Carlos Motta, Artist


Solo Exhibition | Beloved Martina… at Mercer Union, Toronto, April 14- June 5, 2016

April 22, 2016

Carlos Motta: Beloved Martina…

14 April 2016 – 4 June 2016
Opening Reception 14 April 2016 7pm

Mercer Union is delighted to present the exhibition Beloved Martina… by artist Carlos Motta including works by Arisleyda Dilone, Pidgeon Pagonis and Del LaGrace Volcano.Artist Talk: Thursday 14 April 2016, 6.30PM

Carlos Motta is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work draws upon political history in an attempt to create counter narratives that recognize suppressed histories, communities, and identities. Motta has an ongoing preoccupation with democratic representation and the repression of individual and collective civil liberties. Promoting the act of self-representation, he creates works that question the writing of history, the construction of political memory, and the normative discourses of sexuality and gender.

Beloved Martina…, Motta’s first solo exhibition in Canada, presents a series of works that reflect on the restrictive nature of the gender binary and its own mythologizing forces, and focuses on the historical and ongoing repression of intersex identities. Presented in the front gallery, Motta’s mesmerizing film Deseos/تابغر [Desires] (2015) forms the starting point of the exhibition. Weaving across expanses of water, land, history, language, and cultures, the film traces the epistolary correspondence of two women at the beginning of the nineteenth century, one in Suesca, Colombia, and the other in Beirut, to engage with the social, political and epistemological possibilities of desire. Deseos/تابغر narrates the stories of Martina who was prosecuted for being a “hermaphrodite” and of Nour, a woman who is forced to marry her female lover’s brother. The intimate communication between the two women reveals the ways in which medicine, law, religion, and cultural tradition shaped dominant discourses of the gendered and sexual body.

Parallel to this video installation, in the back gallery, Motta presents a new series of 3D sandstone prints that depict the mythological figure of the “hermaphrodite,” based on sculptures from Greek and Roman antiquity and the Renaissance, and photographs from the late nineteenth century. Exhibited in a museum-like installation, the sculptures confront the institutional drive to classify and define with its authoritative gaze. Motta’s layering of stories is not just contained within the past: included in the exhibition are a series of video portraits part of Motta’s oral history project Gender Talents (2015) where intersex activists Jim Ambrose, Tiger Devore, David Iris Cameron, Hida Viloria and Sean Saifa M. Wall speak of their battles around advocating for the recognition of intersex identities and politics.

Presiding over the gallery is Self-Portrait: Blue Beard (1996) by Del LaGrace Volcano, a photographic self-portrait that defies viewers’ assumptions and expectations about gender performance and expression. Also included is Arisleyda Dilone’s film Mami y Yo yi mi Gallito (2015) which focuses on the vulnerable relationship between a mother and her intersex daughter and Pidgeon Pagonis’ photographic series Children’s Memorial Hospital Killa [CMHK] (2015) that depicts their singular protest in front of the hospital where they underwent numerous medical procedures as “corrective” measures during their childhood.

From semi-fictional to historical representation to self-representation, Beloved Martina…layers narratives of past and present to question gender norms, desires and the potential of real freedom through a politics of self-representation, resistance and critical difference.

This exhibition is co-presented in partnership with the Images Festival, April 14 – 23, 2016. For more information visit

With special thanks to Objex Unlimited

Deseos/تابغر [Desires] (2015) was commissioned and produced by Council (France) and co-produced by Hordaland Kunstsenter (Norway), MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Röda Sten Konsthall (Sweden), Galeria Filomena Soares (Portugal), Mor.Charpentier Galerie (France) and with further support from Ashkal Alwan (Lebanon), DICRéAM (France) and the Göteborg International Biennal for Contemporary Art (Sweden).

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Essay | The art practice of Carlos Motta and the archive as a tool for re-enactment and communication

March 17, 2016

The art practice of Carlos Motta and the archive as tool for re-enactment and communication
by Stefanie B. Kogler
School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex, Colchester, UK

This essay discusses the practice of contemporary, multidisciplinary artist Carlos Motta (Colombia/USA), who explores history, politics, religion, sexuality, and gender in the context of today’s democracy, and from the view of side-lined groups and their subjective views. Approaching this topic from a distinctly leftist political field, Motta critiques democracy as a political framework that imposes the rule of the majority upon minorities, who are obliged to adhere to hegemonic norms that determine their way of economic, social, and political engagement. Motta’s strategy traverses extensive research and the formation of online archives through which he establishes carefully curated repositories that critique power relations and the hegemony of the majority. He furthermore, uses documents from the archive to reenact and re-contextualize historical events in contemporary settings. This multifaceted approach contributes to the creation of multiple voices that are in dialogue with each other. As a result, the artist’s practice underlines the significance of archives and their contingency for the future, as well as their potential to provoke change. This essay argues that Motta uses the archive as a tool for communication and impetus for action. Through this artist’s contribution to contemporary art, he unearths pressing issues concerning unequal power relations, opening avenues for discussion and debate.

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Group Exhibition | (SIGNAL) at Smack Mellon, March 5 – April 17, 2016

February 24, 2016


Smack Mellon
Artists’ Reception: March 5, 6 – 8 pm
Jess T. Dugan, Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, Nicki Green, Rhys Ernst & Zackary Drucker, Young Joon Kwak, Carlos Motta, Cobi Moules, Chelsea Thompto, Gil Yefman, Rona Yefman

(SIGNAL), curated by Alexis Heller, opens at Smack Mellon on March 5 and will be on view through April 17, 2016. This exhibition presents artworks that challenge the gender binary and explore a continuum of self-definition. Working in diverse mediums, these eleven contemporary artists utilize code, collaborative representation, fantasy and play to subvert histories that have denied gender variance. They question authorship over ‘the natural’, make manifest sites of resistance, and reimagine a future where identities are fluid, becoming ad infinitum and celebrated as such.

(SIGNAL), written in a binary code created by Chelsea Thompto, translates into the word SIGNAL.  The exhibition’s title begins communication around what happens when the gender binary becomes illegible. In the absence of fixed gender markers, where can we start to understand each other and how do we make ourselves known?  The code, and works in dialogue as part of (SIGNAL), resists the ability to take a ‘quick read’ and requires a more complex process of discovery.  By engaging history, acts of defiance, real experiences of violence, and imagination, a more nuanced language of gender possibility emerges.

Nicki Green, Cobi Moules and Gil Yefman renegotiate the past’s treatment of transgender bodies by mining cultural, artistic and religious traditions and symbols and recalibrating them to highlight empowered narratives.  Nicki Green’s ceramic vessels and quilted hankies picture androgyny and transformation as divine, with imagery from Jewish mythology and queer code. Paintings from Cobi Moules’ series Bois Just Wanna Have Fun, portray self-portraits of the artist in multiples, playing in stunning wild landscapes. The works significantly integrate his trans body in the natural, a response to the ideologies of his conservative Christian upbringing and the Hudson River School. Gil Yefman also shifts cultural messages about androgyny, with his large knitted sculpture, sound piece and performance, Tumtum. Translated in Jewish law and modern Hebrew to mean ‘unclean’ or ‘stupid’, Yefman instead presents a corporeal being that is at once monstrous and magnetic.

Jess T. Dugan, Rona Yefman, Carlos Motta, and Chelsea Thompto explore active resistance to gender norms and moments of solidarity and brutality faced as a result. Jess T. Dugan’s intimate portraits redefining masculinity reflect on how connections with others help us author our own identity. In her multimedia project spanning 14 years, Rona Yefman documents her brother Gil’s transition, from male to female and then beyond gender, and their fantastical relationship that helped bolster their survival. Carlos Motta’s video portraits of transgender and intersex activists expose the powerful organizing, advocacy, and education efforts of gender self-determining communities and the perilous conditions that make their work vital. Chelsea Thompto’s expansive piece, Trans Effigy 2015, comprises code written in charcoal on the wall, along with wooden sculptures. Given a key to decipher it’s meaning, viewers are engaged in a slow dialogue around deconstructing the gender binary, how we relate to others’/othered bodies, and violence.

Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, Young Joon Kwak, and Rhys Ernst and Zackary Druckerenvision worlds where identities and everyday systems are slippery.  In her short film,When the Kid was a Kid, Anahita Ghazvinizadeh looks at the flux of children’s gender performance and cultural expectations, through a role-playing game set in Tehran. Young Joon Kwak destabilizes held constructs with her reimaging of the icon of feminine beauty, Venus.  Her Venus is reborn formless and without discernible identities, opening space for boundless new interpretations of personhood and desire.  Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker coalesce transgender histories, time and space in their film She Gone Rogue, in an interrogation of our ever shifting bodies and selves and the deep value of intergenerational wisdom and chosen families.

The artworks in this show, much like gender itself, present layered, complicated, and often playful ideas about embodiment. (SIGNAL) enters an ongoing conversation on the failures of the gender binary and what is reclaimed, endured and gained in the move to live beyond it.

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Group Exhibition | Do Ask, Do Tell: Male Homoerotic Art from Latin America (1970s-2016) at Henrique Faria Fine Arts, New York, 2/12-3/12

February 1, 2016

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Screening | “Deseos” at International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), January 29 and 30 at 5pm

January 20, 2016

Untitled 2

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Symposium | “La universidad desconocida,” Museo Jumex, Mexico City, January 29-30

January 13, 2016


29.ENE – 30.ENE / 3-7PM

El simposio La universidad desconocida es parte del programa público que acompaña la exposición BAJO UN MISMO SOL: ARTE DE AMÉRICA LATINA HOY en el Museo Jumex. A su vez es un ejercicio de reconocimiento a las diversas plataformas de discusión recientes que buscan repensar el arte en América Latina y sus condiciones de producción. Propone un formato de diálogo que alude a una universidad constituida por aquéllos que han revisado y reformulado, a través de la escritura, la teoría y la curaduría de exposiciones, el lugar que ocupa actualmente la producción artística en América Latina dentro de un ámbito global. El simposio abarcará también el estudio y presentación de prácticas disidentes y estrategias antropofágicas, explorando las diversas tensiones que intervienen en ese espacio común situado bajo un mismo sol.

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Screening | “Nefandus” at Instituto das Artes, Rio, January 18, 7:30pm

January 12, 2016


Best of 2015 | “Patriots, Citizens, Lovers…” in Hyperallergic’s Top 15 exhibitions around the world

December 19, 2015


#8 – Carlos Motta: Patriots, Citizens, Lovers… at the Pinchuk Art Center (Kyiv)

October 31, 2015–January 10, 2016

Commissioned by the Future Generation Art Prize, an award New York City-based Carlos Motta won in 2014, his Patrions, Citizens, Lovers… can be seen as part of his larger oeuvre that unearths queer histories and activism while refusing to present them as separate from other discourses, in this case Ukrainian nationalism. Working with a journalist familiar with lesbian, gay, bi-, transgender, intersex, and queer activists, Motta interviewed 11 subjects about LGBTQ issues in times of war. Played on a monitor with headphones for intimate viewing, each interview is sensitively edited and avoids becoming didactic and sensational. —AP

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Group Show and Artist Talk | Sofia Queer Forum, December 3 & 9, 2015

December 4, 2015





03.12. – 19.12.2015 / “They will remember us in the future”/, Academy Gallery, NAA
An exhibition with works by: Iskra Blagoeva, Alexander Gerginov, Nilbar Güreş, Daniela Kostova, Viktoria Lomasco, Carlos Motta, Karol Radziszewski, Joanna Rajkowska, Jaanus Samma, Radostin Sedevchev, Yasen Zgurovski; Queer box (curated by Venelin Shurelov, works by: Angel Chobanov and Martin Penev)

The exhibition shows the various types of relations between “I” and “You”. It represents a number of possible ways for people to be together, various “we”-s that create different notions of intimacy and family.

09 Dec., 7 pm / Red House Centre for Culture and Debate
A meeting and discussion with Carlos Motta
Presentation of his project “Gender Talents”, 2015 web-platform that engages with activist movements for gender self-determination within trans- and intersex communities. The artist will speak about other works of his that concern the subjects of democracy, human rights and cultural differences.

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Art Fair | Art Basel Miami Beach, Mor Charpentier Galerie, Dec 3-6, Booth N31

December 2, 2015