Latin American Artists Challenge the Concept of Being an ‘Alien’ in Sci-Fi Themed Exhibit

When I imagine science fiction I think of Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy or the Martian Chronicles. It’s easy to forget that science fiction has almost always been a medium used to convey feelings of otherness within the socio-political/cultural scope. The University of California – Riverside’s exhibit Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas is a survey of over 30 artists from all over the Americas who use Sci-Fi as a vehicle to tell their stories. This exhibit can feel like a huge undertaking for the viewer – not because of the subject matter as in Radical Women – but because of the size of the exhibit. There are three floors, several full length films, their permanent collection of photography and cameras, and so many interactive and intricate pieces to look at. You should plan for at least half a day to really get through it all because it’s totally worth it!

Latin American Artists Creating New Worlds in UCR Sci-Fi Themed Exhibit HipLatina

Yvette Montoya

At first glance all the pieces look disjointed – there are costumes, several videos on loop, installations, paintings, collage, photographs, sculpture, a metal hut, a fairly large makeshift house, tapestries, a rubber car, a lowrider that comes apart transformers style, and an expanding rib cage that spans the full length of the museum’s atrium – just to name a few. All of the pieces could stand alone as their own exhibit but it’s the story behind all of these creations that truly unifies them. The artists explore concepts of utopia, dystopia, immigration, sexuality, identity, politics, history, borders, autonomy, and an overwhelming desire to be accepted for who and what they are despite being different.

One of the most ubiquitous images that come up when I think about sci-fi is the image of a green alien with large black eyes. This of course is not represented literally in the artworks, but the concept of being alien is a theme I saw repeatedly. The idea of something or someone being out of place or being stuck where they don’t belong is illustrated in many different ways. One of the most unusual is a latex casting of a Volkswagen “Braizilia” which was the only vehicle to ever be manufactured in Brazil. Artist Clarissa Tossin created this “skin” to represent something that is out of place as well as the history of economic, ecological and physical abuse Brazilians faced at the hands of a foreign company that exploited and killed many of them for cheap labor.  

Latin American Artists Creating New Worlds in UCR Sci-Fi Themed Exhibit HipLatina

Yvette Montoya

One of my favorite themes was “Indigenous Futurism.” I really loved seeing indigenous people being featured as well as being the ones creating. Artist Rigo 23 worked with the Zapatista’s of Chipas, Mexico on a collaborative project that depicts indigenous and Zapatista iconography with themes of space and time travel complete with a spaceship installation in the shape of a cornhusk.

The exhibit will surely get you thinking about what it means to be “alien” but it will also make you wonder why these rich, beautiful multifaceted experiences are still left out of the mainstream conversation. In my opinion the artists of Mundos Alternos are hopeful, but they also acknowledge that Earth still isn’t ready for them – maybe they’ll have better luck among the stars.

This exhibit will run from 09.16.17-02.04.18

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is the latest collaborative effort from arts institutions across Southern California.

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