gema alava
Location: New York/United States

Conceptual, Drawing, Installation, Performance, Photography, Project Organizing


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I am intrigued by how we react to the kinds of situations where we are faced with something that looks like it is about to fall. Do we just let it go and rebuild a new structure? Do we try to hold, maintain, balance what is mostly gone? It might involve indecision; we might just look at it wondering what we should do.


I find it extraordinary how people respond in such different ways to the same situation. I've been using materials that allow me to work with this ambiguity, these contradictory truths. It is that difference of opinion that I find interesting, and so I always try to make sure that I leave space for interpretation.




For List of Things to Forget (2000), Alava creates a quilt with handwritten business letters from 1912 that resemble love letters. The stage created for this installation disappears, piece by piece, day after day, until the gallery is empty.


For Land of No One (2000), hundreds of pieces of letters are attached with sewing pins to the wall allowing "the possibility of its own destruction if we walk or breathe too close to it."


For Fe's Patterns (2003), paper patterns and needles, hanging from thread, move in a choreography created by the air from the museum's air conditioning system.


For Clothing (2006), more than six hundred small golden shirts hung from thread creating a circle, Alava deals with the idea of recovering memories that are in danger of being lost.


For Tell Me the Truth (2008), Alava invites the audience to enter a small room with nine black and white photographs depicting the struggle between a nail and a thread, both anchored to the floor. Alava doesn't allow anyone to see the original scenarios.


For A Dialogue (2008), Alava establishes a conversation with artist Cai Guo-Qiang on the ramp of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on February 2008. Alava's selected written proposal of " A Dialogue" is exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum as part of "Cai Guo-Qiang: "I Want to Believe."


For Tell Me (2008–2009), Alava invites twenty-two artists to have a one-on-one conversation with her in an art museum when the museum is closed to the public, and to answer three questions. The visual documentation of these conversations is recorded by the security cameras of the museum but the images cannot be used for artistic purposes. The project ends when Alava personally invites the director of the museum to participate in this ephemeral and impossible-to-document art project.


For Find Me (2009), Alava asked artists Lars Chellberg, Barbara Holub, Paul Kos, Ester Partegàs, Merrill Wagner, Robert Ryman, Arne Svenson, Lawrence Weiner and Maria Yoon, to create an artwork in order for her to hide it somewhere in New York City and the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. The locations remain secret—just Alava and the artists who made the pieces for FIND ME know where his/her pieces are. Alava shared general information of these locations at an Art Event at CUE Art Foundation, in New York City. Alava also hid at the Main San Francisco Public Library an artist book titled FIND ME 2.0 with the exact locations.


For Tust Me (2010), Alava met individually in one of two museums in New York City with eleven participants who responded to her open call sent out in April 2010. Participants agreed to wear opaque glasses during the time Alava performed one-on-one verbal descriptions of artworks they could not see. Photographer Jason Schmidt was invited to document Trust Me as the project was taking place. On May 14th, 2010, eleven performances took place during nine consecutive hours.


Trust Me (2010)

New York/United States

Conceptual, Performance, Photography


The Truth (2008)

New York/United States

Conceptual, Installation, Photography


Tell Me (2008-2009)

New York/United States

Conceptual, Drawing, Performance


Find Me (2009)

New York/United States

Performance, Photography, Project Organizing

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