Kits for an Encounter

/ Opening

Kits for an Encounter is an exhibition that examines artists’ kits that instigate or trouble the notion of an encounter, social or otherwise. Providing the equipment needed to initiate a situation, kits can be characterized by their promissory quality, embodying potential and containing the possibility for transformation. Wearable Mosque by Azra Aksamija unfolds from a fashionable women’s semi-formal wear into a minimal mosque which the artist-architect spatio-temporally demarcates as a prayer rug for two, head covering, compass, and prayer beads. Aksamija, born in Sarajevo and living between Austria, Bosnia, and the United States, comments that the wearable mosque “explores various ways of negotiating spatial relationships between Islamic traditions and modernity in the US and Western Europe.” An allegory about the impossible fulfillment of an imagined identity, Noam Toran’s Objects for Lonely Men is a film that depicts a male protagonist vaguely resembling Jean Paul Belmondo’s character in Godard’s 1960 film classic Breathless (Au bout de Souffle). Both likeness and difference is heightened as the protagonist interacts with a kit whose components—a steering wheel, mannequin head, dinner, cigarettes—allow him to simulate the filmic narrative from the comfort of his living room.

Many kits provide the sculptural and performative components needed to frame a social encounter, functioning as the control to unforeseen variables. Lize Mogel’s Public Park: Personal Planning Kit contains all parts necessary (signage, stickers, instructions, etc.) for anyone to de-privatize space and render it accessible to the public. Judi Werthein’s Brinco is an athletic sneaker equipped with a flashlight, compass, painkillers to enable those illegally crossing the US-Mexico border. Sold at a hip boutique shoe store or to art collectors, the proceeds support the free distribution of the “crossing trainers” to border crossers.

By implying a situation many kits either invite, enable, question, or obviate the future. Limor Fried’s Minty MP3, a portable listening device made from simple electronic parts and an empty Altoid mint case, presents a $50 do-it-yourself alternative to an iPod that questions the relationship between fetish and access. Janice Kerbel’s Deadstar is a city plan for a ghost town with all the necessary information for its realisation. Replete with topographic and geological data, water, vegetation and buildings, the city plans prominently feature the graveyard. With neither roads nor hospitals, the city is an area so poorly planned for human living that it is doomed to die before it has been built. Vahida Ramujkic’s Assimil is a text book whose exercises and lesson plans “teach” non-European Union citizens how to properly enter and assimilate into the EU.  Curated by Candice Hopkins & Marisa Jahn

A book to be released in Fall 2008, Recipes for an Encounter, published by Western Front Exhibitions, functions as a textual, literary, and discursive extension to Kits for an Encounter. It is edited by Berin Golonu (Associate Curator of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco), Candice Hopkins (Director/Curator of Western Front Exhibitions), Marisa Jahn (Artist and Co-Director of Pond).

Pond: art, activism, and ideas (www.mucketymuck.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a forum through which experimental artists may share ideas and foster a mutually beneficial relationship with the larger community. Pond wishes to thank Luke Lozier/Bibliopolis, Hiroshi Ishii and the Tangible Media Group (TMG) at the MIT Media Lab, and NEXMAP: New Experimental Music, Art, Performance.

Artist Biographies

Azra Akšamija is an Austrian artist and architect based in Cambridge, USA. Since fall 2004 she has been affiliated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Architecture (History Theory and Criticism Section / Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture) and a Graduate Affiliate at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS). Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1976, she graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University Graz, Austria in 2001, and received her M.Arch from Princeton University, USA in 2004. Her work has been widely published and exhibited in venues such as the Generali Foundation Vienna (2002), Biennial de Valencia (2003), Berlin Art Fair (2003), Graz Biennial of Media and Architecture (2003), Gallery for Contemporary Art Leipzig (2003), Liverpool Biennial (2004), Witte de With Rotterdam (2005), Sculpture Center New York City (2006), and Secession Vienna (2007). She is currently researching her dissertation on mosque architecture in post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Steven Brekelmans graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in 1998. He has exhibited at the Western Front, Eugene Choo, and Moonbase Gallery and has performed his music and noise work at the Starfish Room, the Western Front, and Artspeak Gallery. His most recent sculpture, entitled Kitbashing, a 1:1 scale drumkit made from balsa wood and tissue paper, was included in a group exhibition at the Western Bridge, Seattle, and in a solo exhibition at the Bodgers and Kudgers Co-operative Art Parlour in Vancouver.

A Canadian artist based in London, Janice Kerbel’s work often takes the form of a ”plan” or ”study,” and is generated out of the rigorous application and interrogation of existing systems or logics in order to explore the relationship between reality, imagined ideals, and illusions. Recent works include: Bank Job (1999), a cohesive plan for robbing a central London City bank (EASTinternational 1999); 15 Lombard St(Bookworks 2001), an artist book that examines the working of the bank and the plan for its heist in exhaustive detail; Home Fittings (1999–2003), a series of drawings and site-specific installations that propose ways of dealing with the anxieties of the built environment; Home Conjuring Unit (2000), a set of plans for the construction and assemblage of a multifunctional domestic magician’s cabinet; The Bird Island Project (2000–03), a project that explores and develops the notion of paradise over a number of works (www.bird-island.com); and Studies for Small Islands (2003), a series of drawings that imagine the vegetation of a number of fictional islands from a range of habitats to construct abstract realities in scientific detail. Recent solo exhibitions include 1st at Moderna, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, andDeadstar, Locus +, Newcastle (both 2006). Recent group exhibitions include: the Montreal Biennial, Canada (2007); Around the World in 80 Days, South London Gallery (2006); and the British Art Show 6, BALTIC, Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle (touring exhibition, 2005).

Max Goldfarb’s work intersects many disciplines. His public works projects enjoining radio transmissions and urban infrastructure reveal the convergence of communications technology with the built environment. The resulting themes in his work concern the precariously narrow margin between safety and danger, order and instability. Goldfarb graduated from the MIT Visual Arts Program in 2006 and currently teaches at Parsons (New York). Goldfarb has exhibited his work at such venues as the Mjellby Art Center in Halmstad Sweden, Art & Idea, Mexico City, De Stadgalerij, NL, Fringe Exhibitions Space in Los Angeles, CA, and SculptureCenter, NY. He recently completed QSL Serial, a dispatch project, with Free103Point9 Transmissionsion Arts. His work can presently be seen in the exhibition Off the Grid at the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York.

Limor Fried is a recent graduate of the MIT Media Lab where she earned a Masters of Engineering in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. For her thesis, Limor developed and built subversive electronic devices, including a pair of glasses that darken whenever television is in view and a jamming device that disables people’s annoying cell phone conversations at the press of a button. She releases much of her work in the form of DIY kits or instruction sets, including persistence of vision displays for bikes, a home brew synthesizer, and a minty iPod charger.

Lize Mogel is an interdisciplinary artist who works between art and cultural geography. She inserts and distributes and cartographic projects into public space, including in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sun Valley, Idaho. Her work has been shown at the 2006 Gwangju Biennale (South Korea), PS122 (NYC), Eyebeam (NYC), and others. With Lex Bhagat, she is editor of An Atlas of Radical Cartography (Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2007), and organizer of a concurrent traveling exhibition. She has worked with groups including the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and HOMEWORK.

Born 1975 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Noam Toran studied fine art and combined artist commissions with set designs for theatre and film before receiving an MA in design at the Royal College of Art in London. His work spans multiple disciplines and mediums, from film to installations, conceptual product design to photography. Research based, Toran’s work focuses on the social, psychological and ethical implications of emerging technologies, mass culture, and celluloid media, and attempts to both define and criticize the intersection between science and society, between modernity and culture. Consistently, the work appropriates the discourse of design and the effects of products as a means with which to investigate and envision anomalies in contemporary and speculative human behaviour. Toran not only creates products but their narratives and contexts as well, imagining them to be the real protagonists of modern everyday life. These “products” are imagined as constructions for particular individuals and psyches, vehicles for an elaboration of the desires, fantasies and pathologies unique to specific modern subjects. In this way, his conceptual products are never dislocated from the specific social and historical contexts in which they appear or are materially produced. Toran’s work is exhibited, screened and published internationally, notably at the Pompidou CNAC, the Luxembourg MUDAM, and the New York MOMA. He currently teaches at the Royal College of Art and lectures worldwide.

Judi Werthein was born in Buenos Aires and received her Masters of Architecture from the University of Buenos Aires (1993). She was selected for solo exhibitions at the Chinati Foundation; Centro Cultural Borjes, Bronx Museum of Art; Kent Gallery; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Bahia Blanca, Ruth Benzacar Galeria, Centro Cultural San Martin. She has been included in exhibitions at El Museo del Barrio, Apex Art, The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard (curated by Victoria Noorthoorn); and the 2000 Havana Biennial in Cuba. Her work has been reviewed in Art News, New York Magazine, New York Times, ArtForum, Village Voice, Art Nexus, andFlash Art. She lives and works in Brooklyn and Buenos Aires.

Vahida Ramujkic, born in Belgrade, lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. With Rotorrr (www.rotorrr.org), a collective founded in 2001, Ramujkic has a initiated and participated in a series of experiments in ”terrestrial, water and air” environments that are favorable to the generation of tools and terrains for social interaction, bottom-up self-organization and community generation. These explorations engage technologies and methodologies such as mapping, collaborative games, manuals, guides and tours. Ramujkic also completed a long-term investigation concerning the bureaucracy of EU immigration policies, published as a book Schengen with Ease in Spring 2006. Currently she is working on a comparative research project focused on history text-books in the Western Balkans and the EU.

Co-founded in 2000 by Marisa Jahn and Steve Shada, Pond: art, activism, and ideas (www.mucketymuck.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to showcasing experimental art. Through international gallery exhibitions, special events, lecture series, and various public art projects, Pond has fostered an environment that presents critical artwork in an accessible environment. Recent projects includeShopdropping: Experiments in the AisleInvisible 5OneTrees, and Unfurled: A Public Exhibition of Flags. Their work as curators and artists has received international recognition in publications including Art in AmericaFriezePunk PlanetMetropolis, Clamor, ArtweekCluster Italy, etc. and been exhibited in the US, Turkey, Canada, Croatia, Estonia, among others.