ERRE’s Artpace exhibition, The Body of Crime, consists of several interrelated works: a sculptural installation, a video projection, photographs, and audio elements, all of which relate to a fictitious crime scene set along the United States/Mexico border. Appropriating forensic methods and strategies, ERRE assumes an objective viewpoint while at the same time questioning—and forcing the viewer to question—the role of such an observer in creating meaning and defining character. The exhibition extends the artist’s ongoing practice of leading viewers to recognize how changes in context create changes in meaning.
Embedded in the installation is a video work titled The Black Suburban, which portrays the investigation of a fictitious assassination associated with the drug cartels in Mexico; elements of the crime are on display in the gallery. The film’s narrative explores the moral ambiguity of the three characters involved, all played by ERRE: the assassin, the policeman, and the victim. In contrast to commercial crime epics of violent bloodshed that saturate popular culture, the personas and staging in ERRE’s film are mundane, even barren, more accurately reflecting the grim reality of the drug war.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a sculptural installation made up of a Chevrolet Suburban, various forensic materials, and bullet shells engraved with the names of victims of the drug war, all of which reference the video and allow viewers to contemplate a re-creation of the event. The car radio plays a narcocorridos soundtrack alluding to the real lives of drug smugglers as it draws on the almost century-old Mexican corridos (ballads based on polkas and waltzes featuring lyrics backed by accordions and brass bands). During the Mexican Revolution of 1910, hundreds of corridos were sung about legendary figures like Emiliano Zapata and General Francisco “Pancho” Villa. In narcocorrido lyrics, however, individuals such as the Arellano-Felix brothers, who ran a drug cartel in the frontier town of Tijuana, are the ones heavily featured.
The last element in the installation comprises photographs of the video’s three protagonists—faux reproductions of a police department mug shot, an employee identification card, and a candid family snapshot. As in his video, ERRE is ever present here, yet never clearly one person or the other, highlighting the masquerade of identity and the instability of truth.
–Emily Morrison, Curatorial Assistant and Lori Salmon, Graduate Intern