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Over the course of the last several years, Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho’s itinerant practice has threaded through such outposts as New York, Manila, Hamburg, Berlin, Milan, and soon, Singapore. Geography is their parameter, the limit to which they can ever judge their temporary localities in the face of the global convolutions that brought them there. Perhaps for their wayfaring, certain anxieties attend their collaboration: they are attached to many centers—correspondence, comparison and interpretation, the practical necessities of geolocation. From this vantage, it is difficult not to see how rapid communication and exchange multiplies subjecthood, reproducing the power structures that have systematically cloaked the world in certain patterns of behavior. Lien and Camacho delve into the messy spillover of these vast global systems, wrenching from local and daily realities—be they personal, financial or academic; of media, trade, class or family—bits of agency from what is immediately on hand.
For their most recent project, “RR ZZ” at Gluck 50, Milan, the duo invited Teng Chao-Ming, Hassan Kahn, Ken Okiishi and Carissa Rodriguez to Italy for successive residencies, eventually collecting the work into an exhibition that included contributions from Lien and Camacho as well. Why embrace the slippery and easily manipulated distinction between artist and curator, a power dynamic of sometimes contradictory priorities? In practical terms, it allowed the pair to share resources, to continue old and open new dialogs on an international scale. It also allowed them to develop and test a context and language that addressed the international liquidity of the social and financial capital of artistic exchange—but, as they write in the press release, “Actually, total exchangeability was never an available option.” Overall, situated in an organization with a hazy mission, the tone of Lien and Camacho’s research became ever more conspiratorial; their work—elegant terracotta umbrellas lashed with electronics, collecting and communicating meaningless environmental data through blinking LED lights, as well embedded with elements of avant-garde crafts from Futurist designers; zucchini plants that do the same—condenses a certain disappointment with the historical transposition of the artist to an esoteric craft, class or currency.
Rapid communication, multiplied subjecthood,
and the capital of artistic exchange.
What interests Lien and Camacho is the way in which large-scale financial and social systems reproduce themselves through the biology of self-identification. For their 2014 exhibition with 47 Canal, “LEAK LIGHT TIME HEAT,” they focused on call centers in the Philippines, an industry which has come to support a middle class as politically fluid as it is with gender or sexual identification. Strung throughout the darkened gallery were rotating canopies, ad hoc constructions of tarps, chains, wiring, printed materials, sheet metal and lights that conjured the shops and streetside restaurants and bars depicted in the videos projected within the single-occupant constructions. The works are of the areas around the call centers, neighborhoods that cater to the call center workers who abide Eastern Standard Time or some other imported business hours. Lien and Camacho dedicated the exhibition to these workers, whose labors are asynchronous to the natural biorhythms of their country and yet, en masse, constitute not a subculture, but a massive community within Manila. De-naturalizing oneself through work is a sad subjugation, but for Lien and Camacho there is an elegiac ecstasy in the desires that draw one through the waking dream of belonging to something other than oneself.
Amy Lien (American, b. 1987) and Enzo Camacho (Filipino, b. 1985) is an artist duo who lives and works in New York. They are represented by 47 Canal, New York. In November, Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho will begin a research residency at CCA Singapore. Later this Winter, their work will be part of the “Group Group Group” exhibition at Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin.
Sam Korman is a writer and curator based in New York. Recent exhibitions include “Seagulls” at Simone Subal, New York, and “Mississippi” at GAMeC, Bergamo.
Background image: Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, Are these your interns?, 2011, Foreground: Portrait in collaboration with NOTEXT x Sterven Jønger, 2015