b. 1968, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
Claudia Joskowicz was born in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, in 1968. She received a B.Arch from the University of Houston in 1991 and an MFA in studio arts from New York University in 2000. She makes poignant and unsettling video works that form a palimpsest of public and private histories. Blending documentary with fictional narrative, Joskowicz recreates episodes of violence—both latent and eruptive—excavated from Bolivia’s past to reveal hidden traumas and tentatively offer the possibility of catharsis.
Joskowicz’s haunting video Sympathy for the Devil (2011) depicts the chance encounters and private lives of two men living in an urban high-rise. The first is Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie, a notorious Nazi officer known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” who went into hiding in Bolivia after World War II; the second is an unnamed Jew who immigrated to Bolivia during the war and was apparently Barbie’s neighbor. A particularly fraught moment in Joskowicz’s video depicts the men passing each other as they enter and exit an elevator, their gazes never quite meeting. The scene unfolds in near-static slow motion on a split screen, a formal technique that intensifies the anticipation of the men’s potential recognition and the duplicity of Barbie’s identity as neighbor and tormenter.
Every Building on Avenida Alfonso Ugarte—After Ruscha (2011) recreates a momentous act of public protest against the privatization of Bolivia’s natural gas resources and a brutal police retaliation that, in 2003, led to numerous civilian deaths. The split-screen video shows two sides of the major thoroughfare in El Alto that was the site of these events, blending staged reenactments with real everyday activities. Slowly, Joskowicz’s camera tracks along the two streets, and the radically divergent images of banality and mayhem appear to converge at the center. By evoking Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), in which the American artist sought to photograph the famed Los Angeles street in its entirety, Joskowicz expresses her desire to objectively document history while recognizing the past to be a contested space with multiple meanings that cannot be contained within a single image.
Joskowicz has had solo exhibitions at the Museo Nacional de Arte, La Paz, Bolivia (2009); Centro Cultural Santa Cruz, Bolivia (2012); and the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside (2013). Her work has also been shown in the group exhibitions Aim 21, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (2001); El Museo’s Biennial: The (S) Files/The Selected Files, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2002); the Seoul International Media Art Biennial, Dukwon Gallery (2006); Havana Biennial (2009); São Paulo Biennial (2010); Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2011); and Bienal de Arte Internacional de Santa Cruz (2012). Joskowicz’s honors include the Grand Prize at the 2005 Digital Arts Salon at the Fundación Simón I. Patio, Cochabamba, Bolivia; a Fulbright Scholar grant (2009); a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011); and a Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation Grant (2014). Joskowicz lives and works in Santa Cruz and New York.