Azra Akšamija Awarded Tenure

Azra Aksamija, Course 4.302 | Foundations in Art, Design, and Spatial Practices, 2019
ACT at MIT

ACT Professor, Artist, and Architectural Historian Azra Akšamija was granted tenure effective July 1, 2019 in the MIT Department of Architecture. She has been a member of the Architecture and ACT faculty since 2011, where she teaches numerous courses, much beloved by students. Of her teaching philosophy, she said, “All of my courses combine a research seminar with an art studio, engaging students in learning, critical thinking, museum visits, and creative work, both individually and collectively. I teach about art and through art.”

Through her multi-disciplinary work, Akšamija investigates the politics of identity and memory on the scale of the body (clothing and wearable technologies), on the civic scale (religious architecture and cultural institutions), and within the context of history and global cultural flows. Her projects explore creative responses to conflict and crisis though transcultural aesthetics, civic preservation, and  through co-creation, and in the process, she provides a framework for analyzing and intervening in contested socio-political realities.

She is the Director of the Future Heritage Lab. Founded in 2015, the Future Heritage Lab collaborates with communities affected by conflict and crisis to collect and preserve histories of transcultural exchange and histories of threatened monuments, artifacts, textiles, and crafts. Participants design and implement civic-scale collaborative art projects that function as carriers of collective memory. The sourcing of stories takes place in transcultural workshops, which also aim to promote social cohesion and coexistence through knowledge exchange and co-creation. Accordingly, the workshops provide a framework for education focused on art and cultural heritage, in which participants contribute as tutors, listeners, and creators. The artistic creation and the transdisciplinary education together form their third pillar of work: cultural preservation. Linking art, culture, and technology, the Future Heritage Lab regenerates relevance of cultural heritage for contemporary conditions and for the future.

Since 2000, Akšamija has produced over 40 artistic projects and 112 exhibitions. She has also curated 14 shows, and since her faculty appointment at MIT in 2011, she has published two artist books and a range of articles. Her first book, Mosque Manifesto, was published in 2011, and in 2018 she published Museum Solidarity Lobby.

In her personal statement, Akšamija wrote:
I am an artist practicing in the public sphere. My art asks how alienation could be turned into empowerment. I work with textiles, photography, design, animation, and writing. Rooted in the history and theory of art and architecture, my artistic practice and academic research explore how social life is affected by cultural bias and by deterioration and destruction of cultural infrastructures within the context of conflict, migration, and forced displacement. My aim is to imagine ameliorative and transformative gestures and utopian programs. Building on the rich legacy of art concerned with the production of social relations under nationalism and capitalism, my work stands out for its subjects, its research-driven methodology, and the assertion of the art object as a mediator between social and aesthetic critiques. I seek to enhance knowledge and raise critical awareness of the conditions, causes, and consequences of social alienation to both inform the field and impact society.