Mn Artists Presents: [Your Name Here]

Mn Artists Presents: Essma Imady

August 23, 2018

Who can art speak for? To investigate the question of representation, artists in Minnesota are connecting with artists in countries that cannot receive visas under the current administration. They have been asked to create a piece based on their conversation and interaction with the artist, an art piece created “by proxy”. Can the work by the local artist speak for the artist abroad? Will it only speak for the artist who initiated the piece? Or will the meaning of the work be determined by the audience, thus making the audience the final artist by proxy?

Essma Imady is an installation and film artist and curator currently based in the Twin Cities. She grew up in Damascus, Syria, and was dislocated to Minnesota in 2011 where she simultaneously had a daughter and received her MFA from MCAD. Her practice addresses the political aspects of the personal, the formation of identities, and the complicated relation between vision and knowledge.

Artists & projects:

My Garden is a Security Threat
Performance | 5-9 pm 

Leila Awadallah and Asma Ghanem share a heritage, and their collaboration strove to understand the limits of a people’s history and their movement. Asma, a composer based in Palestine, wrote a piece for Leila, a performer, who visited the West Bank for the first time this year. Leila’s performance translates Asma’s work into a performance piece, informed by the stories and muscle memories she gathered in Palestine this year.

Leila Awadallah is a Palestinian-American dancer, choreographer and filmmaker based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is in her fifth year as a company member of the touring ensemble Ananya Dance Theatre and a co-creator of the local dance trio Kelvin Wailey. Leila’s work in Arab-American contemporary dance has been performed at the Kennedy Center (2016), BIPOD in Lebanon (2017), and at TPT Studios in St. Paul (2018). She received a SAGE Award (2016) for her outstanding design in film and continues to create short films that articulate environmental and social issues. Through the Soap Factory, Leila and her collaborator Lamia Abukhadra have built installations for performance that explore states of resistance through durational improvisation. This year, she is a recipient of the Jerome Travel + Research grant. Leila traveled to Palestine to deepen investigations of Arabic folk dance, and embodied calligraphy, reflecting on bodies moving / not moving through spaces under occupation.

Asma Ghanem was born in Damascus, Syria in 1991. She has a BA from the International Academy of Arts–Palestine, and recently received her MFA degree in audio visual arts from the ISDAT (École supérieure des beaux-arts de Toulouse) in France. Asma has participated in exhibitions, residencies and workshops in Italy, Germany, France, Austria, USA, Lebanon, UAE, Norway, Jordan and Palestine and was awarded the 3rd prize in the YAYA (The Young Artist Award–The Hassan Hourani Award, 2016) for her experimental music project (Homeland is…). She was also awarded a special mention in the Palest’in & Out Festival in Paris in 2015 for her photography project.

X – Y
Installation on view 5-9 pm

Manar Zind and Preston Drum started by asking if a collaboration was even possible, when the artists are separated by both geography and native tongues. Aiming to create a piece that spoke for both of them as artists, Manar framed his vision and specified certain diameters, while Preston worked to realize Manar’s vision without diverting from his own style and artistic aesthetic.

Preston Drum was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He earned a BFA from Memphis College of Art in 2006 and an MFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2016. Though his past work was focused on creating mixed media paintings, he has recently turned towards a practice of building interactive installations that explore notions of memory and performance through non-linear storytelling. Drum’s work is often site-specific and collaborative in nature, framing the audience as a participant in the art. His work has been exhibited throughout the Midwest and southern United States at venues such as Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Walker Art Center. He currently works as an educator and studio artist in the South Metro area of the Twin Cities.

Manar Zind is a Syrian artist and designer with an interest in public and street art. Moving between several countries in the last few years, he has participated in collective exhibitions in Damascus, Syria and Istanbul, Turkey, and and served as a facilitator for Istanbul Biennial 2017. Most recently he was part of a collective exhibition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he currently resides. Manar’s experience with the shifting ground of a refugee has turned his practice into one of bringing the museum to the people, citing his experience with feeling excluded from institutional spaces and polices.

The Last Time the King held his Son, 
His Only Son Cut Down But the Battle Won,
We will Return.
Installation on view 5-9 pm

Instead of communicating directly about the project, Aliaa Sukkar and Niky Motekallem’s collaboration was formed within the constraints and opportunities of language and translation. Aliaa sent Niky a song she had written in Arabic. Niky, a first-generation Iranian immigrant, can read Farsi, which shares an alphabet with Arabic. She therefore attempted to translate this poem/song that she couldn’t understand, but could sound out phonetically, into a painting.

Niky Motekallem is an Iranian-American freelance illustrator. Originally from Ohio, she moved to Minnesota to receive her Masters in Fine Arts at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her work focuses on mythology, flora and fauna in various states of decay, and the transformation of matter. She uses vibrant colors and intricate detail to lure the viewer in to look at otherwise unsavory things. Her work has been featured in shows at Gallery Nucleus Portland, Mondo Gallery, Third Thursdays at the MIA, and Light Grey Art Lab.

Aliaa Sukkar is a Syrian poet and songwriter. She and her husband, who is an audio engineer, started one of the first independently-run music studios in Syria, and together founded the label Studiona. They quickly became the most important independent music producers in Damascus of religious songs and wedding compilations. Aliaa’s songs very often went viral and several of her songs became iconic in religious festivals. In 2013, her and her family were displaced to Istanbul, Turkey. Since then they have produced several independent albums that have received a large measure of success with Syrian audience.

Performance | 7 pm 

John C.S. Keston and Khaled Alwarea collaborated on a work that speaks to trauma and PTSD. Their piece starts with a film created by Khaled that touches on on his own experiences. John acts as a non-neutral transmitter of the film, using his own mechanical programs and filters to change and distort its content. The final hybrid transmits sounds and images that hold traces from both artists.

John C.S. Keston is an award-winning composer of electronic, experimental, and instrumental music. His compositions convey a spirit of discovery and exploration through the use of graphic scores, chance and generative techniques, analog and digital synthesis, experimental sound design, signal processing, and acoustic piano. His compositions parallel indeterminate improvisation empowering performers to use their phonomnesis, or sonic imaginations, to contribute to the work. John has performed and exhibited at Northern Spark, the Weisman Art Museum, the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Walker Art Center, the Burnet Gallery, the In/Out Festival of Digital Performance (NYC), the Eyeo Festival, INST-INT, Echofluxx (Prague), and Moogfest. His music appears in The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012) and he scored the short Familiar Pavement (2015). He has appeared on more than a dozen albums including two solo albums on John is a professor of creative multimedia at the University of St. Thomas and founded the sound design resource

Khaled Alwarea is a Syrian architect and multidisciplinary artist based in Paris, France. His work takes multiple forms, including installation design, visual art, photography, sculpture, filmmaking, architecture, and interior design. His artwork questions human principles and values, taking a critical view of social, political and cultural issues, referencing human civilization as a whole, and exploring feelings that define us as human beings.