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The art space managed by the artist showcases experimental art


By Pamir Kiciman


The local reporter

There is an experimental art space in Chapel Hill. It is hidden and under the radar.

The only way to find this art space is to subscribe to the online mailing list. There are no regular hours and the space is unexpected, even surprising. When you enter, your senses, your mind and your feelings are already more acute and curious.

Space is submerged. That’s why it’s called BASEMENT Art Space. None of it is completely finished, there are exposed pipes, access panels marked “Future AC”, with the entrance room being the most unfinished, showing insulation and a water heater.

There are exposed beams overhead and the floor is concrete. After the entrance hall, there is another large room, with a small partially sectioned portion for video and sound installations.

The whole space is minimal and raw. The perfect setting for creation.

The current exhibit at BASEMENT is “Limestone Almanac”, which features three distinct artists.

BASEMENT takes care of the artists for the exhibitions through involvement.

“We observe recent graduates from nearby art programs, search artists’ websites and social media feeds, and participate in local and regional exhibitions,” BASEMENT replied in a question and answer email. from the collective team; all quotes are from the team).

Although the artists are distinct, “Limestone Almanac” has a central theme of recognition, “damaged relationships with the earth, community and self; appeals to the lost, rediscovered and imagined practices of a culture of connection and restorative action, ”according to the BASEMENT website.

The themes of the exhibitions emerge in the continuous dialogue between the BASEMENT team and the artists.

“Typically, one or two of us take the curator’s lead and shape the theme and content of the show,” wrote BASEMENT.

Upon entering the exhibition, the first room fills with Ayla Gizlice’s “Of Primary Concern is the Possible Eutrophic Tendency of the Lake” and through the opening you can see Billy Dee’s “Three-Quinti” hanging in the second room.

The entrance piece of Gizlice impresses with its length and weight of poplar on a steel table, above which are arranged and shaped clay coffins filled with fish and salted fish bones. Both the clay for the pots and the dead fish come from Lake Jordan. According to the exhibition guide, these small sculptures “honor the bodies of fish that have died from human negligence …”

Up close it is haunting.

Billy Dee’s suspended fiber piece exudes order with its design and a sense of peace with its subtle swaying in the room currents, despite the fact that what inspired it is anything but lighthearted.

It was made in collaboration with Dee’s mother during a quilted residency at UNC-Greensboro. The work is based on a passage from a book by Leila Taylor who writes about Blackness and American Gothic, which in part reads: “The formula requires not only the ability to see a person as a non-person (or rather not see people, but as a population) but not to be seen “.

On the other side of the second room of the BASEMENT is Ayla Gizlice’s “Locus”, another creation based on Lake Jordan that symbolizes the invisible and microplastic chemical pollution in waterways with tangible rocks and plastic waste collected around it. at the lake. Steel rods of various lengths join the rocks and plastic in an arrangement that is propped in a corner with a protruding wall, which adds a sense of stifled nature.

Partially hidden behind a low wall are Jasper Lee’s video and sound installations, “Madness Is A Fully Instrumented Score” and “May Day”.

Lee is an artist and musician who explores his favorite mediums as “tools for building communities, creating rituals and engaging with folklore,” according to the BASEMENT website.

He also runs the Sweet Wreath music label and is an interpreter and organizer of the experimental music scene in Birmingham, Alabama.

BASEMENT met after members identified the need for “alternative spaces to experience art”. Therefore, the team’s email said: “We wanted to build an artist-run space to show the works of contemporary artists who hail from or work in the South.”

Run by artists means it has no institutional overlords.

“In particular, we seek to build relationships with artists who are underrepresented in traditional art venues and whose critical, experimental and / or research-based practices address relevant social and political issues”, is how BASEMENT described what represents.

An important factor driving BASEMENT’s “ethics of design space” is that it supports “critical artistic practices”. Essentially these are approaches to artistic creation that are not about art as an end in itself.

The BASEMENT email said: “Unlike art venues which are commercially driven, we offer a space for those artists and art viewers who see art as a means to ignite the conversation. on pertinent issues in contemporary art and society “.

For example, the three artists in “Limestone Almanac” are described as “citizen-artists”. According to Ayla Gizlice, who was the only artist able to answer questions via email for the article, being a citizen artist “means looking beyond ourselves and being an active and engaged member of our community.”

Speaking of his two pieces on display, Gizlice wrote: “In this body of work I consider the implications that the Haw River dam has had on our area, particularly through the lens of water pollution and eutrophication” .

Gizlice poses serious questions in an attempt to change the status quo of what is wrong in society and the world. Questions that hold humanity accountable to the future and ask, “What if the future and non-human entities have legal weight?”

Artists like Gizlice have profound considerations about their place in time and the planet, as evidenced by what he emailed regarding his clay coffins and dead lake fish.

“I try to honor the bones and bodies of dead fish as a delayed act of care,” he said.

This is perfectly in line with what makes BASEMENT: “As an art space we are interested in critical artistic practices because we understand the role of art in engaging in social and political conversations relevant to our present moment.”

Make your conversations by subscribing to the BASEMENT mailing list and visiting the current exhibition on Friday 24 June by appointment, or attend the closing reception on 25 June, from 6 to 8 pm.

You can also learn about digital residences and studio snacks, two online ways to experience art also offered by BASEMENT. For more information, please visit:

Pamir Kiciman is a writer / poet, artist / craftsman, photographer, healer and meditation teacher. To find out more, visit him and contact him by email: [email protected]

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