Carlos Motta: We The Enemy
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
January 23-March 14, 2020
Opening Reception, January 23, 5—7 p.m.
UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) and Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery are pleased to present Carlos Motta: We The Enemy, the first West Coast solo exhibition of artworks by the internationally acclaimed artist. Carlos Motta (b.1978, Columbia; lives in New York) works across media in installation, film, photography, and sculpture to trace connections between current political crises and repressive notions of gender and sexuality.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Motta and Rachel Nelson, IAS curator and interim director, have organized a 2-day symposium “Bodies at the Borders.” Taking place January 24, 2020 at UC Santa Cruz and January 25, 2020 at SFMOMA, where Motta also has work also on display,* “Bodies at the Borders” brings together scholars, activists, artists, filmmakers, and poets to engage the politics of borders as they intersect with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, and race.
Bodies at the Borders
Co-organized by Carlos Motta and Rachel Nelson
January 24, 9:30 a.m.—6 p.m.
UC Santa Cruz, Digital Arts Research Center 108
January 25, 9:30 a.m.—5:30 p.m.
SFMOMA, Phyllis Wattis Theater
Both We The Enemy and the accompanying symposium question—and challenge—how productions of difference come to countenance oppression.
The video installations and performance documentation in We The Enemy bring together histories suppressed, untold, and unspeakable, including the persecution of LGBTQIA+ individuals during the colonial project, current border politics, issues of theology and the church, and the history of medical research and HIV/AIDS.
The work which opens the exhibition in the foyer of the gallery, We The Enemy, 2019, provides not only the title of the show but also an embodied overview of how difference has been weaponized throughout history. In 2017, Motta formed the collective known as SPIT! (Sodomites, Perverts, Inverts Together!) with John Arthur Peetz and Carlos Maria Romero. We The Enemy is their manifesto, a compendium of slangs and insults directed at LGBTQIA+ people, ranging from ‘AIDS carriers’ to ‘degenerates,’ from ‘faggots’ to ‘dykes.’ The manifesto, performed by the Greek artist Despina Zacharopoulos, permeates the gallery space, sharp utterances that speak of centuries of harm and defiance.
On display in the main gallery is Corpo Fechado: The Devil’s Work, 2019, a 24-minute multilayered video dramatizing the true story of José Francisco Pereira, an 18th century man who was kidnapped from West Africa and sold into slavery in Brazil. In 1731, after Pereira was sold to a slaveholder in Portugal, the courts of the Lisbon Inquisition tried him for sorcery for creating and distributing bolsas de mandinga—amulets to protect fellow enslaved people from injury. He was also notably charged with sodomy. For these perceived crimes, Pereira was exiled from Lisbon and condemned to end his days rowing in a galley, never again to come ashore.
Accompanying Corpo Fechado is a video interview with Paulo Pascoal, the actor who plays José Francisco Pereira. When Pascoal came out as gay in a 2014 TEDxLuanda talk, he was subsequently forced into exile from his home country, Angola. He now resides in Lisbon, trapped in a sort of immigration limbo, unable to re-enter Portugal if he should leave. Pascoal’s interview reveals the uncanny resonances between the biography of the actor and the life of the historical figure he enacts, with the continuation of persecution crisscrossing oceans of water and time.
Finally, in the small gallery is Legacy, 2019, the video documentation of a 27-minute endurance performance by Motta. For this performance, the artist wears a dental gag as he attempts to tell the timeline of HIV/AIDS from 1908 to 2019, as dictated to him by the U.S. radio broadcaster Ari Shapiro. With his mouth forced open by the metal dental gag, Motta is visibly in pain and unable to speak clearly. The history that he tries to tell, one in which people, primarily LGBTQIA+, are left to die through governmental and medical neglect, is rendered unspeakable.
In these powerful artworks, histories accumulate, harsh records of persecution and oppression of people rendered different by gender, sexuality, and race. Yet, in Motta’s deft handling, these historical records also become bellwethers of an amassing resistance.
We The Enemy, after all, begins and ends in defiance: if we are the enemies, then enemies we shall be. Prepare yourself.
Carlos Motta: We The Enemy is on view at the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery January 23—March 14, 2020. Gallery hours are Tuesday–Saturday, 12–5 p.m. and Wednesday 12-8 p.m. For more information, including about guided tours and class visits, email email@example.com or call 831-459-3606.
*The first chapter of Carlos Motta’s new project on LGBTQI Dreamers is on view as part of Soft Power at SFMOMA October 26-February 17, 2020.
Carlos Motta (b. 1978) was born in Bogotá, Colombia and lives and works in New York City. Motta has been the subject of survey exhibitions including at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia, Matucana 100, Santiago, Chile, and Röda Sten Konsthall, Göteborg, Sweden. His work is in the permanent collections of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Barcelona; and Museo de Arte de Banco de la República, Bogotá, among others.His solo exhibitions include Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo (2019); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2016); Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (2016); PinchukArtCentre, Kiev (2015); Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City (2013); New Museum, New York (2012); MoMA PS1, New York (2009); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2009). Motta participated in 32 Bienal de São Paulo (2016); X Gwangju Biennale (2014); and X Lyon Biennale (2010). His films have been screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival (2016, 2010); Toronto International Film Festival (2013); and Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur (2016); among others. Motta has been awarded the Vilcek Foundation's Prize for Creative Promise (2017); the PinchukArtCentre's Future Generation Art Prize (2014); and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2008).
Collaborators and sponsors for Carlos Motta: We The Enemy and related events include the Center for Cultural Studies, Lionel Cantú Queer Resource Center, and the Arts Division. Carlos Motta: We The Enemy has been generously funded by the Nion McEvoy Family Fund, Rowland and Pat Rebele, and annual donors to the Institute of the Arts and Sciences and the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery.