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“Narcos”-themed Snite exhibit tells its own story

| Thursday, October 8, 2015

Narcos_Banner_WebJanice Chung | The Observer

If the popularity of shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Weeds,” “The Wire” and Netflix’s most recent hit “Narcos” have proven anything, it’s that drugs fascinate America. Whether it’s the taboo nature of illegal drugs or the opportunity to live vicariously in the drug culture, drug-themed television shows entice their eager viewers with the tumultuous, dangerous and above all else lucrative world of illegal drug trade.

Like many, I too have fallen victim to the drug world fascination. After devouring the entirety of Breaking Bad — and loving every second — a few years back, “Narcos” has seized my attention. “Narcos” traces the meteoric rise of infamous Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his relentless American DEA agent pursuers. With enticing visuals and vivid characters, “Narcos” excels way past it’s enthralling subject matter.

With such a compelling period of history as a foundation, the show regularly enlists the help of historically accurate photos and factoids to create a more realistic feel. Unfortunately, though, the show can only provide so much historically accurate insight into the chaotic period of history. Luckily for us at Notre Dame, the Snite Museum’s newest exhibit, titled “Counter Archives To the Narco City,” aims to shed light on a different aspect of the drug war.

Through stunning visuals and installations, artists Adriana Corral and Alma Leiva “offer alternative views to the media spectacle of narco-violence in the Americas,” according to the exhibit’s Snite Museum website. Focusing on the counter-archives of two cities — Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and San Pedro Sula, Honduras — Corral and Leiva strive in their emotional perspective. While the drug war is typically portrayed through images of bloody murders and gruesome criminals, the exhibit instead provides a intimate view into the lives of those who must constantly deal with the violence and chaos that comes with the drug war, as well as their struggle of resistance against it.

Alma Leiva presents her exhibition through a series of provocative images, each representing a violent tragedy from her home country of Honduras. Scenes of children’s play areas and images of the dead haunt the gallery in an eerie presentation. Leiva titles her collection of pictures “Celdas” (cells), a comment on the incarcerated setting many Latin Americans face due to the ongoing drug wars. Leiva’s most intriguing aspect to her work is her ability to juxtapose images of rich Honduran culture with the looming presence of tragedy, crafting a very poignant feel to her art.

The poignancy continued with the “Celdas” companion, as artist Adriana Corral presents her work through two impressive pieces. The first installation is a large geographical representation of Cuidad Juárez made from the ashes of a list of names, each representing a victim of a mass murder, a central theme in Corral’s work. The second piece uses the same names to craft two circles coming together in attempt to display the cyclical pattern of drug related violence. After speaking to Corral it became clear that using names to create her art was more than just a tribute, but a intended as a rather profound comment on the institutionalized pattern of killings

While “Narcos” may be a well-crafted show, it is important we remember what the robust characters truly represent: human suffering. Even today, millions suffer from drug-related violence, and the end is nowhere in sight. I’m not saying to miss “Narcos;” however, if we keep neglecting the cries of help from our southern neighbor, the list of names in Corral’s instillations will continue to grow.

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About Adam Ramos

Adam is studying international economics in the class of 2018. He hails from beautiful New Jersey and says "draw" instead of "drawer."

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