MEET ALICIA MERSY
Join us for a dialogue with Alicia Mersy, new media artist and filmmaker. Alicia was born and raised in Montreal, originally French and Lebanese. In 2014 she co-founded Malaxa – an art office – whose work explores decolonial aesthetics and political resistance through digital culture, art, documentary and fashion.
She resides in lives in Brooklyn, New York which is where we caught up with her but has spent the last years in the Middle East, mainly in Israel (occupied Palestine). There, she finally embraced her origins and especially her curly thick hair. Her work has been exhibited in museums internationally, as she creates space for conversations, through video, digital images and photography within the themes of self representation, social politics, class guilt politics, race, focusing on the resistance of repressive structures. Her research and collaborations, include digital designs, documentary work and workshops in different political contexts, questioning classical ethnography, counter representation of dominant ideologies and ways of thinking. She cares about marginalized people and representing them in our oppressive white-supremacist society. She hopes to empower people by getting closer, listening to their hearts and by exposing their vision and feelings. She does what she does to grow and build solidarity. She loves free spirits, radicals and revolutionaries.
Currently her latest exhibition entitled "Wisdom Fertilizer" can be found showcased in the Abrons Arts Center in New York City, this show will be running until April 5th. Below is our dialogue with Alicia as we explore her work and the very considered intention behind it.
Tell us your New York story, where did you grow up and what brought you here?
I grew up in Montreal. I came to New York to give birth.
What ignited your interest in decolonial aesthetics?
It started in London when I met the collaborator for my project Malaxa. We were looking for teachers that weren't white men and decided to get out of art school and go to places like bodegas, phone shops, beauty salons to get schooled from real life people. We wanted to showcase the works of teachers challenging our white capitalist patriarchal normative visual culture.
How do you feel digital culture, art, documentary and fashion are effective mediums to encapsulate the entrenched political discourse and reality surrounding immigrant experiences?
Immigrants and asylum seekers need support and most importantly deserve to be seen not through mass media’s evil eye but in their splendor. Fashion, art and documentary are tools to heal with love and pay homage to those who are demonized by society’s supremacists.
How do you feel your art and identity as a female artist have been shaped or affected by the places you’ve lived?
I was born in Montreal and never felt quiet there. I left when I was 21 and moved to Israel (occupied Palestine) which was in some ways to get closer to my Lebanese roots without fully going there. I met all these women that looked like me, with same hair and nose that was the beginning of me accepting myself and also the beginning of a crazy spiritual journey. London, that’s where I learned about art and also where I met my main life teacher, collaborator and wife Tabita Rezaire. New York is my home, my family, it’s where I gave birth, it feels intuitive and I need it like everyone who comes here: to reach high.
In the installation You Thrive Cause You Must, you displayed flags depicting the portraits of perceivably proud men, each portraying highly stylized and unique versions of themselves, what are these photographs revealing?
You Thrive Cause You Must pays homage to the Eritrean men of Tel Aviv and seeks to fight and challenge the prejudices and stereotypes that fuels Israeli Media on the Eritrean community in this country. It’s a collaborative project with my friend Abiel Amanuel’s photographic business studio based in south Tel Aviv. We printed these images on teardrop flags and placed them in the streets and on the beach in different cities in Israel.
Images from Alicia's current exhibit at The Abrons Arts Center entitled "Wisdom Fertilizer"
What inspired your most recent exhibition “Wisdom Fertilizer” and what feeling were you most conscious about invoking in your audience and why?
I wanted to create a space where people can meditate and smile and try to help them get rid of their mental for 5 minutes. The idea came right after I gave birth I wanted to find a solution to heal from the hyper capitalistic individualistic world we live in and thought ok I’m going to teach myself how to breath and then I had to find a way to do this exercise everyday like a ritual so I made videos about it
This installation also recognizes local businesses as “places of healing,” what about local businesses speaks to you as being a site that possesses healing properties?
That was a different project called Diaspora Brilliance where I documented the contribution of the sudanese and Eritrean communities in Tel Aviv to destroy the ongoing narratives of the refugees created by the media. I made videos of their DIY business where you eat Injera and top up your phone is also their healing spaces and where they are safe, where they watch football and Eritrean soap operas, party, drink tea and smoke shisha in the back of their business.
What to you, defines space and imbues space with personal meaning?
Space for me is Friday to Saturday night when I close my phone because that’s where my most intimate connected moments happen, where I get clear and where intentions get more pure.
In Fear East the Soul, you provide an endless stream of positive affirmations, how do you perceive the affect of positive affirmations on one’s life?
Affirmations are almost all we need! We should have teachers lecturing this in school. Im actually designing an affirmation ensemble right now because i want people to be able to wear their affirmations.
What is something you have loved for a long time?
Maimoun comes from the Persian language word meaning to welcome guests into your home. If you could invite anyone to dinner in your home, who would it be, what would you cook?
I would learn how to cook Pakistani food and resurrect Benazir Bhutto