Social Reorganization

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June 1, 2012
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Alina Bliumis

I was born in the city of Minsk in the former Soviet Union. I took the city for granted; I was part of its landscape. When I moved to New York in 1994, I not only noticed everything new about the city, but came to understand the place of my birth from a different perspective.

When I came to New York I believed in the concept of a melting pot; becoming an American was my goal. Now, after spending seventeen years here, I understand that becoming an American is not about losing a foreign accent or ignoring one’s place of origin.

Finding my own place in American society is a complicated concept and the subject of many of my collaborative projects with Jeff Bliumis, my husband. We are inspired by the barriers and obstacles that new Americans face, as well as by the dream that America offers, and by how that dream helps newcomers to persevere.

Our site-specific installation “Language Barrier” engages issues of immigration, assimilation, and alienation among the various diasporic communities of lower Manhattan. We selected five different sites in lower Manhattan; each was chosen for its contemporary and historical significance. At each site, we created various corridors and road blocks by inserting piles of foam “dictionaries.”

By obscuring sightlines, blocking windows, and physically interrupting daily routines, we drew attention to the social and cultural differences that characterize life in New York over the course of its history. For example, the Lower Manhattan installation represents  aspects of the geography and history of this vibrant area from its origins to its own 19th-century Industrial Revolution, and to the gentrified real estate it has become today. Within this enormous change, various immigrant populations have struggled and continue to grapple with questions of communication, adaptation, and social reorganization.

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Since 2000, Alina Bliumis has been collaborating with her husband, Jeff. Their work has been exhibited internationally, including at the first Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Their work has also been included in exhibits in Milan, London, Paris, Israel, and New York. They have received numerous awards and grants, including a grant from the Franklin Furnace Fund, New York (2010-2011) and the Six Points Fellowship. Her work can be viewed at bliumis.com.

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