New AiR for Artists & Coordinators Seminar – Aroundless Artist Residency

I was invited by Stan Coenders for a seminar New AiR for Artists & Coordinators as part of Aroundless Artist Residency at MeetingInZdonov in Czech Republic. The artists featured in this month long program are Carlota Borges Lloret, Marta Silva, Guida Miranda, Andrea Junekova, Palii Anastasia, Bogdan Pavlovic, Janine Leger, and Sandra Franco.

What amazingly talented young artists and such a beautiful community at what appears to be at the end of the world or at least in Czech Republic. We look forward to seeing the results of this special one month program and look forward to working with some of these artists in the future.

MeetingInZdonov reopened its doors to artists in residence in July 2015. Heart of the project is the large rural house that after a long process of restructuring, offers reception areas and workareas for workshops and lectures. The project is constantly changing, and this year its shape will be given by a diverse community that is connected to a larger and varied network, including intensive coaching by experienced artists and curators and visits to other art activities in the region where many other artists are involved, and a seminar about art residencies.

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Inside Zone Artist Residency – Romania


I was invited to participate in Inside Zone Artist Residency in Romania, a poetry and visual artist festival in Transylvania at the Casa de Cultura, Strada Carpati on May 17, 2015.

An exhibition concluding this two-week residency in Borsec, Romania, along with Sophia Gardiner, Waalko Dingemans, Christina Marie Jespersen, Larissa Mellor, Ivana Ognjanovac, Mary Opasik, Paul Simmons, Mare Suljak and Nuri FY, and poets Florin Dan Prodan, Corina Bernic and Radu Andriescu.

The work I created for Inside Zone Exhibition are “Exercises in Letting Go” is the most intimate work I have made as an artist. Revisiting a place, facing memories, memorializing a relationship, reflecting and then letting go. I worked with found materials in a meditative state; the repetition of writing and fastening and finding kept my body in movement to open my heart and my mind.

For more information visit Inside Zone Residency web site.

The Story of an American Artist Who Was Denied Entry into Israel – Interview with Hyperallergic

No Man's Land - Between Jordan and Israel

“Standing on no man’s lands a small strip of land between Israel and Jordan. I took some moments here to feel the pavement under my feet, a safe haven from feeling like a criminal in Israel and from the anxiety of entering back into Jordan, a country I had no intent staying in for the next 5 weeks.”

I was interviewed by reporter Hrag Vartaniar with Hyperallergic, an online news site which is a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today. I had an opportunity to speak about my experience trying to enter into Israel on March 22, 2015. I was detained and questioned for 6 hours at Yitzhak Rabin Border checkpoint between Aqaba, Jordan, and Eilat, Israel

Here is a link to the article; http://hyperallergic.com/196515/the-story-of-an-american-artist-who-was-denied-entry-into-israel/

Here is my own personal account; https://projektpalestine.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/denied-entry/ written shortly have my denied entry.

Here is a link to volunteer in Palestine; Echlas’ Institute of Palestinian Language and Culture. This is the main reason why I was traveling to Palestine to be a volunteer caretaker for a disabled woman named Echlas Al-Azzeh who lives in refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Bloc Party at Celebrating Red Hook


As part of Celebrating Red Hook, a day-long festival celebrating everything Red Hook I worked with Amy Weng under the name of DE-CONSTRUKT [projekts] where we hosted Bloc Party, an intervention that is part experiment and part play, a project conceived over brainstorming ideas to engage the public in communication.

What is Bloc Party? Imagine one of your favorite games made out of wood pieces but now blow it up in size and add a twist. “Who inspires you most?,” “What is your greatest Secret?”

Bloc Party is both a conceptual and participatory game where passers-by are invited to join in both building and breaking down in either silence or with the added twist in conversation.

Celebrating Red Hook
Red Hook IKEA Ferry Terminal, Brooklyn, NY. 11231
Saturday July 12, 2014 12-10pm

For more information about the festival visit http://www.star-revue.com/?p=1167

Reboot Stories Lab & Learn Do Share – NYC

On June 12 and 13, 2014, I was part of a two-day intensive Reboot Stories Lab on DIY Urbanism, in which 40+ participants explored together through collaborative action, design thinking, storytelling, play and technology. Our focus was “The Village of Arts and Humanities” an arts-focused community organization whose mission is to support the voices and aspirations of the community through opportunities for self-expression rooted in art and culture. This local community in Philadelphia embraces D.I.Y. culture to change their neighborhood and use these tools for civic engagement and social good.

We broke up into groups and workshopped ideas how to revitalize a low-income neighborhood, that could be implemented in “The Village.” Quickly we had to imagine, using off-line, low-tech approaches (including The Wheel of Reasoning and the Hoshin Strategy Outline all components of a toolkit offered by the FreedomLab based in Amsterdam) to help define crises/threats/opportunities and solutions in low-income neighborhoods.

It was a interesting experience to work in this manner without direct research of “The Village” or the neighborhood. We relied on first-hand accounts from Aviva Kapust and El Sawyer, staff of the “The Village” Aviva and El spoke to the group about the cultural history, economic challenges, and social successes of the neighborhood, providing a snapshot of life there. They also participated in the small group exercises, not only as contributors to their projects but as resources for the full group to tap into.

In our separate groups we defined a specific crisis and then proposed solutions, opportunities, and potential resources. We later presented our ideas and then came together collaboratively to map out our ideas together on one really long sheet of paper. It was quite interesting to see in the end all our ideas mapped out and connected in our re-imagined community.

This intensive program marks the beginning of Learn Do Share (Learn by doing, understand by sharing) which took place at The New School, in Manhattan on June 14, 2015. Learn Do Share is a social innovation hub which happens internationally free to participants and run by volunteers. This year the focus of our Reboot Stories Lab and Learn Do Share is DIY Urbanism.

Artist in Residency with Istanbul-Based Artist Initiative PASAJ

Tarlabaşı

I was invited by PASAJ an Istanbul-based, artist initiative to participate in their artist-in-residence program, April 18-29th, in 2014. My place of residence, Tarlabaşı, had quite a reputation when I was researching online. Tarlabaşı is often seen as a hostile environment, a lawless haven for society’s undesirables, which included, Roma people, Kurdish refugees, Syrian refugees, African migrants, queer and transgender people all living together in 20,000 square meters, consisting of 9 blocks.

Tarlabaşı is an extreme example of what life is like living in an over-populated, urban environment, a city with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. During my short stay in Istanbul I found myself completely overwhelmed with culture shock and often retreated to my balcony to witness on the street below, the cinematic dance between neighbors, strangers, old and young in business and play. The dance began around 3pm and continued into the early morning hours. In my anonymity I took photographs, videos, and wrote poetry, trying my best to capture the spirit of the street I found myself longing to be part of their display but also fearful at the same time.

Tarlabaşı’s history is rich and complicated and is apparent in the diversity of the architecture, its people and the layout of the streets. In 2006 the local municipality declared Tarlabaşı a regeneration area or commonly referred to in the West as an urban renewal project. Just like most urban renewal initiatives the needs of the current inhabitants are not addressed. This program is so massive, large parts of the population were displaced, entire city blocks demolished, and blocks and blocks of security walls separate bulldozers, and cranes from passers-by. This urban renewal program is quite reminiscent to what you see in New York City’s gentrification, but in this case gentrification on steroids.

It seems like it is a time of a great change for Istanbul and with this change there is a strong public backlash against the Turkish government. Gentrification and development seems to take center stage. Most of the anger displayed by Turks (televised all over the world) in the form of protests and demonstrations in Taksim Square (2013) was directed towards this rampant development and gentrification, the lack of public space or rather the stealing of it in the name of urban renewal. I spent my days in Istanbul seeking out these places and exploring Tarlabaşı documenting through video, photographs and writings.

Tarlabaşı Neighborhood

The first people living in Tarlabaşı are noted to be in 1535 mainly non-Muslim diplomats. In 1870 there was a fire that consumed the neighborhood of wooden structures. After the fire, the dwellings were then made of stone.

With the turn of the century, Tarlabaşı became the neighbourhood of the non-Muslim lower-middle class: Greek, Armenian, and Jewish craftsmen, smaller merchants and employees serving the businessmen and diplomats. After the removal of the Greeks, and Armenians, then arrived the Anatolians, Kurdish migrants, Roma people, and most recently now Syrian Refugees.

In 2006 the Turkish Cabinet turned a 20,000-square-meter part of Tarlabaşı into an urban renewal area, the tender for the planned project was awarded to GAP Inşaat, a subsidiary of Çalık Holding.

Much of the renewal area neighbouring the centre now stands empty and dilapidated. Only a handful of families still hold out against pending eviction orders, their court cases are ongoing. Most of the abandoned buildings have been looted for wood, metal and plastic, leaving most of them without windows and doors.

Tarlabaşı 360

Tarlabaşı 360 urban renewal program is run by GAP İnşaat. The project features luxury residencies and sleek office buildings The project, which encompasses several hundred buildings within a sizeable section of the neighborhood, seeks to transform the low-income Tarlabaşı into a chic, trendy and inevitably pricy area. The Tarlabaşı 360 urban renewal program is one of Istanbul’s most massive development project to date.

This is a video to get an idea how difficult it is to travel in this developed area.

Balat

Balat district of Istanbul is a working class neighborhood where developers plan to pour millions and millions into the renewal of this neighborhood surrounded by Byzantine walls within walking distance to major touristic areas. With this development the values of the residential properties will rise sevenfold. Many investors seek to profit from fixing up residences in the dilapidated historic districts of central Istanbul as Turkey’s affluence increases.

Balat, is a UNESCO-protected district on Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterway, was once one of the most prestigious areas of the city. A century and a half ago, it was home to a merchant community of Turks, Jews, Greeks and Armenians. By the 1990s, its crowded streets had been largely left to poor migrants from the east and Gypsies, also known as Roma. The government is auctioning off the right to renovate entire areas at a time and people are being forced out of their homes without adequate compensation.

Watch this video of children at a school in Balat celebrating Children’s Day.

Don Quixote

In the aftermath of the Gezi-protests, Istanbul’s newly formed solidarity groups including activists from Yeldeğirmeni (The Windmill) continue to work for lasting change, these activists squatted an empty building ‘Don Quixote’ in the district of Kadiköy. ‘Don Quixote’ became Istanbul’s first social center. While the building is aimed to provide basic support for neighborhood’s problems, activists list some of the activities as follows: children’s playroom, library, carpentry and art workshops.

Garipçe

Garipçe is a small fishing village that seems like time has stood still in the North of Istanbul where the Bosphorus meets the black sea is frequently in the news because of the construction of the third bridge over the Bosporus and the new highway.

The name of the village ‘garip’ (poor, miserable) comes from this isolated life the village had lived for a long time. Standing in the harbor of Garipçe you cannot see the construction whatsoever. The construction of the third bridge is quite controversial, a lot has been written about it so far; people who are in favor of it come up with their ideas, and the people who are against it try every possibility to get their vision into the media. Read this article in the New Yorker about Garipçe.

What is sure is this development will change the way life of the villagers of Garipçe I have to admit some one who is nostalgic for living by the sea it saddens me that the villagers will be yet another victim to development of Istanbul.

Watch the fishermen in action in Garipçe.

Artist Residency with Spread Art in Detroit

New York City to Detroit
Thrilled to be invited by Thomas Bell and Christina de Roos of Spread Art to South West, Detroit, Michigan as part of their residency program. My time in February marks the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Detroit and myself, Spread Art and my organization DE-CONSTRUKT [projekts].

I was fortunate to meet so many wonderful artists and artist organizations. It was a bit overwhelming digesting the magnitude of art/public initiatives, the rich history of this massive city, the magnitude of problems that a bankrupt city must deal with, the snow and extreme cold, and the opportunity to visit the Motown Museum, all of which almost blew my mind.

Just to name a few of the folks I was fortunate to meet and hope to work with are Carl W. Goines, artist and executive director of 555 Gallery, artist J. Mavis Farr, Edible Hut, LeMarre and Dancers, Juan Martinez from Pedalista, and artist Vito Valdez.

During my time in Detroit I was invited to speak with several students at the Western International High School in Detroit. These students, all interested in the arts and design, were a joy to speak with and I was really amazed how articulate and proactive they were about working in the arts.

I also had the privilege to have a tour of the Detroit Institute of Art by artist and educator Vito Valdez who is a staff-teaching artist for the Art Studio in the Wayne and Joan Webber Education Wing. This Art Studio provides a unique opportunity for visitors to have hands-on-art-making experiences.

About Spread Art
Spread Art presents multidisciplinary art events in Detroit and beyond, with a focus on experimentation and innovation. Spread Art supports work that pushes creative boundaries, incorporates technology, invites public participation, and/or explores immediately relevant social themes.

Spread Art is affiliated with Detroit Contemporary, which houses 
a performance venue, art gallery, rehearsal facilities, Art studios and a huge outdoor garden with a stage, urban garden and fire pit. The residency is in Hubbard Farms in South West Detroit, it serves as a gathering space for creatives and community activists.

Now what is Ms. Arena doing in Detroit stay tuned………