Alexandra Gelis
Venezuela / Colombia / Toronto

In 2020, Cecilia Araneda spoke with Alexandra Gelis as part of a multi-year curatorial research project on Latin Canadian cinema. This is a brief extract of her research.

Alexandra Gelis is a Colombian-Venezuelan media artist based in Toronto with a background in the visual arts. She is a PhD candidate in Environmental Studies at York University, from where she also holds an MFA. Gelis’ work predominantly involves photography, video, electronic and digital processes. Her work addresses the use of image in relation to displacement, landscape and politics beyond borders or culturally specific subjects. In her latest works she has expanded her practice using electronics and programming for interactivity. |

Research Notes

Alexandra Gelis is from Caracas, Venezuela, with family connections to Colombia, Puerto Rico and Panama. Her immediate family is from Venezuela but was living in Cartagena, Colombia until the 1990’s, when the country’s troubles began. Her family then return to Venezuela, just prior to the rise of Chavez. While most of her family eventually ended up in Panama, an invitation by the Toronto-based Alucine Festival of Film and Media Arts led to Gelis first coming to Canada and then deciding to stay to pursue studies at York University.

Like many of her Latin-Canadian counterparts who immigrated to Canada as adults in pursuit of career opportunities, the process of becoming a Canadian has made her a different person; however, she did not come seeking re-invention, as she was already working as a professional artist. Canada’s solitude and distance has, though, enabled her to look back at Colombia with detached eyes that are somewhat better at critical examination than somebody looking at it up close.

Gelis views herself as a displaced sculptor: who and what does a sculptor become when they are in a state of constant migration, unable to physically carry much with them? Gelis entered into film with the mindset of a sculptor, where she views it as imperative to create a physical, real-life exhibition context for the audience in the presentation of her works. Gelis also views the camera as a tool to mediate thoughts; to see in a way that is not possible with just the human eye. In this way, the camera does not document or record, but presents a mediated image.

Gelis’ most recent interests lie in looking at migration considering the history of plant life carried into new terrains by humans and how they can at times become a mechanism of control. In Panama, for example, the US military brought over Vietnamese vegetation to support its Plan Cóndor training regime. Much earlier, plants were brought over by enslaved Africans for medicine, ritual and nutrition. In her examinations, Gelis considers at what point do foreign plants become part of the local? After 24 years of plants living and growing within a terrain, they become part of the local equilibrium; does that then make them local?


  • Exits and Entries / Entradas y Salidas – 10:30 mins | 2020 | 16mm hand-processed | Stereo
  • ALERTA . ALERTA . ALERTA – 2:10 mins | 2020 | 4K | Stereo
  • The Island – 6:09 mins | Super 8mm film / hand processing
  • Rhizomatic Directed Simulation – 6 mins | 2014 | Super8 mm film
  • Rayado Cruzado – 2:00 | 2016 | super 8mm film found footage
  • Estera : Mat (Part I) – Super 8 film
  • Walking in Circles – 3:54 mins | 2015 | Super 8 mm film | 5.1 Surround sound
  • Maria’s House – 12 mins | 2009 | video
  • La Casa de Olga – 6:18 mins | video
  • San Rafael – 4:20 mins | video
  • Borders / Bordes – 3 mins | 2010 | video
  • One Dollar Click – 2 mins | 2009 | video
  • Raspao – 4:45 mins | 2008 | video
  • English for Beginners – 2:32 mins | 2006 | video
  • November 28th – 3 mins | 2005 | video

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