VisArts Studio Fellowship: Stephanie Mercedes

Through radical justice, investigating copyright law and film photography Stephanie Mercedes hopes to restore missing violent histories, turning the archive into legend. Mercedes has a research based practice that intersects law and social justice. All of her work is in connection to the history of Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983). By building publically accessible photographic archives Mercedes hopes to restore silenced voices.

Mercedes’ work constantly questions the purity of the documentary image, the singularity of memory, the purpose of the archive. Mercedes was a 2016 Art + Law Fellow and a 2017 AIM Bronx Museum Fellow. In 2017 Mercedes won the Light Works Grant, the Halcyon Art Lab Fellowship, and the VisArts Fellowship. Mercedes teaches: “How to Use Art as a Political Tool” and “Law as Form (and Why it Should be Female).” She lives and works across the Americas.




Proposed Argentine Copyright Bill No.2517-D-2015, if passed, will change Argentine Copyright to 70 years post-mortem over 25 years post-production. The photographic archive of the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983) was taken by photographers who themselves joined the 30,000 civilians who had ‘dissapeared’ by the state. Because the mayority of the photographers who documented this era did not have a legal death date and therefore do not have the legal rights to death, if this legislation is passed the current photographic archive of the dictatorship will be retroactively privatized by the state.

2,540 of the images that will dissapear are being altered, peronally copyrighted by artist Stephanie Mercedes and then donated back to the public domain. If proposed Copyright Bill No.2517-D-2015 is passed this archive will be the only archive of images of the dictatorship in the public domain. This project is not bringing reconciliation to the past – which is impossible – but instead is a attempt to make a missing history perpetually visible and accesible. These images will be both safe from the law and saved by the law.



About the VisArts Studio Fellowship: The VisArts Studio Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for a dynamic individual artist or collaborative artist team to create a new body of work, evolve an existing body of work, or develop a project in a stimulating, supportive environment over a six month period. Studio space is provided free of charge. Artists receive a $500.00 per month stipend. The Studio Fellowship offers the gift of time and space to two artists and/or collaborative artist teams each year to experiment and realize new work. The VisArts Studio Fellows will present their work in solo exhibitions at the end of their respective fellowships.

Learn more about the VisArts Studio Fellowship.