New York: Last week, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired seven photographs by Stephanie Syjuco for the museum’s permanent collection. Comprising the complete suites of “Cargo Cults” (2016) and “Applicant Photos (Migrants)” (2017), the acquisition follows the museum’s highly acclaimed exhibition Being: New Photography 2018, curated by Lucy Gallun, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography, which prominently featured Syjuco’s work.
Catharine Clark Gallery presents the full suite of “Applicant Photos (Migrants)” at Paris Photo 2018, which marks their European debut. Syjuco notes that “Applicant Photos (Migrants)” “was developed in conjunction with the larger photographic series, ‘Cargo Cults’ and ‘Neutral Orchids’, and directly references standardized identification photos people are required to submit along with an application for immigration, travel, or asylum.” In staging “Cargo Cults” and “Applicant Photos (Migrants)”, Syjuco purchased mass-produced clothing with geometric patterns, and restyled them into stereotypical “ethnic” costumes as a means of revealing how Western conceptions of the “exotic” are inherently constructed. With “Applicant Photos (Migrants)”, however, Syjuco fully obscures her face, thwarting the viewer’s attempts to “read” her identity. This serves a conflicting, dual purpose: to elude identification and remain anonymous in an era of surveillance and tracking, and to also reference the many ways that migrants and refugees have been depicted as a faceless, anonymous mass.