Beloved Martina…

14 April 2016 - 4 June 2016
Opening Reception 14 April 2016 7pm


Artist Talk: Thursday 14 April 2016, 6.30PM

Mercer Union is delighted to present the exhibition Beloved Martina… by artist Carlos Motta including works by Arisleyda Dilone, Pidgeon Pagonis and Del LaGrace Volcano.

Carlos Motta is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work draws upon political history in an attempt to create counter narratives that recognize suppressed histories, communities, and identities. Motta has an ongoing preoccupation with democratic representation and the repression of individual and collective civil liberties. Promoting the act of self-representation, he creates works that question the writing of history, the construction of political memory, and the normative discourses of sexuality and gender.

Beloved Martina…, Motta’s first solo exhibition in Canada, presents a series of works that reflect on the restrictive nature of the gender binary and its own mythologizing forces, and focuses on the historical and ongoing repression of intersex identities. Presented in the front gallery, Motta’s mesmerizing film Deseos/تابغر [Desires] (2015) forms the starting point of the exhibition. Weaving across expanses of water, land, history, language, and cultures, the film traces the epistolary correspondence of two women at the beginning of the nineteenth century, one in Suesca, Colombia, and the other in Beirut, to engage with the social, political and epistemological possibilities of desire. Deseos/تابغر narrates the stories of Martina who was prosecuted for being a “hermaphrodite” and of Nour, a woman who is forced to marry her female lover’s brother. The intimate communication between the two women reveals the ways in which medicine, law, religion, and cultural tradition shaped dominant discourses of the gendered and sexual body.

Parallel to this video installation, in the back gallery, Motta presents a new series of 3D sandstone prints that depict the mythological figure of the “hermaphrodite,” based on sculptures from Greek and Roman antiquity and the Renaissance, and photographs from the late nineteenth century. Exhibited in a museum-like installation, the sculptures confront the institutional drive to classify and define with its authoritative gaze. Motta’s layering of stories is not just contained within the past: included in the exhibition are a series of video portraits part of Motta’s oral history project Gender Talents (2015) where intersex activists Jim Ambrose, Tiger Devore, David Iris Cameron, Hida Viloria and Sean Saifa M. Wall speak of their battles around advocating for the recognition of intersex identities and politics.

Presiding over the gallery is Self-Portrait: Blue Beard (1996) by Del LaGrace Volcano, a photographic self-portrait that defies viewers’ assumptions and expectations about gender performance and expression. Also included is Arisleyda Dilone’s film Mami y Yo yi mi Gallito (2015) which focuses on the vulnerable relationship between a mother and her intersex daughter and Pidgeon Pagonis’ photographic series Children’s Memorial Hospital Killa [CMHK] (2015) that depicts their singular protest in front of the hospital where they underwent numerous medical procedures as “corrective” measures during their childhood.

From semi-fictional to historical representation to self-representation, Beloved Martina…layers narratives of past and present to question gender norms, desires and the potential of real freedom through a politics of self-representation, resistance and critical difference.

Deseos/تابغر [Desires] (2015) was commissioned and produced by Council (France) and co-produced by Hordaland Kunstsenter (Norway), MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Röda Sten Konsthall (Sweden), Galeria Filomena Soares (Portugal), Mor.Charpentier Galerie (France) and with further support from Ashkal Alwan (Lebanon), DICRéAM (France) and the Göteborg International Biennal for Contemporary Art (Sweden). Please noteDeseos/تابغر [Desires] (2015) by Carlos Motta is 28 mins in length and plays every half hour in the gallery.


Gallery image credits: Installation views of Beloved Martina… by artist Carlos Motta including works by Arisleyda Dilone, Pidgeon Pagonis and Del LaGrace Volcano, Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art, 2016. Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid


This exhibition is co-presented in partnership with the Images Festival, April 14 – 23, 2016. For more information visit With special thanks to Objex Unlimited



Artist Bios

Carlos Motta was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1978 and currently lives and works in New York. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; MOMA/PS1, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Tate Modern, London; Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg; PinchukArtCentre, Kiev; and Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, México City. He has also been included in group exhibitions at: Guggenheim Museum, New York; SF MoMA, San Francisco; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Jeu de Paume, Paris; and Castello di Rivoli, Turin. Motta was also included in the X Lyon Biennale; X Gwangju Biennale; Gothenburg International Biennale of Contemporary Art; International Film Festival Rotterdam; and Toronto International Film Festival. Motta has several upcoming solo exhibitions including PPOW, New York (April 2016); Pérez Art Museum, Miami (July 2016); Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen (August 2016); and MALBA-Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (October 2016). Motta won the Main Prize-Future Generation Art Prize (2014), was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow (2008), and has received grants from Creative Capital (2012), Art Matters (2008) and Cisneros Fontanals Foundation (CIFO) (2006).

Arisleyda Dilone makes film work about her life and family. Born in Santiago de Los de Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Dilone moved to New York at the age of seven and was raised in a suburb of Long Island. She holds an MA in International Relations and Government from St. John’s University and a BA from Connecticut State University. In 2011, Dilone was awarded a mentorship by the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, and in 2012, she was awarded a Jerome Foundation-Travel and Study Grant. Dilone was a 2014 Union Docs Collaborative Fellow and a 2015 Queer Art/Mentorship/Program Fellow, in which she completed her short film Mami y Yo y Mi Gallito (Mom and Me and My Little Rooster). Dilone is a member of Diverse Filmmakers Alliance and Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective.

Pidgeon Pagonis is an intersex activist and artist fighting for their community’s human right to bodily autonomy and justice.  Born and raised in Chicago, Pagonis studied Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul University where they focused their studies on intersex issues and activism. Pidgeon is the former Communications & Operations Manager and Youth Leadership Coordinator for Inter/Act, an intersex youth project, at Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC)–an organization that fights for the legal rights of intersex children and their families. Pagonis recently completed a digital storytelling documentary titled The Son I Never Had: Growing up Intersex (2014) and had a similar titled piece published in Narratives Inquiries in Bioethics: A Journal of Qualitative Research. In 2015, Pagonis was given an LGBT Champion of Change award at the White House, Washington DC.

Del LaGrace Volcano is considered one of the pioneers of queer photography and has published five books: LoveBites (1991); the first photographic monograph of lesbian sexuality; The Drag King Book (1999), the only book to date exploring the performances and lives of drag kings; Sublime Mutations (2000), Sex Works (2005) and Femmes of Power (2008), the first photographic monograph celebrating queer femininities in the USA and Europe. Volcano is a regular contributor to academic publications, television programes and films on queer visual art and theory. Volcano lives and works in Sweden.



Image Credit: Carlos Motta, Deseos (2015), 32 min. video, color, sound, HD 16:9. Courtesy of Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon; Mor Charpentier Galerie, Paris; PPOW Gallery, New York.