No Vacancies

Artist: Sergio De La Torre

Sergio de la Torre’s West Wall commission, No Vacancies, was an installation featuring text and an accordion-format book containing photographs that portrayed the general locations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids that had occurred in San Francisco in 2007-09.

Artist’s Statement

In the last three years there has been a series of raids by the ICE in the Bay Area, stressing the immigrant community at large and creating instability. Many non-profits have been taking action with local immigrant communities-from rallies and demonstrations to meetings with local community leaders. During my research on immigration, I consulted with several non-profits. Dolores Street Community Services and Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) helped me to collect general locations of the raids, and those locations inspired this project. Without having the exact addresses, I photographed both sides of the entire blocks.

No Vacancies is loosely based on Ed Ruscha’s project, Every Building on the Sunset Strip. In his project, Ruscha photographed every building on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and then created one large print from those photographs, which he will then turn into a book. In Ruscha’s formal approach, each building appears to be a flat facade, a mere reference to its own architectural history. Contrary to Ruscha’s project, I am trying to play with the idea of preserving memories that go beyond the buildings’ appearances.

Artist Biography

Sergio De La Torre is a photographer and performance/installation artist, who grew up in the Tijuana/San Diego area and migrated to San Francisco. His works have focused on issues regarding diaspora, tourism, immigration, and identity politics. He is an assistant professor in the Art + Architecture department at the University of San Francisco.

De La Torre’s work often invokes collaborations with the subjects and invites both intimate and critical reflections on topics related to housing, immigration and labor, to mention only a few. De La Torre purposely works with individuals from marginalized sectors of the cities he works in, including factory workers (Tijuana), shoeshine boys (Mexico City), undocumented immigrants (Los Angeles and San Francisco), and evicted families (Oakland). In his work De La Torre has tried to approach the lives of these individuals, not as victim-subjects, but has attempted rather to reexamine the meaning of their actions in the context of shifting global conditions. These works have appeared in the 10th International Istanbul Biennial, Turkey; the Bienal Barro de America, The 2nd Johannesburg Biennial; in the Cleveland Performance Art Festival, Cleveland, Ohio; the Atelier Frankfurt, Germany; the Centro Cultural Tijuana; the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; the TRIBECA Film Festival, New York; and el Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia.

Sergio De La Torre has been the lead artist for two Creative Work Fund projects. In 2001, he and filmmaker Vicky Funari collaborated with Global Exchange to create the documentary film Maquilapolis [city of factories], which explores stories of workers in Tijuana’s maquiladoras-factories. In 2007, he collaborated with the San Francisco Art Institute and Mission District nonprofits on Sanctuary City/Ciudad Santuario, 1989-2009, a two-year investigation into San Francisco’s policy of serving as a sanctuary city for certain Central American refugees and the affect of increasing post-9/11 federal intervention on the Bay Area’s immigrant communities. The project culminated with a 2009 exhibit at Queen’s Nails Projects.

Sergio De La Torre thanked Chris Treggiari for his invaluable support in exhibiting No Vacancies.

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