Baby Planet — What you look like when you arrived in the USA

May 11, 2018

Farside: 1305 SW 87th Avenue, Miami FL, 33174

Curated by arturo f. mosquera and Angela Valella

One spring evening in 1892, Augustus Sherman, an amateur photographer who worked as the chief registry clerk on Ellis Island, NY, from that year until 1925 began to snap photographs of people passing through customs in their native dress. These photographs were later published in National Geographic in 1907 and once hung on the walls in the headquarters of the federal Immigration Service in Manhattan. Presently, they are part of the archives of the New York Public Library. More than 12 million immigrants used the island to enter the United States, about 40 percent of Americans can trace their ancestry back through Ellis Island.

For the installation titled Baby Planet – What you look like when you arrived in the USA, The Nightclub project invites artists and others to participate by submitting a photograph of the first snapshot taken of them or their family upon their arrival to this country. These photos will be arranged in successive stacks on the gallery outdoor walls, arranged chronologically by edition. Walking from one end of the so many -foot-long installation to the other, a paradox emerges: for confronting society’s treatment of race, gender, history and the human condition with images as visually arresting as they are meaningful. Each personal narrative informs so much of how we think and see the work.
The exhibition will pair archival newspaper photographs of family members as well as the author’s photo. Extending the project and the character beyond the immigration process as the central vision but instead portraying different women and men and the way that they arrived in the USA. Provoking the viewer to think of the artist as an “everywoman” rather than about an individual experience.
The images show numerous signs of use—corners are curled, imagery is faded, handwritten notes remain. They are not archival records of the past so much as a portrait of the ways in which the production of images has evolved over the last century, and how those changes inform our interpretation. Contrary to Instagram, a way to share a photo of you, if you are not there to capture the moment, does it even exist? This exhibition relies on the denial of personal meaning and more as an ode to the inhabitants of this city. The selection of photographs is unpredictable suggesting a kind of history of taste, various arrays of personal choice and, perhaps a look into portraiture genre and the strip photograph. A vast repertory of imagery, derived from the many artists’ personal experiences, gives this installation an almost autobiographical flavor. Many of the photos conceived and produced during the last decades will interact as one solid document while they vary in medium, technique, places and date.


Photos by William Riera