Carlos Motta: The Good Life is the first museum presentation of an ambitious work by Carlos Motta, on view January 18–March 30, 2008.“The Good Life,” a long-term, in-progress, experimental documentary project, engages and critiques documentary practice itself. It is a relevant examination of the regional history, perception, and effects of US interventionist policies in Latin America, at a time of global critical awareness of those politics.
Since 2005, Carlos Motta has recorded over 300 video interviews with civilians on the streets of 12 cities in Latin America. The questions he asked, on individual perceptions of US interventionism and foreign policy, democracy, leadership, and social inequality, resulted in an extremely wide spectrum of opinion, which varies according to local situations and forms of government in each country. The resulting footage is the basis of The Good Life. Informed by conceptual documentary traditions the project references the approach of cinema vérité classics such as Chris Marker’s Le Jolie Mai (1963) and Vilgot Sjöman’s I am curious (Yellow) (1967), which began to study the notion of public opinion as mediated construction.
In this iteration, created for the Project Space, Motta’s interviews with persons in Bogota, Buenos Aires, Managua, Mexico City, Santiago, and Tegucigalpa, serve as both a conceptual and formal framework. Arranged in an open structure that evokes a classical space for the exercising of democracy, these conversations shed light on the effects of political intervention and the public perception of political concepts on the formation of national and individual subjectivities. The exhibition also comprises a series of accompanying photographs, shot during visits to each city, and a takeaway poster featuring texts commissioned from artists Ashley Hunt, Naeem Mohaiemen and Oliver Ressler, and political philosopher Maria Mercedes Gómez that answer the question, “What is democracy to you?”