Azra Akšamija featured at the Kunsthaus Graz

Azra Akšamija Installation at Kunsthaus Graz, 2019. Photo: Martin Graber
ACT at MIT

Azra Akšamija, ACT professor and architectural historian, is currently being featured in the ARTS ⇆ CRAFTS exhibition at the Kunsthaus Graz in Graz, Austria.

The exhibition presents artists’ interest in old handcraft methods and production techniques through experimentation with different materials and approaches. Akšamija’s works on display include Monument in Waiting, Wanderjahre #1 and #2, Diaspora Scroll, Yarn-dez-vousand T-Serai, which all explore the preservation of culture and the ideas of migration and inequality through different iterations of cloth.

ARTS ⇆ CRAFTS at the Kunsthaus Graz reflects the interest of contemporary artists in material, in crafting processes, in experimenting with material and techniques. In the last few years, this attention has grown noticeably. The way artists handle traditional knowledge does not isolate, rather it opens up—to other cultures, to modern and contemporary art, to current discourses and digital developments. Culture is understood as a flow of varied, interrelated influences and elements.

This exhibition asks what a fruitful dialogue between art and craft might look like and places both in a larger social context. It mediates between contemporary art, craftsmanship and new technologies, traces cultural transfers across national borders, explores intermediate areas and transition zones. The importance and appreciation of craft as an essential component of material culture, identity and community is thereby connected with social and economic conditions in a globalized world. With this approach, the artists also challenge the ways in which the homeland, people, folk culture and tradition are instrumentalized for political purposes. The works show the extent to which local identification and global developments have long since slid into one another. Moreover, they ask how, given the present economic circumstances, a “crafted” relationship between workers and the objects they work can be conceived and put into practice.

In an excerpt from the press release for ARTS ⇆ CRAFTS discussing Akšamija’s works:

“Azra Akšamija examines how cultural experience and knowledge can be exchanged and preserved. As the bearer of this experience and knowledge handed down over generations, craft plays an important role here. Monument in Waiting, a kilim woven by Bosnian women, tells the story of their displacement and mass murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Wanderjahre #1 and #2 explore cultural transfers within the context of labour migration. Yarn-dez-vous, a quilt made of textiles from the MENA region and the USA, can be transformed into blouson jackets. Diaspora Scroll, a growing archive, uses textile art as a resource in order to understand cross fertilisation between cultures and promote a cross-border dialogue. T-Serai serves as a portable shelter and is inspired by the tent traditions of the MENA region. The modular design of tapestries uses recycled clothing sourced from overproduction in the global textile industry. The foundation of Future Heritage Lab allows the artist to be active as an academic, to collaborate with people across disciplinary borders and to work with concrete projects—such as in the Al Azraq refugee camp (Jordan). Art exhibitions provide Akšamija with a platform to raise awareness of the cultural and emotional needs of refugees, but also to reflect our own position within a global system of inequality. In addition, the exhibitions provide a source of funding for further activities. The Future Heritage Lab works closely with communities affected by conflicts and crises…”

The ARTS ⇆ CRAFTS exhibition runs from November 15th, 2019 to February 16, 2020 at the Kunsthaus Graz in Graz, Austria. After the exhibition ends, ARTS ⇆ CRAFTS can be seen in the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig from March 14, 2020 onwards, and in the Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover from July 13, 2020 onwards.

Full announcement can be found here.