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Jennifer Allora, b. 1974, Philadelphia, USA. Guillermo Calzadilla, b. 1971, Havana, Cuba.
Allora & Calzadilla magnify areas of political tension in the public realm through a wide-ranging body of work. They identify and stress the hairline fractures in societal systems – nationhood, environmentalism, states of war and resistance – through performance, sculpture, sound, video and photography. Meticulous researchers both, an understanding of material is central to their practice and they home in on its symbolic dimension, tracing the many marks of history, culture and politics. In the alternative monument Chalks (1998–2006), pieces of this most fragile and soluble of materials were scaled up to man-size and placed in public squares in Lima, New York and Paris, inviting passersby to take part in a collective drawing that would quickly disappear underfoot. Elsewhere the human body itself bears the marks of history: in the series of videos about the Caribbean island of Vieques, controlled by the US government since the 1940s and where locals were displaced for an environmentally disastrous military exclusion zone. In Half Mast\Full Mast (2010), a split channel video is unified by a flagpole aligned between two images that show sites of victory or loss; one gymnast at a time enters either top or bottom screen and physically raises his body to a 90-degree angle, a human flag at either full or half-mast. This image, like many of the duo’s works, balloons with irony or absurdity to what the artists call a ‘monstrous dimension’.