fatty meat compact

by Feng

A long time ago I read this interesting thing by J McSweeney about make up inspired by the lost women of Juarez. I will paste a bunch of it here:

1. Last year, the (Mexican-American) fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte collaborated with MAC to introduce a ‘Juarez’ line of cosmetics, featuring blush, eyeshadow, lipstick and nailpolish with names such as ‘Juarez’, ‘Factory’, ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Sleepwalker’, ‘del Norte’, ‘Quinceanera’. The line was inspired by a visit by the Mulleavy’s to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

2. The women of Ciudad Juárez suffer two notorious distinctions which are not unrelated: they are being murdered at the despicable rate of at least 500 raped, mutilated, murdered, and tossed in the desert over the last 10 years, plus another 500 missing; and they are employed at foreign-owned factories known as maquiladoras, jobs for which they are atrociously underpaid ($55 for a 45 hr workweek, according to Amnesty International). Their work at the maquiladoras leave the women vulnerable to murderer(s); many are snatched and murdered commuting to and from work, walking across the desert to and from bus-stops. The corporations have declined to provide protection for these women or screen busdrivers.

3. The Mulleavys have said that they were inspired by the women they saw in the (dangerous) early hours crossing the deserts or at the busstops; they called these women ‘sleepwalkers’ and made them the focus of their line and the accompanying fashion show.

4. Upon release of the Juarez line, Rodarte was immediately attacked for their insensitivity to the plight of the women of Juarez and the line was withdrawn.

5. But is it possible that Rodarte’s gesture was political, a making visible of a class of women at once unprotected and ignored, whose tidal murder rate has not ebbed in over a decade? […] The Juarez line collapses the heights of luxury into the depths of poverty and misery, performs an act of paradoxically ghostly solidarity, dressing up first world women as the ghosts of their murdered and sleepwalking third world counterparts, suggesting that first and third-world women might even be counterparts, twins, ghosts of each other. To put it more pointedly, who are the true sleepwalkers, the murdered women, the women made into spectres by their exploitative jobs, or the women sleepwalking through firstworld lifestyles exported from ‘twin plants’ in the third world—just across the border?

-(the above was taken from http://www.montevidayo.com/?p=1119)

The horror that erupted when the line was introduced is understandable. What does it mean to make money “inspired” by a landscape that is actually the site of a system that also produces the violent deaths of hundreds? Or I could ask a different hypothetical question: What does it mean to look at a well-taken photograph of a pile of dead bodies and call it aesthetically beautiful? It would be another level of cynicism/critique/performance to sell it. Reception would depend on the viewer’s ability to dissociate the content and the message, or not dissociate at all but intellectualize both. The Juarez line is complicated because it folds together what in the gentle public mind should never touch. I imagine the reception would have been different if it were not a fashion or makeup line, but an installation show at some fancy, top tier museum. Sometimes the tininess of art niches is exhausting and disheartening, but it’s also an inevitable quality of anything “radical”. The art of fashion is touchy because it is close relatives with the worst of consumerism and isn’t relegated to a handful of soft, educated academics. I don’t know much about high fashion art, but it seems that the general advice is… politics is best kept out of it. It certainly seems that the Juarez line was not intended to take advantage of the horrible plight of Juarez women or say something actually radical, but intentions do not speak as much as actions/appearances do, if they speak at all. What lies in the not so deep, dark unconscious folds of our hearts is actually what McSweeney exposed, our own knowledge that privileged first world women are the brain washed zombie twins of the Juarez victims.

Indeed it is impossible not to think of the exploitation that goes into the production of major fashion and cosmetic commodities overseas. Everyday, on the other side, women smear the powder of blood and corpses on their faces for complicated reasons (including glamor?), and some turn themselves into actual corpses via a variety of hunger arts in pursuit of a certain kind of life. The women of Juarez walk across the desert looking “haunting” in order to barely live at all, or die in the process. The models wearing the line are so close to death it doesn’t really seem like much of an opposition or contradiction for them to be putting on the death “mask” of Juarez. They were twins before the costumes, or dead before playing dead, though of course the ‘sleepwalking’ aspect can only be ironically applied to Juarez women, who must be awake and acutely aware of constant danger. Sleepwalking is more faithful to the first world. Women “sleepwalking through firstworld lifestyles exported from ‘twin plants’ in the third world” are in danger of another sort of death through anesthetized excess (which requires the consumption of “twin plant” products). Seems very cannibalistic. I also cannot resist pointing out how much like fresh, fatty meat the make up compacts look.

This brings to a web of tangents… the gurlesque, third wave feminism, the intersection of fashion and poetry, and the grotesque. I think I will write about these later.