Online Gallery

Behind the Algorithm: Migration,
Mexican Women and Digital Bias

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte's 'Second Nature'

"What I have found through my research is how invisible complex algorithmic structures are. The more impenetrable and unseen their working, the less we understand their influence on our physical world. I want to make the power structures behind our internet-dependent society visible and examine the impact of the biased thinking they perpetuate."
— Mónica Alcázar-Duarte

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte is a Mexican-British multi-disciplinary visual artist whose work acknowledges her indigenous heritage while exploring the subjects of migration and equality. Alcázar-Duarte was the 2022 Autograph / Lightwork artist-in-residence. During her residency, the artist was based at Light Work’s studios in Syracuse, New York where she had been using the residency to develop her current projects Second Nature and Teilui Machilistli - Simulated Order, creating prints and a publication for these works.

Below, Autograph presents a selection of images from the series Second Nature, which examines the role of search engine algorithms in society, and the impact of digital bias and discrimination in shaping cultural ‘truths’. Alcázar-Duarte meticulously researches how search engine algorithms reinforce stereotypes, by pre-selecting what images are seen online. She makes these power structures visible, and the impact of the biased thinking they perpetuate.

Here To Be Caught, 2021

"This work is inspired by stories from first, second and third generation migrants. Some of the words in this work are from their stories, and some are taken from the results of web searches I performed in Baltimore, Maryland in the summer of 2018."

AR display of works from Second Nature at York Art Gallery, as part of the Aesthetica Prize 2021

"The works in Second Nature include embedded animations that can be accessed via an Augmented Reality App. The animations include words found from the internet searches that I performed in 2018 while travelling between the UK, the US and Mexico."

Second Nature, 2021

Print with embedded augmented reality.

"Computer science has borrowed terminology from the natural world to describe many of its fundamental processes and structures: WEB, CLOUD, ROOT, TREE and VIRUS."

200 Billion Per Year, 2021

"A web search using the terms 'Mexicans' and 'Why Mexicans are…' returned an overwhelming majority of search results related to drugs, drug use, and the Mexican war on drugs."

Tierra y Libertad, 2021

"This is the slogan used by the Zapatistas - a far-left political group in opposition to the Mexican state - since the Mexican Revolution (1910 - 1920). The slogan, meaning 'land and freedom', has since been used in connection with justice and human rights issues."

From The Shadows They Keep Coming, 2021

"One of the stories that keeps me awake is that of my grandmother. She recently related to me the abuse she endured from my grandfather and his family because of her skin complexion."

"His family came from Spain. In Mexico, a postcolonial country, there is an underlying system of hierarchy and discrimination based on what is perceived as European versus indigenous features. Through my family’s history there is a trace of the postcolonial legacy in Mexico. My grandmother is not alone; other women I've spoken with have related to being made to feel a sense of shame and isolation due to their appearance."

Read More

Hot Headed, 2021

Print with embedded augmented reality.

"Rigorous testing of industry AI algorithms, including Google search’s processing, discovered significant biases and the perpetuation of stereotypes around issues of gender, race and geography. Latin women seem to be particularly victimised by current algorithms."

AR display of Hot Headed, 2021

Work as shown at York Art Gallery, Aesthetica Prize 2021.

Güerita, 2021

"The title references a term used in street markets and service industries to refer to women who are perceived as light-skinned. It is used as a term of endearment, thus upholding racial hierarchies and discrimination against indigenous Mexicans. The word, ‘güerita’, underlines the inconsistencies in the country's approach to issues of power, class and post-colonial legacies."

Divided We Fall, 2019 - ongoing

"In the past, racist graffiti, defamation of religious buildings and acts of vandalism have been the key indicators of racial hostility and hate in the public sphere. Racist and discriminatory language on platforms like Twitter has become the racist graffiti of our time."

How Do We Stop These People, 2019 - ongoing

"This work is inspired by stories recounted to me by migrants I’ve met during my residency in New York, who escaped vigilante groups at the border with the United States."

Static, 2019

"This work refers to the ‘static dictionary’ used by some coders, whose full set of strings is determined before coding begins and does not change during the coding process. This approach is most often used when the message or set of messages to be encoded is fixed and large."

code:<< erasure >> [still], 2022

Photo credit: Lys Y. Seng

From a live performance that took place during the opening weekend of the Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie in the Wilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen, Germany, March 2022.

about the artist

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte

is originally from Mexico and 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. Her book Your Photographs Could be Used by Drug Dealers was acquired in 2014 for artist book collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Yale University Gallery and the Joan Flasch Collection at the Arts Institute of Chicago.

Alcazar-Duarte was the 2022 Light Work / Autograph Artist-in-Residence and has been awarded the National Geographic Wayfinder Award (2022), the Ampersand-Photoworks Residency (2021), Firecracker Grant (2020), Lucie Foundation Chroma Luxe scholarship (2019), National Geographic Arena award (2019), Les Recontres d’Arles New Discovery Award (2018), and The Photographers’ Gallery Bar-Tur Photobook Award (2017). She has also recently shortlisted for the Aesthetica Prize (2021).

See more of Alcázar-Duarte's work on her website, and follow the artist on Instagram.


Can you spare a few moments? Autograph is carrying out a survey to better understand who our digital audiences are. The survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete. Anything you tell us will be kept confidential, is anonymous and will only be used for research purposes.

The information you provide will be held by Autograph and The Audience Agency, who are running the survey on our behalf. In compliance with GDPR, your data will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes it was given.

You can take the survey here. Thank you!

All gallery images by Mónica Alcázar-Duarte are © the artist

Banner image: Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, 200 Billion Per Year [detail], 2021, © the artist.
Discover more images: 1) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Divided We Fall [detail], 2019-ongoing, © the artist.  2) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, From The Shadows They Keep Coming [detail], 2021, © the artist. 3) Don Travis, Bilqees and Lola [detail], © the artist. 4) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Here To Be Caught [detail], 2021, © the artist.