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Artist Talk: Mandy Messina

August 30, 2019


Arc Theatre

Free & Open for All

The Visa Series is an ongoing body of work. Each new form of identification (drivers licenses, state ids, visas, alien registration cards) is embroidered. Depending on the political or geographical territory, the application process, and subsequent printed format vary. In South Korea, simply taking an application photo (Japanese Visa) required a certain stylistic formality. The department store photographer took greater care to style and neaten my appearance than I would have. My photo was also notably altered (skin smoothed and whitened). Applying for a drivers license at a Texas DMV, the differences in how Americans conceptualize race became apparent: I filled out a form asking me to select an ethnicity. I could not find an analogous box to what I would tick in South Africa. The person processing the application asked me to select a box other than African/ Black because in the event of a police chase, the arresting officer would be confused. I did not read Black with lighter complexion and chemically straightened hair.

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