Spotlight on Paradox: Allora & Calzadilla

Allora & Calzadilla, <i>Returning a Sound</i>, 2004. Single-channel video with sound, 5 minutes 42 seconds.

Jennifer Allora was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1974. Guillermo Calzadilla was born in 1972 in Havana, Cuba. Allora received a BA from the University of Richmond in Virginia (1996) and an MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2003); Calzadilla received a BFA from Escuela de Artes Plásticas, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1996) and an MFA from Bard College (2001). They have collaborated since 1995; approaching visual art as a set of experiments that test whether concepts such as authorship, nationality, borders, and democracy adequately describe today’s increasingly global and consumerist society. Believing that art can function as a catalyst for social change, the artists solicit active participation and critical responses from their viewers. The artists’ emphasis on cooperation and activism have led them to develop hybrid art forms – sculptures presented solely through video documentation, digitally manipulated photographs, and public artworks generated by pedestrians.

Major exhibitions include the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2007); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2004); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2002); and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan (2001). Awards include the Korea Foundation Award (2004); Penny McCall Foundation Grant (2003); Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2002); and a Cintas Fellowship (2000–2001). Residencies include P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center, Long Island City, New York (1998–99); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2003–04); and Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California (2004). Allora & Calzadilla were short listed for the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize (2006). They live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

<i>Under Discussion</i>, video still, 2005. Single-channel video with sound, 6 min 14 sec. © Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, courtesy the artists.

Watch a clip from Allora & Calzadilla’s Art:21 segment:

About their role as artists, they say,

“It’s important as an artist to be involved in one’s own time and to try to be part of what contemporary reality is about-to try to engage the world, find a position within that, and respond to it…As an artist, it’s very important to respond to the things that affect you‚Äîmillions of things: religion, people, animals, excess, violence. Each person has to respond differently, and that response is involved with ethics, morality, history. This is, in the most basic sense, responsibility.”

(taken from the companion book Art in the Twenty-First Century 4, p. 129).

<i>Chalk (Lima)</i>, 1998-2002. Installation view: Pasaje Santa Rosa, Bienal de Lima, Peru. 12 chalks, 64 x 8 inches (diameter) each.

Read more about their work and watch additional clips on their Art:21 webpage here.

Have you experienced Allora & Calzadilla’s work in person, or did you have an opportunity to view their segment in one of the hundreds of Art21 Access ’07 events that have been taking place all month? Share your thoughts on Allora & Calzadilla by leaving a comment below.