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Alejandro Cartagena lecture video online


Learning from Latin American (Sub)Urbanism

Alejandro Cartagena

Friday, May 8, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
OCAD University

For the past decade Alejandro Cartagena has been investigating the relationship between Mexico’s urban centres and the suburbs built around them, examining the ways in which explosive growth has altered the landscape and affected the lives of residents.

In this talk, Cartagena discusses the development of his photographic projects including Suburbia Mexicana, Landscape as Bureaucracy, Carpoolers, and his latest work, Outgrowing.

Through these projects, Cartagena creatively sheds light on the complex issues surrounding the ‘ideal’ of homeownership and its recent boom in Mexico. He intimately observes many of the spaces and people involved, including buyers, public bureaucrats, and labourers. He illustrates how Mexico’s social and political context has proved to be both a benefit and a threat to many new buyers, opening up both new opportunities and challenges.

Cartagena’s work looks at the larger implications of the region’s rapid suburban expansion, from urban gentrification and inner-city ‘ghettoization,’ to the seemingly unplanned and unhampered suburban sprawl emanating from many of Mexico’s fast growing cities, and its environmental consequences.

His approach to photography is not overtly polemical; rather, he seeks to tell, from multiple points of view, the complex story of growth and development in Latin America in the context of an increasing globalization and the ongoing influence of its northern neighbour(s) and ‘North American dreams’.


Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. Cartagena’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in public and private collections in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, the Portland Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass Book Award, the Lente Latino award in Chile, and the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome. He has been named a FOAM Magazine Talent and one of PDN’s 30 International Emerging Photographers to watch. Cartagena’s work has been published internationally in magazines such as Newsweek, The New York Times Lens blog, Nowness, Domus, The Financial Times, View, The Guardian, le Monde, PDN, The New Yorker, The Independent, Monocle and Wallpaper. His monograph Suburbia Mexicana was published in 2011 (Daylight/Photolucida) and his latest book Carpoolers was released in 2014 (Fonca – Conaculta). He is represented by Circuit Gallery (Toronto).

The Learning from Latin American (Sub)Urbanism lecture is co-presented by CONTACT, LACAP, the Faculty of Art at OCAD University (Through the Photography Department), and Circuit Gallery. Special thanks to Shawn Micallef, Tamara Toldeo, Tara Smith, Rita Leistner, April Hickox and Sharon Switzer.

This event was held in conjunction with Contacting Toronto: Expanding Cities, a CONTACT Public Installation. Curated by Sharon Switzer. Co-produced by PATTISON Onestop and Art for Commuters.

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