Commonwealth and Council

Hunger as Teacher/El Hambre Como Maestra

Carolina Caycedo


“El Hambre Como Maestra/Hunger as Teacher” is part of Carolina Caycedo’s ongoing project “Be Dammed” in which she collaborates with riverside populations in various bio-regions to address the socio-environmental impacts of dams. While engaged in fieldwork and research, Caycedo gathers objects, film footage, and testimonies. She also produces drawings, collages, sculptures, and films that document and expand on these experiences. These elements form the basis of an investigation into the devastating ramifications of development as understood through the stories of those affected and their resistance. 

Caycedo challenges the separation of the human and the natural, especially in highlighting correlations between the environmental crisis and the persistence of oppression. The human toll of both is a particular concern—close to 185 environmental activists were killed in 2016, amongst them Berta Caceres from Honduras and Nilce de Souza ‘Nicinha’ from Brazil. These women are memorialized through a collective portrait, with water protectors Zoila Ninco from Colombia and Raimunda Silva from Brazil who continue this fight. Fishing nets collected during fieldwork refer to the survival of indigenous traditions and the impact of modernity, and also serve as an homage to these women. When asked who had taught her to fish, Raimunda answered, “Hunger taught me to fish.” This inherent bodily connection to water runs through the exhibition. The drawing “Dam Knot Anus” (2016) refers to an interview with Kogui indigenous spiritual leader Mamo Pedro Juan, who passed away last June, in which he described a dam as cutting off the connection between bodies of water and communities, like a knot in the veins, or, still worse, a knot in the anus. Also on view is the intrauterine device previously used as a contraceptive by Caycedo and subsequently removed in the process of “undamming” her own body, now transformed into a sculptural relic. For this exhibition, Caycedo returns to Los Angeles and its own long-standing struggles with water and the power structures that direct its flow. A folktale written by the artist about the Colorado River is here illustrated and translated into Korean and Spanish. This is one of a series of river folktales by the artist—another effort to redirect and rewrite the history of water. 

Carolina Caycedo, born in London to Colombian parents, lives and works in Los Angeles. She transcends institutional spaces to work in the social realm, where she participates in movements of territorial resistance, solidarity economies, and housing as a human right. Caycedo has developed publicly engaged projects in Bogotá, Quezon City, Toronto, Madrid, São Paulo, Lisbon, San Juan, New York, San Francisco, Paris, México DF, Tijuana, and London. Her work has been exhibited worldwide with solo shows at Vienna Secession, Vienna; Intermediae-Matadero, Madrid; Galerie du Jour - agnès b., Paris; Alianza Francesa, Bogotá; Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen; 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica; and DAAD Gallery, Berlin. Caycedo has participated in international biennials and triennials including São Paulo (2016), Berlin (2014), Paris (2013), New Museum (2011), Havana (2009), Whitney (2006), Venice (2003), and Istanbul (2001). In 2012, she was a DAAD Artists-in-Berlin resident and received funding from Creative Capital, California Community Foundation, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Harpo Foundation, Art Matters, Colombian Culture Ministry, Arts Council UK, and Prince Claus Fund. Caycedo’s “El Hambre Como Maestra/Hunger as Teacher” relates to the artist’s book, “River Serpent Book,” and the 2-channel video installation, “To Stop Being a Threat and To Become a Promise,” commissioned by LACMA for “A Universal History of Infamy” as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.