It’s me, Tamara, the ex-fashion blogger who became an art reporter! Now that you already know about the concept of “one week, one artwork”, I won’t keep you in suspense and will get straight to the point. However, be aware that there are more cheerful topics to start the week with. Never mind, sometimes we need to face life as it is, with all its joys and tragedies, right?
Which artwork are we talking about?
El Poker de Damas by Teresa Margolles, a 53-year-old Mexican artist working with Sonja, a transgender sex worker from Zurich.
What about the piece – where is it and what does it look like?
At Kunsthalle, on the third floor. Among Jennifer Tee’s funeral masks, the Google DeepDream video by James Roberts and Andrea Eva Györi’s ode to feminine masturbation, there are two benches, a film clip, a wall incision and a portrait. There are some more elements to Margolles’ piece, but this list should give you an idea of the whole display. Sitting on one bench, you will see a video performance showing Sonja and three Mexican transgender sex workers playing poker together. The poker game is a pretext for an exchange about their respective working and living conditions in the cities of Zurich and Ciudad Juárez where the performance takes place. The visitors can also join in the game and conversation. Articles from Mexican newspapers, mostly reporting criminal incidents, accompany the video setting. Sitting on the other bench, you will simultaneously see a photographic portrait of Jessica, one of the artist’s Mexican hosts, her death certificate and a video testimony by a friend of hers. Indeed, for no apparent reason other than being a transgender sex worker, Jessica was killed in terrible circumstances in Ciudad Juárez, like many other prostitutes and, more simply, like thousands of other women. The third floor at Kunsthalle now pays tribute to her disappearance and, through her, to all the victims of these unresolved crimes.
What is my impression?
Okay, the topic of prostitution, transgenderism and murder is not an easy one to deal with, but alright, let’s figure it out. I must admit that I was still fine a few minutes ago when I listened to the mediator talking about this Czech artist, Matyas Chochola, boxing in shiny black shorts with his host. This was followed by a discussion about masturbation, so I did wonder what would be the next step of the tour ...
Frankly, at first the idea of offering your body to earn money, like changing your sex or appearance to fit the other gender, has always struck me as quite unglamorous. Oh, come on, don’t be so shocked, you probably haven’t given this a second thought either. But that was before I discovered Gigi, a transgender YouTuber and one of my fashion and make-up mentors (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srOsrIC9Gj8). Doesn’t she look gorgeous? Anyway, don’t take me for a fool, I know Gigi is far from risking to be killed while walking down Fifth Avenue with her Chanel handbag. No possible comparison. Along with the tribute paid to Jessica and the whole discussion about the conditions of transsexuals in Mexico, the intervention of Sonia herself within the exhibition space gives the work an even deeper dimension. An incision in Kunsthalle’s white wall, like an expression of rage, like a bleeding wound or like an undefined vagina, an attribute between two genders – that’s how the mediator suggested to interpret it. Ahem, yeah, okay, it could make sense. I personally cannot say exactly what I see, but it certainly reinforces the impact of the work and all of its elements. I have already seen many joint venture proposals this summer, but Teresa Margolles’ commitment for this community, a community I had no involvement with except for Gigi the YouTuber, is particularly striking to me. Confronted with this strongly political work, I get an idea of what it is really like to join your ventures with someone else or ... your forces.
Before leaving you I highly recommend that you have a look at Jessica’s giant portrait in Hotel Rothaus at Sihlhallenstrasse 1. If you’re too lazy or you happen to have a broken leg, at least check out the website: http://hotelrothaus.ch/.
Goodbye, honey bees, and have a wonderful day!