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Our 4th Northern Spark project with Monira Al Qadiri & Soap Factory
The all-night Twin Cities art festival Northern Spark returns with the theme of climate change again for 2017, this year running all along the Green Line. At one end, Mizna will present our most ambitious project yet--a mesmerizing 10-foot-round sculpture by Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri, who's featured in our recent environment-themed journal issue with a spotlight on her first Alien Technology piece in Dubai.

Alien Technology II will be a new frontier for Mizna, undertaken locally with fabrication by specialist craftsman Trever Nicholas and a long-term exhibition after the festival at co-presenter and iconoclastic art space The Soap Factory. Stay tuned for shots of the amazing build process, interviews with the artist, and more.

Northern Spark > along the Green Line > June 10 sunset to sunrise June 11, 2017 > FREE
Specific site: The Commons park by U.S. Bank Stadium, 425 Portland Ave S Minneapolis 55415
Then at The Soap Factory, 514 2nd St SE Minneapolis 55414, from June 11 to mid 2018!

"Big oil"--images of faceless corporations, drilling operations in far-flung territories, pipelines and spills, the Gulf of Mexico, the Persian Gulf, global industries, limited resources. But this sublimely out-of-proportion sculpture of an oil drill bit alludes to much more. Come step into its monolithic orbit; conjure its multiple meanings through a close encounter.

Alien Technology II is Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri's second large-scale piece about the Gulf's- and her own family's- pearl diving past, the massive oil industry that displaced it, and their shared environments, narratives and aesthetics--pearls and oil are two rare, uniquely iridescent materials. Their physical and geographic overlaps suggest deeper entwinements the artist draws us to explore.

The Gulf pearl industry is invisible to most, a forgotten history after the economic transformation triggered by oil. But for possibly 2,000 years previous, the coastal Gulf economy was largely based on pearls. Pearl diving, trading, even pearl music: culture founded on a coveted resource, like oil.

With entrancing colors and strange appendages, Al Qadiri's giant shimmering drill bit also evokes bioluminescent marine life, or some futuristic organic machine--alien technology, forged here through a history of pearls, an era of oil, and an environmental future open and unknown.


Monira Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts, where her research was focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle-East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures, as well as their legacies of corruption. She is also part of the artist collective GCC. www.moniraalqadiri.com

The Soap Factory is a laboratory for artistic experimentation and innovation, dedicated to supporting artists and engaging audiences through the production and presentation of contemporary art in a unique and historic environment. They are unabashedly artist-centered, offering audiences a visceral and immediate experience of art and of the life of the artist.

The Soap Factory is located in the former National Purity Soap Company building, donated to the organization by Pillsbury in 1995. This historic 48,000 sq. ft. wood and brick warehouse--located along the riverfront near the birthplace of Minneapolis--makes The Soap Factory the third largest contemporary art gallery in Minneapolis/St Paul, and one of the largest devoted to emergent practice in the USA. They are the only true "raw" space in Minneapolis/St Paul, a unique showcase for sculpture, installation, painting, performance, photography, film, and video.

The Soap Factory supports artists and their work not only by providing exhibition and studio space on an unprecedented scale, but also by providing a skilled staff to aid artists in realizing new work, by paid stipends to both artists and curators, and by securing press articles and critical reviews of shows in a unique gallery space with a national profile. Doing so, they help position artists to continue beyond their Soap Factory exhibitions, as well as offering our volunteers, many of whom are emerging artists themselves, the opportunity to learn and work within a professional gallery environment. www.soapfactory.org

From sunset on June 10 to sunrise on June 11, Northern Spark 2017 is a free all-night art festival exploring the effects of climate change through participatory projects happening in neighborhoods along Metro Transit's Green Line, connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul. Experience the largest Northern Spark yet, with nearly 70 art projects organized around neighborhood nodes: Cedar Riverside/West Bank, Weisman Art Museum/East Bank, Little Africa/Snelling, Rondo/Lexington, and Little Mekong/ Western. In downtown Minneapolis the festival moves from its usual river location to The Commons, the new green space at Portland and 5th, and culminates in Saint Paul at Union Depot, the Green Line terminus in Lowertown.

Since 2011 thousands of Minnesotans and visitors have enjoyed Northern Spark, an annual all-night arts festival illuminating public spaces and streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul with video projections, temporary installations and experimental performances. Northern Spark is produced by Northern Lights.mn, a Twin Cities arts organization whose work ranges from large-scale public art platforms like Northern Spark to Art(ists) On the Verge, a yearlong mentorship program for 5 emerging artists working with innovative uses of technology. They support artists in the creation and presentation of art in the public sphere, such as at St. Paul's Union Depot (Amateur Intelligence Radio), "choir karaoke" at the Minnesota State Fair (Giant Sing Along) and most recently Words For Winter, programming poetry into the construction landscape along Nicollet Mall. Through projects such as Ruination: City of Dust, a location-based environmental mystery game played on bicycles along Minnehaha Creek, and the monthly climate conversation series, Anthropocene Awareness Association, their work helps audiences explore expanded possibilities for civic engagement through art. www.2017.northernspark.org


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Mizna is a Twin Cities non-profit arts organization that promotes contemporary expressions of Arab American culture. We publish the literary journal Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, produce the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, and offer varied other readings, performances, art projects, and community events involving an exceptionally talented and diverse range of local, national, and international Arab American artists.

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