Awardee: Gala Porras-Kim

Visual Arts, 2015

Gala Porras-Kim is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work questions how knowledge is acquired and tests the potential of the art object to function as an epistemological tool outside of its traditional, art historical context. Recent work examines the ultimate and literal signifier of culture: language, particularly its sounds. Porras-Kim's work has been included in exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles; The Bindery Projects, Minneapolis; 18th Street Art Center, Santa Monica, CA; Ex-Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico D.F; FOXRIVER, Singapore; and Dobaebacsa HQ, Seoul, Korea. She received a BA and MA from UCLA, MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is a 2013 California Community Foundation Fellow.

Project: The Mute Object and Ancient Stories of Today

The Mute Object and Ancient Stories of Today interprets artifacts containing undeciphered writing systems, creating an object-based ethnography that reflects on indigenous rights and the production of meaning. Specifically, the project is about the undeciphered Isthmian script, an inaccessible written form found on artifacts along the Papaloapan River in Mexico, and its link to the current development of a standardized dictionary of Zapotec languages in Oaxaca. This project highlights the successes and failures of attempting to decipher a language using mute objects that contain inaccessible meaning, and how the development of the written dictionary can provide a link to the past. The Mute Object and Ancient Stories of Today will include an intensive research and discovery phase and result in utilitarian sculptures, a video, a book, and the potential discovery of invaluable artifacts.