Aleksandra Mir (born 1967) is a Swedish - American artist currently based in London.
Life and work
Born in Lubin, Poland, she studied Communications at Schillerska/Gothenburg University in Gothenburg (1986–87), Media Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York (earning her BFA in 1992), and Cultural Anthropology at The Graduate Faculty, The New School for Social Research in New York (1994–96). She holds a dual Swedish - American citizenship.
In much of her work, Mir solicits the participation of friends, acquaintances, and strangers in playful upheavals of social norms. She has unleashed her wry and often pathetic critiques in works like Life is Sweet in Sweden (1995), advocated for more female bands among stoned festival goers in New Rock Feminism (1996), recorded and broadcast cat-calling whistles in Copenhagen's central square in Pick up (Oh Baby!) (1996). For Cinema for the Unemployed: Hollywood Disaster Movies 1970–1997 (1998), Mir screened disaster genre films during a normal workweek (9 a.m.– 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) to trigger and test the connections between leisure, drama, cultural production and unemployment.
One of Mir's best-known works, First Woman on the Moon (1999), interlaced issues of space travel, feminism, and imperialism when she staged a moon landing on a Dutch beach, which she transformed into a moonscape for one day with the help of bulldozers. At sunset she climbed up on its highest peak, planted the American flag, opened a bottle of champagne and invited the audience to climb up and join her in the celebration. A "sequel" to the moon landing took the form of a rocket. The monumental (22m tall) sculpture, built out of industrial debris which stood in the London Roundhouse for 3 days only before it was scrapped, was aptly titled Gravity (2006). It was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst for the exhibition and event "Space Soon".
The long linear display of found photographs that comprises HELLO (2000 - ongoing) connects Margaret Thatcher, Jim Morrison, Jesus, and Andy Warhol with her own friends and family in an unlimited daisy-chain of human relations that overrides divisions in time, location and class. For Daily News (2002), Mir solicited contributions from over a hundred friends to fabricate an alternative newspaper edition to reclaim her birthday, September 11. For the project Living and Loving, a serial print media collaborator with curator Polly Staple that came out in 2002, 2004 and 2006, Mir composed poignant biographical magazines about ordinary individuals, starting with an art school campus security guard Mir met by happenstance at the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco.
In 2003 Mir proposed the creation of a life-size replica of Stonehenge, a yet unrealized project appropriately named Stonehenge II, which she wanted to construct near the original and give everyone free and unlimited access to. Through her drawings of maps, renamed enamel street signs, and other urban interventions, Mir meditates on public life in the cities. She rendered Tokyo more “tourist-friendly for westerners” in Naming Tokyo (2003–04). Her video Organized Movement (2004) chronicles Mir's experience in Mexico City as she played with the cliché of a typical artists in residence attending Latin dance classes to launch discussions about broader forms of public, organized movements.
She extended her interest in urban social interactions and isolation in The Big Umbrella (2004), for which she invited strangers to join her under a massive umbrella capable of sheltering sixteen people from the rain, but just as often remaining alone, carrying the burden of this burlesque heavy object herself. In 2007 Mir, along with curator Paolo Falcone, art collector Marion Franchetti, and artists Luca De Gennaro and Salvo Prestifilippo, embarked on an 800-kilometer journey from Palermo to Venice in a 1977 Silver Shadow Rolls Royce, which they dubbed the Sicilian Pavilion in order to crash the party and to promote Sicilian culture and art at the 52nd Venice Biennale.
For Newsroom 1986–2000 (2007), Mir with a group of assistants copied 240 NYC tabloid covers in felt-tip marker and mounted them in an ever revolving installation to simulate the daily workings of a Manhattan newsroom. Mir has been using the Sharpie household marker since 2001 to create her black and white signature drawings that simulate printed matter such as news, maps, vinyl records, jet plane designs or botanical prints. For The Church of Sharpie (2005), she gathered a room full of assistants and created 20 large USA maps in a workshop situation named in honor of her preferred marker and the cultish nature of her temporary collective.
For her solo show at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt she collected 2529 Trophies from the general public and exhibited them all in one installation called Triumph (2009). For the 53rd Venice Biennale, Mir created Venezia (all places contain all others) (2009) and printed one million postcards of such diverse waterways as a spring in the Sahara Desert, the waterfront of Manhattan, the fountains of Paris and the lakes of Nordic villages, all overlaid with text declaring the images to be Venice.
Mir has created Plane Landing, a real size helium inflateable jet plane, meant not to fly, but to hover above the ground as "a sculpture of a jet plane in a permanent state of landing". So far, she has landed it on the country estate of Compton Verney in Warwickshire (2003), on the tarmac on the Zurich airport (2008) and at various locations around central Paris (2008). A recent proposal (2010) to inflate and deflate it on the stage of the Vienna Opera house to the music of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, making for what she calls "an industrial ballet", is yet to be realized.
In late 2010 Mir befriended the 82-year sculptor Irena Sedlecká, a former Socialist Realist superstar who had arrived in London in 1966 and 30 years later landed the commission to create a statue of the Glam Rock Star Freddie Mercury. A series of interviews in the following spring led to the publication of a monograph on Sedlecká's life and work together with an unsolicited proposal of bringing the statue, now exiled in Montreux, back to London on temporary loan and to place it on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar square. The idea has been met with varying reactions while the petition continues to gather signatures from all over the world.
In 2011 Mir was commissioned by Mercer Union in Toronto to create The Seduction of Galielo Galilei a gravitational experiment that took place on a race car track in Stouffville, Ontario. In 2012 Mir built Local Library, a library entirely out of wood. The same year she rebuilt her Palermo-registered car La 600 in working class aspirational spirit and homage to the high class elegance of gabriel Orozco's La DS (2003). In 2013 she crashed a Satellite in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
In 2014, Mir expanded on her collaborative drawing practice to create a 4 x 34 m mural with the help of 10 assistants over a month long drawing marathon and using only Sharpie marker pens. The project Drawing Room, was a new commission for the Drawing Room, London and depicted the fast changing London skyline. Supporting documentation compressed the collective 900 drawing hours into a 4 minute time lapse video.
Solo exhibitions of her work have been mounted at New Museum's Window on Broadway (1997), Casco Projects, Wijk aan Zee, (1999), Cubitt, London (2002), Swiss Institute, NYC (2003), Compton Verney House Trust, Warwickshire (2003), Kunsthalle St. Gallen, St Gallen (2003), Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2004), P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2004), The Power Plant, Toronto (2006), Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth (2005), Fundacion NMAC, Montenmedio (2005), Kunsthaus, Zurich (2006), Printed Matter, NYC (2007), Saatchi Gallery, London (2008), Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2009), The Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC (2011), M-Museum, Leuven (2013), Drawing Room, London (2014).
Her solo exhibitions in private galleries include Mary Boone Gallery NYC (2007, 2008), Galeria Joan Prats, Barcelona (2012, 2009, 2005), Galerie Laurent Godin, Paris (2011, 2009, 2006), greengrassi, London (2004, 2005), Gavin Brown's enterprise, NYC (2001), Gavlak, Palm Beach (2013, 2010), Jousse enterprise, Paris (2003), Lisboa 20-Arte Contemporanea, Lisbon (2005, 2008), Galerie Francesca Pia, Bern (2001) and Magazzino d'Arte Moderna, Rome (2013, 2012, 2010).
Her work has also been included in over 200 group exhibitions such as Sydney Biennale, Sydney (2002), GNS (Global Navigation System), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2003), The Whitney Biennial (2004), The Shapes of Space, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2007), 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice (2009), Rosenblum Collection, Paris (2010-11), Print/OUT, MoMA, NYC (2012), ARTandPRESS, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2012), 9th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre (2013).
- SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent
- FRAC - Collection Aquitaine, Bordeaux
- Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin
- MUDAM - Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg
- The National Gallery / Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo
- Ellipse Foundation, Alcoitão
- CDAN - Centro de Arte y Naturaleza - Fundación Beulas, Huesca
- Musac - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Léon
- Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC), Sevilla
- Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich
- The Saatchi Gallery, London
- Tate Modern, London
- Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NY
- MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
- Fundación NMAC - Montenmedio Arte Contemporáneo, Centro de Arte y Naturaleza - Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz
- Rosenblum Collection, Paris
- M-Museum, Leuven
Mir has created numerous small press artists books which were the subject of her retrospective exhibition at Printed Matter, NYC in 2007. Many of the titles below are available as free for download PDF files from the artists web site. In 2009 She published the first edition of The How Not To Cookbook, a projects that solicited contributions from 1000 amateur cooks from around the world.
- The Space Age Poster Book, Sternberg Press, Berlin / M-Museum, Leuven, 2013
- The How Not To Cookbook, Rizzoli, NYC, 2010.
- The How Not To Cookbook, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, 2009.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer, Peregrine Arts, Philadelphia, 2008.
- Gravity: The Eternal Countdown, The Arts Catalyst, London, 2007.
- Newsroom 1986-2000, Mary Boone gallery, NYC, 2007.
- LA: A Geography of Modern Art, Printed Matter, Inc, NYC, 2007.
- The Big Umbrella, Laurent Godin, Paris, 2007.
- The Concorde Collages, Galerie Laurent Godin, Paris, 2006.
- 105 Selected details from the Sharpie drawings 2003-2006, onestar press, Paris, 2006.
- Switzerland and Other Islands, edition fink, Zürich, 2006.
- The Meaning of Flowers, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2006.
- Living & Loving #3 The Biography of Mitchell Wright, White Columns, NYC, 2006.
- The Church of Sharpie, Galeria Joan Prats, Barcelona/greengrassi, London, 2005.
- Not Everything is Always White or Black, Project Art Space, Dublin, 2005.
- Living & Loving #2 The Biography of Zoe Stillpass, Frieze Projects, London, 2004.
- A Voyage Towards South Pole and Round The World, NYC, 2004.
- Corporate Mentality, Lukas & Sternberg, NYC, March 2003.
- How to Be a Joshua Tree, NYC, May 2003.
- Tank Talk, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, March 2003.
- Daily News, Gavin Browns enterprise, NYC/Greengrassi, London, 11 Sept. 2002.
- Living & Loving #1 The Biography of Donald Cappy, Cubitt, London/DCA, Dundee, 2002.
- Man with Artificial Heart, NYC, 2002.
- Disaster Guide, Cinema for The Unemployed, Momentum, Moss, 1998.
- Bingo Blues, Transmission gallery, Glasgow, 1998.
- Lars Bang Larsen, Aleksandra Mir in Moss and Roskilde, Casco Issues # 5, Utrecht, 1999.
- Lars Bang Larsen, First Woman on the Moon, Frieze, London, #50, January 2000.
- Will Bradley, Life and Times: Aleksandra Mir, Frieze, Issue 75, 2003.
- Nancy Spector, All the World..., Frieze, Issue 98, London, April, 2006.
- Tim Griffin, OPENINGS: Aleksandra Mir, Artforum, February 2003
- Polly Staple & Aleksandra Mir, Living & Loving, PaceMaker #11, Paris, 2006.
- Christopher Bollen, Interview with Aleksandra Mir, The Believer, San Francisco, December '03 / January '04.
- Kirsty Bell, Organized Movement, Camera Austria, Graz, November 2004.
- Edwige Cochois, The Big Umbrella, Assistants Record, Paris, 2004
- Steven Stern, Newsroom, Frieze, #115, London, May 2008.
- Suzanne Hudson, Aleksandra Mir. Mary Boone Gallery / Printed Matter, Artforum, NYC, December 2007.
- Simon Houpt, Yesterday's front page turns into today's art, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, October 22, 2007.
- Roberta Smith, New York Stories: Art Torn Screaming From the Headlines, Then Hung on Walls, New York Times, October 20, 2007.
- gninja, Review of “Newsroom 1986 – 2000”: What Is Roberta Smith Going on About?, Art(h)ist'ry, October 20, 2007.
- Jen Schwarting, Aleksandra Mir Newsroom 1986-2000, The Brooklyn Rail ,NYC, November 2007.
- Silvia Sgualdini, How to do something from nothing, UOVO, Torino, Dec 2006.
- Stefano Tonchi, Venice, Slowly but Surely, New York Times, NYC, June 9, 2009
- Rachel Burden, Plane Landing, BBC Radio Bristol, 8 July 2003.
- Claire Doherty, Aleksandra Mir in conversation, Situations lecture series, Bristol, 15 October 2003.
- Aleksandra Mir's home page
- Aleksandra Mir / Polly Staple: Living&Loving, Cubitt, London, 2002
- Aleksandra Mir / Christopher Bollen, The Believer, 2004
- Aleksandra Mir: Gravity, Arts Catalyst, London, 2006
- Aleksandra Mir: Plane Landing, Beautiful Decay Magazine, 2008
- Aleksandra Mir: Love Stories, NMAC Foundation, Cádiz, 2007
- Aleksandra Mir: Heart on Fire, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 2009