Visual Art

MOCA’s ‘HamacaS’ exhibition invites visitors to make hammock, use hammock, talk immigration

Written By Elisa Turner
March 3, 2020 at 4:50 PM

Located in MOCA’s shaded courtyard, “HamacaS” consists of large looms where visitors can take part in the weaving of hammocks. (Photo courtesy of Philipp Muller)

When Liene Bosquê left Brazil 10 years ago for art school in Chicago, she could not find a place to hang her hammock.

“I was so disappointed with the drywall there,” she said, with a laugh.  “Finally when I got to New York, I had a residency in an older building so I could drill a hole for it. Then I was really happy.”

Currently living in Miami, Bosquê not only has a place to hang her hammock but has launched an interactive art project with hammocks, “HamacaS” at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, which is on view through March 29. (The title is the Spanish word for hammock, with the capital “S” at the end intended to reflect the curvy shape of a hammock in use, the artist says.)

As an example of what’s known as “social practice” or “socially engaged art,” it does not involve the creation of a discrete art object like sculpture or painting but instead engenders an ongoing experience designed to connect with the surrounding community. Viewers can simply observe, or they can participate as well.

Located in MOCA’s shaded courtyard, “HamacaS” consists of three large looms where visitors can take part in the weaving of hammocks. Looms are threaded in a fetching array of colors, and weaving on the looms progresses at different paces and in various patterns, depending on how much or how little each participant wants to weave. It’s not hard; Bosquê or other artists provide straightforward instructions. Nearby are completed hammocks in which people can sit or swing.

Recent political controversies about immigration spurred her to conceive “HamacaS.”

“This is a lot about my own thinking about what an immigrant would be carrying from where they are from,” she says. “It’s about displacement, how we adjust to a new culture and place. How we carry our background, our stories with us.”

She says her background in architecture also led her to think about hammocks as womb-like shelters for the body.

At times, socially engaged art like “HamacaS” may cross over into territories of political activism and environmental advocacy. Such art is deeply rooted in community activism and has become increasingly prevalent in the 21st century.

Artist Liene Bosquê says her background in architecture got her thinking of hammocks as womb-like shelters for the body. (Photo courtesy of Jess Rolls)

South Florida is no exception to this trend. The Boca Raton Museum of Art recently presented “Tree of Knowledge,” evolving from a residency with sculptor and performance artist Maren Hassinger. It was inspired by a landmark banyan tree in Boca Raton’s Pearl City, a community settled by African-Americans. During storytelling sessions, Hassinger worked with the public to create twisted strips of newspapers. Echoing the banyan tree’s aerial roots, the newspaper strips were then suspended from the ceiling of a museum gallery.

Like “Tree of Knowledge,” “HamacaS” creates an easy-access place where people contribute to the art as it evolves and grows. Everyone can participate. Conversation is encouraged. Immigration, in this case, is the intended theme.

In 2018, another version of “HamacaS” took place in the New York borough of Queens, known for its cultural diversity and large immigrant population. The art project was installed in a public park next to the Queens Museum, which selected Bosquê and “HamacaS” for its ArtBuilt residency.

Since “HamacaS” is now in a museum and not in a public park as was its previous New York iteration, Bosquê thinks there was “a more spontaneous encounter” in Queens.

“HamacaS” is funded by The Ellies, Miami’s visual arts awards presented by Oolite Arts, and the WaveMaker Grants program by Locust Projects, with support from The55project, which promotes Brazilian artists in the United States.

On a recent Sunday at MOCA, Miami-based textile artists Amy Gelb and Karla Kantorovich said they were impressed by the range of people interacting with “HamacaS.” Bosquê was out of town, so she chose Gelb and Kantorovich to work in her place.

In Bosquê’s absence, conversation focused more on connecting with others than immigration.

“People have been loving it. People that come here already want to connect,” Kantorovich said. “Yesterday, there was a lady who told us how she had lost her son recently. She was here almost two hours. She called so many friends to tell them about it. It’s touching something very personal.”

“What’s special about this project,” said Gelb, “is that it creates a sense of community around art in a way that’s not just observing or talking about art, which I value a lot, but you get to experience art with other people. I think we are hungry for that.”

Viewers can simply observe, or they can participate as well in the interactive art project, “HamacaS.” (Photo courtesy of Philipp Muller)

In this setting, art is not intimidating, she added. “It’s something everybody can do.”

When people see this project, she said, “they ask questions. They walk around. Little by little, they start touching. No one’s telling them, ‘don’t touch.’ Then we ask if they’d like to participate.” She estimated at least nine out of 10 people do at least one line of weaving.

While assisting with “HamacaS,” Gelb said she hasn’t heard much specifically about Miami’s immigrant experience. Instead, she’s heard about Miami as a city of transients, populated by “people who have moved from place to place and need to connect with other people,” she said.

Weaving has provoked deep memories. People have told Gelb how textile art had been a presence in their families, “whether it’s their mother’s knitting or their grandmother’s crocheting,” she recalled. “One gentleman said his mom had a loom. He hadn’t seen one in years. He was very emotional about it.”

In the courtyard where “HamacaS” takes place, colorful weavings abound. Looms are near traditional examples, including an intensely blue hammock from Mexico, a striped one from Guatemala, and one in natural fibers from the Amazonian Warao tribe. Arranged on a table are other Latin American textiles in gold, blue, fuchsia and red. These textiles all deserve more explanation regarding their cultural significance.

After its presentation at MOCA, other yet-to-be-announced Miami locations are expected to host “HamacaS.”

What: “HamacaS: A Project by Liene Bosquê”

When: On view through March 29. “HamacaS” will be activated for public participation from 2-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. The artist is expected to be onsite March 7-8, 21-22, and 28-29; the project will be activated by other Miami artists when Bosquê is not in town. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, 770 NE 125th St.

Cost: $10 general admission; $3 for students and seniors; and free for MOCA members, North Miami residents and children younger than 12

More information: 305-893-6211; mocanomi.org

Related free events: 

“MOCA miniMakers: HamacaS with Liene Bosquê,” 2-4 p.m. March 7. Learn about textiles and collaborative weaving techniques in a hands-on workshop; for age 6-12.

“MOCA Moving Images: Weaving on Film,” 7-9 p.m. March 11. Screening of 16mm film and digital video on weaving and its culture, followed by conversation between Bosquê and “HamacaS” project coordinator Ana Clara Silva.  

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