September 2019 Artist in Residence: Marcela Torres


Marcela Torres
Born. Salt Lake City, Utah
Resides. Chicago, Illinois

Marcela Torres is a social strategist, bringing into action performance, objects, workshops, and sound installation. Torres mobilize theory and practice to reconfigure social structures and improve navigation of daily life. Torres pairs alternative learning methods with martial arts–using this as a formal language–for the audience to witness a true representation of conflict. Torres has performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Three Walls Gallery, Performances is Alive: Miami Art Week, Detroit’s Fringe Festival, New York City’s Itinerant Festival, Virtual International Exchange in Boston and BarTalk in De Hague, Netherlands. Torres has exhibited work at the Flatlands Gallery in Houston Texas, Fosdick Nelson Gallery at Alfred University, Acre Gallery in Chicago, Green Gallery at Yale School of Art. Upcoming performances and exhibition include Experimental Action Festival in Houston, TX, a two-person exhibition at Roots & Culture Chicago and solo exhibition at Tropical Contemporary in Eugene, Oregon.

Q&A with Marcela Torres, interviewed by Noëlle Pouzar

What are you curious about?

I’ve been very curious about policy reform, that relate to immigration and climate change.

During your residency, you will be creating a book documenting your martial arts training with students from George Washington High School (GWHS). Tell us more about your involvement with teens and this new project.

Over the last two years I’ve worked at GWHS through the non-profit Chicago Arts Partnership in Education. I was initially brought in as part of a restorative justice initiative. The goal was to teach students self-defense skills, stress relief through exercise and coping mechanisms inherent to martial arts practice.  

This last year we changed the program to run after school twice a week with a new in school liaison Andres Cordova, and added my collaborator Jesse Meredith to teach a photography portion of the course. The program now is labeled as Digital Media and Martial Arts Club, which we recognize is an odd configuration, but we love it. We have a small following of students who come weekly to learn kicks, combos, and how to photograph. 

One of the main things I’ll be working on while in residency is printing large photos that we will use this school year to create collages with our students. A photo book of the students photography. And documentation print collages of my performance Agentic Mode.


What creative risks have you taken? Do you feel that these risks have benefited your body of work?

I like risks. I like knowing that if I don’t properly dodge a punch someone will hit me in the face. “Strikes” are challenges that can be logistically planned for and learned to avoid, and eventually be a form of play.

How do you approach the relationship between performance and sociology?

In my recent performance Agentic Mode, it made complete sense to talk about the psychology of violence through performance. As an ephemeral, visceral state of being, similar to how violence is felt. It makes sense to me to make work about social phenomenas into time-based experiences, asking for participants emotional participation.


One of LATITUDE’s core values is easy access to education. What are you most excited to learn more about during your residency at LATITUDE?

Within my performances I am very aware of documentation, but I’m usually in front of the camera not behind. Many technical photo skills are a bit foreign to me, so I’m excited to learn more of the basics of printing and bookmaking.

What are you currently reading, listening to, and/or watching?

I’ve been continually struggling to finish Chantal Mouffe’s The Return of the Political, it’s a dry read but I’ve committed to it. I’m really into reality programs or documentaries, the Crossfit games were earlier this month so I’ve been reviewing all the videos and workouts.

View more of Marcela Torres’s work.

AIR 2019Colleen Keihm