VR Exhibition Visits

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte: Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain

POSTED: 22 February 2024

Virtually visit Mónica Alcázar-Duarte's exhibition at Autograph, interweaving indigenous knowledge, colonial legacy and ecological urgency

VR visit


Affirming the value and survival of her ancestors’ indigenous knowledge, Mexican-British artist Mónica Alcázar-Duarte examines western society’s obsession with speed, expansion and resource accumulation at a time when ecological disaster looms. She raises critical questions – where does knowledge lie? Who and what is classified? – joining together the threads of dissociated knowledge systems.

The evocative photographs at the core of Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain are set amongst the dying trees of Derbyshire, home of the Industrial Revolution. In these self-portraits, the artist mimics poses from 18th-century Casta paintings, a genre of art made in Mexico during Spanish colonialism to illustrate racist social hierarchies – classifying mixed race individuals within a ‘caste’ system.

Attempting to make complex power structures visible, Alcázar-Duarte intervenes in her photographs. Masks covered in flowers reference both the emblems of empire and plants that are vitally important to endangered bees in the Yucatán. Copper appears throughout the works, a material extracted from Mexico under Spanish colonial rule which today continues to be used in cables as a carrier for the internet globally. Patterning formed by datasets scanned from the faces of the Casta paintings are juxtaposed against the fleur-de-lis: a symbol of the lily connoting monarchy and virtue, which was also used during the colonial era to mark enslaved people as a punishment.

These photographs appear alongside a short film U K'ux Kaj / Heart of sky, Mayan god of storms (2023-24), produced at Maní in the Yucatán Peninsula, the town where the Mayan codices were burned in 1562.  Rooted in the centre of the exhibition is a new installation T'aabal chukChuuk / Embers (2024). Using an algorithm inspired by the collective intelligence of bee colonies, Alcázar-Duarte merges the fleur-de-lis with fragments from the Casta paintings. The resulting fifty-six 3D printed lilies form a garden of technology based in historical classification systems, activated through augmented reality.

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about the artist


Mónica Alcázar-Duarte

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte is originally from Mexico, of indigenous descent, she lives and works in the U.K. Becoming a migrant shaped her way of seeing and thinking, and it deeply shapes her practice. 

She has been awarded the Ampersand-Photoworks Residency (2021), Firecracker Grant (2020), Lucie Foundation Chroma Luxe scholarship (2019), National Geographic Wayfinder Award (2022),  National Geographic Arena Award (2019), Les Recontres d’Arles New Discovery Award (2018), and The Photographers’ Gallery Bar-Tur Photobook Award (2017). Her works included in public collections at Autograph, London, Museum of Modern Art artist book collection, New York, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and Wilhelm Hack Museum, Germany amongst others. She lives and works in London.

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part of the exhibition


Mónica Alcázar-Duarte: Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain

16 Feb – 1 Jun 2024
Free exhibition

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Images on page: 1) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte. Photo by Michael Breakey. 2) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Ixchel - Mayan Moon and Birth deity from the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain, 2021-2023, © and courtesy the artist.