Puerto Rican artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz has been announced as the 2019 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in the Film/Video category. The Award is presented annually to five risk-taking, mid-career artists and comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $75,000 in the five categories.
An artist working primarily in film and video, Santiago Muñoz has created a body of trenchant, poetic work thoroughly dedicated to imagining not only a decolonized Caribbean but alternative ways of seeing and representation. Influenced by Boalian theater, experimental ethnography, and feminist film histories, she has likened her often improvisatory way of working with non-actors—(both performer and filmmaker go through a process of discovery and invention during the focused and heightened state of making)—to musical improvisation, ritual and dance as well as to a psychoanalytic session.
Moved by the poetics of everyday life and the power and subtleties of place which contain layers of history, she has a deep and longtime relationship with the landscapes of Puerto Rico, (including the scarred-by-military terrain of Vieques), aware of how her home has been represented visually, by outsiders, in very limited ways. In addition to the films and videos, which include an exploration of the sacred in a Haitian market place, and narratives of factory closings, a murder, and accidental death, since 2013, she has been organizing Walking Seminars for filmmakers, theorists, curators, activists and others, walking through areas of Puerto Rico, being with and listening to place, perceiving sensorially, awakening a deepening of attention.
Moved to experiment with look and form, she continues to re-imagine not only the way images are placed next to one another, and the relationship between camera operator and subject, but also the space of the projection and who the created-for audience might be. Santiago Muñoz is both metaphorically and literally putting into motion a process of seeing differently as an important tool for imagining a different future.