CULTURUNNERS at the Armory Show_Mar 5-8, 2015

CULTURUNNERS RV, Photomontage by Azra Aksamija. (© Azra Aksamija, 2015)

ACT Assistant Professor Azra Aksamija along with MIT and ACT students, alumni and staff, is participating in the Armory Show from March 5–8 on Pier 94 in NYC, with the New York edition of CULTURUNNERS that she curated for the Armory Show‘s Special Projects Edition.

CULTURUNNERS is an ongoing artistic expedition across borders. At the heart of the project is the development of cultural technologies that support artists in exploring and communicating alternative and often unofficial histories that can link communities between the MENAM regions and United States. CULTURUNNERS takes shape through physical journeys and artistic creations supported by technologies for intercultural communication created at MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). CULTURUNNERS at The Armory Show 2015 is sited in a mobile artist studio and broadcast vehicle, in the form of a modified Gulf Stream RV, using custom-built artistic technologies to map, archive, and amplify stories and voices from the Focus section of the fair and related communities across New York.

CULTURUNNERS is co-authored by Azra Aksamija, MIT Assistant Professor, and Stephen Stapleton, Director of Edge of Arabia, and developed in collaboration with artists who have spent a decade traveling between the US and the Middle East – from the UK over Yemen to Saudi Arabia and Iran, and from the Balkans across Central Europe to United States. The expedition it is a core component of Edge of Arabia’s ongoing US Tour in partnership with Art Jameel, and is affiliated with MIT’s Program in Art, Culture and Technology.

CULTURUNNERS at the Armory Show is curated by Azra Aksamija and produced with assistant curator Jessica Varner, a PhD  student in the MIT Program in History, Theory and Criticism of Art and Architecture. The expedition hosts projects developed with a number of MIT graduate and undergraduate students, alumni and staff:

YARN-DEZ-VOUS: a giant quilt made of American and Middle Eastern textiles that can be transformed into Letterman jackets. The project is authored by Azra Aksamija. The jacket design and prototypes were developed with Andrea Boit, Lillian Harden and Karina Silvester (MArch), alumna from MIT’s Department of Architecture. Fabrication team includes Emily Tow, Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, Bjorn Eric Sparrman, graduate student in ACT Program, along with Emma Harden and Elliot McLaughlin. Project videos are produced by Gedney H Barclay, graduate student in the ACT Program and Sooyoung Kwon (SMACT), recent alumna from the ACT Program. The videos feature the participation of  20 MIT students and staff members.

FREEWAY: the online broadcast platform of Edge of Arabia’s US Tour. FREEWAY will explore connections between the Armory Focus and MENAM communities across New York. FREE­ WAY@ Armory is curated by Ava Ansari in collaboration with Husam AlSayed from Telfaz 11, and supported by Solar Ansari, Yousef Poursohi and Hillary Sand. Participating artists include Brian Zeeger, FOUNDLAND and Ayman Yossri.

MENAM ART MAP: based on a text-network analysis of the region’s contemporary art scene. Created by NU Lab for Text, Maps and Networks at Northeastern University, which includes: Dietmar Offenhuber, MIT SA+P alumnus (MAS from MediaLab and PhD from DUSP) and current Assistant Professor in the departments of Art + Design and Public Policy, Nick Beauchamp, Assistant Professor in Department of Political Science, Christoph Riedl, Assistant Professor for Information Systems, and Research Assistants Armin Akhavan and Rohith Vallu.

THE FLYING CARPET: A series of performances by Darvish Fakhr, who will use a customized, motorized longboard (long skateboard) / Persian Carpet to travel through selected MENAM communities across New York.

AUTOLUMINSECENCE: live audio/visual performances improvising with audio and video samples collected from MENAM communities.  Created by artists Madeleine Gallagher, Media Associate, and John Steiner, Media Assistant, both from MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology.

‪A Now for MENAM: a digital calendar that negotiates different perceptions and experiences of time across cultural artifacts of MENAM and the US regions. Created‪ by Orkan Telhan (MAS from MediaLab and PhD from Architecture Computation), Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Emerging Design Practices in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.

RV SKIN-NY:  An interactive re-skinning of the exterior of the CULTURUNNERS RV linked to phase 2 of the CULTURUNNERS WEBSITE which will be launched on the first day of the fair. Led by Azra Aksamija and Stephen Stapleton and designed by Kuba Rudzinski. Website by One Darnley Road.


As lead Education Partner for the Armory Symposium, Art Jameel will host a special CULTURUNNERS panel discussion on Friday 6th March. Featured Panelists include: Azra Aksamija, MIT and CULTURNNERS co-author; Husam Al Sayed, Telfaz 11; Matthew Mazzotta (SMVisS), Artist, ACT alumnus and former lecturer in ACT Program; Ava Ansari, Edge of Arabia Associate Curator. Moderated by Renata  Papsch, GM Art Jameel.


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