• An Artist Abroad: Sampurna Pal, Part 1 | The Hague, Netherlands

    "Standing in the Intersection" is a culmination of expressions, with experiences and academic research by Indian artist Sampurna Pal during her stay in the Netherlands. She learned to a great extent about “misery and beauty and how they interplay in the vast theater of the everyday and mundane called LIFE.”

     

    'Standing in the Intersection' snapshot

    Part 1 of 2: Here Sampurna presents her final school project / video, followed by an interview with EAS artist
    and staff member Victoria Ayala about her inspirations for studying in the Netherlands
    and her intellectual adventures upon arriving...

    Artist statement

    I am interested in expression, not just as an act, but rather how it responds in relation to its circumstances--the psychology and mostly the subtle almost-imperceptive factors that work as a coordinator.

    I was working on the repression-resistance relationship in context to the recent political situation in India regarding caste-politics, minority issues, institutionalization of media and academia among others, but also trying to find a trans-historical pattern in which expression has been threatened in an apparent or subtler manner.

    'Standing in the Intersection' snapshot

    Talking about politics and psychology, I am interested in using a checkerboard pattern while taking measures towards distortion, such as crumpled papers and creases; namely to be quite literal about the psycho-emotional situations of the inhibitors. I am interested in layers, as there are, evidently in the way facts are curated and distributed. The video continues as a pleading to pay attention to the slow build up.

    As part of my research, I have taken part in MICC (Model International Criminal Court) World which is a workshop for international criminal law; fragments of which will also be present. I wrote down things I have read and watched, as the process of writing for me works as processing the information like a filter, making sure that every single word has its share of attention. And finally a text is read, trying to tie the whole thing into comprehension.

     

    Click here to see entire video

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    INTERVIEW:

    Was your trip to the Netherlands a study abroad opportunity or an internship of some kind?

    I was on an International Academic Exchange Programme representing my home university from India, Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague, Netherlands from January to July 2016.

    What was your experience abroad like?

    It was a genuinely rewarding experience and widened my horizons in terms of both technique and expression. This was my first time experiencing international exposure in terms of real-time manifestation and it introduced me to the rich cosmopolitan Dutch culture. From the carefully and eloquently curated museums to the bold and rebellious graffiti, to the well-organised auditoriums, to the bands of street-performers, it was a feast of the senses which nourished and enriched me in many ways that words feel insufficient to articulate in comprehension.

    Roadside Rhapsody (street performer in The Hague)

    What caught your attention about this particular country?

    The opportunity of going on an exchange program is always rewarding, but the privilege of experiencing the academic environment of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) was, to me, unique for various reasons.

    Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague, Netherlands

    First, the establishment of the academy goes all the way back to the seventeenth century (1682), making it the oldest in Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. It seems an event of unique importance because I, coming from a university more than a century old, have known for a fact that the assets of this kind of academic institution are not just its equipment, study materials, technical support or various other material aspects, but instead, its very ambience, which often carries an underlying air featuring a unique character of its own.

    Dutch culture is not something I was entirely unfamiliar with. I think I was first introduced to it in geography classes, when I came to know about the term 'Polder'; followed by a story about a young boy (called Frank or Hanse) who, one day, while returning from school discovered a hole in a wall built to keep the ocean at-bay. He fastened his fist into it and stayed there all night until the morning broke; when adults finally came looking for him, they realized he had saved the village from flooding .

    In later years, I was gradually introduced to a number of Dutch artists; notable among them are  Rembrandt, Vermeer, and of course, Vincent Van Gogh; each of them having their unique ways to appeal to your eyes.

    Rembrandt, with his mysterious light and shadow, especially in the works of his later days, gives you an almost spiritual experience. Vermeer, with his use of the Camera Obscura  and his refined colour palette.

    'Starry Night' by Vincent van Gogh

     Finally, Van Gogh, who does not wait for anyone’s permission, he just breaks into your consciousness and while you are tending to get a little more attentive, he says words like :               

    '...Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Ronen, we take death to reach a star.'

     

    His paintings explode with colors and turbulent brush strokes, threatening, attacking, electrifying and extravagant. No wonder he was a misfit.

    Another old associate was Anne Frank, perhaps the dearest of them all. I can recall reading her journal for the first time and being silenced. I sobbed. I recognized her at once--her developing self-awareness, the problems of growing up, the frustration felt when grownups don’t understand and treat you like you are too young, the craving for expression and acknowledgement, hopes, ambitions and the desire to become something more than she is--the dream 'to go on living' even after death.

    Book cover of "The Diary of Ann Frank'

    The words she wrote growing up between the ages of thirteen to fifteen, I got them in an absolute way because I was fifteen, too. And she was just like me, including the habit of keeping a journal, except for one thing; she lived under extraordinary conditions, with the threat of death hanging over her and yet, she was just like me.

    Even today, after re-reading it quite a few times, it still aches. What if they could sustain a few more days? What if the betrayer could consider that a person, any person, is worth a lot more than five gulden? What if she just lived?

    It never fails to make me wonder how life has a way of choosing things. Consider this: on one hand you have the shrewd, fanatical Fuhrer, with his guns, Gestapo, gas-chambers and his obscene dictatorial dreams; and, on the other hand, you have Anne, warm and intelligent, resourceful in her inner life, imprisoned by all possible means. Even forbidden to use the toilet when she needed; hardly a match. Half a century later, the Fuhrer and his imperial dreams exist only in the pages of history books; while Anne, who wanted to become a writer,  did become one. And she still continues to live, not just in the pages of the book she wrote, but also in the hearts of the millions who read it. She went on living even after her death. She lived up to her dreams. Her voice lived, outlasting the 'shouts of murderers' and rumble of gunfire; not because it was loud, but because it had the tranquility of truth, the innocence and wonder of adolescence and, most importantly, in the most desolate of times, she dared to dream.

    People who could not fulfill their dreams, or perhaps don't have them, might often try to convince you that dreams are impractical. But this is my  good reason to make peace with them. This is not a story: stories can hardly bear the strain involved here. This is a diary, an account of a life, lived. And it was surely an honor to visit a land that homed a girl like her.

    Conference snapshot

    Finally to conclude, the Netherlands is known to be a country tolerant and liberal--legalizing really sensitive issues like abortion, euthanasia and prostitution. Being the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, combined with a history of providing refuge for the persecuted, it keeps an accordance with its repute to be modern and human.

    When it comes to the art and artists, it always seemed  to me that there are two kinds of them: artists who create artistically about their lives, and artists who live artistically and create about it. I aspire to belong to the second kind. I imagine how the experience of visiting a culture different from my own could be really useful for gaining a broader understanding about people and life.

    (Snapshots provided by Sampurna Pal)

     

    To be continued... Join us soon for Part 2 of Sampurna’s Interview where she shares more about her personal experiences and growth as an artist in the Netherlands... 

     

  • ‘Actions and Urgencies in Different Contexts’, Part 3

    Emergent Art Space artist Asmaa Youssef Elmongi, attended the March Meeting of the Sharjah Art Foundation, in Sharjah, UAE. Her report in three parts highlights talks and projects presented at the meeting from artists and curators around the world.  

     

    What follows is Part 3 of Asmaa's report.  Click here to see Part One and Two.

    March Meeting 2018: 'Active Forms' (Part 3)

    'Speaking Walls', interactive installation; photograph presented by Shilpa Gupta.

    Shilpa Gupta, Visual Artist - India

    Shilpa Gupta is a Contemporary Indian artist who grew up in the city of Mumbai, where she studied art at Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts, at the main city center. Her work concerns the idea of countries' borders in the political context.

    For her project "100 Hand Drawn Maps of My Country", which began in 2008 and finished in 2014, she traveled to Cuenca, Mexico; Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel;  Montreal, Canada; and different parts of Italy,  to ask ordinary people to draw by memory a map of their home country.

    Another art project, which was produced in 2009-2010, was called “Speaking Walls”. It shows that the performer’s identity, which represents artificial political borders, is meaningless, as long as the borders are defined by nature. In this interactive piece, the viewer stands on a line of bricks that face a wall, puts on a headset, listens to the instructions, and reads what is written on an LCD screen on the wall.

    The full project on site: http://shilpagupta.com/pages/2010/10speakingwall.htm

     

    One of the four aerial photos of 'Nahr El Bared' refugee camp, presented by Sabba Innab.

    Saba Innab, Architect & Artist
    Palenstine / Jordan

    Back to architectural practice, Saba Innab is a Palestinian-Jordanian architect and artist, based between Amman and Beirut. She is interested in the problematic of the architectural practice itself. “The invisible gap between dwelling and architecture or building, is a gap that I think was magnified by modernity. This is on a very general level, but on a very specific level, I am interested in permanent temporariness", said Innab.

    She was one of the participants who worked on the reconstruction of Nahr El Bared refugee camp in the North of Lebanon. Saba explained that the camp was completely destroyed in 2007 after an army conflict between the Lebanese army and the Islam’s fundamental school of “Fatah Al Islam”. It is the first Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to be destroyed and reconstructed within the original frameworks.

    Plans and an aerial view of 'Nahr El Bared' refugee camp; photographs presented by Saba Innab.

    The place was secured by the army. This transformed the question from: How do you rebuild the camp? into: How do you live and how to build without a land?

    The latter question became the title of the ongoing project, composed of several elements dealing with this idea of the possibility of dwelling in the temporary.

    An exhibition of the reconstruction process of 'Nahr El Bared' refugee camp; photograph presented by Saba Innab.

    Saba continued that the camp has no spatial documentation except for four aerial photos taken at different times for different purposes; one photograph was taken in 1950, one year after the establishment of the camp; another photograph in 1968-1969, a couple of years after receiving the second group of refugees; the third one was taken in 1994, a few years after the end of the Lebanese civil war; and the last one in 2007, a very comprehensive photo of the camp taken by the army during the battle with Fatah, before the destruction of the camp. A 2013 Google Maps photo shows the camp after the conflict ended.

    An adaptation of the same process of reclamation, “Rahhala” or “The Traveler”, is another project that shows processes of collecting spaces and architecture typologies. Those spaces are materialized, becoming more typographic or archaeological sites, maybe between a point in the past and the present typology of contemporary architecture.

    Drawings and models as part of the project 'Rahhala Project'; photographs presented by Saba Innab.
    Models as a part of the 'Rahhala Project' ; photograph presented by Saba Innab.

    In the 1980s it was reclaimed as a residential building in Kuwait, as a point of departure that unfolds into other spaces and other forms of migration and exile. A visual memory of the space is deconstructed into angles, materials, and shadows. This space becomes not only an extension of the Palestinian refugee, but also part of the de-territorialization of working class and migrant workers in the region. The major tool of this process was the construction of models and drawing.

    Innab explained that "the model here is not something to be built. On the contrary, it is an abstraction of a moment in time. It becomes the space and also the material - new or from a demolished site." 

    An archival image from UNRWA archive of 'Baqa'a' refugee camp; photograph presented by Saba Innab.

    She presented an archival image from the UNRWA archive of Baqa’a refugee camp in North of Amman in 1970s. It documents exact moments when tents were transforming into modular walls.

     

    Other Works

    In addition to intensive talks and initiatives during the  Meeting, there were exhibitions, performances, as well as film screenings.

    The Arabic version of the performance “Song of Roland” directed by the Alexandrian artist Wael Shawky was held in the Calligraphy Square. It is based on the French epic poem “La Chanson De Roland” that tells the story of the battle between Christians and Saracens. The background of the performance consisted of a hundred small pieces that represent the city of Aleppo, Baghdad, and Istanbul. A group of traditional Arab musicians and singers sing this epic tale in the style of Fidjeri.

    Last but not least “A Flood in Baath Country” a Syrian documentary film directed by the Syrian film director and prominent civil society activist Omar Amiralay, focused on the construction of the impressive Euphrates Dam and other efforts to modernize Syria in the 1970s.

     

    Hope you have enjoyed reading about the 2018 March Meeting in Sharjah, UAE. This article concludes the series.  

     

  • ‘Actions and Urgencies in Different Contexts’, Part 2 | United Arab Emirates

    Emergent Art Space artist, Asmaa Youssef Elmongi, attended the March Meeting of the Sharjah Art Foundationin Sharjah, UAE. Her report in three parts highlights talks and projects presented at the meeting from artists and curators around the world.  

    What follows is Part 2 of Asmaa's report.  To see Part 1 click here.

     

    March Meeting 2018: 'Active Forms' (Part 2)

    The exhibition “Oxytocin”,  photograph presented by Alper Turan.

    'DAS Art Project' - Alper Turan. (Turkey)

    Alper Turan, is the co-founder and curator of an independent art initiative based in Turkey, the DAS Art Project. The project consists of three undergraduate students who form a curatorial team that works with independent artists. DAS concerns itself mainly with transforming iconic and historical buildings into art spaces, through the creation of  art exhibitions that adjust to the atmosphere of these places.

    The exhibition “Decadence”, photograph presented by Alper Turan.

    We are not commercial art professionals, which is something that makes me feel honored” said Turan.

    Their first project “Oxytocin” opened in October, 2016, in a famous building that was designed to be a guest house. Turan explained that it was hard to get permission to have an exhibition of 26 artists in this building. It was for only one day, which emphasizes the character of the exhibition as they are considered as guests for one day.

    Their second exhibition “Decadence” was held in a building opposite to the first one. It was a hotel in the style of Turkish Orientalism. The organisers drew a parallel with the history of the hotel throughout two days, using some references of the hotel’s history and to some famous visitors, like Agatha Christie who stayed in the hotel in the past. (1)

     

    “Lugar a Dudas”, the main exhibition space, photograph presented by Sally Mizrachi.

    'Lugar a Dudas' - Sally Mizrachi, Co-Founder (South America)

    The next talk takes us to the north of South America, in Colombia. Lugar a Dudas, which means “A Place to Doubt” opened in 2005 with an attempt to respond to the needs of the Santiago de Cali art scene. It is an active local art hub, establishing networks, creative partnership, and achieving great impact. The place was initiated by Óscar Muñoz. Sally Mizrachi, one of he founders, mentioned that the art space has a particular emphasis on changing constitutional structures and producing a context for art that fosters exchanges of ideas. Their programs respond to specific needs of artists and public in the city, inviting groups and communities that are excluded from the institutional system to participate.

    “Lugar a Dudas”, the rehearsal room, photograph presented by Sally Mizrachi.

    Through Lugar a Dudas, we invited people to experience and use the spaces as a meeting point to discuss, reflect, or just to learn", said Mizrachi.

    The space includes a documentation center, which is one of the largest in the country, exhibition rooms, a residence program with projections every week and workshops. The documentation center includes photocopies, publications curated on diverse subjects, and archiving materials Sally presented a picture that shows the main exhibition space. It is exposed to the street, and this is essential for everyday connection between the city and the artistic production. Another part of Lugar a Dudas is the rehearsal room, which is a platform for artists, collectives, photography materials, publications and initiatives. (2)

    One of the emergent challenges we face as an institution, is the implementation of international school of political thinking and its disciplinary processes”, said Mizrachi.

     

    “Samar” magazine, photograph presented by Naeem Mohaiemen.

    Naeem Mohaiemen, Visual Artist (Bangladesh)

    Naeem Mohaiemen, a writer and a visual artist from Bangladesh, leads the talk back to art in the South of Asia. He considers museums  platforms for history.

    Naeem moved from Dhaka to New York in 1994, where he joined the magazine, Samar  (South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection), which was launched in 1992, two years before he arrived, as a magazine of political and cultural debate with a South Asian focus. It aimed to foster debate and discussion within the South Asian community in the US. Samar was last printed in 2002, as people started questioning the value of a printed magazine. Therefore, some of the magazine went online. (3)

    The poster of the film “Mutiny: Asian Storm British Music”, photograph presented by Naeem Mohaiemen

    Naeem also presented and discussed the film “Mutiny: Asian Storm British Music”, directed by Vivek Bald. The film explores the Asian Underground movement in English rock in the 90s, which created music that integrated reggae and hip hop with Indian traditional and popular music, and discusses as well the experience of anti-Asian racism in Britain.

    Naeem participated in the renown exhibition “Fatal Love”, at the Queens Museum in New York, which made visible the works of many South-Asian artists working in the United States.

     

    Notes:

    (1) Full description of the project is published in Turkish on “art fulliving” http://www.artfulliving.com.tr/sanat/yozlasan-bir-pera-palas-dekadans-i-11216
    (2) Find out more details and information about the rehearsal room on the website of “Lugar a Dudas” http://www.lugaradudas.org/#/educacion-sin-escuela/educacion-home An explanation of “Lugar a Dudas” initiative by Óscar Muñoz in a video published on the website of “SFMOMA” https://www.sfmoma.org/oscar-munoz-created-an-art-space-that-thrives-on-uncertainty/
    (3)  Full description of the magazine is published on “Samar Magazine” http://www.samarmagazine.org/about

     

    Hope you have enjoyed reading about the 2018 March Meeting in Sharjah. Stay tuned next week for the conclusion of this series.   

  • ‘Actions and Urgencies in Different Contexts’ | United Arab Emirates

    Emergent Art Space artist Asmaa Youssef Elmongi, attended the March Meeting of the Sharjah Art Foundationin Sharjah, UAE. Her report highlights talks and projects presented at the meeting from artists and curators from around the world. We will publish it here in three parts over the next few weeks.      

    March Meeting 2018: 'Active Forms' (Part 1)

    Courtesy of the Sharjah Art Foundation

     

    One of the leading contemporary art and cultural foundations in United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Art Foundation held the 11th edition of its March Meeting program, providing the opportunity to collectively examine actions and urgencies in different contexts through practices in art, writing, film, music, performance, and architecture.

     

    'Public Work' - Beirut
    Abir Saksouk, Co-Founder 

    Abir Saksouk is one of the co-founders of 'Public Work', a studio of multidisciplinary design and research of public issues in Beirut. It began in 2012, when they started a collective of architects, designers, and urbanists. Saksouk explained that one of their main aims was to enable particular ways of "looking at the city" and urban processes, tackling urban inequalities, and examining how their professional practice could be merged with active engagement as individuals or as a collective.

    They started their research and design interventions within three social spaces; the first is the disciplinary space of the studio or the office where they make drawings and designs; the second is the site of the intervention itself, could be the city, the neighborhood or the street; and the third is the space of the self - the designer’s position and positionality - for creating spaces of differentiation and inclusion.

    Map of the city of Beirut, Lebanon

    Saksouk presented a project that is concerned with a new rent law in Lebanon, which led to the eviction of most of the tenants in the neighborhood. The law was issued without being based on any data, and was merely a political tool serving the interests of private estates and a very specific class of politicians and development investors.

    They worked on a research project that looked at six neighborhoods in Beirut, and conducted workshops with tenants and students to produce data that emerge out of neighborhoods and give actual numbers and statistics about what it means to live and to be a tenant in Beirut. The findings that came out were multilayered, showing actual statistics, the number of tenants, how people access housing, and the challenges.

    An important part of the investigation was also looking at transferred ownership, which referred to the future of the city that is being drawn and traced by real estate companies that are using incentives offered by the state to buy up properties in the city.

    They were also tracing stories and narratives, as a large number of Beirut's residents were consistently evicted. Saksouk indicated that most of the projects, which started as research, carried through to a dissemination phase that was presented in Arabic, relevant to the local context. The presentations were in different forms: articles, videos, and/or neighborhood meetings. "We organized ideas of what we can demand for the neighborhood and discussed future policy changes and political demands", said the architect.

    Mar Elias neighbourhood, Beirut

    While the previous project was tackling housing in Beirut, another project tackled public space, and how to look at the rights everyone has to the space. This project, called 'Play at The City: Communal Making of Informal Football Fields', was started in 2014, with a very simple question: Where do children and young people play in Beirut?

    On an aerial photo of the city, dated back to 2004, they started spotting empty fields  made out of sand. When they visited ten of these fields, they discovered that almost 85% of them - communal outdoor play spaces - had been replaced by parking lots, new buildings, or demolition sites. They drew up a narrative timeline for each of them, investigating the history of their emergence, and how neighborhood youth organized, collected money, and put their own efforts into returning these sites into their own play spaces.

    They decided to work on one of these fields with the neighborhood youth in order to affirm their claims and also rehabilitate them and preserve them from being lost. The project, in the Mar Elias Palestinian Camp in Beirut, was called  “اللعب في المخيم “, or 'Play in the Camp'.

    Organizing is one of the most important outcomes of the network that we do, so these interventions - whether in the form of neighborhood meetings, or creating local community representatives that are able to manage specific ways of everyday life in the camp - are the most important outcomes of our research, design, and the city", said Saksouk.

     

    Sharmini Pereira during her presentation at the Sharjaj March Meeting, UAE, 2018

    'Raking Leaves' - Sri Lanka

    Sharmini Pereira, Founder 

    Moving from Western Asia to its South, where 'Raking Leaves' - a nonprofit independent publishing organization – is based in Sri Lanka. Sharmini Pereira is an independent curator, publisher, and the director of 'Raking Leaves', which she founded back in 2008, when Sharmini wanted to find a way to present contemporary art that did not require a gallery, museum, or a space.

    Sharmini presented a photo for the National Art Gallery in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where she curated her first exhibition, 'New Approaches in Contemporary Sri Lankan Art'.  Sharmini is quite interested in the idea of reaching out to people, and to make it possible for those who are living in other countries to communicate with art practices from Sri Lanka. “Publishing was a way of reaching an audience,” said Pereira. She believes that there is a distinct relationship between books and public. She cited a quotation by Stephen Bury, a well-known writer:

    'The One Year Drawing Project' presented by Pereira. Preparation of the project exhibition at Art Dubai, UAE

    “Artists books are books or book-like objects, the final appearance of which an artist has a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself”

    'Raking Leaves' commissions artists who are making work in the form of a book. Sharmini mentioned the 1960s and 1970s when artist books began to take part in social-political activism in antiwar demonstrations by Fluxus. However, her objectives for artist books are different from those that were produced by Fluxus.

    "All the projects that are produced by 'Raking Leaves' are mass produced" she said, "using a  standard process that never costs more than 35 dollars."

    Images of artists' books from 'The One Year Drawing Project'

    The 'One Year Drawing Project' is a project begun by four artists in an attempt to understand the relationship between time, practice, collaboration, and dialogue within the context of contract. In 2005, the artists started to take part in an experiment that took them back to the idea of the exchange, which lasted up to 72 weeks and involved 52 exchanges of drawings. It took 18 months to be finish as they decided to correspond once a week. In 2008, the installation of the project was shown at Art Dubai, in the UAE.

    To get the book to the UAE, we had to get through the censorship channels that required not having any nudity, so, we blacked out all the areas that carry nudity.” said Pereira.

    Another project, by Pakistani artist Bani Abidi, is 'The Speech Writer', done in 2012. The work consisted of ten small flipbooks.

    'The Speech Writer' project by Bani Abidi, presented by Sharmini Pereira

    The text in the book is a little transcript that interviews a man in an old region who is involved in a daily activity which has him sitting everyday in front of a microphone speaking to it. “It is a kind of silence cinema” said Pereira.

    The full description of the project is published on the website of “Asia Art Archive in America”, through an interview that was held by Jane DeBevoise and transcribed by Hilary Chassé, titled “We Do What We Do: A Conversation between Bani Abidi and Sharmini Pereira”.

    http://www.aaa-a.org/programs/we-do-what-we-do-a-conversation-between-bani-abidi-and-sharmini-pereira/

    To be continued. Stay tuned!

  • ‘Through the Artist Lens: Breaking Barriers in Communication’ | San Francisco, California

    Forty-three Master of Fine Arts students of the California College of the Arts presented their theses (paintings, photographs, illustrations, installations, and sculpture), at the Minnesota Project in San Francisco.


    “I think artists can save the world” -- Jennifer Brandel says in response to
    “Why art as medium for communication?”

     

    Unlike typical gallery showings, where one artist’s work fills an entire room, the CCA theses were presented six to eight pieces per space. As a result, the experience of the viewers is not limited to their intake of one artist’s creation, perspective, and portrayal. Each piece had an individual purpose, question, or presence, but the most interesting part of the show was their cohesive interaction.

    CCA thesis student Beatriz Escobar’s piece extends beyond the vibrant floral backdrop, the table lit with projected marquee phrases, and the rolling metal cart of food, books, and other supplies. The whole of the piece is set up for the  interaction of the audiences within the space she has created to facilitate communication.

    Across the table, Beatriz then has a one-on-one conversation with visitors about how they relate and interact with other cultures. Her analysis originates in the concept of “anthropophagy”, a familiar concept in the Brazilian tradition, which refers to cultural creations as a result of appropriation, consumption and remixing of the creations and inspirations from other cultures, as in a kind of metaphorical cannibalism.

    Beatriz Escobar as a part of her showcased work, presenting an acai bowl to an audience.

    Beatriz explores this idea in reference to the actual consumption of food, as well as of cultural products which are often redefined and marketed. She explores the “consumption of the exotic other,”[2] through acai, Brazilian native berries categorized as a 'superfood', but containing the same amount of antioxidants as blueberries.

    The setting itself and prompts of “acai bowls” encourage the initial connection with the viewer. 

    As part of the piece, Beatriz uses her insights, acknowledging her own bias as a Brazilian woman living in the Bay Area, California, to create an acai bowl to appeal to the palette of her participant, while he or she reads a passage detailing anthropophagy out loud. Here, the viewer becomes a less passive member of a wider audience, he or she becomes a contributor to the art. The reactions and responses throughout the entire process cycle back to Beatriz and she too is part of the growing and developing conversation.

    Orange slated backing of Jennifer Brandel's installation containing 25 booklets of hand selected written observations.

    Beatriz pushes the audience to confront their privilege, judgement, and understanding of others within an enclosed gallery space. In a similar space upstairs, MFA student Jennifer Brandel challenges the walls of the gallery through a different personal journey.

    Jennifer exhibited a mixed media installation called Nimesiscape. A wooden frame--planked orange backing for twenty-five square papers--rises over viewers’ heads. While the physical creation is a collection of samples from nature, square perforated papers, vertically mapping a recreation of the outdoor space, with a compilation of observations, along with the process and methodology of getting it there, completes the art.

    Inspired by her love for nature and curiosity about environmental impact, Jennifer buried perforated paper in a protected National Park. The park serves hikers and thriving livestock alike, “a sanctuary and a commodity.”[3]

     After a period of time, she dug up the paper, taking care to preserve the samples of earth that had collected, and recreated the terrain in the vertical piece that is presented in the gallery.

    Front view of Jennifer Brandel's collection of 25 perforated paper samples inserted and then removed from the ground in a California National Park.

    Importantly, Jennifer maintained a one-to-one scale in her twenty-five square unit, displaced terrain installation and created a corresponding map. In order to further the audience’s immersion, Jennifer also catalogued her chosen observations and experiences in the booklets placed on the back of the vertical piece.

    The process of choosing what content to capture in writing for the piece was also very intentional. She compiled voice recordings from each site visit which she then broke down, categorized, and copied by hand.

    Writing and mapping, along with the visual and physical presence of the large sculptural piece, collaborate to appeal to each of the senses. Acknowledging that one cannot know something without being there, Jennifer sought to recreate her outdoor experience for the gallery audience. By means of these components, the original space within the national state park which Jennifer catalogued, organized, and restored, presents questions about human nature--the desire to create structure and to preserve, as well as what comprises a commodity.

    Frequently asked what the piece means, Jennifer says, “I didn’t want to give all the answers because I didn’t have all the answers, and I wanted to leave space for inquiry.”[4]

    Keith Secola, black and white misrepresentation of the savage native contrasted with collection of visual artifacts from his own family history.

    While creating her piece, Jennifer was analyzing the living cycles of consumption and destruction. By presenting a tangible and proximate interaction, she encourages viewers to do the same as participants of the work.

    Across the room, Keith Secola’s exhibit beautifully contrasts black and white outlined misrepresentations of Native Americans with a pieced together colorful history of printed books and family photographs. He juxtaposes common portrayals assumed by the Western world with his own experience and collection, “questioning the power of text, image, and persuasion.”[5]

    Keith found his natural path for communication through his art from exposure to Native American artists at a young age when his family traveled with his musician father. He explains the dual nature of his identity, his Northern Ute blood colliding with his urban upbringing, “When I’m outside of my community, even at a young age I would face racism and ignorance from non-native people. So finding a way to represent myself was always difficult. Speaking visually through art became a way for me to do this.”

    Close up of Keith Secola's collage of family photos and reclaimed book covers.

    He explores the representations of Native Americans today as “native people who are either misrepresented or not represented at all.” And “it became important to question this issue more in his work and projects.” [6]

    Once again, the audience is presented with an external and internal view, the external being the Western stereotype that is marketed, and the internal being the real facts and stories of the people.

    All three artists--much like the other forty CCA students who presented their MFA theses at the Minnesota Street Project--extend their creativity, passion, and curiosity to their audience. Jennifer’s faith in the open mindedness and design thinking capacity that artists often possess is exactly why “artists can save the world” in collaboration with experts from other fields. By opening conversations, these students demonstrate art’s potential to inspire discussion, redefine misconceptions, and analyze within as well as outside oneself.

     


    Notes:
    [1] The Minnesota Street Project is situated in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco. 
    It houses galleries and studio spaces for local artists, seeking to create an international art 
    community destination in synergy with the Silicon Valley technology hub central to the region.
    [2] In conversation with Beatriz Escobar
    [3] Artist Statement, Jennifer Brandel
    [4] In conversation with Jennifer Brandel
    [5] Artist Statement, Keith Secola
    [6] In conversation with Keith Secola
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