‘We The Enemy’ solo show by artist Carlos Motta explores the politics of borders

Carlos Motta, Corpo Fechado-The Devil's Work, 2018, video still
Carlos Motta (Photo by Cory Rice)
Carlos Motta, Legacy, 2019, video still

We the Enemy, the first West Coast solo exhibition of artworks by internationally acclaimed artist Carlos Motta, opens at the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery on the UC Santa Cruz campus on January 23.

Co-presented in collaboration with UCSC’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS), the show explores the politics of borders as they intersect with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, and race.

Through video installations and performance documenta­tion, We The Enemy explores histories suppressed, untold, and often unspeakable—including the persecution of LGBTQIA+ people in America, issues of theology and the church, and the history of medical research and HIV/AIDS.

The exhibition documents these repressed histories to create a strong and powerful record of rising resistance.

“Motta’s art practice has been consistently dedicated to probing difficult questions about politics and the body,” noted UCSC history of art and visual culture professor Jennifer González. “Tying landscapes of desire to systems of power, We The Enemy will incite our students to link present conditions of injustice to deeper histories of violence,” she added.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the artist has collaborated with Institute of the Arts and Sciences curator and interim director Rachel Nelson to produce a symposium titled Bodies on the Border—which is designed to bring together artists, activists, and scholars to further examine the geopolitics of borders.

Featuring film screenings, poetry readings, performances, and panel discussions, the two-day event takes place on January 24 at UC Santa Cruz, and on January 25 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where Motta’s new 4-channel video installation on LGBTQI Dreamers, We Got Each Other’s Back--Chapter 1: Narrative Shifter: A Portrait of Julio Salgado, is currently on view as part of a multi-artist exhibition titled Soft Power.

The symposium is a reflection of Motta’s commitment to activism and education in the arts. He has previously produced a variety of symposia, including events at the Tate Modern in London, the New Museum in New York, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.

For those events, the artist invited key thinkers, activists, and artists to address the social and political concerns that his art practice also engages, in an effort to emphasize the importance of art in public and civic education.

“We are thrilled to host Motta’s West Coast premiere solo exhibition and to collaborate with the artist and SFMOMA on the related symposium,” said Nelson. “This mode of combining art, education, and civic learning is well-suited for UC Santa Cruz and confirms the Institute of the Arts and Sciences’ commitment to art and public engagement.”

Motta’s work is represented 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.

He has been awarded the Vilcek Foundation's Prize for Creative Promise (2017); the PinchukArtCentre's Future Generation Art Prize (2014); and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

A New York-based artist who was born in Bogotá, Colombia, Motta was the subject of a 2018 career survey exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia and Matucana 100, Santiago, Chile. His films have recently been screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Switzerland.


We the Enemy, the West Coast premiere solo exhibition by Carlos Motta, runs January 23 through March 14 at the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The opening reception takes place on Jan. 23, beginning at 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, including about guided tours and class visits, email ias@ucsc.edu or call 831-459-3606.

The Bodies on the Border symposium, take place on January 24 at UC Santa Cruz, and on January 25 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The symposium schedule can be found on the IAS web site.