Visit the Website: http://122conversations.com
122 Conversations is a gesture of friendship and sharing that intends to create compassionate connections and community through art – person to person, city to city, across the world. The five-year project was conceived by Duluth, MN-native Anne Labovitz, and will travel to Duluth’s five international sister cities: Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan, Växjö, Sweden, Petrozavodsk, Russia, Thunder Bay, Canada and Ohara Isumi-City, Japan.
This project embodies the belief that art can be a catalyst for positive social change. The artist was inspired by the mission of the Sister Cities International, “To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.” Labovitz said, “That aligns with my values. I wanted to create a project that takes the mission into the communities through the arts, and back home.”
The project began with Labovitz conducting 60 interviews via Skype with ten citizens from each of the six participating cities. The interviewees, which included the mayor, were selected by the sister cities’ organizations in each of the countries. The interview questions began with: What is your name? What is your favorite color? Who do you live with? What do you eat? Your occupation? What do you do in your spare time? The interviewees were asked How would you describe yourself and what do you hope for? These simple questions aimed to facilitate a connection between the speakers. The interviews became the source material for the traveling exhibition, which includes videos of the interviews, site-specific interpretive paintings of the conversations, and participatory elements that allow citizen-viewers to contribute to the project while on display.
Each exhibition is created specifically for each venue with consideration of travel, expenses, and customs. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise [Box in valise], a “portable museum” of precise miniature replicas of his most important works, Labovitz will create a carry-on bag to house every component of each exhibition out of lightweight materials suitable for international travel.
122 Conversations will culminate in 2018 at the Tweed Museum of Art – University of Minnesota in Duluth, MN. The final display will include the contributions of exhibition visitors in the five sister cities. The participatory element is an important part of the project, for it enables citizens to “validate” Labovitz’s impressions of their city as represented in the exhibited paintings. Individuals are invited to choose paper from pockets of a specially made wearable garment in an act of sharing and create an image or message. The individual pages will be collected into a book for each city, forming a community art piece. These books, along with the traveling exhibition bags, will be archived at the Tweed Museum.