Maria Gaspar

Rift, Rupture, Split (I)


Chicago, IL

My artistic practice addresses issues of spatial justice in order to amplify, mediate, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Using installation, sculpture, performance, sound, and collaborative approaches, my work negotiates visibility, belonging, and the politics of location. I respond to the psychic and physical atmosphere of place through multi-year projects that span a range of formats and scales. Working within historically politicized sites often means grappling with the harrowing repercussions of systemic erasure. Therefore, the artistic projects I generate with others are based in forms of liberatory action. Influenced by the hyper-local, I challenge understandings of geography and the social constructions of space by mediating, subverting, and flipping the familiar or unnoticed to provoke new interpretations.As an artist examining the social anatomy of place, I am involved in negotiating the relationship between place, power, and body. For this reason, my artistic practice seeks to confront issues of proximity to uncover matters of boundaries and provoke eventual “boundary-crossing.” By implementing the body as compass­—not only navigating geography or proximity, but the feeling and subjectivity of place, I mark the perceptual and political by moving between material encounters and social ones. For example, “Radioactive: Stories from Beyond the Wall,” (a public, site-responsive visual and audio broadcast produced with men incarcerated in the largest single-site jail in the country), studied the physical characteristics of detention in relationship to the body generating fictional narratives about freedom and confinement. We broadcast the work on the exterior walls of a jail, where the dividing line between those incarcerated and those not incarcerated took on a more profound representation that impacted not only how the public viewed a place of “un-freedom” but how the public saw themselves within a system of power. At the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, my installation, “Haunting Raises Specters (by A.G.),” further explored that relationship within the format of the museum. The 10’ x 160’ moveable textile depicts the Cook County Jail wall at half scale and asks viewers to engage on either side of the “wall,” thereby problematizing the relationship between the inside/outside because, in fact, the nature of the carceral state is ubiquitous.In my large-scale public interventions, I work with a variety of community members and publics to generate a form of collective meaning-making. This process requires spending significant time with others to research local scholarship and the values we share or find contentious. Due to the complexity of mediating within an elaborate environment contextualized by varying histories, power structures, and visions—I consider the labor of relationship-building as deeply critical to the work. Often, there is a precariousness involved in producing art together, especially when it includes the lived experiences of people. Therefore, room for play and experimentation, care and being in community become vital forms of artistic process. Through interdisciplinary and interrogative approaches, my work manifests these relationships and seeks to grow and build through the lens of an abolition.

Photograph by Taisuke Yamada
Photograph by Taisuke Yamada
Photograph by Taisuke Yamada


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