Mother Tongues / Endangered Languages in NYC and Beyond

Mother Tongues is a call to action to preserve NYC’s linguistic diversity
ranging from endangered languages to the NYC accent, a unique opportunity to meet
and learn about New York City’s remarkably diverse linguistic communities.
Linguists estimate that half of the world’s languages will disappear this century.
NYC is a living language lab where there are more spoken and endangered languages than
anywhere else in the world. New York City is home to over 700 languages, and many of
these are in danger of being lost. At the heart of the exhibit were ten large, high-quality
photographs by Yuri Marder, featuring ELA’s local collaborators in New York City,
each one of whom speaks a different endangered language. Accompanying several portraits
were sound recordings and short written texts. The exhibit also included a map highlight
New York’s connection to linguistic diversity across the globe, a children’s
book and game section, information on New York City English, and an area where visitors
could record their own language. Many visitors contributed to the show by adding a line
to the “People’s Khonsay”, an evolving poem in 50 different languages,
in their own mother tongue. Over 2,000 visitors had the chance to encounter endangered
languages, and the exhibit was also featured on Channel 7 and Channel 4 News in New York City,
as well as on NPR.

Live Through This

An exhibition showcasing photographer Dese’Rae L. Stage’s ongoing portrait
and oral history series on suicide attempt survivors. Attempt survivors are
a group forced into anonymity, shamed, and stigmatized by a society misinformed
about emotional trauma and resulting preventable deaths. The design peels back
the cloak of anonymity and builds awareness surrounding the taboo topic of suicide.
It revealed new portraits and prompted interaction around the issue with a
unconventional guided tour, an online game called “Depression Quest” (which simulates
life with depression, for those unfamiliar), audio of subjects’ interviews, and talks.

If You Build It

No Longer Empty (NLE) was commissioned to create "If You Build It,"
a mutli-level art exhibition for the inaugural opening of their development
in Sugar Hill, Harlem. Working with new construction posed a new set
of challenges for NLE, an organization that has mastered temporary art
and community engagement projects in raw spaces. The exhibition identity
had to reiterate the existing NLE identity, while also being unique to
the nature of the current project. We incorporated the existing "ribbons"
and color palette of NLE, which contrasted well with the dark-toned materials
of the new building. The identity included a lock-up for the exhibition title
and an abstract pattern for various scales, from environmental graphics
to hand-held materials. NLE produces extensive social and educational
programming, which require flexible templates for last-minute changes in-house.
Way-finding focused on egress in order to encourage visitors to experience
the building and wander between artworks.

Photos of the entire exhibition available here.

Bi-lingual artwork labels

Artwork labels designed for Abreaction 2: Muscle Memory 
in the Middle East and the Caucasus at Freeman Space,
July 10–23, 2014. Curated by Caroline Partamian in collaboration
with Isabella Bruno. The design intention was to evenly weigh
the artist statement in their native language and English
translation with an elegant solution encouraging visitor interaction.



Artwork label in Arabic and English translation from BRUNO on Vimeo.

Abreaction 2 / Muscle Memory in the Middle East and the Caucasus

This exhibition continues the Muscle Memory series initiated by Caroline Partamian,
digging deeper into the concept of abreaction by working with artists who have a family
history in refugee, revolution, civil war, or genocide. Abreaction is the extraction
of memory stored within a muscle, resurfaced through kinetics and physical movement,
of which the individual was previously unaware.

Partamian asks, “How does becoming conscious of their kinetic movement and families’
memories while creating their artwork affect the process and outcome of the work?”
While artists have “abreaction" in mind, the design of the exhibition furthers it with labels
and signage that require visitors to do repetitive movements, bringing the unconscious
into the foreground. A textile artwork by Lynn Hunter, Jess Rees, and Hannah Schultz
evolved over the course of the exhibition in the gallery windows, drawing reference
to the reclamation of memories that are stored indefinitely in our muscles. 
While the curatorial theme is largely performative, artists who produce non-ephemeral
forms of art are asked to explore it. Artists Bassel Al-Madani (of the band “Bassel and
the Supernaturals”) in collaboration with his bandmate Philip Anderson, and Angel
Deradoorian (formerly of “The Dirty Projectors”) presented sound works, alongside
the large two-dimensional works of Ibrahim Ahmed, Samer Almadani, and Shadi Ghadirian.

Caroline Partamian was Summer 2014 Exhibitor-in-Residence at Freeman Space.

View a short interview recorded during the residency.