Exploring a complicated history of California’s agriculture and citrus industry, Tristan Espinoza builds their practice around the (in)visible labor intertwined with cyanotypes and artificial intelligence. This solo exhibition is the outcome of Espinoza’s compulsion to examine their relationship with orange trees as topographical landmarks of memory and sense of place in Los Angeles, from past to pandemic present.
Featured in the exhibition is perennial, an online collection of cyanotypes archived in an online flipbook. The cyanotypes depict reticulate venation patterns of orange tree leaves that evoke topographical, map-like images while interpretive text captions accompany several of the images. The focus on orange tree leaves alludes to the migration that began with the diaspora and subsequent hybridization of the Citrus genus, emigrating out of South and Southeast Asia to the Mediterranean via the Prussian empire during the fifth and fourth centuries. Citrus was introduced to the Americas in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, followed by the introduction of Asian populations to the Americas during the sixteenth-century via Spain’s Manila Galleon trade. By extension, perennial is the result of sustained labor migration to California starting in the late 1800s to build-out and work the fields of California’s agriculture and citrus industry, where 80% of the labor force for citrus crops in Southern California were Asian immigrants.
Embedded in perennial is a critical epistemological query and intervention of oppressive colonial systems that are enacted by archives, museums and artificial intelligence, without ethical frameworks or consent. Espinoza’s particular use and exploration of cyanotypes reference botanist and photographer Anna Atkins and her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, the first book to be photographically printed and illustrated. Then, the cyanotype was used as a new technology in furthering the Western imperial desire for knowledge by organizing, classifying and cataloging, driven by an impulse to know everything about the Other to control and dominate “unknown” geographies and peoples. Similarly, processes of artificial intelligence or machine learning are entangled with oppressive histories that manifest power dynamics that continue to exclude communities across gender, race, sex, class and ability. Espinoza confronts these particular histories by introducing new ways of seeing and relating to the mediums through their particular approaches and experiences in interpreting and presenting the works in perennial
At its root, perennial is an index of recorded and rendered approaches in Espinoza’s labor—from the hand-made artistic medium of cyanotypes to an obscured second-hand comprehension derived from artificial intelligence—poetically cultivating a discourse around societal relationships and distances to material experiences, memories, and their proxies.
By clicking perennial and artwork images, you are leaving lamag.org and are going to a website that is not operated by the City of Los Angeles. The Department of Cultural Affairs is not responsible for maintaining content on linked sites.
(b. 1995, Tamuning, Guam)
Tristan Espinoza (he/they) is an artist, programmer, and organizer who lives in Los Angeles. He uses his practice to inquire about displacement and proximity in the context of networked life. By mediating personal archives through computation, he negotiates a sense of place and unsettles the image as a data point. Espinoza also co-organizes Tiny Tech Zines (TTZ), a tech zine fair that emphasizes care and community in our relationships with technology.
Tristan Espinoza’s work has been exhibited internationally and in the US, in places such as the Archer Beach Haus, Chicago, IL; the Sullivan Galleries, Chicago, IL; Supplyframe DesignLab, Pasadena, CA; 187 Augusta, Medford, NY; and Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA. Espinoza is a current MFA candidate at the University of California Los Angeles’ Design Media Arts program and holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.