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YBCA Reading Performance, Renee Green, DJ Lengua and RPW group, 2010.jpg
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The 3 Ecologies: First Step


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The 3 Ecologies: First Step


Installation: kilim, cactus, grass, people, 40" x 93"  (3.556 m x 2.362 m), 2014

Félix Guattari, building on the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, approaches ecology through three dimensions: the social, the mental, and the environmental. This assemblage invites us to think ‘transversally’ and to approach ecology as the science of the household that connects mind, society, and environment in unpredictable ways. This expanded ecology is here reworked, by assembling cactus plants, a kilim carpet, and gallery dwellers invited to sit on it. As an ecosystem installed in a gallery space, The three ecologies: first step creates an interactive milieu in which the presence of thorny nopals cactus plants and grass (nature) located in the carpet itself generate an uncanny-ness (mind/gallery visitor) that complicates the safe convivial framework of relational aesthetics (social).

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Echo


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Echo


Digital video, 38 minutes, 2014

Echo is set in the border between Mexico and USA and it is an ethnographic research on the after life and “echoes” of 9 art works that have been part of the two-decade old public art event called inSite. It highlights the procedures of intrusion at work in such a site as the US-Mexico border as well as the now canonical deployment of the emblematic figure of fieldwork. It teaches us that intrusion is an ontological dimension of intervention, at once anthropological, curatorial, and artistic. By revisiting the scenes of these curatorial and artistic interventions, “echo” emerges both as a concept and a practice that assembles the futures of art works beyond its expected ruins and remains. Each work/artist and afterlife/echo of those works  -after the artists finish them and leaves or focuses on another work - raise different and enriching questions on social art, on its ethics, on the methods, on the people involved in the projects, on the city itself and its urban cycle, on the future of public sculpture. The assemblage of archival images and current reverberations, of text, voice over and interviews, of affects and representation has been a real challenge in this work. The result is that more questions were open after the initial ones. The conclusion is inconclusive: Narcissus (all of us working, representing, intervening on the border: anthropologists, artists, curators, etc.) and Echo (the context, the artists, the collaborators, the public sculptures, the objects, etc.) are part of the same scenario and they are both plural and problematic in their own way...

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American Dream


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American Dream


Installation, 2014

The American Dream is part of a larger work that critically reflects on the essentialization of Identity with specific emphasis on the USA context and its institutional politics of representation. Born from a radical discourse on self-representation in the ’70s and with an important peak in the ‘90s, the identity issue nowadays has become a problematic attempt of institutional inclusion which keeps old unequal categories intact around the axis other/self: the other always and consistently being the Latino, Woman, Queer, Poor, etc. and the neutral guilty self: the white possibly male middle class. Both categories keep being essensialized in their racial, ethnic, class, sexual and guilt-laden dynamic.

Rastros / Traces


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Rastros / Traces


Digital video, 20:26, 2012

In this experimental video-essay ethnographic research and art forms
combined with and an enigmatic electronic musical motif merge to create a meditation on the border life between the United State & Mexico. Based on both years of ethnographic work in Tijuana and an ascetic shooting schedule of 24hrs, the artist and anthropologist refracts her experience in the region by attempting to sculpt a textured living portrait, a sort of biography, of the Wall that separates Tijuana and San Diego. Images of a rusty wall, unruly topography, decaying surveillance structures, furtive moments of undocumented migrant crossings, and dystopian landscapes are interwoven with a mournful voice-over enunciated from a different time and place.  The fate of the Wall is sealed: its remains are to be collected like forensic evidence by a visitor, perhaps another anthropologist and artist, perhaps another undocumented migrant, from the future.

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A Map is Not a Territory


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A Map is Not a Territory


Photographic digital print on Acetate paper in light box, 30" X 40," 2012, exhibited at Queens Nails Projects

 Using the x-ray as a photographic format, A Map is Not a Territory #1 and #2 are two light boxes, each with the contours of two continents drawn one over the other. #1 confronts us with the familiar outline of Africa which is overlaid with the outline of Europe; while in #2 North America and South America lie over each other on an inky black background reminiscent of the colors of a medical x-ray, as if alluding to what is beneath the surface of the body, visible only through medical technology—as if these shadowy profiles were buried within the tissue or bone structure making us aware of the hidden reality beneath the flesh. The intermingled lines are recognizable immediately but propose that the identities to which they are anchored as symbols can be exchanged, intermixed, hybridized, but nevertheless exist by contrast one in relation to the other. The image reveals that within all so-called “first worlds” there are always “third worlds” or interchangeably the other way around. The ghost of colonialism is made visible as the historic preamble to the migration patterns that dominate our current globalized condition.

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Bio-Cartography of Tijuana’s Cultural-Artistic Scene


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Bio-Cartography of Tijuana’s Cultural-Artistic Scene


Business Manilla Envelope, Digital Electronic Format, 2006

In this conceptual and cartographic piece I set out to think of the gesture of mapping an urban landscape as a diagnostic act. With a sense of irony towards the curator’s medical gaze and cannibalistic form of care I perform here the role of an imaginary gynecologist diagnosing her patient named Tijuana.  Mediated through the materiality of an  ultrasound of my own uterus—a gendered and highly contested scientific technology that monitors foetal growth and developmental 
stages—my medical report is a provocative reading of the parent-child relationship between curators and artists in Tijuana and a critic of a new “localized” nationalism.

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Yerba Buena Performance


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Yerba Buena Performance


YBCA Performance, Renee Green, DJ Lengua and RPW group, 2010

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Reading Performance Workshop as part of Renee Green’s solo exhibition Endless Dreams & Time-based Streams).The basis of this workshop was to engage with a manuscript (Other Planes of There: Selected Writings 1981-2006) and other writings of Renee Green developping them into spoken performances and recordings. The topics were broad and included reflections on the road, travel, sound, electronic music, cities, film, bodies, feeling, thinking, artistic formations, aesthetics and politics, independent production, situationists, global-local encounters (including biennals), and art + life into the 21st century.

 

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mi-lieus


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mi-lieus


Collaborative installation, correspondences, flies, and taxonomy, with Donald Daedalus, 2009

'MI-LIEUS' is a collaborative multi-media project that reflects on the persistence of taxidermic principles in contemporary scientific denominations and on national cultures. Three blue bottle flies were collected, mailed from Morocco, Italy and US, preserved and indexed via corresponding stamps to their national, geo- graphic and ecological provenance. Iconic images of various national cultures blend with the organizing principles of zoological taxonomy, pointing to the isomorphic link between culture, nation, territory and life-form. The three flies installed in this piece belong to the same family within Linnaeus' classificatory system [Blue bottle fly or bottlebee: Species Calliphora vomitoria, linnaeus, 1758] and are found in most areas of the world. MI-LIEU problematizes the intersection of Natural history and Museum in the age of the territorial Nation-State and colonial expansions in the 19th century. Specifically concerning the nationalist/colonialist habit of classifying insects and the Cultural Other. Both Nationalist and Colonialist science rely on taxidermy as a political technology. The etymological association (Calliphora vomitoria) of this specific family of flies with corpses and vomit underscores the vitalist ontology, the logic of life and death, that underpins the rapport between colonial science and the Nation-Form. MI-LIEU 'resists' this vitalist ontology through its playful- ness with scale, thereby establishing a contrast between the monumentality and exceptionality of nationalist symbolism and zoological taxonomy and the miniature-like size of ordinary flies. Scale ultimately blurs the boundaries between the organic and the inorganic, between life and death, frustrating the political vocation of the Nation to give life to the forms that live on its territory. 

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One Thing AND Another


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One Thing AND Another


Installation, 2010

A variable number of music boxes with popular and classic music are installed on a wall in rhizomatic form. This work generates a participatory/public moment of interaction with an audience that can either choose to activate it or let it be silent, to collaborate, mechanically, with one another to create a polyphonic sound, or simply ignore to participate. One Thing And Another takes a form other than sequentiality: a propagative desiring molecular distribution of each element in the series (i.e. musical box).  The formation traced by the installation is accessible from whatever point and doesn't have a beginning or an end; the conjunction 'AND' in the title of the piece - inspired by Donald Judd piece One Thing After Another  - stresses the virtuality of life-as-intermezzo .

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New Moon


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New Moon


Digital video, 8:02, 2011,

'New Moon' is part of a larger project called ‘Re-Discoveries’. In this piece, I re-appropriate and manipulate the historical moon landing footage and the famous sequence that culminates in the heroic planting of the US flag on the surface of the moon. New Moon is an attempt to convey an alternate sense of the planetary by way of a substitution -- that of exchanging the United States' flag by an image of a globe no longer aligned through North South geopolitical dynamics. The piece thus interrogates not only imperial cartographic representations but also the tradition of inverted maps and other ideological gestures of reversal. It suggests the possibility of a third way to be present on the planetary.

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Nation Sublime


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Nation Sublime


Installation, 2010

In this sculptural installation I play with the seductivity of barbed wire, the material on which the nation-state has been built on. Several feet of barbed wire, suspended from the floor, painted in silver, pearl with red reflections, shining and attractive, push the viewer to almost forget its dangerous  and violent symbolism. The 'ecriture' and inscription of the nation-state is an ambiguous and illusive one. Shadows and lights cast on the walls and floors by the barbed wire underline the spectrality of nationhood, its aura, its Sublime.

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Belonging Machine


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Belonging Machine


Modified Slot Machine, 2010

A slot machine is modified in order to play with and transgress the classificatory categories we are all trapped in. A symbol of gaming, gambling, chance, illusionism, combinatorial mechanisms, and the arbitrariness of luck, the slot machine represents for me the best way to play with the concept of racial membership within the rigid and convenient principles (economically and politically) of the American Census Bureau. This installation was conceived as a bricolage: a tweaking and modifying of the icons built-in the machinery of a slot machine acquired  through bidding in Ebay. Apples, pears, and numbers were removed and replaced by an alternate and equally combinatorial system composed of colored hands icons (black, brown, white, yellow, and the symbol 0 that represents the Other) stamped on the slot machine's , arranged to index official racial categories used by the Census (Blacks, Latinos, Whites, Asians, Others). As in a Las Vegas spectacle and gaming room, the player/spectator is allowed to interact with the new modified slot machine, and participate in a political critique of the official racial taxonomy sanctioned by the US Census Bureau. Let the games begin!

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Framing The Norm


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Framing The Norm


Digital photograph, 2009

This digital photograph   assumes the position of the normative Eye that, gazing through a peephole, establishes the limit between sanity and madness, inside and outside,  the legible and intellegible. It is a comment on the intrusion of vision and on the  power of visuality. I took this photograph at Santa Maria della Pieta', the infamous ex-asylum and psychiatric hospital in Rome.

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An Alleged Family Portrait


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An Alleged Family Portrait


Digital print, 2010

The piece was conceived as a three-step process in order to comment on the popularization of new genetic mapping technologies now more and more available for potential customers on the internet. Saliva was collected on a swab of a Mother, Father and Son, sent to the laboratory for analysis, returned to the consumer eager to have a DNA family portrait, the image was blown up, and finally framed in the style of a cheap aristocratic family portrait. The piece explores the bio-cultural nature and emerging legal contours of identity in contemporary culture.

Los Hombres Sin Rostro


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Los Hombres Sin Rostro


 

Los Hombres Sin Rostro

 1996, 28:26, digital video

Between 1994 and 1996, with visual anthropologist Massimo Tennenini, we made a video on the Zapatist Movement in Chiapas, Mexico. The video was a militant/anthropological intervention that seemed necessary to us. It was made with the first home made technology available. Today it would probably be done in different ways (better audio, spanish, maybe a less realistic style, etc) but considering it is the 20th anniversary of that original revolution (gender, use of communication, role of ethnicity, double belonging: the wish to be respected for being indian and mexican, etc.) we are glad to make it public now to honor the celebration and with it its past and present protagonists: trini, anamaria, tacho, marcos, amelia, and many others...

Bio


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Bio


Fiamma Montezemolo is both a Cultural Anthropologist (PhD University Orientale of Naples) and an artist (MFA San Francisco Art Institute). She has thought for many years in Mexico, Italy and USA and she is currently teaching at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. As an established scholar in border and urban studies, she has patiently designed rigorous and long-term ethnographic-artistic interventions at the Tijuana-San Diego border. She is widely published and the author of two monographs: on Zapatismo and on Chicano/a politics of representation, as well as co-author (with Rene’ Peralta and Heriberto Yepez) of Here is Tijuana (Blackdog Publishing, London, 2006) and co-editor (with Josh Kun) of Tijuana Dreaming, Life and Art at the Global border(Duke Press, 2012).  As an artist she situates her work as a critical extension and overcoming of the ethnographic turn in contemporary art. She works with various media, including installation, cartography, video, digital photography, industrial materials, performance, archival documents. Her art work has been exhibited, among other places, in New York, San Francisco, San Diego, New Orleans, Dublin, Rome, Mexico City, Tijuana, Morelia, Montreal.

 

 

Among her most recent exhibitions, performances and screenings are:

 

2014    Love, Montalvo Arts Center, California

2013    Experiments in Portraiture, Intimacy and Place, HaudenschildGarage, San Diego

2013    Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History Satellite Exhibition, Worth Ryder Art Gallery, UC Berkeley

2013    Evidence: Artistic Responses to the Drug Cartel Wars, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco

2013    Art and geography: aesthetics and practices of spatial knowledge, International interdisciplinary conference/exhibitionUniversity of Lyon (France)

2012-2014       Film screening Traces:

            MEXIC ARTE Museum, Austin; VisualFEST2013, (VisualFEST Award and Special Jury Award), University of Rome, Italy; DOCSDF, International Documentary Film Festival, Mexico City (Official Selection: International short film category); Bordocs, Tijuana (norteño selection: short film); Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico (Cine Sin Fronteras); Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, Rome; University of San Francisco; EASA, Paris; Fonoteca Nacional, Ciudad de México; New Mexico University, Albuquerque; Bern University, Swiss; University of Baja California, Tijuana

2012    Mind, one day event, organized by Stanford University Multimedia Meeting of   Arts and Science

2012    Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

2012    Twenty-third International Juried Exhibition, Viridian Artists (juried by Chrissie Iles, Curator at the Whitney Museum, NYC), New York

2012    Selected Award Winning Artist Dublin Biennale, Dublin

2012    Border Alchemies, Queen’s Nails Project, San Francisco: SOLO Exhibition

2011    Pachanga 2011, Galeria de la Raza, San Francisco

2011    Guest-Artist in Proyecto Coyote, MDE11 (Medellin Biennale), Colombia

2011    Medellin-Tijuana, Taller 7, Medellin

2011    SICA Annual Juried Exhibition, New Jersey

2011    The New Wave, Kadist, San Francisco

2011    You Are Here, HERE, New York

2011    Bay Area Currents, ProArt, Oakland

2011    Out of Context, Gallery 454, San Francisco

2011    MFA show, Winery, Treasure Island

2010    Borders, Root Division Art Gallery, San Francisco

2010    Sensing Territories, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco

2010    Ethnographic Terminalia, Du Mois Gallery, New Orleans

2010    Reading Performance Workshop (as part of Renee Green’s solo exhibition

            Endless Dreams & Time-based Streams), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

 

Her work “Fireflies” is part of the Kadist Foundation Art collection (Paris-San Francisco).

 

            Recent public presentations: Installing Ethnography, UC Davis; Artist talk: Concordia University Montreal; Border/Line Ethnography, UT Austin, Anthropology Department, Austin; Arts With(out) Borders: Rethinking Methodologies of Art and Culture in the Global Context, Bern University, Swiss (2013); ‘Traces: Between Art and Anthropology’: paper presented as part of the European Conference/Exhibition People Behind the Things, kino speaker: Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Pigorini, Rome, curated by Routes Agency in collaboration with the Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale of Tervuren (Brussels), the Musée du quai Branly (Paris), the Museum für Völkerkunde of Vienna (2012); in the symposium ‘Las Fronteras del Mundo y Procesos Culturales. Estados Nacionales y Fronteras Culturales,’ Fonoteca Nacional, Mexico City (2012); in the EASA conference (European Association of Social Anthropologists), ‘Anxious Visions and Uncertain Images’, Nanterre University, France (2012); in the NEW MEXICO, 3rd  AULA Latin American Architecture Symposium , Albuquerque University, NM (2012); in the Political Equator 3 conference (San Diego-Tijuana, 2011). She contributed a conceptual map of Tijuana for the 2005 edition of the bi-national, public art event InSite05, co-authored the internationally acclaimed book ‘Here is Tijuana’ (Black Dog Publishing, London, 2006). She has numerous national and international publications with Third Text (Routledge), Aztlán: Journal of Chicano Studies (UCLA), Revista de Antropología Social (Madrid University), Alteridades (Revista de la UAM, Mexico), Letras Libres, La Ventana (Unversidad de Guadalajara, Mexico), Avatar: Journal of Anthropology and Communication (Meltemi, Italy). She realized a video on the Zapatista Movement called "Faceless: Zapatista video diaries". She held several academic appointments: Visiting Scholar at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center (2008-2009), Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Cultural Studies at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Mexico, (2003-2009), Visiting Scholar in the department of Anthropology at Stanford University (2002). Her co-edited book with Josh Kun Tijuana dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border has just been released by the Duke Press University (2012). 

 

Artist Statement


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Artist Statement


In recent years, coming from a cultural theory background in academic anthropology and an ethnographic background in my research-based art practice, I began to create site-specific, inter-disciplinary and cross-genre interventions that build on my long-term exposure to borderlands and border zones. Having worked as an ethnographer for several years, in Italy, Brazil, Mexico and since 2002 at the Tijuana-San Diego border, I have designed a set of trans-media practices that reflect on the border as a mobile category of experience, of sensory and conceptual mediations, disciplinary negotiations, and geopolitical articulations. In my art practice, I deploy ethnography both as a collaborative method and a participatory sensibility. I have been primarily interested in ethnography as a polyvalent medium, and as an aesthetic and art attitude towards public culture. My art practice builds on and extends the pioneering contaminations between ethnography and surrealism around Georges Bataille's Document circle (Michel Leiris in particular), as well as on the passionate trans-cultural mediations of artist-researchers from Maya Deren to the contemporary interventions of Jimmie Durham, Alfredo Jaar, Renee Green, the Atlas Group, Isaac Julian, Yinka Shonibare, and others. I think of my work as an experimental mode of translating through art practice research conducted in carefully selected urban sites, public cultures, and conceptual horizons. My work incorporates the lessons learned from Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Postminimalism, Site-specificity.

In creating a wide range of art practices, including installation, performance, cartography, digital photography, video and medical imaging technologies, I have tried to create conceptual and evocative interventions that are less about documenting, translating or representing the Other, and more about reflecting on the nature of desire in border zones, and how cross-cultural desire can be mediated through an art practice.