On September 26th, 2014, forty-three male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College were kidnapped while on their way to a protest. According to many sources, buses they were taking into town were stopped by police to keep them from the area of protest. The altercation turned violent quickly, some men were killed on the spot and the rest were kidnapped and handed over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who are said to have brutally murdered all forty-three students. Their bodies have yet to be found (mashable.com).
There have been many protests and much political unrest since the disappearance of these men. People are still, one year later, in anguish.
In March of 2015, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer created a technologically integrated artistic installation which uses biological algorithms to best match the viewer of the installation with one of the forty-three victims of this crime, giving a “level of confidence” for the relative accuracy of your facial features compared to the victims. It is a very innovative installation to say the least. But it is not the innovative side for which most people commend the installation, rather it is the emotive side. Just like Charleston’s use of art to cope with the recent shooting, the viewers of this installation are meant to connect with the victims. This almost physical connection, where you see your own face next to the victims’, allows you to connect with the victims, to sympathize with them, to feel empathy for their loved ones. Connection helps people heal.
With the explosion of mass media’s influence over the way we view mass shootings here in the states, mass kidnappings in Mexico, or any other instance in the world where atrocities are committed against multiple people, it is hard not to become frustrated, confused, hardened. You get angry at the ones responsible. There has been incredible resistance to the media’s portrayal of the perpetrators, in which they give them the spotlight which sometimes was the impetus for the crime in the first place. This installation allows you to connect with the victims, not the perpetrators, which is crucial to healthy grief. An installation like this for all barbaric acts committed anywhere in the world would be a great use of resources. It could help the anger turn into healthier, more stable emotions, which could translate into greater change and more harmony within the communities affected.