From the Archive: Interview with Artist Tamsyn Challenger on 400 Women
4th August – 4th September 2011
Canongate Venture, 5 New Street, Edinburgh
First it was the author, then art itself (tricky), then painting, and now even emotions are kicking the art-world bucket. Shame is dead - or so proclaim some recent artistic productions. The argument goes something like: the ruling discourse (consumerism) forbids us to feel shame; profanity is impossible as there has been a leveling out across culture to include the profane. We therefore accept into the sphere of culture with no religious or puritan discernment, pleasure at every opportunity.
Against this claim, however, stands 400 Women: Five years work (mostly in isolation) towards the production of 175 portraits of raped and murdered girls and women from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico by 175 different artists invited to contribute. Its creator, Tamsyn Challenger, attributes all this action to an initial feeling of intense shame which sparked the project. Travelling alone in Mexico, Challenger met Consuelo Valenzuela, a women whose daughter, Julieta, had gone missing at the age of 17: ‘When I was just about to leave her she pushed these postcards with a picture of her daughter on them into my hands. The translator was shouting, “she wants you to give these to anyone, anyone you know, so that she might be found!” It was quite a scene she created, we were in a public place, and I felt very frightened…I didn’t take the postcards. Almost immediately after that I felt a horrible sick, sick sort of a shame at the fact that I had just wanted to get away from this woman.’