Carlos Motta

Carlos Motta

Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA)

Carlos Motta, The Good Life, video still
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 2005-2008

January 31, 2008


January 18 – March 30, 2008

University of Pennsylvania
118 S. 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is pleased to present “Carlos Motta: The Good Life,” the first museum presentation of an ambitious work by Carlos Motta, on view January 18 – March 30, 2008. “The Good Life,” a long-term, in-progress, experimental documentary project, engages and critiques documentary practice itself. It is a relevant examination of the regional history, perception and effects of US interventionist policies in Latin America, at a time of global critical awareness of those politics.

Since 2005, Carlos Motta has recorded over 300 video interviews with civilians on the streets of twelve cities in Latin America. The questions he asked, on individual perceptions of US interventionism and foreign policy, democracy, leadership, and social inequality, resulted in an extremely wide spectrum of opinion, which varies according to local situations and forms of government in each country. The resulting footage is the basis of “The Good Life.” Informed by conceptual documentary traditions the project references the approach of cinema vérité classics such as Chris Marker’s Le Jolie Mai (1963) and Vilgot Sjöman’s I am curious (Yellow) (1967), which began to study the notion of public opinion as mediated construction.

In this iteration, created for the Project Space, Motta’s interviews with persons in Bogota, Buenos Aires, Managua, Mexico City, Santiago and Tegucigalpa, serve as both a conceptual and formal framework. Arranged in an open structure that evokes a classical space for the exercising of democracy, these conversations shed light on the effects of political intervention, and the public perception of political concepts, on the formation of national and individual subjectivities. The exhibition also comprises a series of accompanying photographs, shot during visits to each city, and a takeaway poster featuring texts commissioned from artists Ashley Hunt, Naeem Mohaiemen and Oliver Ressler; and political philosopher Maria Mercedes Gómez that answer the question, “What is democracy to you?”

Carlos Motta (b. Bogotá, Colombia, 1978, lives in New York) was a participant in the Whitney Independent Study Program, (2005-2006), and completed his MFA at Bard College in 2003. Working primarily in photography and video installation, he uses strategies from documentary and sociology to engage with specific political events in an attempt to observe their effects and suggest alternative ways to write and read these histories.

Motta’s upcoming and past solo exhibitions include Art in General, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Winkleman Gallery in New York, NY; rum46, Aarhus, Denmark; Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT; Kevin Bruk Gallery, Miami, FL; and La Alianza Francesa, Bogotá, Colombia. He has been included in group exhibitions at venues such as CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Fries Museum, Groningen, Holland; Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Italy; Musée de Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; Artists Space, New York, NY; TEOR/éTica, San Jose, Costa Rica; Cisneros Fontanals Foundation, Miami, FL; El Museo, New York, NY; Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico; SF CameraWork, San Francisco, CA; Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogotá, Colombia and IASPIS, Stockholm, Sweden.

Motta is the editor of and faculty at the International Center of Photography and Parsons The New School of Design in New York.

This exhibition is organized by 2007-2008 Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow Stamatina Gregory and will be accompanied by a brochure publication.

Related Events:

Conversation: Carlos Motta and Ann Farnsworth-Alvear
February 27, 7PM

Join us for a conversation between historian Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, director of Penn’s Program in Latin American Studies, and artist Carlos Motta, as they discuss their respective explorations of Latin American history and politics through scholarship and art.

Workshop: What is Democracy to You?
March 7 – 9, 1PM

In conjunction with this exhibition, artist Carlos Motta and curator Stamatina Gregory will lead a three-day workshop with a group of interested participants. Together we will approach the question “What is democracy to you?” from a variety of perspectives in an attempt to create a set of meanings, responses, problems and solutions around this concept. If you would like to participate, can commit to all sessions, and have ideas to contribute, let us know why this question is important to you (one page or less) at by February 20. The program is limited to 10 core participants, who will be selected to represent a diversity of opinions and interests. This event however is also open to the
general public.

ICA is grateful for funding provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation, Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 12/21/07.)

The artist wishes to thank Kevin Bruk (Kevin Bruk Gallery), Alberto Chehebar, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, and Solita Mishaan for their generous support for this exhibition.


Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Philadelphia

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January 31, 2008

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