Black & White Project Space: Alina & Jeff Bliumis Casual Conversations in Brooklyn - 7 Mar 2009 to 14 June 2009
BLACK & WHITE PROJECT SPACE for site-specific installations
Black & White Project Space is a not-for-profit organization committed to production, presentation and promotion of site-specific installations that are under-represented in commercial galleries because of their scope, content, or production cost.
Black & White Project Space will prominently feature site specific installations stressing the links between the indoor and outdoor environments by dedicating the entire space to a single artist or artist collective.
We emphasize artists who are emerging to mid-career in their development and manifest the spectrum of creative approaches to contemporary art.
Alina & Jeff Bliumis
Casual Conversations in Brooklyn
March 7- June 14, 2009
Casual Conversations in Brooklyn explores and documents the experience of immigration in America. Alina and Jeff Bliumis take up the issues of assimilation, alienation, and the diasporic elements of American society by focusing on one community, the third wave of Russian-Jewish immigrants that arrived to the United States between the 1970s and 1990s.
The project is based on a series of public dialogues, interactions, and conversations staged in the Brighton Beach community in Brooklyn. By bringing contemporary art out of the gallery and into the community, we create a kind of art/research laboratory in the public realm.
Casual Conversations looks at the conflicting desires of this still nascent community:
How does one retain cultural roots while simultaneously creating a new identity? Confronted with radically different experiences, these Americans search for new identities that match their new lives. Every staged conversation aims to provoke its participants to react and to reflect. Every event targets some issue - whether personal or communal - and attempts to elicit a reaction that will eventually become a brushstroke in this community portrait.
As Grant H. Kester noted in his book Conversation Pieces “the concept of a dialogical art practice is derived from the Russian literary theorist Michael Bakhtin, who argued that the work of art can be viewed as a kind of conversation - a locus of differing meanings, interpretations, and points of view.” Casual Conversations in Brooklyn exemplifies this definition of art by documenting the spontaneity of daily conversations and public interactions. By creating these social “portraits”, the project records a quickly shifting experience as it moves from moment to moment, from present to past.
Casual Conversations in Brooklyn consists of the following:
Boardwalk, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY (July 7, 2007)
In the early morning on a sunny July weekend, we asked beachgoers to define their identity. Each participant could pose with any of three signs (with the words “Russian”, “Jewish”, and “American”) or come up with their own self-definition by creating a unique sign. This event was photographed.
St. Petersburg bookstore, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY (July 27, 2007)
We asked shoppers in this popular Russian-language bookstore to share their American Dream with us by writing or drawing it with a magic marker on a “thought bubble”. Why did we use a bookstore? During the Iron Curtain era books and films played a very important role in the shaping of an image of the West. During the project, almost every participant shared his or her immigration story with us. We
chose some of those stories to accompany the photos. This event was photographed.
Let’s Drink. Let’s Talk. Free.
Discount Liquors & Wines, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY (August 18, 2007)
We invited shoppers and passersby to drink with us, talk, share a story, or make a toast. This event was photographed and videotaped. A proposed outdoor installation called the
Spectrum of the Real and Imaginary Happiness will be on view from the first day of the exhibition. At the same time a photo and the text documentation of various ‘casual conversations” events will be presented inside the gallery.
Spectrum of the Real and Imaginary Happiness is not dedicated to any particular character we met during the project, but rather it is meant to relate to most everyone.
We are proposing to cover the outdoor space with strips of grass-like material in all various tones of green, - from pale to vivid and all in between. White fences will draw lines on intersection of colors. Fences will be about a foot high and it will be easy to step over them.
Referencing the old expression “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” - the installation
symbolizes the human nature in search of the pursued of happiness. As in many cases with Casual Conversations participants, they crossed borders in order to “find” better lives for themselves and their families. But after crossing one border –fence, one just discovers another one, maybe not of a physical nature, but cultural or social or personal that have to be overcome, and then another one and more and more borders and fences... For immigrants overcoming those barriers sometimes are a matter of survival. In general we are talking about common disability to stay and be happy just the way we are. This installation symbolizes the hopes and perceptions of happiness that are common to all the people and at the same time it signifies the unreal expectations and broken dreams.
Taking in consideration that photos, text and art works inside will be dedicated to participants personal experiences, stories and dreams, we think that it would be only appropriate to have the outdoor installation generalizing those stories as well as starting a separate and new conversation.