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Making TimeStephanie Syjuco

October 2, 2019

One of six new films from Art21’s fall 2019 programming

At work in her Berkeley studio, Stephanie Syjuco navigates the deeply embedded visual tropes of American history applied in her practice. Describing the shift in priorities associated with progressing in a career as an artist, Syjuco notes a correlation in time spent between project management and art making. “My reality is,” she says, “it’s a lot more paperwork than I wish it were.” To center herself, Syjuco spends time in her garden, harvesting vegetables and “empire crops”—such as tobacco, corn, cotton, and indigo—as part of her research into colonialism and the writing of American history.

Preparing an installation for the Renwick Invitational at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Syjuco lays out garment patterns for creating American-prairie- and Civil-War-antebellum style dresses. Though self-admittedly not historically accurate, the dresses serve to act as signifiers, conjuring images of specific time periods in American history, as well as the tropes of womanhood, Western expansion, and Puritanism that viewers may associate with such garments. The dresses are made with a chroma key green fabric, a color typically used as a temporary backdrop for photo and video shoots—replaced in post-production and never intended to be seen. “The idea of American history is so embedded in our national psyche that it’s almost invisible,” says Syjuco. “It’s like manifesting ghosts, hauling forward all of this American history.”

More information and credits


Producer: Ian Forster and Christine Turner. Interview: Christine Turner. Editor: Morgan Riles. Colorist: Jonah Greenstein. Field Producer: Laura Wagner. Camera: Tyler McPherron. Sound: Kevin Crawford. Artwork and Photography Courtesy: Stephanie Syjuco.

Extended Play is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Art21 Contemporary Council; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Stephanie Syjuco

Stephanie Syjuco was born in Manila, Philippines, in 1974. Syjuco works in photography, sculpture, and installation, moving from handmade and craft-inspired mediums to digital editing. Her work explores the tension between the authentic and the counterfeit, challenging deep-seated assumptions about history, race, and labor.

“It’s like manifesting ghosts, hauling forward all of this American history.”

Stephanie Syjuco

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How are artists answering the question: What is America today? Historical markers continue to shape the discourse of the new-normal and artists are responding with powerful works that are representative of the times. This playlist showcases how artists are responding to the dynamic nature of the United States and its parallels.