“BECOMING BELONGED”: ROBERTO TEJADA ON THE POLITICAL PROJECT OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND POETRY
“Both photography and poetry are future-oriented. They’re always thinking about not necessarily what we’re seeing in the moment, but...towards how we can re-arrange that future. [...] To me, that is the political project of them both.”
In this episode
Caro Fowler speaks with Roberto Tejada, a poet and art historian who in a professor in the creative writing program and the department of art history at the University of Houston, Texas. They discuss the decade he spent immersed in the literary culture of Mexico City, including working with Octavio Paz and the historical layers of the colonial project with the built environment there. He describes the political project of poetry and photography and shares his perspective on the changing landscape of Latin American and Latinx art within the discipline of art history. Finally, Roberto describes the possibilities and limits of what he calls “border-thinking” and “becoming belonged,” as part of his enduring commitment to the idea of encounter as an ethical position, and as a way of moving beyond the predicaments of extraction.
Roberto Tejada the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor at the University of Houston, where he teaches in the Creative Writing Program and art history department. His book Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness (2019) is a Latinx poetics attuned to colonial settlements and cultural counter-conquest; intersections of history and metaphor in art and writing of the Americas. His art historical books include National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment (2009), a monograph on pioneering Chicana conceptual artist Celia Alvarez Muñoz (2009), and diverse writings on Latin American and Latinx artists. He is also the author of the poetry collections Why the Assembly Disbanded (Fordham, 2022), Full Foreground (2012), Exposition Park (2010), and Mirrors for Gold (2006), and he founded and co-edited Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas, a journal of poetics and poetry in translation (1991–2014).
This conversation was recorded on August 5, 2021.