Networked_Performance

Reblogged Azra Akšamija

azra.jpgAzra Akšamija was our guest at Upgrade! Boston last Thursday. She gave such a fascinating presentation that I began writing a summary of her talk. But Regine Debatty posted a comprehensive survey and interview with Azra on we – make – money – not – art today, so I’ve reblogged it instead. [Images: Azra demonstrating her Wearable Mosque at Upgrade! Boston in RL, above right, and in Second Life, below] Also see her Dictionary of War presentation here.

azra_secondlife.jpg

Several ways to wear a mosque
by Regine Debatty

0aaauntandedba.jpg

Survival Mosque is a kit containing elements for the self protection of Muslims living in the USA today: an American-flag pattern that communicates patriotism, an umbrella that surveys one’s back, washing solution for ablution and for cleaning when a Muslim get spit on, ear plugs against insults, American constitution proofing rights of American Muslims, a loud-speaker with speech on tolerance held by President George W. Bush, educative books, communication devices, etc. The mosque is self-sufficient; the prayer rug is supplying its own energy source via photo-voltaic solar cells. The Survival Mosque can be transformed and camouflaged into bags, which communicate with each other via bluetooth. The bag-speakers reflect paranoia spreading messages regarding terrorism, but they can also function as muezzins; calling for prayer at prayer times. The kit challenges the way diverse prejudices and fears to Muslims could be reversed.

Survival Mosque is only one of the many projects developed by Azra Akšamija to explore ways of negotiating spatial relationships of Islamic religious practices and identities in a secular and contemporary context. Born in Sarajevo, Azra is an Austrian artist and architect based in Cambridge, USA. Since fall 2004 she is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Architecture (History Theory and Criticism Section / Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture) at MIT. She is currently researching her dissertation on contemporary mosque architecture in post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Azra Akšamija´s mosque projects address states and needs of a cosmopolitan generation of Muslims, and provide a reinterpretation of the underlying histories and cultural traditions. Whether they take the form of a landscape of prayer-rugs installed in public space or the form of a series of Wearable Mosques, her projects reveal the variable typology of the mosque, which can adapt itself to the different contexts and cultures. One of Akšamija´s aims is to shift the focus from the biased and politicized representations of Islam in favor of the beauty of artifacts from Islamic aesthetic culture.

I found so many fascinating elements in each of her works (attention to details, crucial contemporary issues and originality in the way she engages with them, references to both traditional and modern culture, etc.) that i had to bother her with my many questions:

Do you see the items of clothing related to your Nomadic Mosque project as garments that could be really used and worn or more as a mean to trigger discussion?

0aaajesaiso7.jpg 0aajesaisp.jpg
The Nomadic Mosque, clothes that can be transformed into prayer-rugs

The “wearable mosques” are meant both to provoke discussions and to be used for prayer. My intention was to question and deconstruct the established categories that define mosque architecture, which, as a form of representation, designates Islamic cultures. If I call a suit or a jacket a mosque, I had to design them to fulfill liturgical necessities, as well as other important social functions that mosques usually provide. Otherwise, these objects could not be called mosques. However, these clothes also show that mosques do not have to be designed as buildings. Different kinds of spaces, such as apartments or sports halls, can also be reused to become mosques and provide prayer space and social services. By designing wearable mosques I not only investigate formal limits of the mosque architecture, but also propose a novel way of communicating Islamic presence and identity on an individual level.

0adindllllr.jpgThe Dirndl, a traditional Austrian dress inspired the Dirndlmoschee which can be transformed into an Islamic prayer environment that provides a prayer space for 3 people

How did people from various religious beliefs react to them? Which kind of discussion do these works give rise to?

The wearable mosques function as communicators with and between Muslims and non-Muslims. My first interaction involving these clothes happened on the beach in Boston, when I was filming a video about prayer and ablution at different places. I coincidentally met a passerby Muslim woman there, whom asked to pray with me. Unexpectedly, she was not even surprised my proposal, and she agreed to help me with the video. The nicest moment during this action was that she started helping me to unfold the clothes, and this, for me, represented an act of bonding through the mosque itself.

Since then, I have been showing the wearable mosques to varied people, such as the students of the Muslim Student Association at MIT, high school children, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as mixed art audiences at various venues. Once, I was also invited to talk to children at a Unitarian Church in Boston as a part of their religious education, and we laughed the fact that a mosque came to visit a church, literally. In all these cases, people reacted to my projects very positively. Themes that come up in such events and discussions regard the position of religion and spirituality within secular contexts, understanding of the mosque as ephemeral space, necessity of domes and minarets for mosques, gendered spaces in Islam and position of women in the mosque, as well as issues of cultural identity.

It seems that the wearable mosques allow for discussion of these themes in a novel way. Most recently, I have also been contemplating about them becoming a product. My intention is to create an online shop for wearable mosques and other religious equipment, which would bring together designers, producers and consumers from different cultures and age groups with an economic concept. “Mosque as a product” could fulfill various charitable functions, give work to unemployed women, and act as a social binder across cultural, political, and geographic boundaries.

Your garments –such as the Dirndlmoschee dress or the Frontier Vest, seem to be very carefully designed and crafted, yet your background is not in fashion design but in architecture. Which kind of relationship do you perceive between architecture and fashion design?

0alakjuive22.jpg
The Frontier Vest hybridizes different religious equipment and a contemporary vest design

My projects show that fashion design can also be understood as wearable architecture. The mosque could be described by the space a worshipper occupies while praying towards Mecca. This means, that the minimal volume of the mosque is actually defined by the human body. In that sense , my wearable mosques represent customized architectural expressions of an individual identities. Although they are clothes, I consider them not only as fashion, but as “statements to wear”.

0aadavesst.jpg
The Frontier Vest

Did you have to get some help from a fashion designer or follow some fashion courses?

I do occasionally get professional help with the more complicated garment parts or if I have no time for sewing. However, I prefer to produce all the prototypes myself, because the very process of making clothes involves conceptual decision making. I have learned to saw when I was 12 years old. I took a basic sewing course for factory workers in Sarajevo, where I come from, where I learned to take sew from sewing patterns. I mostly take patterns from magazines or from existing clothes and then change and appropriate these according to my own sketches and ideas.

There’s a strong sense of humor in Survival Mosque. How much do you think that humor can stimulate or hinder the understanding of a critical art work?

I think humor could be very stimulating to the understanding of a critical art work, it can also help avoid moralizing, which allows for a better receptivity on the part of the viewer. However, there is a fine line between being funny and being humorous, but taken seriously. That is why I invest a lot of time in developing my projects, adding ideas and taking them out again, until I feel I have reached the right balance. For me it is important that the project remains respectful to the viewer and to its subject matter, and this can be achieved by communicating depth of knowledge about the subject and allowing for its multiple readings.

0adddddingli.jpg
Dirndlmoschee [Dirndl Dress Mosque]

Several designers, artists and architects have worked on the idea of wearable architecture. Is there anyone in particular whose work in that field you admire or who has influenced your own research?

Krzysztof Wodiczko’s interventionist art projects, and Lucy Orta’s transformable clothes have informed my work. They are among artists who I highly admire and see as teachers. Krzysztof Wodiczko was my professor at MIT and I developed my fist prototype for the “Nomadic Mosque” within his class “Interrogative Design Workshop” that dealt with the notion “fearless speech” in public space. Prof. Wodiczko and my classmates have greatly contributed to the development of my projects.

Thanks Azra!

The work of Azra Aksamija is part of the group show Encounters which runs at the Stadsgalerij Heerlen (NL) through November 11, 2007. The works presented in Encounters examine the tension between the dominant visual culture, often confirmed by the ‘official’ media, and possible alternative visions. They function as a starting point for people to ask questions about themes such as democratisation, emancipation, and globalisation.


Oct 22, 18:56
Trackback URL

Leave a comment

Tags


calls + opps performance livestage exhibition installation networked mobile writings participatory locative media augmented/mixed reality event new media video interactive public net art conference virtual intervention distributed second life sound political technology narrative festival tactical lecture art + science conversation social networks social games history surveillance dance music workshop urban mapping collaboration live upgrade! reblog activist wearable immersive public/private data architecture platform body collective aesthetics environment systems city identity film visualization culture telematic wireless web 2.0 site-specific ecology place webcast open source tool software text research intermedia space community audio radio nature hybrid 3-D avatar e-literature audio/visual responsive presence pyschogeography interdisciplinary media object interview physical global/ization ubiquitous theory theater biotechnology relational play code archive bioart generative news DIY robotic light place-specific hacktivism synthetic p2p cinema remix education agency interface language im/material live cinema algorithmic labor copyright simulation mashup animation perception image free/libre software multimedia artificial motion tracking voice convergence streaming reenactment gift economy machinima emergence webcam cyberreality glitch DJ/VJ tv censorship ARG nonlinear tag transdisciplinary touch recycle asynchronous fabbing semantic web hypermedia chance synesthesia biopolitics tangible app social choreography gesture unconference forking 1
1 3-D activist aesthetics agency algorithmic animation app architecture archive ARG art + science artificial asynchronous audio audio/visual augmented/mixed reality avatar bioart biopolitics biotechnology body calls + opps censorship chance cinema city code collaboration collective community conference convergence conversation copyright culture cyberreality dance data distributed DIY DJ/VJ e-literature ecology education emergence environment event exhibition fabbing festival film forking free/libre software games generative gesture gift economy glitch global/ization hacktivism history hybrid hypermedia identity im/material image immersive installation interactive interdisciplinary interface intermedia intervention interview labor language lecture light live live cinema livestage locative media machinima mapping mashup media mobile motion tracking multimedia music narrative nature net art networked new media news nonlinear object open source p2p participatory perception performance physical place place-specific platform play political presence public public/private pyschogeography radio reblog recycle reenactment relational remix research responsive robotic second life semantic web simulation site-specific social social choreography social networks software sound space streaming surveillance synesthesia synthetic systems tactical tag tangible technology telematic text theater theory tool touch transdisciplinary tv ubiquitous unconference upgrade! urban video virtual visualization voice wearable web 2.0 webcam webcast wireless workshop writings

Archives

2019

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2018

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2017

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2016

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2015

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2014

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2013

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2012

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2011

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2010

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2009

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2008

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2007

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2006

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2005

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2004

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul

What is this?

Networked Performance (N_P) is a research blog that focuses on emerging network-enabled practice.
Read more...

RSS feeds

N_P offers several RSS feeds, either for specific tags or for all the posts. Click the top left RSS icon that appears on each page for its respective feed. What is an RSS feed?

Bloggers

F.Y.I.

Feed2Mobile
Networked
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.
New American Radio
Turbulence.org
Networked_Music_Review
Upgrade! Boston
Massachusetts Cultural Council
New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency
Thinking Blogger Award

Turbulence Works

These are some of the latest works commissioned by Turbulence.org's net art commission program.
[ openspace ] wilderness [meme.garden] A More Subtle Perplex A Temporary Memorial Project for Jobbers' Canyon Built with ConAgra Products A Travel Guide A.B.S.M.L. Ars Virtua Artist-in-Residence (AVAIR) (2007) Awkward_NYC besides, Bonding Energy Bronx Rhymes Cell Tagging Channel TWo: NY Condition:Used Constellation Over Playas Data Diaries Domain of Mount GreylockVideo Portal Eclipse Empire State Endgame: A Cold War Love Story Flight Lines From the Valley of the Deer FUJI spaces and other places Global Direct Google Variations Gothamberg Grafik Dynamo Grow Old Handheld Histories as Hyper-Monuments html_butoh I am unable to tell you I'm Not Stalking You; I'm Socializing iLib Shakespeare (the perturbed sonnet project) INTERP Invisible Influenced iPak - 10,000 songs, 10,000 images, 10,000 abuses iSkyTV Journal of Journal Performance Studies Killbox L-Carrier Les Belles Infidles look art Lumens My Beating Blog MYPOCKET No Time Machine Nothing Happens: a performance in three acts Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise Oil Standard Panemoticon Peripheral n2: KEYBOARD Playing Duchamp Plazaville Psychographics: Consumer Survey Recollecting Adams School of Perpetual Training Searching for Michelle/SFM Self-Portrait Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China ShiftSpace Commissions Program Social Relay Mail Space Video Spectral Quartet Superfund365, A Site-A-Day text_ocean The Xanadu Hijack This and that thought. Touching Gravity 2/Tilt Tumbarumba Tweet 4 Action Urban Attractors and Private Distractors We Ping Good Things To Life Wikireuse Without A Trace WoodEar Word Market You Don't Know Me
More commissions