BRIC to Present 'TRANSCOMMUNALITY,' 7/10-8/31
BRIC will present Transcommunality: Laura Anderson Barbata, Collaboration Beyond Borders this summer at BRIC House. The exhibition documents the work of Mexican-born, New York-based artist Laura Anderson Barbata; focusing on the decade-long project she pursued with stilt-walking communities in Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, and Brooklyn. Her project highlights the vitality of the moko jumbie stilt walking tradition and demonstrates the possibility of using this storied art form as a platform for social contemporary performance, group participation and protest. Spanning from 17 feet tall to just 11 inches small, the works presented in the exhibition range from textile-based to sculptural objects, as well as photographs, videos, and projections that document the collaborative projects. Overall, the exhibition comprises approximately 60 pieces including over 20 towering dressed figures and 23 alebrijes (miniature wooden figures). A traveling exhibition, the presentation of Transcommunality at BRIC House will be the inaugural showing in the United States, on view July 10-August 31, 2014, with an opening reception on July 9 from 7-9pm. BRIC House is located at 647 Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn; admission is free.
Moko jumbies are stilt walkers or dancers involved in street performance. The tradition originated in West Africa and was then brought to the Caribbean via the slave trade. The word "moko" is derived from the name of an African deity, and "jumbie" is a West Indian word for "spirit" or "ghost." Frequently a part of festivals and celebrations such as Carnival, the tradition all but died out in the 20th century until the Keylemanjahro School of Arts and Culture was established in 1986 in Cocorite, Trinidad and Tobago. The school aims to keep young people from Cocorite (an underserved neighborhood of Port of Spain) off the street. With this group, Anderson Barbata collaborated on thematic productions of concurrent moko jumbie activities, filming the performances (which were aired nationally on TV) and connecting participants to larger groups of creative professionals. Anderson Barbata's Moko Jumbie project, showcased in the Transcommunality exhibition, began in 2001 out of her involvement with the school, and presents her work with stilt walking groups in Trinidad and Tobago; Oaxaca, Mexico; and Brooklyn, New York. The title of the exhibition, Transcommunality, is based on the concept of building bridges between international communities, in this case, with those practitioners who incorporate stilt dancing into their lives as a way to maintain ancient tradition.
Laura Anderson Barbata is known for her participatory, collaborative art, often involving partnerships with local artisans. The relationships forged with collaborators and the cultural exchanges that take place are the most important components for the artist. Transcommunality encompasses community art, public art, social intervention, performance and sculpture, focusing on an artist who has dedicated her practice to confronting the hierarchies of so-called "fine art" and popular art, craft and folk traditions. In 2011, she designed a performance with the Brooklyn Jumbies called Intervention: Wall Street, engaging in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the social and economic issues it raised.
Transcommunality: Laura Anderson Barbata, Collaboration Beyond Borders has previously been presented at the Centro de las Artes de Nuevo Leon, Monterrey; Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico, D.F.; and Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Mexico. A book, published by Turner, was produced in conjunction. The exhibition at BRIC House will be the first showing in the United States, after which it will travel to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where the project will be part of the spring 2015 Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program. It will subsequently continue in Europe.
Laura Anderson Barbata said, "The knowledge of what others are living through opens our eyes and expands our conscience. And this awareness and experience allows us to identify with others and also brings us closer to our own voice, so that we can ask ourselves: What do I think? What is my responsibility? What can I do? I have found that the only place that I can find the answer is in my work, in other words, in the practice of art. The Transcommunality exhibition aims to connect various cultures through the platform of contemporary art in order to initiate collaborations, exchange, and knowledge. Through this exercise of shared experiences and cultures, we are able to recognize and value each tradition as its own manifestation, which connects us to the past while projecting us towards a future in which all voices have a place and are supported by each other."
Elizabeth Ferrer, Director of Contemporary Art at BRIC said, "Laura Anderson Barbata's art practice pushes the boundaries of art making: it is collaborative, performative, and transdisciplinary. Working with varied communities, she imagines the ways that the visual arts can play a decisive role in fostering creative thinking and community expression. Moreover, the Caribbean and Mexican communities with which the artist has worked have a growing presence in Brooklyn; with this exhibition we can really link the local with the global."
Leslie Schultz, President of BRIC said, "Transcommunality is a culturally-focused exhibition that is a perfect match for BRIC's striking yet welcoming new gallery space at BRIC House. The exquisite quality of the works in the show, Anderson Barbata's focus on a significant tradition in the cultures of Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, and the core intent of the artist to build connections between people through art, mirrors BRIC's goal to present important art that reflects and resonates with the culturally diverse residents of Brooklyn.