b. 1974 Manila, Philippines; Lives and works in San Francisco, CA
Stephanie Syjuco (b. 1974 Manila, Philippines) works primarily in sculpture, installation and photography, leveraging open-source systems, shareware logic and flows of capital to create friction between high ideals and everyday materials. Her conceptual craft practice translates digital content and process into physical experience, often with an active public component that invites viewers to participate as producers or distributors. Syjuco’s multimedia social practice ties pedagogy and research to study and highlight the tension between the authentic and the counterfeit across a wide range of media, thus problematizing long-held assumptions about history, race, and labor. “Many of my projects involve public participation to create or build the final work,” Syjuco explains. “I see this collective effort as both a socially and politically engaged process because it encourages people to take agency in creating something together, as opposed to being a passive observer of an artwork.”
Previous projects include starting a global collaboration with crochet crafters to counterfeit high-end consumer goods; presenting a parasitic art counterfeiting event, “COPYSTAND: An Autonomous Manufacturing Zone” at Frieze Projects, London (2009); and “Shadowshop,” an alternative vending outlet embedded at SFMOMA that explored how artists navigate the production, consumption and dissemination of their own work (2010-11). In 2016, Syjuco was commissioned by Art in America to illustrate an article on virtual reality museum tours, for which she produced eight 3D captures of American colonial displays at the de Young Museum and used glitches to emphasize the hidden histories of these artworks and artifacts.
Questions of citizenship, dissent and activism are important themes within Syjuco’s practice. Her project Cargo Cults (2016) revisits historical ethnographic studio portraiture via a fictional display in which the artist herself poses wearing mass-manufactured goods purchased from American shopping malls mirroring “ethnic” patterning and costume. Purchased on credit cards and returned for full refund after the photo shoots, the cheap garments hail from the distant lands of Forever21, H&M, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, Target, The Gap, and more.
Syjuco’s CITIZENS projects (2017) turn an eye to national strife within the United States, protestors and the rights of DACA recipients. By camouflaging four of her students in black-clad ensembles, she allows each sitter to inhabit a temporary fantasy of themselves as an active resistor while protecting their identities. These portraits, that present each subject as simultaneously imposing and vulnerable, make a statement on today’s dangerous political climate. Syjuco’s dedicated work on the subject of citizenship and political protest was featured in Art21’s Cloth is a Battleground in Stephanie Syjuco’s “CITIZENS.”
For her installation Rogue States (2018), Syjuco hung from the ceiling rows of fictional flags of made-up countries from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America, all culled from American and European movies that position these countries as terrorist, backward, resistant, or unstable. From Hollywood blockbusters to comedy television shows, these rogue states carry the projected weight and fear of the uncontrollable “Other.” In 2019, these works were included in the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’s solo exhibition of her work, Rogue States.
Syjuco received her MFA from Stanford University and her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She received a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2019, a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in 2014, and a Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Award in 2009. A long-time arts educator, Syuco taught at Stanford University, California College of the Arts, San Francisco Art Institute, Mills College and Carnegie Mellon University before joining the faculty at University of California, Berkeley in 2014. She lives and works in Berkeley, California.
In 2018, Syjuco was featured in the ninth season of Art21’s series Art in the Twenty-First Century. In 2019, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis held a solo presentation of her work, Rogue States, and in 2020, her work was exhibited at Stephanie Syjuco: The Visible Invisible at the Blaffer Art Museum. Syjuco’s work has further been included in international biennials and exhibitions, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2019), Smithsonian American Art Museum (2018), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2018), Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2015), Noguchi Museum, New York (2015), Verein für Kunst und Kultur, Berlin (2015), Heinz Nixdorf Museums Forum, Paderborn (2014), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014), Z33 Space for Contemporary Art (2012), ZKM Center for Art and Technology (2011), Columbus Museum of Art (2011), and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2000), among others.
Her work is held in the public collections of Berkeley Art Museum, TX; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, MO; Columbus Museum of Art, OH; Contemporary Museum Honolulu, HI; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, NH; Milwaukee Art Museum, WI; Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art, NY; New Museum, NY; Portland Museum of Art, ME; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; and Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, among others.