autograph, london

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

16 Feb – 1 Jun 2024

Free Exhibition
Curated by Bindi Vora

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Interweaving indigenous knowledge, colonial legacy and ecological urgency

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Autograph
Rivington Place
London EC2A 3BA, UK

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opening hours

Wed, Fri: 11am - 6pm
Thur: 11am - 9pm
Sat: 12:30-6pm

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

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.



“I find myself wondering if there could be different approaches to tackling the important questions of our time…how is it that the knowledge of my ancestors has been completely disassociated from contemporary knowledge systems?”

— Mónica Alcázar-Duarte


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.


EXHIBITION PREVIEW

Gallery 2

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K’aaxal ja’ - Mayan Thunder deity, 2021

Gallery 2

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Itzamná - Mayan Time deity, 2021

EVENTS

Exploring Digital Realities

Workshop, Sat 24 Feb, 1 - 3:30pm

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Exhibition Opening

Free, Thu 15 Feb, 6-8pm

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digital content

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Call for Writing: Photography, Colonialism and Climate Justice

Free to enter | Deadline 4 March 2024
We're looking to publish new writing that critically engages with the ways in which photography can speak to issues of colonialism and climate justice. The successful applicant will receive a £300 fee, editorial support from Autograph and publication on our website.

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Introducing Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain

Highlighting five key motifs from the exhibition

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VR Visit

Virtually visit highlights from the exhibition with this VR experience

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Artist residency

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte was the 2022 Autograph / Light Work artist-in-residence

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Behind the Algorithm: Migration, Mexican Women and Digital Bias

View our online gallery of Mónica Alcázar-Duarte's series Second Nature

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The artist in conversation with Bindi Vora

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte discusses her new photography and research

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Collection Highlight: Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain

Take a closer look at Alcázar-Duarte's work exploring ecology, indigenous knowledge and western botany systems

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Artist Commission

The new commission at the heart of the exhibition

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Reading List

Texts selected by the artist on themes related to the exhibition

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about the artist

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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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YOUR VISIT

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Everyone is welcome at Autograph. Planning a visit? Have a look at our Visit Us page to find out more about getting to the gallery, accessibility and more.

The gallery will be closed on Thursday 22 February from 6-9pm for our book launch 'Shining Lights: Black Women Photographers in 1980s-90s Britain'

SAFETY MEASURES

Accessible VEnue

Autograph welcomes people with all types of disabilities.

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Step free

Our building and entrance is step free. A wheelchair accessible lift goes to all floors.

also coming up

Wilfred Ukpong: Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos

16 Feb – 1 Jun 2024
Visual meditations on the environmental crisis in the Niger Delta

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Acknowledgements

T'aabal chukChuuk / Embers (2024) is commissioned by Autograph, London and Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg.

U K'ux Kaj / Heart of sky, Mayan god of storms (2023-2024) is commissioned by The National Geographic Society.



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Banner image: Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Ixchel - Mayan Moon and Birth deity, 2021. From the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain. © and courtesy the artist.

Exhibition preview: All works are from the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain. © and courtesy the artist. 2) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, K’aaxal ja’ - Mayan Thunder deity, 2021. 4) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Itzamná - Mayan Time deity, 2021.
1+3) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte: Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain exhibition at Autograph. 16 February - 1 June 2024. Curated by Bindi Vora. Photograph by Kate Elliott.

Other images on page: 1) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte. Photo by Michael Breakey. 2) Autograph. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell. 3) Wilfred Ukpong, Strongly, We Believe In the Power of this Motile Thing That Will Take Us There #2, 2017. From the series Blazing Century 1: Niger-Delta/Future-Cosmos. Courtesy of the artist and Blazing Century Studios.