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Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla
b. 1974, Philadelphia
b. 1971, Havana
Jennifer Allora was born in 1974 in Philadelphia and earned her BA from the University of Richmond, Virginia, in 1996. She completed a year at the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1999, and in 2003 received her MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Her husband and collaborator Guillermo Calzadilla was born in 1971 in Havana, and completed his BFA at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas, San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1996. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, in 1998 and received his MFA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in 2001. Allora and Calzadilla began working together in 1995, and in 1999 completed their first joint residency, with P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. They have since participated in residencies with the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), Berlin.
Allora and Calzadilla’s videos, performances, sound works, sculptures, and social interventions invariably project the strong political opinions of their creators. In their videos Returning a Sound (2004) and Under Discussion (2005), for example, the artists convey their interest in the historical relationship of noise with music in the context of war, at the same time communicating a rarely acknowledged truth about Puerto Rican society. In the former work, a man is shown riding through the city of Vieques on a moped with a trumpet welded to its muffler; in the latter, a man floats past a U.S. naval base, riding the waves on a large table equipped with a motor. Both works constitute a playful reclamation of acoustic and physical space from the military; while peace has come to Puerto Rico, the landscape and national psyche still bear the scars of old conflicts.
In their exhibitions Gloria at the Venice Biennale (2011), and Fault Lines (2013) at the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan, the artists further explored themes of violence and identity. In projects of near-operatic scale and ambition, they employed, among other things, an army tank, groups of world-class athletes, musicians, and opera singers, and an ATM connected to a pipe organ, using them to investigate the relationships between capitalism, competition, corporeal ownership, the idealized body, Greco-Roman legacies, national identity, sound, music, and war. In such works, Allora and Calzadilla aim to invade the viewer’s senses, ushering visitors into a symbolic universe of near-suffocating density.
Allora and Calzadilla have had solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2007); Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Amsterdam (2008); and Palazzo Cusani, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan (2013). They have also participated in the group exhibitions After Nature, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2008); and Documenta, Kassel, Germany (2012); as well as in the Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2004 and 2008); São Paulo Biennial (2010); and Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2013). The artists won the Gwangju Biennial Prize in 2004, and were shortlisted for the Nam June Paik Award and Hugo Boss Prize in 2006. Allora and Calzadilla live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico.