"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.
"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."
"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."
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."
"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."
"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."
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.
Mónica Alcázar-Duarte has been selected for the 2022 Autograph / Light Work artist residency, to support the development of her series Second Nature.Find out more
Autograph’s Curator, Bindi Vora, speaks to the artist about her work
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