Teresa Margolles Artist Interview
Q1: What are your impressions of Liverpool?
Liverpool is an intense city.
It’s full of extremes.
It’s very alive.
It’s full of… different emotions.
It ranges from agony to absolute beauty.
Q2: Describe your work in the exhibition here
The work is a hotplate, geometrical, 1.2m x 1.2m, with a series of drops falling on it.
The drops make a sound…when they hit the hotplate surface.
The concept behind it is the pain that families experience when they are notified that a relative, brother or son, has been murdered.
It’s the pain that falls on something hot… on yourself and that eventually fades away, it evaporates.
Q3: How did you arrive at the idea?
When I go to the morgue in Mexico City or anywhere in Latin America, I observe.
I observe both inside and outside the morgue.
I see the son’s body and the mother’s pain.
With this vision I created this piece.
It’s the union of the body that falls, the falling drop is the body over the pain, the mother.
Q4: Are there ideas in this work that recur in your work in general?
Yes. The sense of loss and emptiness.
It’s also present in the outdoor work I’ve created for the BienniaI, which is in the passage to the square.
So there’s a connection between them.
They represent the loss and the emptiness.
The loss, the void and the damage for society when someone is murdered.
Q5: Tell us about your work in the public realm
For this work, first I came to Liverpool and…I walked round the city and I felt that it was the perfect place for the work.
It’s a space that communicates.
It communicates two streets as you cross through the piece.
In the last few years in Mexico there’s been a style of murders, “setting scores”, where people are murdered in their cars.
They shoot them sitting in their cars and they’re killed on the spot.
The police tow the car away, but the glass remains on the streets.
The broken glass becomes part of the city.
As it incorporates, it starts to shine.
It becomes a glowing city.
This glow and beauty is the product of mass murder.
A glowing city is a city where something bad is happening.
Something related to crime.
For one year I collected glass off the streets in different cities and I brought them to Liverpool by boat.
It’s very symbolic: it’s a shipment from America to Liverpool bringing mass murder in the form of broken glass.
The glass was placed on the ground creating a surface which is a memorial to pain, regardless of which side it comes from whether it is the good or the bad guys, the victims or the killers.
The pain is the same.
The loss is felt by both sides.
Murder leaves a void in both sides.
Also…A society…If one victim leaves an empty space in a family, a society that produces hundreds or thousands of murders per year, what kind of city does it create?
It’s a destroyed city that generates destroyed people.
Q6: Your work often deals with a very particular set of social and economic circumstances in Mexico City. How do you think your work resonates when it is shown outside of Mexico?
I’ve noticed that in Liverpool streets are also covered with glass.
It also glows.
It’s a city where there’s murders.
You can tell.
If you walk around you see that streets are stained with blood.
This shocked me when I arrived here because…England for me symbolised the developed world, wealth, a better world…
It was quite surprising to find a city covered in blood.
It makes me question many things.
It makes me think…I feel the need to come back to find out more.
Q7: In your work you deal with what you call ‘the life of the corpse’ or ‘the after body’. Can you explain what you mean by those terms?
For 12 or 13 years I’ve been working on the concept of the body.
At the beginning… The body in the morgue, the dead body.
At the beginning I was trying to find out what happens to the body as a social entity after death.
There I discovered that a morgue is a thermometer of society.
What happens in a city morgue is what happens outside.
In Mexico City’s morgue the majority of the victims belong to the lower classes.
Poor people can’t afford to claim the bodies and they’re abandoned, donated to physicians for training.
This is indicative of the degree of poverty that you’ll find outside, of the number of families that cannot claim the bodies.
I haven’t been to the morgue here in Liverpool, but I’m pretty certain of what I’m going to find.
Because I’ve seen a lot of violence in people in Liverpool.
A lot of repressed violence.
As I said before, people with bloodied faces, people crying in the streets.
On the one hand, it’s a bustling city full of music, but, on the other hand, it holds a deep pain.
That’s what I find interesting.
Looking at the dead, you see society.
Q8: What sparked your interest in these themes?
Well… first of all…My work stems from art, which motivates my going to the morgue.
In the morgue I see all these things I’ve been talking about.
I see the thin line that separates life and pain.
So I’ve worked and observed all this.
In the last few years I’ve worked more with the families.
When the families are waiting for the body of the relative, I can see both sides of the line.
I can see the son’s body and the family’s body, the father’s body.
It’s an incredibly thin line that constitutes a physical wall.
I’ve had the opportunity to see both sides.
I’ve spent more time with families in the last few years.
When they see me with my white coat, they come up and ask me: “How is my son?”.
I try to listen to them.
That’s my work.
My representation of death is what I’ve seen and heard.
Q9: Where did you get the raw materials for the work in the Tate?
The water comes from Mexico City’s morgue.
It’s water used to wash the bodies of murder victims.
The piece was built in the Tate with water and a hot stainless steel plate.
Q10: How do you think audiences will react to this work?
I don’t know. I try to…By means of sound, smell,
I try to provoke that feeling of memory.
I don’t know if I achieve this.
The technical detail is not important, only the knowledge of where it comes from.
It’s a medium to explain where the work comes from.
Q11: Your studio is in a morgue. Is it a working morgue?
Yes, the morgue… I work there, it’s where I have my studio.
Q12: What does being an artist mean to you?
As an artist I feel the need to tell what I see inside the morgue.
I feel the drive to do it.
I must communicate what I see, what I learn there.
And that’s what I do.