The Immigrant Artist Biennial (TIAB) 2023

Featured Project: TIAB 2023 with Bianca Abdi-Boragi, Katherine Adams, Anna Mikaela Ekstrand, and Meghana Karnik

From left: Anna Mikaela Ekstrand, Bianca Abdi-Boragi, Katherine Adams, and Meghana Karnik. Photographed by Yann Chashanovski.

The Immigrant Artist Biennial is the first and only biennial to celebrate and amplify the diverse voices of immigrant artists and its second edition will take place in 2023 hosted by institutional partners. A venue for artist-curators, the biennial’s founding artistic director Katya Grokhovsky, who curated the first edition, has appointed artists Bianca Abdi-Boragi and Meghana Karnik alongside curators Katherine Adams and Anna Mikaela Ekstrand to form the core curatorial team. Further pushing the boundaries for curation, the team has chosen to collaboratively curate the biennial and have begun a year of communal research and studio visits aiming to announce their concept in 2022.

Tell me about your curatorial project and how it came together.

Anna Mikaela Ekstrand: The U.S. currently has four categories citizens, residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented immigrants and our work with TIAB 2020 proved that the definition for an immigrant is fluid, requiring constant renegotiation. The last edition called for a focus on knowledge exchange, we discussed visa restrictions and travel bans, and highlighting marginalization ranging from speaking to organizations about grants that are not open to non-citizenship/Green Card holders, these conversations took place during our panel discussions, to highlighting organizations that can help, a legal workshop, among other things. Although we did not spell it out, the biennial explored infrastructures of care with a strong sense of urgency.

For the upcoming biennial, I am eager to build on this foundation by developing a dynamic model for collaborative curating while exploring immigrant artists that use their experiences to consider futures. Taking a visionary approach, anchored in fantasy, I would like to explore the cosmologies of cultural multiplicities: past and future for TIAB’s 2023 edition. In our increasingly globalized world, what does post-culture look like, is it mono or multi? How does it relate to post-gender and post-human? Being a group of four female curators, several of us first or second-generation immigrants, I am interested in highlighting immigrant experiences that have empowered women. Guyanese women for instance usually emigrate before their families, thereby becoming heads of households controlling bank accounts and sponsorship applications. We have already seen a Pakistani artist that works with themes of sexuality and critique of the patriarchy, otherwise closed to her.

Sanié Bokhari. “The cough bomber’s return,” 2021. Graphite on paper, 55 x 51 in. Photograph courtesy of Aicon Gallery.

Bianca Abdi-Boragi: Anna Mikaela introduced my work to Katya for TIAB 2020 and I was selected to participate as an artist. During the run of the biennial, I expressed interest in curating, suggesting that the next edition engage with mechanisms of assimilation and themes of trajectory, subsistence, gender, ideology, and autonomy, while linking this moment to the historical repercussions of post-colonialism, and here we are.

Valerie Piraino, “Niger Delta Blues III,” 2016. Polystyrene, epoxy clay, paint, twine, 26 1/2 x 3 x 2 1/2 inches. Photograph courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

Katherine Adams: In terms of concept, I’m eager to zone in on those aspects of the immigrant/migration experience that are hard to pin down in terms of identity–to hold space for subjective positions that are extremely hybrid and perhaps appear contradictory in terms of how they challenge ideas of origin and shared heritage.

Working in a biennial format specifically, I am also excited to create an infrastructure for artists that models the kind of flexibility and experimental character we are seeking at the curatorial level. In the first edition, while the virtual format we had to adapt due to COVID was a challenge, it also prompted some really interesting initiatives from artists to bring their work into new formats and media. The idea of a curatorial framework that can be porous and used or co-fabricated by the artists as part of their works is very exciting to me, and I’m interested to see how we can carry this into physical spaces now that we are working offline again (fingers crossed) in this post-covid moment.

Uwa Iduozee and Maryan Abdulkarim. “They Walked on Water.” Ongoing photo book project, 2017-2019. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Meghana Karnik: In my early conversations with Katya, I asked if TIAB would hold space for artists born to immigrants—as a way to complicate what gets projected onto “immigrant” as a category. I’m glad to be involved now as an initiator into this inquiry, which feels personal; being part of the first generation in my family to grow up in the US and to work in a field that speculates on what culture is. How do different immigrant generations bear their ancestral legacies in the context of simultaneous cultural erasure, reclamation, and assimilation? What can be learned about art from that nonbinary position?

Jeff Kasper, “things remembered [how long do I practice before I become?],” 2018. Photographed by Yann Chashanovski.

Bianca Abdi-Boragi is a French-Algerian/ American interdisciplinary artist/curator who received her MFA from Yale School of Art, Sculpture, in 2017, and obtained her BFA from ENSAPC. Her shows have been featured on Hyperallergic, Artnet, Artspiel, Taggverk Magazine among others. Solo shows include the Border Project Space Gallery and CADAF Art Fair, she has exhibited with SPRING/BREAK Art Show, the Flux Factory, Heaven Gallery Chicago, the Immigrant Artist Biennial, NARS Foundation, The Border Project Space, VCU Arts, NURTUREart Gallery, Chashama Gallery, Field Project Gallery, Galerie Protégé, throughout the United States and internationally and has screened art films at Anthology Film Archive, UnionDocs, Video Revival, NY, and the Whitney Humanity Center. Abdi-Boragi was the recipient of the JUNCTURE Fellowship in Art and International Human Rights from the Yale Law School and was in residency at NARS Foundation, MASS MoCA’s studios, the Centquatre, Paris, France, Pact Zullverein, Essen, Germany, Cal’Arts, Los Angeles.

Katherine Adams is a curator, writer and researcher based in New York. Her recent curatorial work and research has centered on time-based media, performance and photography. She is currently a graduate student at Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies (Class of 2023). Previously, she worked as a researcher with galleries including Venus Over Manhattan (New York) and Andrea Rosen Gallery (New York). In 2020, she was a selected participant of IMPAKT Center for Media Culture (Utrecht, Netherlands)’s ‘Full Spectrum Curatorship’ Program and a scholarship recipient for the Certificate Program of the New Centre for Research & Practice, where she remains affiliated as a Researcher. Her most recent curatorial project is ‘Countercapture’ at Miriam Gallery (Brooklyn, New York) and in 2020, she served as The Immigrant Artist Biennial’s Exhibition Manager. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Yale University.

Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is a Guyanese/Swedish independent curator and researcher based in NYC. She is interested in feminism, decolonial theory, and social practice. She has held curatorial positions at the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Arts and Design, Solomon R. Guggenheim, and Bard Graduate Center. She holds dual Master’s Degrees in Art History from Stockholm University and Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from Bard Graduate Center. Anna Mikaela is co-editing Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Archeology of a Profession in Sweden: Curating Beyond the Mainstream both forthcoming with Sternberg Press. In addition, Anna Mikaela is the founding editor-in-chief of Cultbytes.

Meghana Karnik works across modalities as a curator, culture worker, artist, and writer. She is interested in discourses connecting art with social change; and the spiritual, relational, and systemic conditions of creative work in non-profit alternative spaces. Born in the US to South Indian immigrants of different ethnic communities, she studies astrology as a process of re-indigenization. Alongside TIAB, she works with Art Matters Foundation on their new regranting initiative, the Artist2Artist Fellowship. Karnik has organized exhibitions and programs with global arts institutions, including FRONT International 2022: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, EFA Project Space (New York), Cleveland Institute of Art’s Reinberger Gallery, Critical Practices, Inc. (New York), Harlan Levey Projects (Brussels, BE), Foundation and Center for Contemporary Arts (Prague, CR), and Zygote Press (Cleveland). Karnik has an M.A. in Arts Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University, a B.A. in Political Science and Art History from Case Western Reserve University, and completed a non-degree BFA Exhibition & Thesis in Drawing at The Cleveland Institute of Art.

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