Slow Motion | Ana Teresa Fernández, SHHH

Ana Teresa Fernández, SHHH, 2023

SHHH is what the artist Ana Teresa Fernández calls a “future non-fiction monument.” Instead of memorializing a historical person or an event from the past, SHHH portends the future while articulating a state of emergency in our present moment, or what scientists have called the sixth mass extinction. Human-impacted climate change has resulted in a global rise in extreme heatwaves, storms, floodings, and droughts. More importantly, this climate impact is uneven, and acutely threatens the lives and livelihoods of the most socially, politically, and economically vulnerable communities. The artist, who grew up between the US and Mexico, has long confronted the concept of borders and borderlands in her practice. One of the most catastrophic borders, the line between land and sea, is dangerously shifting with unprecedented sea level rise. Rising sea levels not only erode coastlines and imperil biodiversity, but also endanger Indigenous groups and small communities that live on coastlines and islands with displacement. So grave are these current realities that linguists estimate that over 7,000 languages risk extinction by the year 2100.

SHHH is a projection of the future. The six-foot tall text monument derives inspiration from “shhh”, at once an onomatopoeic word and a universal sound, and plays with the term’s multiple possibilities through its material and performative contours. By materializing the sound of silence at a monumental scale, SHHH grieves a future in which the extinction of cultural and biological diversity is marked by eerie quiet—listen, and you might hear the golden acrylic discs clank against each other as they move in concert with their environment. The monument, as text, requests silence; pleading for us to be quiet (for once!) and pay attention to our surroundings instead—look, and the mirrored surface commands us to reflect on our collective and individual actions while listening deeply to others, now, as a matter of urgency.

Materials: Laser cut plywood, acrylic discs, gold paint, posts

Project manager: Gina Ciralli 
Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab

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Ana Teresa Fernández (Born 1981 in Tampico, Mexico; she/her) is an artist of fluencies. A student of linguistics, she speaks five languages. An artist of border erasure, she elevates the intersectionality of place, person, and politics to create a common human vernacular. Time-based actions and social gestures are her syntax. Land, history, gender, climate, and culture are her subjects. Performance, video, photography, painting, and sculpture become her dynamic tools of grammar. Through enacted narratives, she reveals all that too often gets lost in translation, becoming the literal embodiment of the stories that divide but also bind us as human beings sharing a planet of great fragility and beauty. Born in Tampico, Mexico, Fernandez grew up in California and makes her home in San Francisco. She has created residencies and public work in Haiti, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, Cuba, Mexico & throughout the United States.

Follow Ana Teresa Fernández on Instagram @anateresafernandez to learn more.

Major support has been provided to Grounds for Sculpture for Slow Motion by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brooke Barrie Art Fund, NRG Energy, and Julie and Michael Nachamkin. Additional support has been provided by the Atlantic Foundation, Holman, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and New Jersey Department of State. 

Image Credits

  • Ana Teresa Fernández; SHHH, 2023 (detail), Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab; Barton Rubenstein, Harmonize, Gift of the Artist (photo: Bruce M. White)

  • Ana Teresa Fernández; SHHH, 2023 (detail), Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab (photo: Bruce M. White)

  • Ana Teresa Fernández; SHHH, 2023, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab (photo: Bruce M. White)