Butterfly's Mirror: A Conversation on Carlos Motta's Refugee Portraits in the Crossing
Laura Raicovich, Itamar Mann, and Carlos Motta gathered at Dedalus Foundation for a discussion organized by Denniston Hill to address today’s pressing questions of culture, migration, identity, and authority. They used Carlos Motta’s poignant and powerful recent project at the Stededlijk Museum in the Netherlands, The Crossing, as a case study in the ways art can reframe personal narratives and uncover important social and political complexities. The project comprises eleven video portraits of LGBTQI refugees who tell their stories of departures from their homelands and experiences in the Netherlands. They are tales of displacement, humiliation, xeno-, trans-, and homophobia, as well as pride and self-realization. Mann, as a scholar of international law and human rights, Raicovich, as a writer and former director of the Queens Museum, and Motta as an artist, each brought to bear their own specific perspectives on how art can shift the public discourse on such an urgent global subject.
Carlos Motta is an artist whose work engages with histories of queer culture to insist that the politics of sex and gender represent an opportunity to articulate definite positions against social and political injustice. In 2017 his exhibitions included: a career survey at Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín; and solo exhibitions at Stedelijk Art Museum, Amsterdam; and Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional, Bogotá. In 2016 he had solo exhibitions at: Pérez Art Museum (PAMM), Miami; MALBA—Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires; and P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York. Motta participated in the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo in 2016. In 2017 he won The Vilcek Foundation’s Prize for Creative Promise and in 2014 the Future Generation Art Prize of the PinchukArtCentre. He was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow (2008), and has received grants from Art Matters (2008), NYSCA (2010), and the Creative Capital Foundation (2012).
Itamar Mann is an associate professor at the University of Haifa, Faculty of Law, where he teaches and researches in the areas of international law, political theory, human rights, migration and refugee law, and environmental law. His book Humanity at Sea: Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. Alongside his academic work, Mann is a human rights practitioner and advocate, with particular experience in refugee and migrant rights, and is a legal advisor for the London-based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). He also co-chairs the interest group on migration law at the American Society of International Law.
Laura Raicovich is a writer and art worker based in New York City. Until recently she served as Director of the Queens Museum, and is currently co-curating (with Manon Slome) ‘Mel Chin: All Over the Place’ which opens this spring at various sites across New York City. Raicovich’s recent books include, as author, At the Lightning Field (Coffee House Press, 2017) and as co-editor, Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production (OR Books, 2017).