Carlos Motta

Carlos Motta (b. 1978, Colombia) lives and works in New York. He is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work draws upon political history to create counter-narratives that recognize suppressed histories, communities, and identities. Motta’s work has been presented in Tate Modern, London; the New Museum, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; and Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City, among others. A survey exhibition of his was presented at Röda Sten Konsthall in Gothenburg in 2015. Motta is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program (2006), winner of the Future Generation Art Prize, PinchukArtCentre, Kiev (2014), and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow (2008).


Deseos /تابغر, 2015
Video, 32 min 27 sec
Courtesy of the artist; Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon; Mor Charpentier Galerie, Paris; and Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg.


Carlos Motta’s film Deseos /تابغر (co-written with Maya Mikdashi) exposes the ways in which medicine, law, religion, and cultural tradition shaped dominant discourses of the gendered and sexual body through the narration of two parallel stories. First is that of Martina, who lived in Colombia during the early-ninteenth century colonial period. Second is the life of Nour, who lived in Beirut during the late Ottoman Empire. Part documentary and part fiction, the film presents an imaginary correspondence between these women. Separated by geography, culture, and religion, they both faced the consequences of engaging in same-sex relations and defying sexual and gender norms.

The colonial court prosecuted Martina in 1803 for being a “hermaphrodite” after her female lover accused her of an “unnatural” body. Martina was tried in court and ultimately freed after medical doctors were unable to find evidence of her lover’s accusation. This story is documented in the 1803 legal case in the Archivo General de la Nación, Bogotá, Columbia.  Meanwhile in Beirut, Nour married her female lover’s brother after her mother found the two women making love. Despite the fact that Nour’s story does not involve judgment in a courtroom, nor a legal case, notions of Islamic and late Ottoman laws, cultures, and histories condition her narrative.


Deseos /تابغر, 2015 , Installation view Röda Sten Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler