Augmented Reality

As an artist whose work spans performance art, music, sound, light, architecture, and virtual reality, Vesna Petresin’s perspective is in great demand. In addition to designing Lumisonica for The Mint Museum, Vesna has had a busy year full of exciting projects. During the last six weeks alone, she presented at three major events: the Netherlands Film Festival (Utrecht, The Netherlands, September 27 – October 5); the Beyond Festival and Symposium (Center for Media Arts, Karlsruhe, Germany, October 3 – 7); and VR Days Europe (Amsterdam, October 24 – 26). Additionally, she gave a talk at the TNW Conference at the Technical University of Munich in March, and since January has served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Amsterdam Academy for the Arts.

Vesna Petresin performing in Open Studio, a mixed reality experience, ID Lab, Theatre and Dance Academy, Amsterdam 2018

According to its website, the Netherlands Film Festival is “the leading platform for the Netherlands’ national film culture. It celebrates the achievements of Dutch filmmakers and provides the bridge between film culture and all facets of Dutch society….It is active throughout the year, stimulating and promoting Dutch film culture before the 9-day extravaganza in late September” when the best productions of the previous 12 months are presented. “These days, cinema is more than just films, and so NFF incorporates into its program disciplines that draw inspiration from, and themselves influence, the cinematic narrative form, from TV drama, music, and visual arts to games and interactive productions.” This year was the festival’s 38th year.

Vesna spoke on a panel in the “Our Brave New World” session, moderated by Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest, a researcher, writer, and lecturer at Utrecht University. In Vesna’s words, this panel was “about the utopian and dystopian aspects of new imaging and media technologies.” In describing her talk, entitled “The Real and the Virtual of VR,” she wrote, “The strength of Virtual Reality is that it offers the possibility to experience artificial realities as real: time and space fused into a “modulated” reality. Within this medium, my performance work has a strong idiosyncratic signature, exploring the medium in various contexts. My work is in transdisciplinary art and Research & Development – through performance and public art I examine the processes of transformation and the concept of time.”

Following her talk, Vesna presented Matter = Information, a new immersive sound and light VR experience for HTC Hive, which she created in collaboration with the Dutch VR developer Aron Fels.

Vesna Petresin and Aron Fels, still image from Matter = Information, 2018

The theme for this year’s Beyond Festival was Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Post-Capitalism. Its website states: “Within the coming decades new technologies are going to change our lives and the way we perceive it beyond our expectations. The BEYOND Festival is a creative collaboration of science, technology and art, an experimental laboratory for new forms of art, which simultaneously offers a glance at social effects regarding new technologies in a global context…It is a festival of films, audio-visual installations and additionally a symposium which exhibits new forms of art and media, such as 2D, 3D, artificial intelligence, virtual-, mixed- and augmented reality.”

Vesna expanded on the idea of matter as information in her talk, “Present Continuous.” She describes the talk thusly: “As the world of technology focuses on the process from bits to particles and from particles back to bits, the impact of social change through technology gives rise to a digital world order. Here, our value is defined by what we contribute to data processing. The culture of flow, Interaction, sharing, tracking, prosuming [serving as both producer and consumer], redefines ways in which we learn, work, trade, communicate and relax. In the world when the ancient myths are fused with emergent godlike technologies such as artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, how will we define what it means to be human?” Vesna presented similar ideas in her talk at the Technical University of Munich in March.

After the talk Vesna again presented the VR experience, Matter = Information.

Vesna Petresin and Aron Fels, still image from Matter = Information, 2018

For the exhibition portion of the Beyond Festival, Vesna showed The Scores of Chaos, a VR experience based on composer György Ligeti’s musical notation, which she created with a team in Amsterdam called the XR Base Unit. They worked at XRBASE Amsterdam, a co-working space and production company for immersive content that has locations across Europe. Vesna has worked with XRBASE Amsterdam (formerly known as VRBase) on several projects, including content visualization and modeling for Lumisonica.

Still image from The Scores of Chaos | Executive producer: Daniel ‘Kip’ Doornink | Fractal artist: Julius Horsthuis |Creative coders: Sander Sneek, Ruud op den Kelder | Creative advisor: Vesna Petresin | Voice-over audio: Whoozy Music | Supported by XMG, Sensiks
All music by György Ligeti performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Cappella Amsterdam.

Vesna writes, “The Scores of Chaos is an immersive experience, commissioned by Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam 2018) as an homage to the musical genius of the contemporary Hungarian composer Ligeti.

His music featured in some of the most iconic scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s work, making this collaboration groundbreaking for the history of the moving image. Ligeti’s fascination with the world of fractals, chaos and multisensory experience of music, has been the inspiration behind an imaginary trip into the world of his scores. Music becomes an immersive visual landscape, a doorway into the otherworldly beauty of mathematics, of our imagination, and the universe.”

György Ligeti’s music also inspired Vesna’s sound composition for Lumisonica.

VR Days Europe is “a conference and exhibition focused on Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality XR content, creativity, and innovation” comprising keynotes, sessions, workshops, and seminars led by “over 140 thought leaders and experts drawn from the health, technology, business, and arts sectors.”

Vesna presented a talk at the Museum Morning panel, at which creators, producers and artists shared projects that successfully used XR (X Reality) technology in the museum and heritage sector. The panel’s moderator was Daan Kip, a co-founder of VR Days Europe and founder of the XRBASE network. Other panelists included Nina Diamond, Content Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vesna’s talk, “Immersive Ambients,” discussed how “Interactive media allow us to create immersive environments and experiences outside of the ‘white cube’ of a gallery or the ‘black box’ of a theatre.” She writes, “To create a fusion of the built environment and the media, my practice utilizes the conceptof a smart, playable city…. People actively shape their environment; my work attempts to render visible and audible the impact we have on the world – on the shapes, colors, sounds, emotions, social experiences and physical processes – simply by being here.” She discussed Lumisonica, among other projects.

Vesna also hosted a session in the Philosopher’s Salon, a yurt where visitors took off their shoes, refrained from using technology, and discussed questions surrounding XR technology such as human relationships with virtual characters and the ethical implications of humans carrying out acts in virtual environments that are illegal in the real world.

Vesna’s talk, another version of “Present Continuous,” focused on presence in Virtual, Physical, and Mixed Reality. “As our present looks increasingly dystopian, questions arise about the future and the impact of social change through technology, while a new digital world order seems to be taking shape. A sense of presence in virtual worlds is akin to an escape from the trauma of existence. a largely disembodied experience allowing to play god. Rethinking the philosopher Montaigne, the sensory perception may well be synonymous with sensory illusion, as the meaning of the truth seems to become intangible, and commodified,” she writes of her talk. Afterward she led a conversation among salon visitors.

Throughout her research and artistic practice, Vesna Petresin engages with pressing questions around the relationship between humans and technology in the twenty-first century. Lumisonica extends that inquiry to the environment of The Mint Museum, creating an enhanced experience in which visitors’ interactions with the technology on the staircase lead to new perceptions of their effect on the spaces they inhabit. Come to the debut of Lumisonica at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon Street, on Friday night, November 16, from 6 to 9 PM to experience it yourself.

Musical Stairs

Lumisonica, the interactive light and sound installation designed by Vesna Petresin for the Grand Staircase at Mint Museum Uptown and scheduled to debut this November, marks the Mint Museum’s first experience with this kind of multimedia, interdisciplinary, intangible art. To recap a previous blog post, Lumisonica is “based on the concept of a smart, playable city. It encompasses disciplines from architecture, lighting design, sound design, choreography and set design, to interactive visual arts.” Read More

Public is invited to experience Lumisonica on Friday November 16 at Mint Museum Uptown

The Mint Museum is pleased to announce the public debut of Lumisonica, a site-specific, interactive light and sound installation on the Grand Staircase of Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts created by Vesna Petresin. Beginning Friday, November 16, visitors will experience a changing canvas of ambient light and sound that responds to their movements as they climb or descend the stairs.

That evening, Mint Museum President & CEO Todd A. Herman PhD and artist Vesna Petresin will make remarks. The event begins at 6 PM with remarks anticipated at 6:30 PM. Petresin and Creative Design Lead Ben Mason will also be available to speak to the media. There will be a cash bar in the museum’s atrium, and the museum galleries will remain open until 9 PM.

Petresin, born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is a trans-disciplinary artist who has exhibited and performed at the Tate Modern; ArtBasel Miami; the Royal Academy of the Arts; the Venice Biennale; the Institute of Contemporary Arts London; and the Vienna Secession. She is based in London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. She is scheduled to be an artist in residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation from January through April.

Mason, based in Asheville, runs a digital media business offering services such as media systems architecture and design, photography, animation, web design, sound design, show control/stage interactives, and more. He designed and implemented the lighting and sound systems and consulted on programming for Lumisonica.

The project was funded through a generous grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which challenged museums to use technology to enhance the visitor experience.

Creating a multisensory landscape

Lumisonica transforms the museum’s main entrance into an unparalleled immersive experience that will be choreographed by the visiting public. Based upon the idea of the smart city, this multisensory landscape makes invisible space visible, audible, and tangible while aiming to increase people’s awareness that they can and do shape their own place, perceptions and reality. Lumisonica assures a daring and playful experience like no other in the heart of Charlotte’s flourishing art district. Juxtaposed near the large reflective Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture Firebird in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, this light and sound sculpture provides another dynamic feature to highlight entropic experiences, moiré patterns and other optical and perceptional illusions in this cultural area.

The “smart city” concept of this dynamic datascape is drawn from two components that change the form to an accessible visual/audio display based upon public movement and engagement:

Visual content is created by programmable LED light features embedded into the staircase and railings. The light effects are designed to work interactively based on data captured from the environment as well as on presets of visual effects. The light effects are programmed along a 24/7 schedule with pre-rendered sets at specific times of the day, combined with responsive effects based on criteria such as visibility, program of events at the museum, and the number of visitors.

Audio content permeates ambient sound loops designed to respond and support the light effects. These amplify the visitor’s feeling of presence in the environment and assist their spatial navigation, by amplifying the ranges of frequencies that translate to embodied sensations. The audio content includes composed soundscapes and loops of sonic textures as well as key framed musical motifs on specific days and at specific times to announce events.

“My work tries to offer a moment to remember we inhabit and co-create a multisensory symphony,” said Petresin. “The piece for the Mint has been inspired by the idea that matter is information under constant transformation, bringing memory, human connection, wonder, and innovation.”

Lumisonica will be in place during The Mint Museum’s upcoming exhibition Immersed in Light (Fall 2019 – Spring 2020). The exhibition will feature experiential lighting installations by four contemporary artists and designers at Mint Museum Uptown.

Staircase to enhance museum experience, visitation

The Mint was among 12 recipients of $1.87 million in funding from the Knight Foundation for new ways of using technology to immerse visitors in art. Institutions in cities including Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City are joining Charlotte in creating new tools ranging from chat bots to augmented reality apps to engage new audiences.

Funding for this project is part of a Knight Foundation initiative to help museums better meet new community demands and use digital tools to meaningfully engage visitors in art. Knight, which promotes informed and engaged communities, has helped institutions—from newsrooms to libraries—adapt to and thrive in the digital age. This funding expands the foundation’s use of its digital expertise to help art museums build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“The arts have the rare power to bring diverse communities together, provoke personal reflection, and inspire new ways of thinking,” said Victoria Rogers, Knight Foundation vice president for the arts. “Our hope is that by integrating technology, museums can better reach and engage audiences in ways that connect them to the art.”

ABOUT VESNA PETRESIN

Vesna Petresin is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Amsterdam University of the Arts and a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths (University of London). She has been an Artist in Residence at ZKM in Germany and created a London-based trans-disciplinary art collective whose exploration of optics, acoustics and psychology takes the format of performance, installation and artifact.

As a time architect, non-object based designer, space composer and performer, her practice utilizes an alchemy of media and senses (sound, film, space, interaction, and performance) to take art out of the white cube and bring it into an immersive experience. The key concept is transformation—of the material, the immaterial and the self.

Petresin seeks elements to link cultures rather than separate them and pays attention to archetypal formal constants and patterns existing in nature, human perception and the creative process. Her work in immersive light is ground-breaking and has been featured at Tate Modern, ArtBasel Miami, Venice Biennale, The Royal Festival Hall, The Royal Academy of Arts, ICA, The Sydney Opera House, Vienna Secession, Cannes International Film Festival and Kings Place among others.

Petresin’s academic background in classical music and architecture has propelled her as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a Member of the Architectural Association, a keynote speaker at symposia including “SuperLux: Smart Light Art, Design and Architecture for Cities” (Technical University of Munich, 2016), the XR Summit (ISE at RAI, Amsterdam 2018) and a print author of internationally notable publications. She has written on smart cities (Thames & Hudson, Black Dog) and on Leonardo da Vinci’s creative methods in relation to 21st century view of morphogenesis in art and design for Springer Publications.

ABOUT THE JOHN S. AND JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

Young Affiliates of the Mint to host Sixth Annual Charity Gala: Fall Ball 2018: Mint Main Event

The Young Affiliates of the Mint (the “YAMs”) are proud to present the Sixth Annual Fall Ball: “Mint Main Event.” The black-tie gala will take place on Saturday, November 3 from 8 PM to midnight at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts and will be themed around old Hollywood and include live entertainment and an open bar. This year’s Fall Ball will serve as a fundraiser in support of the YAMs’ contribution to the Mint’s Annual Fund to provide Mint Museum tours for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students.

In support of the YAMs’ mission of promoting and celebrating the arts, the charitable event will be an ode to old Hollywood glam featuring live music from Sammy Sinatra and the Mad Men, “the South’s premiere Vegas style lounge act with a twist,” as well as Charlotte’s own DJ Chescov. There will even be a red-carpet walk of fame highlighting the names of attendees who purchased early-bird tickets, recognizing them for their support.

“We’re proud to bring Fall Ball back to Mint Museum Uptown following their Grand Re-opening Celebration,” said Amorette Mangum, co-chair of the annual event. “To make this philanthropic event even more accessible for Charlotte’s young professional crowd, we’ve lowered the ticket prices for the first time in the event’s history.”

Tickets start at just $80 for members and $99 for non-members and include hors d’oeuvres and complimentary beer and wine. To learn more and to purchase tickets, visit https://13800.blackbaudhosting.com/13800/Fall-Ball-2018-MINT-MAIN-EVENT.

Special thanks to the 2018 Fall Ball title sponsor, Felix Sabates Lincoln, and our annual gold sponsor, United Global Technologies, as well as Tito’s Vodka and La Belle Helene for their contributions to this annual event. In addition to Fall Ball, the YAMs are proud to partner with UGT for their 2018-2019 signature events including the YP Mixer, Derby Days, and the Art Show.

About Felix Sabates Lincoln

Felix Sabates Lincoln, located on South Boulevard in Charlotte, has a strong and committed sales staff with many years of experience satisfying customers’ needs. Felix Sabates is proud to sponsor the YAMs and the Charlotte arts community as well as serve as the title sponsor for Fall Ball: Mint Main Event.

About the United Global Technologies

For almost a decade, United Global Technologies has set the standard for US-based IT and engineering services. Founded in 2009, by Elizabeth Bernstein and Jason Monastra, UGT has excelled at meeting the diverse information technology, engineering, and operational needs of industrial and service leaders across the country and around the globe. Through the generosity and tireless efforts of UGT employees, families and friends, philanthropy has become more than an initiative — it is a way of life. UGT is headquartered in Charlotte, NC and is thrilled to be a part of the thriving community. To learn more about UGT visit https://www.ugtechnologies.com/.

About the Young Affiliates of the Mint

Established in 1990, the YAMs are a diverse group of young professionals promoting and supporting The Mint Museum through cultural, social, leadership, and fundraising activities and events. All YAM event proceeds directly benefit Charlotte-Mecklenburg students by offsetting the cost of Mint Museum tours throughout the school year.

For More Information Contact:

Amorette Mangum or Victoria Mathias

Fall Ball Co-Chairs, Young Affiliates of the Mint

youngaffiliatesofthemint@gmail.com

Turning light and sound into Lumisonica

A project as complex and technologically advanced as Lumisonica requires close collaboration among many people. And while it may seem ironic for a project involving digital technology, the best format for such collaboration is through face-to-face meetings. For this reason, Vesna Petresin traveled from her current home base of London to The Mint Museum to work on Lumisonica on October 9 and 10. She spent much of her time with two key people: Creative Design Lead Ben Mason, who is based in Asheville, and lighting consultant Terry Reeves, who also traveled from London.

Read More

The Mint Museum organizes first-ever retrospective of N.C. artist Michael Sherrill

In his delicately rendered sculptures, Michael Sherrill seeks to elicit a sense of wonder from viewers, and to make them see the natural world anew as he works with clay, glass, and metal to create exquisite floral forms. This retrospective organized by The Mint Museum illustrates the artist’s evolution over his more than 40-year career and highlights his contributions to contemporary art, craft, and design.

Michael Sherrill Retrospective opens later this month at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon Street. The museum will offer member-only hours 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. on Friday October 26; Sherrill gives a public talk, free with museum admission, 11 a.m. Saturday October 27. It is followed by a book signing in the Mint Museum Store with a new, lavishly illustrated catalogue published by The Mint Museum to accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition will travel to the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in summer 2019, and the Arizona State University Art Museum in early 2020.

Temple of the Cool Beauty (Yucca)
Michael Sherrill
Created: 2005
Materials: polychrome, porcelain, Moretti glass, silica bronze
Gift of Ann and Tom Cousins. 2014.78a-b. Collection of The Mint Museum.

“The idea for a Michael Sherrill Retrospective was ignited by close study of one of the Mint’s sculpture’s, Temple of the Cool Beauty (Yucca), then on loan from Ann and Tom Cousins, and further research,” said Annie Carlano, the Mint’s curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion. “Surveying contemporary clay globally, Michael’s work is exceptional in its sheer beauty—delicate botanical reveries that chronicle life cycles from blossom to wither. His command of materials, not just clay but metal and glass, and his brilliance as an inventor of tools and technologies, make the magic happen. There is simply nothing like his work anywhere on the planet.”

Carlano serves as lead organizing curator and Marilyn Zapf of The Center for Craft is guest curator; filmmakers Matthew Mebane and Maria White contributed video to the exhibition.

Primarily a self-taught artist, Sherrill moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to the Western North Carolina mountains in 1974. His early influences came from the North Carolina folk pottery tradition and the community surrounding Penland School of Crafts, Seagrove Potters, and the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, as well as from his studies of the ceramics of Asia and the Americas. These influences are apparent in Sherrill’s functional objects from the late 1970s and 80s. These early explorations led quickly to a new sculptural vocabulary, strong minimalist organic forms inspired by the botanical world. Sherrill’s unique aesthetic sensibilities are matched by his extraordinary skill and inventiveness. A true innovator, he has developed clay bodies and special tools to make the material fulfill his desired artistic outcome.

Over 70 objects will be on view, from a group of Steins (1977) to A Beautiful Death (2017).  Loans from institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Racine Museum of Art; and individual collectors in Oregon, Florida, Vermont, and North Carolina are featured.

“The Mint Museum is committed to collecting, publishing, and exhibiting the best of contemporary craft,” said Dr. Todd A. Herman, President & CEO of the Mint. “We have recognized the unique talent of Michael Sherrill since his early forays in functional vessels, and through accessions and exhibitions have acknowledged his creative expression and skill. This retrospective is the culmination of several years of dedication and excellence on the part of Mint staff and I am proud of our team and other contributors.”

Exhibition sections and catalogue

Michael Sherrill Retrospective begins with a sense of place, as the visitor walks through re-creations and interpretations of his cobalt blue studio doors and the woods of his mountain home. Twenty-first-century ceramics, like contemporary art in general, can be characterized as an exciting period of experimentation: to express their creative vision, makers are incorporating new media and technologies to reach beyond traditional methods. Sherrill is one of the foremost practitioners of this approach. His inventiveness and worldview play ahead of current trends, and working off the beaten track, he developed a naturalist’s sensitivity to the botanical wonders of Bat Cave, North Carolina. Finding the universal in the close at hand, Sherrill’s extraordinary evolution in creating with clay—and other materials—is conveyed in this exhibition.

The first section of the exhibition, Early Works, features functional stoneware forms that demonstrate the young artist’s influences from both historic and contemporary North Carolina pottery as well as Native American and Asian inspired shapes, glazes, and raku firing techniques.  It’s the smallest section of the show, due to the fact Sherrill’s oeuvre evolved so quickly from an artist’s initial period of exploration to maturity.

Teapots is the largest section of the exhibition and illustrates the way in which Sherrill uses the utilitarian object as vehicle for his forays into materials, process, and aesthetics. Here we can see sober Minimalist designs, drawing on traditional squat round forms, exuberant colorful expressionist compositions, and pure abstract forms.  In this rich and imaginative installation, reminiscent of a fine tea shop, what is unseen is as important as the surface ornamentation, as Sherrill moves fluidly from stoneware to porcelain. Installed in an imaginative teashop-like setting, this section of the exhibition includes a hand-on activity related teas from around the world.

In an intimate room off the Teapot section is Studio.  In this section of the exhibition visitors will encounter a selection of tools, organic materials, and other curiosities from Michael Sherrill’s actual studio Wonder Wall—a space filled with objects that inspire and invite contemplation.  Underscoring the inventor in the artist, across from the Wonder Wall is an installation of array of colorful clay work tools from the artist’s Mudtools line. Visitors will be able to scroll through the twitter feed of Mudtools to see the amazing ways people around the globe are utilizing these implements.

Contemporary Sculpture begins with transitional objects from teapot botanical abstractions to full blown sculpture. Inspired by the ubiquitous rhododendron that he sees every day on his daily walks with his wife Margery, the artist crafted a series of ceramic and life size sculptures in 2008. Still, this is not entirely a linear path, as Sherrill hones his naturalist sensibilities, skill, and technologies creating both large scale an intimate ornate plant forms and makes huge creative leaps to Neo-Minimalist sheaths, reminiscent of Agnes Martin paintings. The last group of objects in the visitor’s path was created since 2014. Showing his fantastic facility with clay, glass, and lost wax casting bronze in wall mounted and freestanding sculptures, objects such as Black Medicine, A Beautiful Death, and Dutch Solomon eschew any doubt that he is a Southern American master.

Each section is introduced by a video that features Michael Sherrill addressing the visitor. Shot on location in Bat Cave and including some vintage film, the videos were produced by Matthew Mebane and Maria White, award winning documentary filmmakers based in Charleston, South Carolina.

A scholarly exhibition catalogue, edited by Carlano, accompanies the exhibition. It features essays by Marilyn Zapf, Assistant Director and Curator, The Center for Craft and Guest Curator; and Ezra Shales, Associate Professor of Art History, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Published by The Mint Museum, the book will be available for $40 at both museum locations; beginning November 15, it will be available online at store.mintmuseum.org.

Michael Sherrill has received numerous prestigious awards, including the US Windgate Fellowship: Crafts and the Arts, US Artists (2010) and is a highly regarded teacher and lecturer throughout the United States, and in Japan and China.  He serves on several non-profit boards and councils including the Archie Bray Foundation, and the Center for Craft, and has served as a member of the Founders’ Circle Board of Directors.

Mint curators Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion and Emily Pazar, former curatorial assistant for Craft, Design & Fashion are the organizing curators; Marilyn Zapf, Assistant Director and Curator, The Center for Craft, Asheville, N.C., is Guest Curator.

The exhibition is organized by The Mint Museum. STEELFAB is the presenting sponsor for the exhibition. Generous support for the exhibition catalogue and tour provided by the Windgate Foundation; additional funding from the Founders’ Circle and Bank of America.

Media and invited guests are invited to preview the exhibition from 10 a.m.-noon on Thursday October 25; RSVP to leigh.dyer@mintmuseum.org.

ARKO + OWL

The two people sitting across from me, ARKO + OWL, are an artistic duo who set out to find love in each other and with the city of Charlotte. They were chosen as the first artists to be featured in The Mint Museum’s newest project, ConstellationCLT. Every year The Mint Museum will highlight approximately three contemporary artists in the Charlotte region to showcase their distinct works of art.  

Having just finished painting for the night, the two enter the room beaming with unfiltered joy and happiness. They graciously meet me at Mint Museum Uptown, site of their most recent mural, to sit down for a chat about their career as artists and their views on the community that Charlotte is beginning to build.  

“Why the mask?” I start with the most obvious question. The two, though unmasked when sitting in front of me, prefer to conceal their identities when posting online or doing public events. 

The question of the masks is answered by OWL, one half of the duo, in a way that showcases the smooth friction produced by the anonymity in art. “Before the mask I was very concerned with how I looked and how people saw me. The mask gives me the opportunity to not care as much about that and to just go through the process. In a way I can focus more on the art and not about what people think of it.”  

Arko + Owl

With the mask, OWL feels that she could make things more freely than without it. “I can fully embrace my art,” she says, “and then when I overhear someone say something critical, it’s a little less personal. It’s not directed at me. They don’t know that I’m standing behind them and they don’t know who I even am. At that point it is all about the art that they see in front of them.” The words of criticism are relevant in a way that separates her feelings of being connected to the work from being a part of the work itself.  Freely losing one’s sense of self in the artistic process is what propels that same art to the forefront of the collective imagination. Raw feelings of the human condition are brought forth from artists that are allowed to embrace the intricate details of love and loss; of joy and anguish. 

Art of that substance acts as a reflection of the person standing in front of it, as well as a reinterpretation of the artist that made it. Seeing that reinterpretation and hearing its voice is indicative of the overreaching power of art to bind people together. Art allows others to connect with people who seemingly would never have been able to before. Cultivating a sense of understanding in all people is what brings gravity to a work of art. Common ground shared among people different from one another erases boundaries of isolation. It forms strings of connectivity that pull on the human vital of compassion. “Community, much like culture, is what you make of it,” says ARKO, “we are at the beginning of a really big push right now. And It’s not just us, it’s everybody. Everyone who is out doing pop-ups, doing stencils, doing graffiti, everyone showing in galleries.” Everyone who is striving to put art out into the city of Charlotte. Everyone, he seems to be suggesting, who is working toward that same goal of using art to bring people together, both physically and ideologically.  

Arko + Owl at Mint Museum Uptown

“I went to art school, I showed in galleries, I did the whole academia thing,” ARKO says, specifically recalling his interaction with the traditional structures surrounding art institutions, “but personal success isn’t what all of this is about to us. We want to bring this art to everyone and to let those voice of the minorities be heard. Not just the people that are traditionally held up as artists.” ARKO originally rejected the ideas of tradition, but says he is coming back around to it and is now looking to build upon them to form a new meaning around art. There is an evolution of traditional spaces, he says, that can be utilized to educate people about different ways of thinking and living. He describes art as an open door to other people’s worlds; a way to see things from a different perspective. Specifically, he wants to bring people, art and happiness in any way possible; whether that means working with traditional museums or utilizing Instagram to give away free art.  

OWL shares this sentiment as she recalls the protest surrounding the tragic death of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016; a time when things didn’t look as promising for minorities who may not be given the chance to have their opinions heard. She speaks about how they both wanted to do something to help recover Charlotte’s lost sense of community. “Some people’s voices aren’t as free as others, and because of that we decided to say something in the way that we could; by using our art. After the protest we helped paint the windows of the Hyatt Hotel. It was our way of reaching out to the community and making our voice heard.”  

Arko + Owl at Hyatt Hotel

ARKO + OWL are both taking note of Charlotte’s lack of representation, and they hope to help bring those voices that are traditionally silenced to the forefront of the conversation. Charlotte is currently in a unique position of having the opportunity to develop a new definition for itself, one that could include everyone’s voice. The duo hopes to capitalize upon this to help make diversity a large part of the new culture that is emerging in Charlotte. The installation at Mint Museum Uptown lies in the same contextual vein of equal representation within the city. The pair said they immediately rejoiced when they were contacted about the mural at the Mint, but more for the vocalization that the mural is giving minorities rather than their personal success. Like the painting of the Hyatt’s windows, they viewed this too as a start to bringing a level playing ground to the Charlotte art scene. Progress of building upon and moving on from traditional viewpoints lies in the collaboration between institutions of long-standing reverence and independent artist like themselves. They say they are excited at the prospect of institutions being willing to reach out and work with local artist to bring in fresh voices. “I think it’s amazing that we get the chance to help break down the assumption that there is a corporate world in Charlotte that doesn’t interact with the real people…I am in awe that I am literally drawing with a marker on the walls of a museum. Its completely crazy.” Together, both ARKO + OWL and the Mint hope they can elevate the voices of the people they serve. Working with one another can allow the artist and their art to present a new face to the Charlotte that looks like them; to a Charlotte that is culturally rich, ethnically diverse, and welcoming to everyone who wants to call it their home. 


ARKO + OWL have multiple installations inside of Mint Museum Uptown that are going to be featured in the Talking Walls Mural Festival, October 10-13, as well as serving as the launch of the Mint’s ongoing ConstellationCLT project.

You can find ARKO on Instagram at @Arko83art, and OWL at @owl.clt

Musical Stairs

Lumisonica, the interactive light and sound installation designed by Vesna Petresin for the Grand Staircase at Mint Museum Uptown and scheduled to debut this November, marks the Mint Museum’s first experience with this kind of multimedia, interdisciplinary, intangible art. To recap a previous blog post, Lumisonica is “based on the concept of a smart, playable city. It encompasses disciplines from architecture, lighting design, sound design, choreography and set design, to interactive visual arts.” Read More

‘African-Print Fashion Now!’ to open at Mint Museum Randolph

African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style introduces audiences to the dynamic traditions of African dress featuring colorful, boldly patterned printed cloth. The exhibition, opening to the public at Mint Museum Randolph October 7 following two days of Mint member previews, highlights the interplay between regional preferences and cosmopolitanism that has long flourished on the continent, while highlighting the expansiveness of 21st-century African-print fashion.

The exhibition will be open to Mint members on Friday, October 5 from 11 AM-6 PM and Saturday October 6 from 1-6 PM, and will open to the public on Sunday, October 7 from 1-5 PM. Two fashion designers with work featured in the exhibition, Titi Ademola and Alexis Temomanin, will be in Charlotte from Thursday through Sunday and are available for media interviews. Sunday’s event includes a public talk with both designers from 2-3 PM, free after museum admission. Public opening day also includes a drumming performance and a light reception with cash bar. Ademola, a Ghanian/Nigerian designer, is founder of the KIKI label, while Temomanin is the British-Ivorian founder of menswear brand Dent de Man.

African-Print Fashion Now!, organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA, expands the Mint’s presentations of contemporary fashion into a broader cultural arena, and continues the Mint’s emphasis on presenting exhibitions that represent diverse voices and backgrounds. “This exhibition aligns with our mission to explore the meaning of fashion in a global 21st-century context,” said Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion at the Mint. “From the bold, dynamic cloth, to the inventive, sculptural silhouettes, the textiles and fashions in this exhibition have inspired and infiltrated Western fashion, art, music, and popular culture.”

“The Mint is honored to be one of three venues for this important exhibition, and very pleased to collaborate with the Fowler Museum, UCLA, for the first time,” said Dr. Todd Herman, PhD, President & CEO of the Mint. “Additionally, we are deeply grateful to Charlotte’s own Michael Gallis for his role in bringing this exhibition to our community.”

The works featured throughout the exhibition demonstrate the vital role that African-print has played in the expression of beauty, fashion, and heritage, while creating transcultural connections across Africa and into the larger world.

The exhibition is complemented by an interactive design studio created by the Mint’s Learning & Engagement team, offering visitors of all ages opportunities to design their own prints, experience African-print fabrics, and go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibition.

Four sections weaving multiple themes

The exhibition is organized into four sections: “It All Starts with Cloth,” “Portraits in Print,” “Regional Styles, Fashion Preferences,” and “New Directions.” Collectively, the installation includes dozens of tailored fashions, nearly 100 archival and contemporary cloths, approximately 20 black-and-white studio portrait photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, a series of runway videos, and several works by contemporary visual artists. Ensembles on view draw from the Fowler’s collections, private loans, and the extensive archives of the Dutch textile manufacturing company Vlisco.

Several themes weave their way throughout the exhibition, mimicking the cyclical nature of fashion trends and the ripple effects of politics and technology on the formation of identity. One theme is consumer agency, both in determining designs and patterns through purchasing power and by commissioning unique ensembles from seamstresses and tailors. Another theme is the theatrical power of fashion, and its ability to express individualism or collective solidarity, whether in a family portrait or Women’s Day Marches in communities across the continent. Finally, a link between imaging and fashion surfaces in each section of the exhibition. From formal portraiture to visual arts to ubiquitous African fashion calendars to street style photos shared by cell-phone, it is clear that representations of fashion have always been a nuanced form of communication.

Fashion subtly communicates about place, heritage, and belonging through such means as appropriation, pastiche, and revival. Throughout the exhibition, African-print fashions are considered to be creative responses to key historical moments and empowering projections about Africa’s future.

About the Exhibition

“It All Starts with Cloth” addresses the history of African-print textiles, originally inspired by batik or wax-resist cloth from Indonesia. A dense grid of more than 60 cloths manufactured in Europe, Africa, and Asia evokes the vibrating colors and designs stocked in open-air markets and cloth shops across the African continent. A visual timeline of production across these regions outlines the history of the cloth trade in West and Central Africa from the 1800s to the present. Archival photographs and dramatic film footage of the Vlisco factory in operation transport audiences to the production of cloth in the Netherlands.

“Portraits in Print” leaves behind the brightly colored world of African-print fashion and enters an intimate black-and-white space of memory. A gallery introduces four photographers from Africa’s “golden age” of black-and-white photography in the 1960s and 1970s: Francis K. Honny (Ghana, 1914–1998); Jacques Toussele (Cameroon, 1935–2017); Omar Ly (Senegal, 1943–2016); and Mory Bamba (b. Mali, 1949). Their photography studios in newly independent West African countries provided a platform for an ascending middle class to see themselves and be seen by one another. The portraits are indicative of a historical moment when local African-print ensemble styles gained new significance as expressions of national and Pan-African pride and identity.

“Regional Styles, Fashion Preferences” takes an in-depth look at localized contemporary African-print fashion whereby stylish dress is a feature of daily life. Ensembles on view from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal reflect an array of styles, all of them customized and individually made to order. This section presents a case study from Kumasi, Ghana to illustrate the interactive commissioning process between seamstresses or tailors and their fashion-conscious clientele. The bold patterns of the cloth engineered with subtle and striking variations in style reveal the ingenuity and flair of regional designers.

“New Directions” bridges regional cultures with transnational art and fashion networks, beginning with African-print styles on global runways in Paris, New York, Dakar, and other cities. Designers in this section include Titi Ademola (b. London, based in Ghana), Ituen Bassey (b. Nigeria), Afua Dabanka (b. Germany, based in Ghana), Lisa Folawiyo (b. Nigeria), Adama Amanda Ndiaye (b. Democratic Republic of the Congo, based in Senegal), Alexis Temomanin (b. Côte d’Ivoire), Gilles Touré (b. Côte d’Ivoire), and Patricia Waota (b. Côte d’Ivoire). Ensembles on view feature full-length gowns and men’s blazers, metallic wax print, and architectural pleating and boning—all of which harmoniously marry the drape of the fabric with the strategic construction of print patterns for stunning results.

Juxtaposed with these glamorous designs are contemporary works by photographers and other visual artists who incorporate print-cloth imagery to convey evocative messages about heritage, hybridity, displacement, and aspiration.

Members of the media and invited special guests are invited to preview the exhibition from 5:30-7 PM on Thursday October 4 at Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road in Charlotte. Light refreshments, wine, and beer will be served. RSVP to Leigh.Dyer@mintmuseum.org.

Publication

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated volume generously funded by the R. L. Shep Endowment Fund at the Fowler Museum. The publication includes essays authored by exhibition co-curators Suzanne Gott, Kristyne S. Loughran, Betsy D. Quick, and Leslie W. Rabine with additional essays contributed by Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Boatema Boateng, M. Amah Edoh, Helen Elands, Anne Grosfilley, Karen Tranberg-Hansen, Helen Jennings, Sandra Klopper, Stephan F. Miescher, Hansi Momodu-Gordon, John Picton, Elisha P. Renne, Victoria L. Rovine, Ken Aïcha Sy, and Nina Sylvanus. It is on sale for $40 in both locations of the Mint Museum stores.

Credit

African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA in association with Vlisco Netherlands B.V. It is guest curated by Suzanne Gott with Kristyne S. Loughran, Betsy D. Quick, and Leslie W. Rabine. In Charlotte, Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion, is the project curator. Major funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts with the additional support of R. L. Shep, DutchCulture, and Pasadena Art Alliance.

The exhibition is presented in Charlotte by PNC Financial Services with generous additional support from the Mint Museum Auxiliary, Wells Fargo Private Bank, and Moore & Van Allen.

ABOUT THE FOWLER MUSEUM

The Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures with an emphasis on works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas—past and present. The Fowler enhances understanding of world cultures through dynamic exhibitions, publications, and public programs, informed by interdisciplinary approaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented. Also featured is the work of international contemporary artists presented within the complex frameworks of politics, culture, and social action.

 

Above image:

Lekan Jeyifo and Walé Oyéjidé, Johannesburg 2081 A.D., Africa 2081 A.D. series, 2014; Digital print. Courtesy Ikiré Jones.