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Karina Skvirsky, assistant professor of art, has two exhibits showing this spring in three locations.

The Bloomfield Avenue Hotline, a participatory art project featuring audio recordings of residents of Bloomfield and Montclair, New Jersey, is on display in the form of bright yellow British telephone booths at Bloomfield College and the Montclair Art Museum.

Karina Skvirsky, assistant professor of art

Karina Skvirsky, assistant professor of art

The project came about in response to a call for art that linked the two communities, neighboring towns that share the Bloomfield Avenue thoroughfare.

Among 35 submissions, Skvirsky and fellow artist Liselot van der Heijden’s proposal was selected as the recipient of the Bloomfield Avenue Art Prize sponsored by the college and the museum.

“We wanted to highlight the idea of communication so we focused on the telephone. Rather that replicate the cell phone experience of talking on the phone, which is often done in public, we wanted to remember the analog phone experience, which was mostly private and connected to place,” Skvirsky says. The iconic phone booths heighten the “exotic” experience of being inside a phone booth.

The artists worked with students from Bloomfield College and the Montclair Curator’s high school program to collect interviews with residents of both locations. These were then edited into audio recordings that people can listen to when they pick up the phone in the booths. They can also call a hotline to leave a message and add to the conversation.

The recording of conversations about place made its way into Skvirsky’s classroom at Lafayette. In her Introduction to American Studies Class, students made recordings in Easton of residents in which they asked the question “What does American mean to you?”

Skvirsky also contributed to the exhibit Mercury Retrograde: Animated Realities at the Stephan Stoyanov Gallery in New York City’s Lower East Side. The exhibit is an international selection of artists making animated videos.

Her piece is “Espectáculo,” a three-channel video built on footage from celebrity trials and daytime talk shows. Skvirsky uses animation techniques to duplicate celebrity images—among the figures she uses are Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, O.J. Simpson, and Winona Ryder—into ranks marching in a bizarre and cacophonous parade. According to curator Zeljka Himbele, “They are removed from their original context and gain marionette-like postures and repetitive synchronized gestures.”

“Skvirsky draws out interconnections between the entertainment/news media complex, prison complex, and the military industrial complex, three of the strongest industries in America today, in her animated tableaus,” Himbele writes in describing the exhibit.

Mercury Retrograde runs until May 21.

Art major Gabe Rhadigan ’13 (Lapeer, Mich.) assisted Skvirsky on these projects through the EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research program. Rhadigan designed the DVD case for “Espectáculo” and the images printed on each of four DVDs. He also helped with designing cards and vinyl lettering for the Bloomfield Avenue Hotline.

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