Donna Akrey kicks off the night. Donna lives in Montreal, Canada and is Assistant Professor at the Studio Arts department of Concordia University. She shows us many of her projects, all made with found material. The city is her inspiration.
The 1st of July is known as Moving Day in Montreal. Most standard leases expire on July 1st, which means that all renters in the city are moving to a new apartment at the same time. During this yearly event Donna collected furniture left behind by movers in the streets and alleyways. Together with artist Yvette Poorter she made a giant structure called Palindrome inside a gallery that visitors could walk into, onto and contribute to. Donna and Yvette then built furniture themselves from old pallets and placed them at several locations throughout the city. Everyone was free to take the furniture home. This way Donna and Yvette returned to the streets what they had taken away.
The urban environment also had an effect on Donna’s work when she lived in Calgary, a city she didn’t like at all. For HAVENWOODPOINTEGREENTERRACE-INC she collected wooden material from construction sites and worked on site in a gallery. There she systematically created little houses from the wood, as a commentary on the building techniques employed by the construction workers who churn out boring suburbia by way of mass production. After the exhibition was over, Donna brought the little houses back to the construction sites.
Finally, Donna shows us some works by her students, who took their art on the road with a small cart and moved it around the city. The cart functioned among other things as a duct tape-sculpture, a video cart, a portable theatre and a ‘nomadesk’; a mobile working place for the workaholic who enjoys a change of scenery.
Go to Donna's blog for more of her work.
Osama talks about his recent work that caused quite a stir when he exhibited it in the US. Water Boarding (2008) is an upside down portrait of US Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps. The title refers to a form of torture employed by US intelligence officers during interrogations. Another photograph is of a chair with one of the springs sticking out, and is titled Electric Chair (2008). When Osama first presented this work, some people thought it was disrespectful and asked him why he interfered in these issues. They suggested he should make work about Arabs, bombs and terrorism instead.
Towards the end of Osama’s talk, questions in the audience arise about Shahada Flag (2008). The Shahada is the Muslim declaration of belief that proclaims Allah is the only god and Muhammed is his messenger. The text can be found all over the Middle East; in houses, on t-shirts and even on the coffee mug of Osama's mother. But it is also used on several national flags, as well as on the flag of Al-Qaeda. Osama shows us a picture of his work in a gallery in the United States: it’s a very clean presentation of the Shahada in typical calligraphy writing printed on fabric. He explains that people reacted to the work in very diverse ways; some thought it was too controversial, others thought he didn’t take it far enough. Osama noticed that the people who talk about the threat of Al-Qaeda all the time didn’t recognise the image at all. In this way the work exposed the ignorance that dominates many people’s thinking about the Muslim world.
One member of the audience asks Osama why he didn’t exhibit his mother’s mug that has the Shahada printed on it. Osama answers that he could have done that, but that wasn’t the work he wanted to make. He wanted to see what would happen if he showed the Shahada in this particular way, to find out if it was possible and to learn from people's reactions. It pleases him that the salon audience also has strong opinions about his work.
For more about Osama, read the interview that took place before the salon here.