Los Angeles-based artist Carolina Caycedo was born in London to Colombian parents. She makes art that investigates the environmental problems of damming rivers and the social consequences that follow in riverside communities. Catcedo addresses contexts and communities affected by developmental infrastructure, in particular water rights and access for under-served communities. She transcends institutions so that she is able to work directly in the cities and communities, where she has developed and worked on environmental projects. These cities are numerous: Bogota, Quezon City, Toronto, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Lisbon, San Juan, New York, San Francisco, Paris, Mexico, Tijuana, and London.
Caycedo received her B.F.A. from Los Andes University, Bogota Colombia in 1999 and her M.F.A. from the University of Southern California in 2014. She resides and works in the Chinatown section of downtown Los Angeles.
Caycedo’s artistic practice has a collective dimension to it where performances, drawings, photographs, and videos are not just an end in themselves, but are also part of her research. Her work investigates assimilation and resistance as she addresses communities that are affected by developmental projects, such as the constructions of dams, the privatization of water, and the negative effects these projects have on people. She often invites the public to write testimonies or narrations around environmental memory.
In a recent exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Caycedo gave a walkthrough of her “Serpent River Book,” a 72 page accordion-folded artist book, which combines archival images, maps, poems, satellite photos, and her own images and texts on the diversity of rivers. This book gathers together the materials she compiled when she was working in Colombian, Brazilian, and American communities, affected by the privatization and industrialization of river systems.
Her “Serpent River Book” stretches out – snake-like – over a long, winding wooden table and is situated in front of her video, which juxtaposes natural and industrial images to show the negative effects of damming rivers. She demonstrates how her book is folded into a serpent-shaped object, whose five chapters show how channeling water affects bodies of water and tangential communities. The book itself is made to resemble a river. The first part or chapter shows the river as the main snake, part of the indigenous Amazonian knowledge. The second chapter reveals how traditional people, those who fish with nets or who are artisanal miners, have a low scale impact on the river. The third chapter shows the impact of colonialism on the river with the establishment of dams and canals. In the fourth chapter, the dam is breaking and people are displaced as the corporate power is out of control. In the fifth and last chapter the people have resisted corporate attitudes that has been imposed on them, and we end up with the delta image at the mouth of the river.
In Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2018,” Caycedo suspended a series of fishing nets in a variety of colors in the museum’s courtyard. She acquired the nets visiting Latin American communities that were negatively affected by the building of dams and the privatization of waterways. She filled them with objects collected during her fieldwork, and this installation is part of her ongoing “Be Damned ” project.
Caycedo’s “Apariciones/Apparitions” were performance scenes featured at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. Her performers tumbled and crawled down the staircase of the Beaux-Arts mansion and romped through the property’s themed gardens. Her performers clashed and fused with the Huntington’s massive assemblage of artworks, purchased by the Huntington family whose fortune was made at the expense of people of color: Chinese laborers who died building the Central Pacific Railroad and Latino laborers who were arrested and beaten when protesting wages while working on Huntington’s “Red Car” system.
Caycedo has participated in international biennials including Sao Paulo in 2016; Berlin in 2014; Paris Triennial, 2013; New Museum, 2011; Havana, 2009; Whitney, 2006; Venice, 2003; and Istanbul in 2001. Her work was recently exhibited at LACMA and Palm Springs Art Museum and has been exhibited worldwide with solo shows in Vienna, Madrid, Paris, Bogota, Bergen, Santa Monica, and Berlin.