The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.
Mark your calendars--Giving Tuesday is November 28th, 2023! When you donate to the Mattress Factory your support directly funnels into our artistic, educational, and community programs.
As we gear up for 2024, six more artists await to begin a new creative journey with the Mattress Factory. Their residences and exhibitions will push, delight, challenge, inspire, and always be unexpected. This is only possible thanks to the support of our members and donors.
Your contribution impacts each of our exhibits, workshops, and community events, uplifting all who experience the art here.
We are on a mission to raise $50,000 this Giving Tuesday. Every gift we receive will amplify our support for these incredible artists, bringing forth artworks to our community.
We are excited to announce that this year, for every gift of $150 or more, you will receive one of our newly branded T-shirts! For every gift of $1,000 or more, donors will receive a limited-edition print signed by a Mattress Factory installing artist!
Here are several ways to support us:
Now in our 45th year, the Mattress Factory is committed to our legacy of providing unparalleled support to artists from around the world and around the corner. 2023 is an exciting year for the Museum as we prepare to open new exhibitions from seven artists across three countries. Our exhibitions program will keep you engaged, challenged, and inspired by ambitious and provocative works of art all year long. We are dedicated to placing the artists and their processes at the forefront of our work.
When you support the Mattress Factory with a donation or membership purchase, you give our 2023 artists-in-residence the time, space, materials and resources to explore new ideas, take artistic risks and engage with the Pittsburgh community. Their remarkable works help us see our world from new perspectives.
Philip Andrew Lewis and Lenka Clayton (Pittsburgh, PA) opening in the Monterey Annex
Lenka Clayton (Derbyshire, UK) and Phillip Andrew Lewis (Memphis, Tennessee) have solo and collaborative practices and have been working together since 2017. Their projects include a public gallery that is always closed, an 8ft long bronze plaque marking the history of their studio building over the last 600 million years, and most recently, the construction of a full-scale working lighthouse, encapsulated inside a burnt-out house
Lydia Rosenberg (Pittsburgh, PA) opening in the Monterey Annex
Lydia Rosenberg is an artist, educator, & exhibition organizer currently based in Pittsburgh. Her work, primarily in sculpture, is concerned with the impact of language on our perception of objects and is informed by an interest in the concreteness of matter in contrast to subjective interpretation.
Katie Bullock (Albio, MI) opening in the Monterey Annex
Katie Bullock catalogs and works with observed “everyday” moments and phenomena, driven by the complexity of truth that taking note can reveal. She currently lives and works in Albion, Michigan.
Shohei Katayama (Louisville, KY) opening in the Main Building
Shohei Katayama is a Japanese American who explores the space between light and dark, life and death, beauty and danger, nature and man. Utilizing his art as a catalyst for environmental conversations, his work examines the underlying patterns and forces of nature by showcasing unseen relationships in ecology.
Asim Waqif (New Delhi, India) opening in the Main Building
Asim Waqif uses materials as the starting point for his works: whether objects with which he has long, complicated histories, detritus he has collected from various sources, or plant forms he has nurtured into being. Apart from the sheer physical voluptuousness of Waqif’s sculptures, their combinations of natural and industrial materials force us to confront many of humanity’s most urgent dilemmas, positing a moment in history (now?) when civilization may be losing control of itself.
Andrea Peña (Montreal, Canada) opening in the Main Building
A hybrid Latinx artist, Andrea Peña was originally born in Bogota, Colombia and has carved her practice in the territory of Tiohti:áke, Montreal. Her practice as designer and choreographer merges the body and materiality in performative, digital and sculptural works to create living arts universes. Andrea is recognized for her creations as critical, alternative and spatial universes that break with our notions and conceptions of a sensitive humanity and engage in rich encounters between conceptual research and a highly physical and material approach.
Thank you for your support that enriches and sustains our creative community!
Image courtesy of the installation "I come from a holy place" (2022) by Bekezela Mguni.
In her first solo exhibition in the US, HalfDream: Another Room, Doreen Chan (b. 1987, Hong Kong) finds in dreams a poetic medium for identifying possibilities of human connection and a communal language. As the title of her show expresses, for Chan dreams provide another room–“a space that is real for the dreamer, not fake,” in her words, or illusionary–but is instead a tangible, psychological realm that allows for a better understanding of how individual experiences, personal memories, major life changes, and daily routines, are shared by others. Further, by working through them, a person’s dreams can make a concrete impact in their perception–of relationships or the past–altering the course of healing or shaping new trajectories.
This ongoing participatory project grew out of a body of work that began as a response to Chan’s vivid, rapid dreaming in the context of the political climate in 2019 where the artist grew up in Hong Kong. Following the stay-at-home order period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist’s consideration of dreams morphed into HalfDream. This project explores commonalities at a time of political polarization–how psychological experiences and very real states of instability, displacement, and isolation, recur throughout the unconscious inner worlds of many. Removing herself or a particular city as the central protagonist in this exhibition, Chan sets into motion a system for gathering and sharing the ephemeral, idiosyncratic dreams of the collective, transforming them into artwork with the participants, and asking visitors to reflect on their own dream memories.
During her residency in Pittsburgh, Chan has worked closely with local groups and classrooms, forming meaningful collaborations that created opportunities for intimacy among people with seemingly disparate backgrounds. For Chan, this collaborative engagement is the fundamental material of the work itself: comprised of the trust and exploratory conversations forged over the course of the project. While her HalfDream works incorporate an online component with anonymous contributions, the artist parses and pairs the individual dreams herself. The resulting exhibition situates the viewer decidedly between the physical and immaterial, personal and collective.
The installation on view, including new work in video, sound, and sculpture as well as social-practice, brings together dream content from eleven “dreamers,” as Chan describes the participants in her work who function less as subjects than as active collaborators. In a three-channel, interactive video, three of these individuals revisit, express, and analyze important relationships, from childhood trauma to potential loss of a friendship. Here, Chan assumes the role of facilitator and mixologist, inviting participants to talk through their dream content and associations through visceral blends evoking related places, smells, and tastes. One dreamer talks about a move from mainland China to Chicago and the distance from home over a concoction of brandy, garlic, and chili oil, reminding the dreamer of her father.
Other parts of the show take the form of abstract sculptures and wall-based works that fuse dream landscapes held in common by multiple participants: an underwater location marked by a glass window or fish tank; an ambiguous melding of sunrise and sunset; a feeling of sitting on a bench between two individuals whether known or strangers. “Is somebody else here? And who are they?” is a suspicion that runs throughout, as the irregular curvature of a seat suggests a missing body, or the sound of footsteps from the ceiling above reminds us we are not alone. Embedded within this sentiment are stories incorporating humor and grief, family relationships, and the passage of time.
These themes have occupied the artist’s practice regarding her own personal world, but here they shift into deeply considered conversations with others. Throughout the exhibition, dreams become a common language to communally make sense of social events, everyday phenomena, or tragedy. Using structural materials like resin, acrylic, and wood to create the subtlest alterations expected in objects reminiscent of a clock, a bench, a bookshelf, Chan’s sculptural and multi-media installation refuses to mimic qualities of dreaminess, but instead suggests an evocative laboratory for engaging that which evades, and connects, all of us.
HalfDream: Another Room will be on view through fall 2023. During the run of the exhibition Chan will return to Pittsburgh and invite some dreamers to revisit their submissions and create artworks based on their dreams with her in the gallery. To participate, share your dreams on HalfDream.org.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Doreen Chan (Hong Kong, b.1987) has received training in visual communication and photography. She graduated with an MA in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2021. Primarily a lens-based and site-specific artist, Chan’s ongoing work is realized both online and offline. In her current participatory art project, HalfDream, she blends her deep desire of connecting people and the progressive development of her artistic practices with the focus on the investigation of personal perception, materiality, and daily details that are often overlooked. Key elements in Chan’s work include interpersonal relationships, personal memories, and fragmentary moments of daily life in the city. Chan was listed as a finalist in the Art Sanya Huayu Youth Award in 2019, and the 4th VH Award. She was named a Cultured Magazine Young Artist in 2021 and received the Pritzker Fellowship in 2019.
These four artists – whose works form a cohesive yet unintentional connection – were selected by 2021 Regional Open Call Visiting Curator Denise Markonish, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA.
Over the duration of collaborative duo Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis's The Museum Collects Itself, the trash generated by the normal operations of the Mattress Factory Museum will be redirected – stored, catalogued and displayed within the Monterey Annex Gallery – instead of being thrown away. The gallery will begin as a blank white space and will slowly fill up with the discarded materials of all aspects of institutional activities, which may include production waste from art installations, administrative office debris, deinstalled artworks, educational workshop materials, museum visitor detritus, obsolete office technology, among other things.
By collecting 10-months of trash with involvement from the entire staff of the museum, Clayton and Lewis make cultural waste evident while aestheticizing the discarded – sorting, baling, and piling into the gallery, as visitors traverse the material via diminishing pathways. After dunes of garbage and rubbish pile up to manifest in a behind the scenes “self-portrait” of the museum’s functionality, the gallery ends as it started: empty.
In Do this while I wait, Lydia Rosenberg presents a series of sculptures initially described in her ongoing project of writing a novel-as-sculpture. The project concentrates on the character of Annette, an artist who spends as much time making objects as she does listening to guided meditations, that in turn creates a narrative in which domestic cleaning objects are the key to decluttering her mental landscape.
At the Mattress Factory, Rosenberg exhibits the objects that fictional Annette has been making. The objects are hybrids, much like Annette: shredded books or cast crow’s feet become broom bristles, a lamp becomes formless, a pillowcase becomes a bucket, and ceramic spaghetti turns into a mop. These transmutations get at the heart of how we tend to care for objects rather than ourselves or other humans and how this is further complicated when the imaginary becomes material and vice versa.
For As Seen From the Surface, Katie Bullock brings her ongoing archive to life – projecting small videos interspersed with diagrammatic drawings brought from books and her videos/photographs, all in a geometric pattern. These galleries function as both observatory and library, offering the opportunity for Bullock to tell us her stories and to merge the personal with the universal.
Together the elements form a new cabinet of curiosities for the infinitesimal. There is symmetry in seeing the videos and drawings together as they tell a story of experience followed by the sometimes fruitless need to understand what just occurred. The shimmering graphite of the drawings catch the light, while the vellum’s transparency and buoyancy allow them to flutter as we pass by. This collection will grow throughout the life of the show to include experiences from Bullock’s time living in Pittsburgh.
The exhibitions will be on view through December 30, 2023.
Mattress Factory is excited to announce the extension of its annual flagship fundraising and community event, Garden Party Weekend, to an entire season of programming designed to engage individuals, artists, and community members through art and the creative process.
The theme for this summer series is TRASH BASH, a celebration of the transformation that can happen when new light is shed upon that which has been cast aside.
Individuals of all ages can participate in TRASH BASH 2023 programming, from June through August:
TRASH BASH SUMMER kicks off on Friday, June 9 with Garden Party, the Museum's signature 21+ fundraising event that attracts art collectors, urban professionals, artists, creatives and influencers for a highly-anticipated evening of eclectic foods, beverages, entertainment, and of course, art.
Anything goes on this evening of metamorphosis, featuring food and drink from some of Pittsburgh’s best restaurants and bars. Join us as we shift our perspectives and push trash far beyond its definition.
The Garden Party Art Auction represents some of the most creative and generous artists in Pittsburgh. Continuing the Garden Party tradition of commissioning local artists to create new work based on the Garden Party theme, each one-of-a-kind artwork is inspired by thrifted and repurposed materials! Enjoy and bid on original artworks by talented local artists to add to your collection, all while supporting the Mattress Factory’s exhibitions, educational and outreach programs for all ages in the Northside and the city of Pittsburgh.
Throughout the month of July, Mattress Factory will host TRASH BASH themed ARTLabs every Saturday from 1-4 PM. This drop-in series is free with Museum admission, featuring exhibit-centric art-making activities hosted in our gallery spaces. Education staff create hands-on projects in collaboration with, or inspired by, Mattress Factory exhibiting artists. The activities engage Museum visitors of all ages in the artistic process, providing additional access points for different styles of learners to better understand and reflect on the art. ARTLab is great for intergenerational groups of adults and children to connect and make something together.
July 8, 1-4 PM - Make Your Own Bottle Cap Earrings
July 15, 1-4 PM - Make Your Own Repurposed Plastic Windchimes
July 22, 1-4 PM - Make Your Own Repurposed Metal Buttons
July 29, 1-4 PM - Make Your Own Found Object Jewelry
The season concludes on Sunday, August 6 with an open, free-for-all daytime arts and music festival celebrating Pittsburgh's creative community and featuring a maker market focused on thrift, craft, and transformation. Enjoy musical performances, hands-on activities, and a trash fashion show. Always seeking to engage and foster our artists, Community Fest provides mentorship and entrepreneurial opportunities for emerging youth artists.
TRASH BASH SUMMER continues with featured exhibits, another opportunity to interact with art and participate in the museum community, and an extension of this series focused on trash, art, and the shift in perspectives between the two.
We invite you join us on Thursday, September 2 for the Mattress Factory’s first in-person exhibition opening of the year, the making home here Community Block Party! The Block Party is a free and primarily outdoors event.
The Block Party includes free admission to the brand-new exhibition, making home here, located in the Museum’s Monterey Annex at 1414 Monterey Street. The exhibition features five emerging and mid-career Pittsburgh-based artists. Please join us to celebrate the exhibition, as well as to enjoy free family artmaking activities, a live DJ set from HUNY and gathering with the Northside community. Food from vegan Trinidadian food stand ShadoBeni will also be available for purchase.
Centered on themes of community conversation and equity in the arts, making home here will feature the work of local artists Gavin Andrew Benjamin, Naomi Chambers, Justin Emmanuel Dumas, Njaimeh Njie and Harrison Kinnane Smith. The exhibition, which will run from September 3, 2021 through late spring 2022, is curated by Sean Beauford, local arts advocate and curator, and Sylvia Rhor Samaniego, Director and Curator at University Art Gallery at the University of Pittsburgh.
Where: 1400 Block of Monterey Street (see map)
Date: Thursday, September 2
Time: 6-8 PM
Price: FREE - no pre-registration required
ABOUT POP-AGANDA: REVOLUTION & ICONOGRAPHY
The Mattress Factory is pleased to announce Pop-Aganda: Revolution & Iconography, an exhibition of new site-specific works from eight artists opening on April 16, 2022 in the Museum’s Main Building. Pop-Aganda is the fourth iteration of director, founder and curator Tavia La Follette’s ongoing Sites of Passage series – a global interchange for the migration of ideas across political and cultural borders.
La Follette works with artists who investigate new channels of artistic communication. For this exhibition, after three research trips in 2018 and 2019, La Follette selected eight multidisciplinary, social practice-oriented artists based in the US and in Russia.
From the first stages of planning in early 2019, world events impacted this exhibition. La Follette and the artists had sought to explore an understanding of the world around us in the age of disinformation and the investigative role artists play in this process. The exhibition was thus originally planned to open in November 2020, to align with the U.S. Presidential elections, but was postponed to April 1, 2022 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
More recently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 prompted further pause and consideration. The Mattress Factory and La Follette condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the war, and stand in solidarity with Ukraine. They will not work with artists who support the invasion or Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and also will not boycott Russian artists by merit of their nationality alone.
The Mattress Factory and La Follette thus postponed the exhibition for two weeks to allow time for additional discussion, in light of rapidly evolving world events. In conjunction with the opening, the Museum is also issuing the below statement regarding the exhibition.
In Russia today, those who speak out against the war face up to a 15-year prison sentence. As of now, one of the Russian-based artists has thus chosen to withhold their name from the exhibition, for the safety and security of themself and their family.
Throughout the exhibition, the Mattress Factory and La Follette are planning a variety of opportunities to engage in cross-cultural dialogue and learning, as well as to demonstrate support for Ukraine and global freedom of expression.
“As a curator, I am also moving to create a transformative journey – a project toward reconciliation and transcendent practices in both the artists, the programming and the visitors/community who interact with it,” says La Follette.
La Follette continues: “This show grew out of an age of disinformation, where worldwide ‘realities’ are spread, bred, and cultivated in the name of facts. Off-script political expression is not allowed in Russia where dissident culture can barely survive in the margins. As we know well in this country, one can’t judge a people by their leader. This show and this statement are historic acts in a historic moment in support of artistic expression. We trust our visitors to make their own judgement calls.”
The original questions that La Follette posed in 2019 remain true today, and are even more important to explore now: How does an idea become a fact? As cultural meaning makers, how do artists play a role in the migration of thought? This exhibition, and the answers to these inquiries, will continue to evolve with world events.
The exhibition will formally open on April 16, 2022.
MATTRESS FACTORY STATEMENT
The Mattress Factory condemns, in the strongest possible terms, Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and its democratically elected government.
In early 2019, we began working with renowned curator Tavia La Follette to plan a major exhibition exploring themes of propaganda, idea, and fact in the age of disinformation. After three international research trips in 2018-2019, La Follette selected eight female and non-binary artists, four based in the United States and four based in Russia. The exhibition was originally scheduled to open at the Mattress Factory in November 2020 but was delayed until April 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we have spent the last weeks in deep consideration regarding an appropriate course of action. We recognized -- and unequivocally rejected -- the inclination to cancel the exhibition, and the artists themselves. The Mattress Factory will not work with artists, or any individual or organization, who support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or Russian President Vladimir Putin. We also will not boycott Russian artists by merit of their nationality alone.
After delaying from the intended April 1 opening date, we have made the decision to open the exhibition on April 16, 2022. We believe that it is important now, more than ever, to move forward with this show, which promotes cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and dialogue.
In Russia today, those who speak out against the war face up to a 15-year prison sentence. For their own safety and security, the name of one of the Russian-based artists who currently cannot leave Russia and/or has family remaining in Russia has been withdrawn, at their request. We hope that, in time, it will be safe to add their name. In the meantime, their unattributed work represents the millions of Russians whose voices have been silenced.
We ask you to watch as the exhibition evolves with and around local community and global events. In the meantime, the Mattress Factory stands in support of peace, freedom of expression, and Ukraine.
Following a five-month national search, the Board of Directors of the Mattress Factory is proud to announce the appointment of David Oresick as the new Executive Director of the contemporary installation art museum.
Oresick is the current Executive Director and Chief Curator of Silver Eye Center for Photography, in Pittsburgh. He will start in his role on May 16, 2022. Current Executive Director Hayley Haldeman anticipates stepping down at the end of May, following a two-week transition period.
Sherry DuCarme, Board Chair of the Mattress Factory, states: “We are extremely proud of and excited for David’s hire. Following a months-long and incredibly competitive search process, David exemplified everything we sought to lead the Museum in its next chapter: a talented and experienced arts leader and visionary, with a strong national and local reputation and demonstrated excellence with supporting artists and organizational growth.”
Oresick states: “I am incredibly honored to be chosen to lead this amazing organization. As a native Pittsburgher, the Mattress Factory is a place that has always meant so much to me and was a huge part of forming my love for boundary pushing contemporary art from an early age. In my career my passion has always been working to help artists create new artwork and sharing that artwork in meaningful and engaging ways. I can’t think of a better place to continue this work than the Mattress Factory.”
Oresick has served as the Executive Director of Silver Eye Center for Photography since 2014. During his eight-year tenure, Oresick developed and implemented a major strategic plan and million-dollar campaign to build out and relocate the institution from its prior location in Pittsburgh’s South Side. Leading the organization at its new location in Pittsburgh’s Penn Avenue Arts District, Oresick tripled program attendance, created new programs and revenue streams, led a board governance revitalization, and co created the Silver List, a new model to highlight diverse voices in photography.
At Silver Eye, Oresick curated over twenty gallery exhibitions, with a focus on supporting emerging and mid-career artists. He has cultivated and stewarded relationships with numerous local and national artists, arts organizations and funding partners, as well as educational institutions and artist residency programs. Oresick was also a co-founder of The Visual Arts Coalition for Equity, a group of arts organizations that worked collectively to create a paid training program that assists aspiring arts leaders in creating equitable and sustainable practices within their communities.
Oresick holds an MFA from Columbia College Chicago and a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. A Pittsburgh native, he is also an adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to his role at Silver Eye, Oresick served as a Manager at Light Work at Syracuse University, where he oversaw an artist-in-residence program, and as a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.
Current Executive Director Haldeman announced her plans to step down in December 2021, following a three-year tenure. The Mattress Factory engaged Management Consultants for the Arts to facilitate the search process to identify new leadership.
Haldeman, a lawyer, led the Mattress Factory through organizational transition and the COVID-19 pandemic. Within her first ten months, she erased a projected $375,000 budget deficit and strengthened administrative and governance measures at the staff and Board level. Haldeman and her family are expecting their second child in June 2022.
Artistic Director Transition
Earlier this month and in preparation for the Executive Director leadership change, the Mattress Factory transitioned the role of Dr. Ian Alden Russell, who had joined the organization in February 2021 to bring artistic direction to the Mattress Factory’s ongoing strategic planning process.
The Mattress Factory, with Russell’s leadership, successfully revamped its artistic program to renew its commitment to centering artists’ voices – decentering the institution’s voice and implementing new models for exhibition programming. Russell will continue to engage with the Museum as a consultant, providing guidance through the Executive Director transition.
Russell states: “There are few institutions in the world that put artists first in the way the Mattress Factory does. It has been an honor to work with Hayley and the Board and Staff to guide the Mattress Factory through the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic and help the organization complete its leadership transition. I look forward to ongoing work as a consultant to the Board and Staff, and I am enthusiastic about exploring new opportunities to support the City of Pittsburgh and the incredible arts community that makes this such a special place to call home.”
Haldeman states: “I am incredibly grateful to Ian for his dedication to the Mattress Factory and his skill, creativity and care in guiding our artistic program over the last year, alongside our Exhibitions and Archives Departments. Through his work and that of our entire staff and Board, the Mattress Factory today is strong and ready for this next chapter.”
Strategic Plan Update
In December 2021, the Mattress Factory also completed a new strategic plan, to cover 2022–2024. The new Strategic Plan reinforces the institution’s 45-year legacy of supporting artists, with a reenergized commitment to serving as a process-driven institution.
As part of the Strategic Plan and following months of review during the pandemic, the Mattress Factory also restructured its Education Department earlier this year. “We created and revamped certain positions, as well as sunset a few existing programs and roles, in order to deliver renewed, targeted focus on three core areas: artist programs, in-gallery engagement, and Northside relationships,” states Haldeman. “We recognized that needs have evolved during the pandemic and our multi-year organizational restructure, and we are very excited to continue offering a dynamic array of learner-centered educational and community programs.”
Pop-Aganda: Revolution & Iconography is the 4th project in the Sites of Passage (SOP) series. The SOP projects are global interchanges for the migration of ideas across political/cultural borders. This project began in the fall of 2018 with my 2nd trip to Russia and a curatorial residency with CEC Artslink, based in St. Petersburg. Most of U.S. artists traveled to Russia in November 2022. As of the opening and the invasion of the Ukraine, we are still trying to get the Russian artists to the U.S.
Like the name alludes to, Sites of Passage asks each artist to take a rite of passage. Exchanges take place between the Unites States and another country, around a topic of conflict. SOP gives the conversation to the artists, the people, to ruminate on. This is the foundation for all SOP projects. The curatorial themes, which become the title of the final exhibition, are left open enough, so that each artist can interpret it as they see fit. SOP projects are always about gleaning perspectives—both for the artists and the audience.
ART FOR THE MASSES
Propaganda comes from the verb to propagate—to breed or cultivate. However, in the context of the word propaganda, it is about breeding or cultivating an idea to the masses. Cultures, countries, religion, and ideologies have been using forms of propaganda since ancient times to disseminate modes of belief. In an age of disinformation, it is hard to decipher “realities” spread, bred and cultivated in the name of facts. Propaganda images often proliferate into Icons, defining an entire aesthetic movement. Artists play an important instigative role in this process. For example, Agitprop (from agitate and propaganda) from Soviet Russia, was a visual and simple way of communicating ideologies to the masses. It moved from two-dimensional art to performance. Agitprop theater and the aesthetic spread to Europe and the US. Over time, it became a label for politicized art. Pop art, like propaganda, is designed for the masses. However, unlike the moral ideas that are connected to propaganda, pop art is about the cultural context of the object itself. Both can be considered Revolutionary.
This show grew out of an age of disinformation and opens in an age of war. Off-script political expression is not allowed in Russia where dissident culture can barely survive in the margins. As we know well in this country, one can’t judge a people by their leader. This show and this statement are historic acts in a historic moment in support of artistic expression. Art must be seen to be heard.
We honor those brave enough to practice in the margins and trust our visitors to map their own migration of ideas.
-Curator Tavia La Follette, April 2022
I am an artist-observer, I consider myself a generation of “children of perestroika.”
Often the heroes of my works are people who become symbols of time, place, generation, event. I’m interested in “man,” questions of identification and everyday absurdity. Connection of past and present. I do not limit myself to one media, so I use and combine video, painting, installation, drawing and other techniques. Art, for me, is primarily a territory of experiment, transgression. I am for risk, trial and doubt, “untrodden territories” Since I received a classical education based on painting, therefore, painting is present in all media, be it video or lightbox.
I understand inclusion in a broad sense as working together to create conditions for equal opportunities and diversity.
In my utopian project, I propose to critically rethink the possibility of connecting to the experience of the other and empathizing with otherness. To represent the practice of non-normative physicality and overcoming boundaries in bodily and mental experience through the ultimate reflection about the body of the tumor and becoming a body with a tumor. To see the tumor outside of common human ethics and mythology through immersion in the polylogue of neoplasms with each other.
We fear and hate what is close to and, at the same time, far from us—what seems dissimilar compared to us, but upon closer examination, turns out to be consonant, with similar needs, a competitor for resources.
This is a utopian project about the possibility/impossibility of accepting the other, about radical hospitality.
I come from a holy place. I offer an affirmation and invitation to space, to take time to reflect on where we are in our lives, where we’ve come from, and who has poured into our journeys. Over the course of our lifetimes, we receive so many messages that dehumanize and distort the realities of how we truly see ourselves. I believe our divine right to wholeness and sovereignty is more powerful than any other political message that has been wielded to shrink, exploit, or harm us in any way. It is the beauty of Black people and the storytelling of Black women and Black queer, Trans, and gender-expansive people that have changed my life and for that I give thanks. My mother’s womb. My great-grandmother’s house on Todd Street in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, twenty-character building Pittsburgh winters and 21 glorious springs bring me here. This room is a conjure collage of pieces of this iteration of my journey with many hands, hearts, and voices.
Through visual art, community engagement, curation and advocacy Kelliher-Combs works to create opportunity and feature Indigenous voices and the work of contemporary artists who through their work inform and encourage social action. Her personal mixed-media visual art focuses on the changing north and our relationship to nature and each other.
Traditional women’s work has taught her to appreciate the intimacy of intergenerational knowledge and material histories. These experiences and skills have allowed Kelliher-Combs to examine the connections between Western and Indigenous cultures, and to investigate notions of interwoven identity through her work. Personal and cultural symbolism forms the imagery. These symbols speak to history, culture, family and the life of her people. They also speak about abuse, marginalization and the historical and contemporary struggles of Indigenous peoples. Kelliher-Combs currently lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska.
The project is not an attempt at a manifesto. The economic and political meanings behind the project are constantly shifting to better suit the current context. The terms on which The Artist’s Uniforms are made are always discussed with artists in advance.
Untitled viewed the Mattress Factory show as a long-awaited opportunity to connect with artists from both Russia and the United States.
Due to current circumstances, however, this exchange was frozen. The Artist Uniform project could only happen if all its participants were to gather in one space.
The project has been temporarily suspended, with the artists still in agreement to participate. Untitled believes in the unity of the international artistic community. They hope to someday come to the Mattress Factory and continue working on the project internationally.
On February 24, 2022, when Russia began the war in Ukraine, I realized that I’ve lost the country where I was born and that I don’t have a future there. Since that point I am haunted by the feeling that the past is gone forever, that all the things I’ve done up to this point are no longer valid. Therefore, my project for the Mattress Factory had to change. I was initially planning to make a room where people could re-enact my performances based on a set of instructions. I visited my relatives, filming my trip on my phone.
Since the war started, all of this has lost its meaning. I was considering dropping out of the exhibition, because the only thing that I wished for was a stop to the violence in Ukraine. I just wanted all the shooting and the suffering to stop. It’s horrible that it only takes one month to destroy THAT MANY lives. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve seen how pain can transform into fear, that fear transforming into panic, that panic morphing into anger, with all these feelings collapsing in a sense of powerlessness.
It hurts to think of the similarities between the war and the relationship with my father, the things I’ve once had to run away from. The sense that nothing can help, that there will be no miracle, that the only way for all this to end is to cut all ties and run away.
Violence always causes further violence. The consequences of this will remain long after the war is over. I’m trying to split my personal experience from current events, but that’s proving to be impossible. I wish that no one should ever experience the of lack of safety and ever-present anxiety that was imposed onto me by my father for 18 years.
I’m more or less OK now. I know how to survive even when someone makes my life unbearable. That’s why it hurts even more, knowing that this hell is organized by so many and imposed upon millions. This system will most likely have inertia. Even if one leaves this abusive relationship, it will take many years and much effort to fully understand what has happened and recover.
I am calmed by the thought that all of this is temporary. Even though I am horrified to think about my father’s death, I imagine that when it comes, I will not be crying in mourning. These will be tears of happiness. Because this death will mean that no one and nothing is forever. Russia will be free.
The performance for my father, Eduard, is, thus, dedicated to death.
I am a child of the Cold War born in the United States to Colombian parents. Growing up I remember the 1980s as a time where there was an acute obsession with the Soviets/Russians. They were dangerous. They were our enemies. We were in competition to dominate the world. Times change, and then they don’t.
I grew up spending many of my summers in Colombia. Those trips were punctuated by a trip to China and a trip to the USSR. My experiences in the Global South and the socialist superpowers influenced the formation of my identity as a particular first-generation US American.
My family mythology includes a story of my mother learning to drive on a GAZ69 and crashing into a tree. The desire to understand the history that led to my mother driving a Soviet car in Colombia in the 1960s inspired GAZ COFFEE.
Sunflowers: A Symbol of Indigenous History, Ukraine and Hope
The main service rifles for the Russian and Ukrainian Armies are the AK-74M and Fort-221, both of which use a modified 5.45mm bullet cartridge. The approximate mass of the brass casing from a “spent” 5.45 cartridge is 8 grams, the same amount of sunflowers seeds we are inviting visitors to take and plant throughout Pittsburgh, and wherever their home community might be.
The story of sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is indeed amazing. The wild sunflower is native to North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia. It was only recently that the sunflower plant returned to North America to become a cultivated crop. But it was the American Indian who first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant with a variety of seed colors including black, white, red, and black/white striped.
By the early 19th century, Russian farmers were growing over 2 million acres of sunflower. During that time, two specific types had been identified: oil-type for oil production and a large variety for direct human consumption. Government research programs were implemented. V. S. Pustovoit developed a very successful breeding program at Krasnodar. Oil contents and yields were increased significantly. Today, the world's most prestigious sunflower scientific award is known as The Pustovoit Award.
By the late 19th century, Russian sunflower seed found its way into the US. By 1880, seed companies were advertising the 'Mammoth Russian' sunflower seed in catalogues. This particular seed name was still being offered in the US in 1970, nearly 100 years later. A likely source of this seed movement to North America may have been Russian immigrants. The first commercial use of the sunflower crop in the US was silage feed for poultry. In 1926, the Missouri Sunflower Growers' Association participated in what is likely the first processing of sunflower seed into oil.
U.S. acreage escalated in the late 70's to over 5 million because of strong European demand for sunflower oil. This European demand had been stimulated by Russian exports of sunflower oil in the previous decades. However, the Russians could no longer supply the growing demand, and European companies looked to the fledging U.S. industry.
“What kind of Dendy do you have, Nintendo or Sega?”
In the US, this might seem like a ridiculous question, but for millions of kids and adults in 1990s Russia the “Dendy” name truly defined video games. The Dendy Junior was a counterfeit Nintendo Famicom console (a market broadly called ‘Famiclones’) that was released in December 1992 by Russian technology company Steepler, under direction of industrial technology developer, Victor Savyuk.
Digital games were far from a new idea, but they certainly weren’t mainstream. Even the biggest titles in gaming like “Donkey Kong” and “Pac-Man” were restricted to arcades or incredibly expensive home computers. Then, in 1986, Nintendo released the “Nintendo Entertainment System” (NES) in the UK and US markets, launching Home Gaming from a niche Japanese market into a worldwide phenomenon.
"Of course, everybody likes to play games, but in those times, video games were only on computers,” said Savyuk “They were just for freaks or programming engineers. I immediately understood that this was the future…but it wasn't in Russia. I understood that this was the future in Russia."
Trade sanctions against the Soviet government of the time prevented Russian citizens from accessing home gaming technologies, and even systems smuggled into the country from manufacturers in China were often damaged beyond repair, leaving buyers with few options.
Savyuk approached tech company Steepler, a manufacturer of printers and business computers, to make a prototype at home gaming system and went on to launch the firm's games division; “Dendy Co.” Victor Savyuk was the company’s sole employee. All he had to do was figure out how the NES worked, and replicate it for Russian consumers.
Savyuk had no idea what a games console looked like, let alone what tech they needed under the hood, so he turned to a chip manufacturer in Taiwan, who had access to the specs for, and manufactured, the NES.
"We understood from the start that we were selling counterfeit products, but the first thing you have to understand is that in that time in Russia, intellectual property was not protected," he explains. "The law didn't protect IP like games or consoles in Russia. There, our business was absolutely legal. But of course, in America and Europe it was completely illegal. And of course, Taiwanese manufacturer did not care about that… They sent me an example in October 1992. I put in the TV cable, switched it on and realised that this would absolutely explode in the market."
Released in December 1992, the first Dendy console went on to sell about 15,000 units. Not the explosive success Savyuk imagined, but it served as his proof of concept, and Nintendo was silent as the Dendy sat on store shelves.
Nintendo clearly had no interest in the Russian games market, or navigating the complex NATO sanctions against the Soviet Union. Even if they had, the company would have no legal standing in the country.
"The first thing you have to understand is that we absolutely followed the rules and laws in Russia," Savyuk explains "So I did not need to make advertising for a 'counterfeit console;' … I simply made advertising for ‘Dendy console’. ‘Dendy’ was, of course, made as a counterfeit console of the Famicom, but nobody knew that. For people, it was just a box with a Dendy logo, an elephant and it played TV games. Who could have attacked me? Only Nintendo, but not in Russia!”
In May 1993, Savyuk released an updated machine called “Dendy Junior” which is the model you can find on our Gaming Cart as part of the Mattress Factory exhibition “Pop-Aganda: Revolution & Iconography.”
Featuring a new design, lower price and breakthrough counterfeit anti-piracy hardware, it became a smash hit, playing games from the US, Asian, and European markets, regardless of publisher.
“By August we were selling 70,000 consoles a month. We made our first $1m in a month that August. The business was lifted. Everything before in advertisement and awareness of quality and brand name and logistics started to work."
Ultimately, Dendy Junior sold between 1.5m and 2m units in Russia, putting it on par with the NES sales in the US Market. They were a staple in households all over Russia, with a solid market share in every demographic, not just kids!
In 1994, Dendy Company was invited to visit Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa and its chairman Robert Lincoln in Japan. There, the two companies signed a deal which not only gave Steepler the distribution rights for SNES in Russia, a major win for the company; Nintendo also forgave Steepler for selling a counterfeit machine and agreed to not pursue IP lawsuits against them in any market, not just Russia. With Dendy, Savyuk has single-handedly opened up the Russian consoles games market to the world.
"We started this business in December 1994 and sold a lot of consoles. My real pride in this story is only that I could build this business," he says. "We kept around 70 per cent of the market for years.”
Our on-site Dendy Junior features a cloned version of the best-selling cartridge “Kart Fighter,” a pirate developed game released some time in 1993 by either Hummer Team or Ge De Industry Co, depending on which credits are most accurate. Widely regarded as one of the best ‘knock-off’ games of the time, “Kart Fighter” uses manipulated assets from the then brand new “Super Mario Kart” and “Street Fighter II.” See if you can identify the sprites they kept un-modified!
“This is how the Russian games industry was born. It's how Russian people started to play video games." ~ Victor Savyuk
In conjunction with the Mattress Factory Museum (MF), previous exchanges have taken place between Egypt and the US (revolving around the Egyptian Revolution and the Occupy Movement), Israel, Palestine, and the US (revolving around the ideas of Borders, Walls, and Citizenship) and South Africa and the US (revolving around Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs). In recognition of the 250th anniversary of the birth of this nation, the 5th SOP will take place inside the made-up perimeters of the United States, between indigenous artists.
Opening June 17 in our Monterey Annex (located at 1414 Monterey Street) is a new exhibition of six site-specific installations curated by Pittsburgh-based artist and administrator Jessica Gaynelle Moss. SHRINE uplifts and recognizes Black m/others, artists, creatives and/or activists and honors sacred and holy spaces— or shrines– as sites of resistance and liberation struggle.
SHRINE will feature six new immersive works by painter and assemblage artist Naomi Chambers, photographer and mixed media artist Renée Cox, artist and art educator Mary Martin, artisan and owner of a micro-enterprise LaKeisha Wolf, interdisciplinary artist and cultural producer Alisha B. Wormsley, and visual artist sarah huny young. The exhibition will run from June 17, 2022 through December 30, 2022.
Pre-registration for the June 17 opening event, SANCTUARY: A Community Block Party Celebrating SHRINE, is highly encouraged here.
*We are requiring all visitors and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks while inside the Monterey Annex.*
SHRINE Public Programs will be led by artists Dail Chambers and Alecia Dawn. Please register for programs in advance here.
SHRINE is presented in partnership between Mattress Factory and Sibyls Shrine, an arts collective and residency program rooted in the radical care, rest and support for Black women, womxn, trans women, and femmes who are m/others and identify as artists, creatives, and/or activists.
Also as part of the SHRINE event series, learn more about ALTAR, a free experimental satellite gallery (located across 27,000 digital display boards throughout the city of Pittsburgh) that is embedded directly within community from June through August 31, 2022.
In addition to the installations at Mattress Factory’s Monterey Annex, and the SANCTUARY one-day event, SHRINE’s exhibitions also include ALTAR, a free experimental satellite gallery located across 27,000 digital display boards throughout the city of Pittsburgh. These are is embedded directly within community, throughout June, July and August 2022.
ALTAR engages with the public outside of the formal exhibition space by embedding art directly in your neighborhood. Rather than asking community to come to art, curator Jessica Gaynelle Moss investigates the result of bringing art to community. ALTAR features the work of artists Tara Fay Coleman, Olivia Guterson, Anqwenique Kinsel, Tsedaye Makonnen and janera solomon.
There is no registration required for ALTAR. ALTAR is presented in partnership between Mattress Factory and Sibyls Shrine, an arts collective and residency program rooted in the radical care, rest and support for Black women, womxn, trans women, and femmes who are m/others and identify as artists, creatives, and/or activists.
ALTAR Artist/Piece Info
by Tara Fay Coleman
by Anqwenique Kinsel
"Learning My Own Name"
by Olivia Guterson
Oil and acrylic on birch
"The Need for Black Refuge feat. Astral Sea IV"
by Tsedaye Makonnen
title inspired by Rahawa Haile
photo by Ebony McKelvey
Commissioned by Artspace New Haven for 'Dyschronics' curated by Laurel McLaughlin at the Long Wharf Pier, New Haven, CT
"this too is fertile ground"
written by janera solomon
ALTAR was awarded the Gold Award by dotCOMM for excellence in integrated marketing campaigns in July 2022, and the Silver Award by the MUSE Creative Awards for outstanding creativity in Outdoor Advertising in September 2022.
The Mattress Factory is pleased to announce two new site-specific installations by artists Jennifer Angus and Shikeith on view at the Monterey Annex through March 2021.
To purchase tickets, visit mattress.org/tickets
The Museum of All Things is a cabinet of curiosities focusing on insects’ vital role in our world. The walls feature patterns and designs made from 3,000 cicadas, weevils and small beetles, and the vibrant magenta red coloring on the walls is created from a little-known insect that plays an important role in the food and cosmetics industries; cochineal is a type of scale insect (as is lice), found in Latin America from which a common food colorant is derived. At once a call to action and a celebration, the center of the gallery features a dinner party, where native Pennsylvanian animals enjoy a meal of bread and honey.
Angus, who primarily works with dead and dried insects, draws upon her background in textile design, placing thousands of insects on walls in patterns that mimic those of textiles and wallpaper. Upon discovering that the ornate patterns are formed from insects, viewers feelings typically fluctuate between incredulity and amazement, and very occasionally terror. Over time, Angus’ work has evolved to explore issues related to the environment and the important role insects play within it. “I feel an urgency to continue to make work that draws attention to some of our planet’s lowliest creatures for, simply speaking, without insects man cannot survive,” says Angus.
In Feeling The Spirit In The Dark, Shikeith advances his constructions of "blue spaces" that act to reconcile what haunts Black men's interior worlds in the afterlife of the Transatlantic slave trade. Within this installation, he mines the surreal to complicate the relationship between the erotic, slavery, and Black spirituality.
Shikeith’s work is an assemblage of wonder and personal truths that focus on the metamorphoses of Black men, especially within a society that denies these men their erotic and reconciliatory potential. His work seeks to consider the interior, both his own, as well as, other Black men through emphasizing photography, sculpture, and filmmaking to examine the fantastic as it relates and complicates personal autobiography and self-making. “I aim to make artwork that moves beyond a focus on the bodies of black men but into the deepness of our psyches where identities are formed and black manhood can be imagined as an indeterminate and unfixed space.”
Jennifer Angus is a professor in the Design Studies department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She received her education at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (BFA) and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA). Jennifer has exhibited her work internationally including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Spain. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and Wisconsin Arts Board grants. Most recently she received the inaugural Forward Art Prize, a new unrestricted award for outstanding women artists of Wisconsin.
Angus’ exhibition In the Midnight Garden, was part of Wonder the inaugural exhibition that reopened the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. She was one of nine artists selected by curator Nicholas Bell for this landmark exhibition.
Shikeith is originally from Philadelphia, PA, and now lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. He received a BA from The Pennsylvania State University (2010) and an MFA in Sculpture from The Yale School of Art (2018). Within overlapping practices of visual art and film making, he investigates the experiences of black men within and around concepts of psychic space, the blues, and black queer fugitivity. He has shared his work nationally and internationally through recent exhibitions and screenings that include The Language Must Not Sweat, Locust Projects, Miami, FL; Notes Towards Becoming A Spill, Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, GA; Shikeith: This was his body/His body finally his, MAK Gallery, London, UK; Go Tell It: Civil Rights Photography, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; A Drop of Sun Under The Earth, MOCA LA, Los Angeles, CA; Labor Relations, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Poland; and Black Intimacy: An Evening With Shikeith, MoMA, New York, NY. He is a 2019 recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants.
The species Angus uses are not endangered, and they are either farm-raised or collected by the indigenous peoples who live in the areas from which they originate. Angus recycles all insects, and all of them have been used repeatedly in her shows. If something is damaged, Angus always try to repair it before it gets thrown away, and those beyond repair she gives to children for further study.