prior:
Wednesday, March 7
6:30 PM
Meadows School of Art, SMU
Owens Art Center, Room B600
1601 Bishop (Hillcrest at Granada) 75205

Mexico-US border issues continue to intensify, and many narratives are involved on both sides of this litteral line in the sand. On the US side of the border many show anger as they question the ethics and legality of citizenship, access to healthcare and education, and the right to work and related threat to US jobs. On the Mexican side of the border the drug war, gang violence, and killings flare. While both ends have a spill-over, many Americans tend to feel a degree of outrage, as if something of ours is being stolen by migrants. Little serious thought, and much less action is given by Americans to the Mexican condition along and on the other side of the border. This exhibition offers the perspectives of three PDNB photographers who, at their own risk, work to shed light on the circumstances of the other side.

Delilah Montoya's Trail of Thirst series reveals the path of migrants through the Arizona-Mexico border on the O'odham Tohono Nation reservation. Jeffrey Silverthorne documented the infamous brothels of Boy's Town culture in Nuevo Laredo Mexico for over 10 years (1980-1990's). Teun Voeten, Belgium based photojournalist, dares to bring us to the Ciudad Juárez and document the drug wars.

Montoya's panoramic images of the desert landscape represent some of the most treacherous terrain in many immigrants' crossing; in the early 2000's over 40% of the migrants died trying to reach the US. This staggering figure reminds us that the wide frames are as beautiful as the are dangerous; the open view allows us to position ourselves in the space. With our feet in the sand, the dry air

in our lungs, the hot sun on our skin we feel vulnerable and alone. Many of the scenes go a step further to translate experience- they depict campgrounds, trails, and water stations. Void of figures, the frames do not miss the mark of passers through. Debris proves passage in as little as a plastic bag in the wind, or as much as discarded clothing, shoes, wrappers, backpacks, and other personal items. This work forces us to consider the true desire to try for a better life, even when odds are stacked against against you in passage and after arrival.

 

Silverthorne shines light into the dark corners of the night, into the brothels and border patrol activity. Saturated scenes of back rooms and bar signs represent a sliver of Silverthorne's decade-long project on La Zona, Boy's Town. Established as a "zone of tolerance" for prostitution in 1916 by General Pershing this area was intended to provide entertainment for the soldiers and has endured. The women's personalities vary from fierce to guarded. We have the sense of entrapment, and the rooms remind us of prisoner's cells. These color shots are balanced by black and white prints with similar yet opposing sentiment- the hunt. These prints are gritty, dark, and reminiscent of crime-scene photos. A man stands handcuffs on hip ready to capture another man emerging from a river. We know his destination will next be one of confinement. Between the two series there is a sense of desperation, a true struggle against captivity, and a seemingly impossible hope for freedom.

We feel the sharp edge of danger, tension, and ferocity in the frames by Voeten. The act of survival seems to depend more and more desperately on the ability to arm ones self. The mere attempt at security or normalcy seems futile. Heavily armored police patrol the neighborhood, Cartel members flaunt their affiliation, and blood literally runs in the streets. Voeten's work is an ongoing photo essay on the ever intense conflict between the drug cartels, the government's inability to keep them at bay, and the unfortunate civilians caught in the crossfire. With the Drug War's death count now over 47,500 life seems little more than a passing phase. We feel this as we look at frames of mourning women, police slayings and funerals, but most of all as we compare the simple crosses in the desert against the grand mausoleums to the fallen Cartel. We seem to search in vein for glory.

This exhibition targets a range of issues that Americans bundle simply and neatly into the term "The Border Issue," but here we are offered a range of weighty and difficult narratives. US concerns seem trivial when measured agains any one of the frames in PDNB'sBorderexhibition. Viewers will certainly leave this show with heavy heart and a greater sense of conscious.

For more information on the exhibition and related artist talks please visit PDNB Gallery

Attached PDF: Arts & Culture article by Patricia Mora

Download PDF (24 K)


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