Carlos Motta with Heldáy de la Cruz, Julio Salgado, and Edna Vázquez
We Got Each Other’s Back

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Portland / USA

November 7, 2020–February 14, 2021
January 27, 2021
We Didn’t Arrive Here Alone: February 13, Virtual discussion and readings by undocumented, queer writers
Free the Bird: November 19, 2020, online performance by Edna Vázquez
History's Backrooms: December 8, virtual panel discussion & book launch

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA)
15 NE Hancock Street
Portland, Oregon 97212

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"We Got Each Other’s Back is an emergent, connective, and iterative project, one that will build on and return to itself, not unlike its timeline—a bright, bold mural and a quiet, printed piece, in both cases an instructional snapshot hinting at the hidden stories behind influential events illustrating inhumane immigration policy, legislative victories and defeats, and the power of people. The sharp mark of the pink line acts as a queer thread, or paint stripe, or strike through history." –Roya Amirsoleymani & Kristan Kennedy 

Part of a long-term documentary project by interdisciplinary artist Carlos Motta—in collaboration with artists Heldáy de la Cruz, Julio Salgado, and Edna VázquezWe Got Each Other’s Back is a three-part, multi-channel video installation featuring portraits of queer artists and activists in the United States who are or have been openly undocumented, and who are producing work to denounce historic and present-day broken US immigration policies. The project demonstrates how the intersections of sexuality, gender, ethnicity, race, and economic background define the environment of marginalization and discrimination to which immigrants are subjected, while challenging mainstream media narratives of immigration and sexuality by presenting nuanced, real-life stories of living at the margins of the legal system. We Got Each Other’s Back includes online events and public programs that engage challenges faced by undocumented migrants.

The first chapter, Narrative Shifter: A Portrait of Julio Salgado, a collaboration with Los Angeles-based artivist Julio Salgado, was included in the exhibition Soft Power at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (October 2019–March 2020), curated by Eungie Joo, in conjunction with a two-day international conference, Bodies at the Borders, in January 2020, at SFMoMA and UC Santa Cruz, co-organized by Carlos Motta and Rachel Nelson.

The second and third chapters, Heldáy de la Cruz: Desierto a desierto (Desert to Desert) and Edna Vázquez: Si se puede (Yes You Can), were produced in Portland, Oregon in 2020 in close collaboration with artist and activist Heldáy de la Cruz and singer/songwriter Edna Vázquez.

All three chapters are currently on view at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) in Portland, Oregon, USA (November 7, 2020 to February 14, 2021). In conjunction with this exhibition, PICA is presenting a series of free, online events for streaming on On November 19, 2020, we presented Free the Bird, an intimate solo performance by Edna Vázquez, broadcasted live from inside the exhibition space. On December 8, 2020, we presented Carlos Motta: History’s Backrooms book launch and panel with Carlos Motta and panelists Hendrik Folkerts, Eungie Joo, Miguel A. López, and Roya Amirsoleymani. This conversation marked the publication of History's Backrooms (Skira, 2020), the first comprehensive monograph of Motta’s work documenting nearly 20 years of the leading Colombian artist's interdisciplinary practice and prolific career. Copies of the book can be purchased via PICA's website, publisher Skira, US distributor Art Book, or from BGSQD

On February 13, 2021, PICA will host our final virtual event, We Didn’t Arrive Here Alone, guest curated by poet Yosimar Reyes in collaboration with Carlos Motta, and featuring discussion and readings by undocumented, queer writers on the topic of mental health. More information, including a program schedule and list of participants, will be available on All events are free, by donation only, with 100% of contributions benefitting Pueblo Unido and Voz Workers' Rights Education Project. 

As an extension of the above, a print and digital publication featuring the work of queer, undocumented writers will be published and distributed by PICA in mid-2021. 

We Got Each Other’s Back exhibition and public programs are co-curated by Roya Amirsoleymani, PICA Artistic Director & Curator of Public Engagement, and Kristan Kennedy, PICA Artistic Director & Curator of Visual Art.

Funded in part by WHH Foundation, Sarah Miller Meigs, Jane Schiffhauer, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Reed College’s Cooley Art Gallery, and Pacific Northwest College of Art’s MA in Critical Studies.