Artist and UW-Madison professor José Carlos Teixeira likes to combine different kinds of media and different ways of thinking about the complexities of human identity. His current show, titled On Exile, runs through May 20 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and consists of two video pieces. One is called “On Exile: Fragments in search of meaning,” and explores depression. The other is called “On Exile: Elsewhere within here,” and looks at the experiences of Muslim refugees in the United States.
Having worked in not just video but also in performance, text, and photography, Teixeira aims to blend art with politics and theory. “I’m not interested in being an artist if I’m not able to exist at that intersection,” he says. Accordingly, On Exile goes deeper than the obvious, overtly political definition of the word “exile.” “Fragments in search of meaning” offers a series of intimate portraits of people suffering from depression, and shows their reactions as they listen to music on a set of headphones. “I was interested in addressing mental illness and addressing specifically depression as this phenomena of exile from oneself and exile from one’s community,” Teixeira says. “it’s one feeling displaced from an idea of happiness or normalcy that he or she would like to go back to.”
Likewise, “Elsewhere within here” deals with the concept of otherness, but not just that concept’s obvious application to the situations of Muslims who’ve had to flee their home country only to enter a hostile and xenophobic political climate in America. Teixeira wanted to take a more psychoanalytical approach to what otherness means, and emphasizes how we define that in relation to ourselves. “It’s a dimension that inhabits each one of us…It’s impossible to recognize otherness and empathize with that if you actually don’t look at yourself as also an other,” he says.
Teixeira sat down recently with Tone Madison contributor Chali Pittman. Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.