Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Art Space Talk: Anat Litwin-- HomeBase Project

Anat Litwin at HomeBase III

Anat Litwin is the founder and Artistic Director of the HomeBase Project. The HomeBase Project is an annual site-responsive, community based project exploring the notion of Home. The goal of the project is to cultivate site-specific art projects in non-commercial urban spaces while nurturing artistic communities based on cultural dialog, collaboration and study. The project is designed to take place in gentrified areas, and thus, to engage with the urban environment and wide public. Anat offered her time to answer some of my questions about the HomeBase Project.

Anat is an Israeli artist and curator based in Brooklyn. She received her BFA from the Bezalel Academy, Department of Fine Arts in Jerusalem, Israel in 2001, and her MFA from Hunter College in NY, Department of Combined Media, in 2005. She is the recipient of the American-Israeli Sharet foundation award for outstanding artists 2001, and the receiver of the Mandel award for young artists. She has served as Director of the Makor Gallery and Artists-in-Residence program of the 92nd St. Y 2005-2007, and has curated numerous exhibitions in public and private venues.

(photographs provided by Oded Hirsch and Adi Shniderman)
Brian Sherwin: Anat, as you know I recently asked Adi Ezroni and Andrea Loefke about HomeBase III. Adi mentioned that you, as founder and director of the HomeBase Project, would be the best source to find out more about HomeBase III and the long term goals of the HomeBase Project. Can you discuss the history of the HomeBase Project?

Anat Litwin: The HomeBase project began in 2006. At the time I was working full-time as the Director of the Makor Gallery and Makor Artists-in-Residence program of the 92nd Street Y. Through my work on these programs I realized the immense creative potential of an artistic community based on study, creativity, and dialog. Parallel to that I continued my own art practice and received a huge studio space - an entire floor in a brownstone building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn - for a period of two months.
I decided to use this large space to initiate an experimental site-specific art project about Home, and invited a group of diverse artists to participate, each artist receiving a room in the space as a studio for a month, creating a new work about Home. HomeBase was created as a creative platform to explore the meaning of Home while suggesting a new artistic model which combines art, community, real estate and architecture.
The idea for the project was triggered by the question of Home as a question of identity, especially on the background of the rapidly changing NYC real estate world, where just paying basic rent becomes an impossible task - especially for artists - and where most of the residents are migrant.
BS: Anat, you studied at the Bezalel Academy and Hunter College... did some of your ideas about the HomeBase Project stem from those experiences? Has the project gained support from the academic community?

AL: While I studied at Hunter College, I took a few courses about Public Art at the Graduate Center in New York City with Prof. Hariett Senie. These courses had tremendous influence on me and marked the significance, as well as the potential, of art in the public sphere. I became passionate about challenging the boundaries of art in the urban and natural landscape, and wrote a paper titled "Journey as a form of Public art" which traced a group of contemporary artists who used the journey as a medium in there work (Richard Long, Anna Mandietta, Marina Abramovitch, Raffael Lomas, Min Tanaka, Francis Alys and others). This research touched deeply upon the notion of the nomad artist, and in an indirect way raised the question of Home.
Two years later I founded HomeBase, a "wandering" site specific public art project that is all about human and cultural encounters, taking place within the changing urban landscape. The Project is fairly new and has received attention by many art lovers and writers. Jerry Saltz chose the project for critics pick in NYMAG, however it is yet to be reviewed in depth by the academic community.

BS: You served as the Director of the Makor Gallery and have curated numerous exhibitions in public and private venues. How did those experiences help you in the creation of the HomeBase Project? How is the HomeBase Project unique compared to some of the other venues you have worked on?

AL: I served as the Director of the Makor Gallery and Makor Artist-in-Residence program 2005 – 2007. I was nominated to this position about a week after I graduated from Hunter College, with an MFA in fine arts. As a result I guess, I directed a lot of my creative energy towards building these programs and curating different exhibitions at the Makor Gallery.
While grappling with questions of contemporary art display, I began expanding the ways I incorporated artwork into the Makor building. I began utilizing alternative spaces like the hallways, courtyard and the basement as a venue for art. The art and architecture became integrated in an inspiring way, creating a rich experience for the viewer. HomeBase was the first project I did independently in NY, aside of my official role as a Director of the Makor Gallery, and was a big leap into new territories.
HomeBase is all about leaving the institutional gallery space, and the commercial setting, in favor of finding a raw urban site/building in a gentrified neighborhood that would become a base for creative exploration, while taking into consideration the architectural, historical, human and urban environment. It is a not an exhibit but rather a collaborative art project that questions existing codes and roles of consuming and displaying art, and aims to challenge them; The artists are chosen to this project, not the art work, and the curatorial text is replaced with a text that the artist writes directly called "a letter home".
Rather then a manifestation of a theoretical curatorial idea, HomeBase is a live experimental community based project , integrated in the changing urban setting.

BS: I understand that you plan to expand the direction of the HomeBase Project. For example, I read that there are plans to exhibit the next HomeBase somewhere in Germany. Can you give our readers some insight into your future plans for the HomeBase Project?

AL: I would like to step back a moment and speak briefly about the structure of the project: The HomeBase Project is an annual wandering site-specific project, which takes place each Spring in a different raw urban space. The Project is divided into 3 basic phases, each phase three weeks long: Phase I: Cultural Laboratory - includes creating a temporary artistic community of 12-18 artists from diverse cultural and artistic backgrounds, inhabiting a raw urban space and allocating a room for each artist, creating the site specific art projects and sharing 6 group sessions, which include study, lectures and cross cultural dialog. Phase II: Engagement with the Public – Opening our doors to the public and creating a series of events, tours, performances, games, salons, performances, dancing and talks, engaging the public in an interactive way. The project also includes community space that functions as an open stage for the public. Phase III – Documentation of the project: Documenting the entire process as webisodes, on-line postings, film and through a printed catalog.
I find the HomeBase project to be highly meaningful and important as it becomes an alternative model to the existing art market venues as it promotes cross-cultural dialog and community exchange in a direct and effective way. HomeBase is more like a happening, it becomes fully alive only for a short period of time, and then disappears again.
We are planning on this project to take place in different communities internationally, aiming to start in Berlin next year where there is a rich culture of alternative living models. In order to do so we are currently seeking to expand the financial and logistical foundation of HomeBase, in order to enable the expansion of the project.

BS: Are there any plans to turn the project into a traveling exhibit-- as in, moving the project from one location to the next during the span of time that the project is open? Or will the focus remain on one location at a time?

AL: HomeBase is a wandering project opposed to a traveling one, as it is basically site-specific, and includes each year a new group of artists in a new venue. It is open to the public only for the duration of three weeks. This temporary and transitory aspect is key for cultivating a fresh exploration of Home.
Despite the fact that the structure and theme of exploration remains consistent, each project is a completely different experience due to the unique human and urban setting it ocupies. Our aim is to share the project with the public through the documentation materials, including catalog, film, and a series of lectures and salons.
If you are interested in showcasing the documentation of the HomeBase Project at a venue near you, please contact us at

BS: How can people get involved with the project? Are donations accepted to help fund the project?

AL: HomeBase is a non-or profit artistic and educational project, fiscally sponsored by a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization FJC. We are in need of financial support to continue the project and donations are much appreciated. Contributions can be made on-line. We accept credit card donations through the auspices of Donors may access FJC's "Make a Donation" page in JustGive using the following link: Your donation is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. To find out more information about becoming a HomeBase supporter or sponsor please visit our website:
Currently there is no open application process for artists to participate in HomeBase, but we plan on opening that in the future. We welcome participation through contributing a "letter home' . Please visit the website for more information. We welcome your engagement in the project and appreciate your support.

BS: Was HomeBase III a success?

AL: HomeBase III was a huge success, and attracted about 2,500 visitors, as well as recurring visitors, both neighbors, artists and random passersby, who came back to our Home 3-4-5 times and engaged in the many public events. In addition many viewers experienced the project through the webisodes and on-line communication.
It was a big three week long happening which I am now overcoming…. The enthusiastic responses, and general engagement of the public proved the deep need for such a project to exist. On a deeper level HomeBase has been a very special and transformative experience that included human and cultural transactions on both a broad and intimate level, and suggested a different set of rules between artist, viewer and community.
HomeBase III: till death do us Anat Litwin
BS: Would you like to tell our readers about the space you created at HomeBase III?

The Room I created for HomeBase III was an installation in the living room on the third floor, inspired by the exploration of home as a ceremonial space. I was seeking to utilize the architecture of the space to create a twilight zone of the uncanny and the mystical, relating to home as a hybrid of sanctuary and an investigation room in which covenants are honored and questioned. The work was titled "till death do us", and it dealt with the union of a couple as the center drama in a living room.

The space was shut from the exterior world by white shades and included in its center as a stage, a red carpet (red aisle) in a form of a red cross, a fan turning slowly, and a recorded humming of the tune "a hole in the bucket". Around this stage I placed different objects brought from my own home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and situated them in a way that animated them as silent witnesses in a ceremony.

HomeBase III: till death do us Anat Litwin

On the wall I placed a legend made out of paper cut-outs and text, that attributed elevated meanings to the objects, connecting the mundane with the sublime, daily cleaning chores, and domestic pets, with Masai Epiphanies. For example simple bright yellow dish washing gloves gained a role of shamanic gloves and where marked as "healer", the old black phone situated on the desk was marked as "redeemer", and the red cross rug was referred to as "salvation". When entering the space the viewer became the performer, attempting to figure out this loaded riddle.

Rather then providing answers I am interested in my work to provoke questions, and extract humorous and poetic meanings out of dysfunctional situations.

HomeBase III: till death do us Anat Litwin

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about the HomeBase Project or HomeBase III?

AL: HomeBase has been a tremendous collaborative effort, it would not have take place without the passion and commitment and generosity of all parts involved. I am thankful to all the partners and team players and artists and visitors and supporters who gave the project life. I do feel lucky to be able to realize a project with such cultural and social meaning. I invite the readers to follow the project to its next station via the internet. Thank you Brian for this interview.

You can learn more about Anat Litwin and the HomeBase Project by visiting the following website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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