On September 9, 2011, the Mattress Factory
opened Sites of Passage, an exhibition with new and context-specific work by artists from Egypt and the United States.
This exhibition is the final exposé of the first dig of The Firefly Tunnels Project. The project began in August of 2010 when artist, workshop leader, and co-curator Tavia La Follette went to Egypt to begin the exchange.
The project is a dialogue between Egypt and the United States during Egypts fight for democracy, as the U.S. enters the 10th anniversary of 9/11, executes its architect, questions its own democracy and as both countries go into an election for a new leader.
Performance and installation artists from both Egypt and the U.S. converse through a virtual lab/website, where they exchange ideas and materials. The commonality between both sides of the tunnel/website is that the artists have gone through an intensive workshop with La Follette. It is during this workshop that the artists explore a common symbolic based language or code of communication. The workshop's focus on art as a deeper language of communication, dealing with such topics as religion, culture and identity, while also examining how to use virtual art as a force for social change.
Independent curator Katherine Talcott and Tavia La Follette worked together selecting pieces for the virtual gallery, which is open to the public. From the virtual gallery ideas were transformed into the tangible exhibit, Sites of Passage, at the Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit consists of live performance, video, and sound and site-specific installations. The website and the global critique of the work is also part of the installation. Egyptians have come to the Mattress Factory museum to work on-site with U.S. based artists. Live feeds to Egypt, community outreach, educational outreach and programming are also part of the exhibit.
The exchange serves 17 Egyptian artists and 20 U.S. artists. The artists were selected by their diversity in medium, background and who were at various stages of their careers. The eclectic nature of the group is important to the workshop and dialogue process.
Sites of Passage is the first step in creating a global network of experimental artists who communicate and work together through a virtual performance art lab. The site is a metaphorical passage way for the exchange of ideas through the language of performance and installation art. One could think of it as an underground railroad that crosses the border of language, a system of tunnels that doesnt believe in the barriers of countries or the obstruction of segregated tongues. The vision of a cooperative lab stems from the belief that metaphor and the arts can reach humanity on deeper level than rhetoric, which is often misinterpreted. The overall goal of the exchange is to build a language of peace through the actions of art. Tavia La Follette, co-curator of SITES OF PASSAGE