'Bite the Dust', A Visual Telling of Narco-Traffic Victims

Bite the Dust#4

“For me, not being in direct contact with the victims or knowing precisely how or why they
died, the drawings of their remains are primarily meant to be understood as metaphorical.
I see the beheaded people as evidence of a sudden, cruel form of murder, but also a
tangible reminder of the mystical unknown threshold between life and death. I have been
close to death and have recovered from a life-threatening illness. The shadow of this
experience has given me a fascination about death, and an ongoing puzzle to try and solve
- why am I still here? Part of that puzzle is to confront, and in a way, to desensitize
myself from the fearsome, awful aspects of the end of our lives. This enables me to see
it more clearly, and to understand it more completely without the obstruction of fear.”—
Lisa Neighbour.

Lisa Neighbour is a Toronto-based artist whose current work – disposed together in an exhibition titled, “Bite the Dust”— enters the current discourse concerning the socio-political climate found in Mexico, in regards to the increased (drug) cartel-related violence.

Her drawings arrive from the heads of victims, usually members of the cartel’s family or enemies, found along with narco-messages. Within the politics of the cartels, the heads are displayed as trophy; as a visual threat to other gangs, and the public in general.

However, in Lisa’s drawings, the brutality of the violence stands in tension with a spectral sense of harmony. Evacuated from context, the victim’s head hovers by itself or in pairs in light mitsumata paper. The lack of background information allows the viewer to focus on the victim’s expression.

Having spoken with the artist for several times, she describes a calm moment where the victim remains out of reach from their transgressors and the violence.  I like to describe it as a moment of relief and (imagined) realization that it is over—an ecstatic moment before death. Amongst imagery that represent violent deaths, Lisa’s drawings echo the photography of French soldiers (taken between 1904 and 1905) of Fu-Tchu-Li’s death by lingchi or death by a thousand cuts.  Here, the expression of Fu-Tchu-Li comes back on the faces of the cartel’s victims.  Indeed, the serene quality of the drawings is embedded with a violent reality which takes the viewer by surprise.


After visiting the exhibition, I believe that Lisa’s drawing touch on how the international community experiences these events at a distance. We know or may know about the violence and brutality taking place in other places, but the manner in which it is represented to us through news channels remains mediated. Yet, through these representations, one does hope to bring awareness to the present issue; and through the artwork, engage individuals in this discourse.

'Bite the Dust', A Visual Telling of Narco-Traffic Victims

Bite the Dust#4

“For me, not being in direct contact with the victims or knowing precisely how or why they
died, the drawings of their remains are primarily meant to be understood as metaphorical.
I see the beheaded people as evidence of a sudden, cruel form of murder, but also a
tangible reminder of the mystical unknown threshold between life and death. I have been
close to death and have recovered from a life-threatening illness. The shadow of this
experience has given me a fascination about death, and an ongoing puzzle to try and solve
- why am I still here? Part of that puzzle is to confront, and in a way, to desensitize
myself from the fearsome, awful aspects of the end of our lives. This enables me to see
it more clearly, and to understand it more completely without the obstruction of fear.”—
Lisa Neighbour.

Lisa Neighbour is a Toronto-based artist whose current work – disposed together in an exhibition titled, “Bite the Dust”— enters the current discourse concerning the socio-political climate found in Mexico, in regards to the increased (drug) cartel-related violence.

Her drawings arrive from the heads of victims, usually members of the cartel’s family or enemies, found along with narco-messages. Within the politics of the cartels, the heads are displayed as trophy; as a visual threat to other gangs, and the public in general.

However, in Lisa’s drawings, the brutality of the violence stands in tension with a spectral sense of harmony. Evacuated from context, the victim’s head hovers by itself or in pairs in light mitsumata paper. The lack of background information allows the viewer to focus on the victim’s expression.

Having spoken with the artist for several times, she describes a calm moment where the victim remains out of reach from their transgressors and the violence.  I like to describe it as a moment of relief and (imagined) realization that it is over—an ecstatic moment before death. Amongst imagery that represent violent deaths, Lisa’s drawings echo the photography of French soldiers (taken between 1904 and 1905) of Fu-Tchu-Li’s death by lingchi or death by a thousand cuts.  Here, the expression of Fu-Tchu-Li comes back on the faces of the cartel’s victims.  Indeed, the serene quality of the drawings is embedded with a violent reality which takes the viewer by surprise.


After visiting the exhibition, I believe that Lisa’s drawing touch on how the international community experiences these events at a distance. We know or may know about the violence and brutality taking place in other places, but the manner in which it is represented to us through news channels remains mediated. Yet, through these representations, one does hope to bring awareness to the present issue; and through the artwork, engage individuals in this discourse.

Notes:

  1. anakarenpalacios posted this

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Toronto based visual artist and designer

Interests: interdisciplinary design, visual communications, viral marketing, fashion, PR, web design, fine art, & print making

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