We confined artists in an NYC detention center to spark a debate about US immigration

Artist and host Valeria Cordelo reflects on immigration and her time in confinement in our NYC detention center.

We were very happy to see Valeria join our budding NYC host community just before Corona put everything on pause. The first time we met Valeria, an artist of Venezuelan descent, was back in 2006 during AsylumNYC – a week-long performance we had organized at White Box gallery in Chelsea.


Creative asylum

AsylumNYC invited non-American artists from around the world to apply for “creative asylum” in the United States via the project. Out of hundreds of applicants from 43 different countries, we selected ten artists to live with us in detention inside a NYC gallery space – and one of them was Valeria!

Human Hotel co-founder Martin explains rules to a participant.

Valeria sits in her designated area.

Artists in confinement

AsylumNYC opened on Monday, April 24th, 2006. From that day through the end of the week, the ten selected artists were not allowed to leave the gallery, where they also slept.

They could not bring any tools or materials with them and were, moreover, subject to a set of strict rules regarding their behavior. For creating their work, each artist had to rely entirely on the goodwill of gallery visitors and the arrangements they could make with them.

On the last day of the experiment, one of the ten artists was awarded free legal services from an immigration lawyer – and subsequently received a 3-year 01-visa to live and work in the U.S.

The visa application was based around the high media exposure created for the artist by the AsylumNYC project, which was featured by the NY Times and CNN among others.

Human Hotel co-founders, Martin and Sixten, in their performance uniforms.

Now Valeria holds the key

While Valeria did not “win” the project back then, we’re happy that she managed to create a life for herself in the US. We’re also thrilled that you can now connect with her through Human Hotel and learn more about her own art practice and dedicated work with cultural philanthropy.

Thank you for letting us lock you up Valeria! 🙂


Watch the full video of our AsylumNYC experiment below: 

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