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ZEINA BALTAGI

 
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2020 Artist in Residence

Zeina Baltagi is a Lebanese-American artist and educator. Born in Stockton and raised in California and Lebanon, Zeina’s work explores and exposes the tensions within identity and social politics. It reveals intimate transformations in relation to lived experiences with physical, emotional, economic and cultural mobility.

 

Zeina holds a B.A. from California State University, Northridge, and an M.F.A.  from University California,  Davis. She has exhibited work with Basement Gallery, LADOT, Union Station, Los Angeles Road Concerts, PØST, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, bG gallery and Klowden Mann, as well as with numerous University galleries including; University of Southern California, Claremont Graduate University, California Lutheran University and California State University, Northridge.

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Over the last decade, Contemporary Artist Zeina Baltagi's conceptual and performance-based work has centered around investigating the relationship of minority groups within the construct of the American Dream. Using everyday objects that represent mobility, wealth and stereotypes applied to immigrants in America, Zeina’s work is an intimate survey of the relationship between physical, emotional, economic and cultural mobility.

From November 8th to December 20, 2020, Zeina joined 11:11 A Creative Collective as an Artist in Residence in 11:11's Gallery, further immersing herself in the examination of surveillance through a series of discussions, performances and art creation. 

 

As part of Zeina's investigation into surveillance,  she approached artists and performers whose artwork is related to the practices and policies through which society attempts to regulate us and our bodies: body politics.

This discussion series not only allowed for the experience of others to inform Zeina’s research,  but for the public to learn about and interact with these concepts through the contemporary artwork being produced.

During Zeina's residency, she was invited to do a series of artist talks with Caz Azevedo Community Art Center Gallery in San Francisco, CA where she discussed her work and how it has lead to OBSERV(ER/ED) An Investigation into Surveillance, as well as an in-studio update while working on this new series.

"I only have my experience and research to pull from. Through open engagement with others, my perspective is widened."

part I

Zeina installed cameras in 11:11’s gallery to put herself under surveillance for a total of 168 hours. These performance pieces were a reflection of her experience in a space under constant watch. 

Performance #1:

Watch Me Eat Dinner 

Location: 11:11

The surveillance system only captures 1 hour prior to live recording and then deletes the footage forever without human intervention deciding what’s recorded and when. Zeina began to use refracted light and sound under the surveillance cameras, noticing that certain activity was not recorded without that human intervention.

 

When she reviewed the surveillance footage, and compared that to a phone recording of the same timeframe, it became apparent that what was captured by surveillance was riddled with glitches, resulting in a conflict between the observers presumed reality and the absolute truth.

 

"These moments of lost information are the work."

Performance #2: 

Missed Information

Location: 11:11 

part II

“I did all this work and in the end, all you get is an image of an image of a moment depicting no more than my ass in the air.”

 

People of all backgrounds intersect within spaces like marketplaces.  Power dynamics are inherent and racial and socio-economic biases tend to play out, whether it be from the person behind the counter to those in the aisles, or vice versa.

Within a single liquor store with multiple forms of surveillance, out of both human and technological error;  visual, tactile and auditory information is lost every second.

Zeina visited a total of 85 liquor stores around the diverse San Fernando Valley collecting sounds, images, objects. These assets were compiled to create a multi-media piece installed and performed at Party Time Liquor in Granada Hills. Juxtaposing the liquor store’s footage of this performance to eye witness and recorded accounts exposed the failure of effective surveillance.

All sounds, images, and objects used were collected from locations in Northridge, Reseda, Canoga Park, Van Nuys, Pacoima, Sylmar, Sun Valley, Granada Hills, Mission Hills and Winnetka.

Sculpture:

We Appreciate Your Business

Material: crates, item display hangers, yellow hair clip, 2 kit kat chocolate bars, small white cable zip-ties, large white cable zip-ties, Double Mint gum, Jamaica, puppy gift wrap, 45” black shoe laces, Timberland replacement shoe laces, soft touch bathroom tissue roll, Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings, Grapeheads candy, A set of 2 baby spoons monogramed with Sarah, Size M blue Work Gloves, Soy Sauce flavor Vegetarian Top Ramen, black cable zip-ties, Nag Champa Incense, A set of 5 pink patterned pencils monogramed with Sarah written on them, Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste in a zip lock bag, Temporary band tattoo, earl grey black tea single packet, 1$ California Jackpot lotto and Now & Later Mango/Guava flavor candy.

35”x 72”

Local musician DHKC harmonizes the hums of refrigerators, Enter/Exit chimes, and muffled voices from 26 liquor stores into a single conceptual soundscape creating an atmospheric ode to the San Fernando Valley's corner marketplace.

HelloThankYouGoodbye
00:00 / 05:12

Hello Thank You Goodbye

Soundscape by DHKC 

Sounds collected by Zeina Baltagi

5:11 sec

Performance #3:

Don’t Believe Half of What You See, Nothing of What You Hear

Location: Party Time Liquor, 11902 Balboa Blvd, Granada Hills, CA 91344

on November 20, 2020  between 7 am and 8:00 am

 

This performance included the installation of the sculpture, 3 live performances of musical compositions created for the project, people simulating the shopping experience, hand held camera footage and screen recordings of the surveillance camera footage. Covid-19 safety precautions were taken amongst the participating artists and the Liquor Store owner.

Credits:

At the register: Majd

Walking around: Azmi Baltagi & Zeina Baltagi

Film Documentation: Matthew Nespor 

DJ: Paul Batori 

Trumpet Player: Austin Drake 

Beats: DHKC 

Set of 6 Postcard series:

Red and Yellow

4x6” Digital collage

Color postcard series made from gathered liquor store signs of various San Fernando Valley Liquor Stores: Northridge, Reseda, Canoga Park, Van Nuys, Pacoima, Sylmar Sun Valley, Granada Hills, Mission Hills and Winnetka.

This set of 6 postcards is available for purchase.

75% of the proceeds will be directly donated to Black Lives Matter and Valley Food Bank. 

$40

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part III