Side by Side

Side by Side
a project by Pepón Osorio

APRIL 20 - MAY 26, 2017
Located in Rand Hall, second floor East



Commissioned by the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) as part of its 2016 Biennial entitled, Abject/Object Empathies“Side by Side” is a new, site-specific installation by Philadelphia-based, multimedia artist Pepón Osorio. Osorio has spent the last year making numerous trips to Ithaca to meet and get to know many members of the Cornell and Ithaca community. Visitors to the installation are invited into a personal world turned upside-down, by the overwhelming reality often lived by those who have transformed turmoil, dislocation, loss and trauma into strategies for endurance, resistance and determination. The exhibition is filled with moving images that evoke reflection on the complexity of our contemporary lives.


Responding to the CCA Biennial’s focus on the cultural production of empathy, Osorio, whose work often raises the visibility of the toll systemic inequity and social alienation has on individual and community life, made frequent trips from his hometown in Philadelphia to get to know Ithaca and Cornell.  As a result of his getting to know members of the various communities who live and work in the area, he has created a large sculptural and media work that stands as a physical and symbolic interface between the various communities from which the work emerged

Side by Side tells the story of a local family matriarch who, as a grandmother to nine young boys, holds her family together over many generations. Staged as an enormous upside-down house wedged tight between floor and ceiling and covered in lottery tickets that promise dreams of a better life, Side by Side is at once an intimate portrait, social critique and compassionate expression of inclusion and persistence.

The upside-down house has nine windows which together display overlapping video footage of the matriarch and her grandsons, inviting the visitor into a personal world of a family living the kind of overwhelming reality often experienced by those exposed daily to financial turmoil, dislocation, loss and trauma yet have learned to transform these challenges through endurance, resistance and determination.

Other components of the installation include a two-sided projection of a young dancer and a 10ft by 16ft matrix of old window and door screens that provides a filtered view the house upon entering the space. A long empty table placed at the entrance to the installation will host members of GIAC, downtown neighborhood leaders, Cornell students and faculty in a series of conversations organized by the artist. Public conversations moderated by assistant professor of Latina/o Studies Ella Diaz, Ithaca community activist Rafael Aponte and invited guests will focus on the role of women in the community, migration, and inter-generational communicatio

Conversations with the Ithaca & Cornell Communities

CCA, with members of GIAC and other community leaders, will conduct a series of participatory conversations meant for individual responses to the art work as well as shared personal experiences and testimonies that the artist’s work calls forth. This provocative art installation touches on a number of prescient themes around gentrification, displacement and the importance of access and empathy.

Invited and informal participants will explore their relationships to the themes encountered in Side by Side as well as share stories from their lives and visions for what a more reciprocal community and future could look like. These encuentros will serve as an informal space for an open dialogue about historical norms and cultural conventions as well as barriers and that we experience in community with one another. 

Encuentros/Encounters will take place at Rand Hall at Cornell University during the following dates:

Campus and Community Dialogue
April 21, 12-2pm

Intergenerational Dialogue: Youth/Elders
April 28, 3:30-5:30pm/5:30-7:30pm

Dialogue on Women: Home/Migration
May 5, 12-2pm

All Encounters will be located in Rand Hall is located at 883 University Ave, Ithaca, NY. Those using public transportation should take bus #10 to the Milstein Hall stop on campus. Come to the second floor of Rand Hall, East Wing.