• Carolina Caycedo, detail from Serpent River Book (2017)

    Carolina Caycedo, detail from Serpent River Book (2017)

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CAROLINA CAYCEDO: WHEN WALLS BECOME RIVERS

14 February 2020 - 14 March 2020

A solo exhibition of works by Colombian born artist Carolina Caycedo (b. 1978) will open at Art Exchange, University of Essex, Colchester. The exhibition drew inspiration from the recent acquisition of Serpent River Book (2017) by the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), also based at the University of Essex, which is the first artwork of Caycedo’s to enter a UK collection.

Acquisition of the artwork was proposed by Art History and Curating postgraduate students in 2019 as part of the innovative module ‘Collecting Art from Latin America’ where the students learn hands-on how museums collect and acquire artworks.

Carolina Caycedo, is a London-born Colombian artist, now living in Los Angeles, whose work is exhibited at major museums worldwide. From her practice at the intersection of activism and art-making, Caycedo produces art that spans video, performance, books, photography and installation to explore the mythologies, cultures and economies of rivers, focusing especially on the conflictsand social movements arising from mega-dam construction projects.

This exhibition brings together a body of works by Caycedo that relate to the lives of rivers and the struggles waged by social movements and indigenous communities to protect water, and other forms of ecological commons, from commodification and privatisation. It also honours the female environmental activists who raise their voices against worldviews that deaden nature, and instead insist on its vitality for social and ecological wellbeing. The centrepiece of the exhibition, Serpent River Book, is an unfolding publication of texts and images which traces the lives of rivers from source to sea. The book will literally “flow” through the gallery space at the University’s Colchester campus, inviting visitors alike to reconnect to the role of water in sustaining life. 

This exhibition is guest curated by Dr Lisa Blackmore, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Interdisciplinary Studies from the School of Philosophy and Art History, who explains the global relevance of Caycedo’s focus on human control of rivers. “Dams silence rivers, channelling water into structures and systems that harness it as a resource for hydropower and extractive industries. But rivers are so much more than that. They constantly escape human control, overspilling the walls built to contain them and reshaping landscapes. They dry up too, desiccating the earth as they retreat. Given the water stresses facing communities worldwide, including here in the UK, this is a timely moment to rethink our relationship to water. Carolina’s work really helps us do that.”

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