Mr Somebody and Mr Nobody’s Amazing Afro Pop Up Shop Opens 11/4/11

“Mr Somebody & Mr Nobody’s Amazing Afro Pop-Up Shop” Installation On View In The Wolfsonian’s The Bridge Tender House During Art Basel Miami Beach

The Wolfsonian–Florida International University hosts a site-specific installation by Mr Somebody & Mr Nobody, a project created by artists and South African expatriates Heidi Chisholm and Sharon Lombard. Chisholm and Lombard will transform The Wolfsonian’s Bridge Tender House, fronting the museum’s Washington Avenue façade, into an “Afro Pop-up Shop,” inviting passersby to purchase and take home a part of the piece.

The installation opens November 4, 2011, is on view during Art Basel Miami Beach, and remains on view through February 4, 2012.

Part art installation, part design exhibition, part commercial endeavor, and part souvenir stand with a twist, the installation, with its African-inspired, tongue-in-cheek goods, explores the notions of home, Africa, immigration, and globalization. Based on an African market stall, the Afro Pop-up Shop prompts us beyond the question, “Where are you from?” to more complicated questions regarding multiple migrations, invasions, post-colonial freedom, and the ability to board international flights. Aesthetically challenging yet instantly consumable, the installation is ultimately about transition, change, and making a home. Anyone interested in a preview of the Bridge Tender House installation can see a version of Mr Somebody & Mr Nobody’s Afro Pop-up Shop at the Wynwood Art Fair on October 21-23.

Chisholm, an acclaimed graphic designer, and Lombard, a fine artist grounded in performance and installation art, tap into their shared history as South African expats living in America in this immigrants’ paean to globalization. Both artists make objects that collapse the persistent dichotomy between the practical and the intellectual, art and design, craft and commerce, old and new, center and periphery, North and South, sense and non-sense, beauty and the bizarre.

Together, they create a fictional world, but with real world implications. It’s a world populated by chickens, fast cars, crocodiles, Ndebele airplanes, mischievous monkeys, flying lions, six fingers, and Santa in a devil suit. It’s al realm where their memories of home and African folk tales blend with Western insights to create new, playful narratives.

The works on display travel through the public and private geographies of citizenship, building homes made of memories and identity. A suitcase doubles as a container of multiple histories; exquisitely designed “khanga” cloths weave complex narratives; playful sculptures unseat African stereotypes; beautiful “heirloom” lace doilies become visas to the art of immigration. The artists remind us, through the eyes of their immigrant experiences, that we too must be our own expatriates if we are to navigate and survive the losses and gains of living through the changes and eruptions of globalization.

The company’s name is derived from the isiZulu proverb, “He arrives Mr. Somebody and leaves Mr. Nobody.” As the proverb/company’s name implies, the desire to fit in is universal and the process complicated. In keeping with their values, Chisholm and Lombard aren’t waiting for a reception, they’re extending the first hand and hoisting their own flag in a space that they describe as “Neither Here, Nor There.” “We are putting together a little souvenir stand of some of our experiences and memories, a market stall which reflects our lives as immigrants from South Africa,” Lombard explains. “We have invented a borderless country for this market, an explorers’ flag to be planted, and we have been designing and producing goods to sell in our installation stall, our Afro Pop-up Shop.” By creating a folklore out of displacement and change, Mr Somebody & Mr Nobody ultimately locates citizenship as fluid; home as where the heart is. Bewitching, irresistibly funny, always provocative, it offers proof that alienation, in the right hands, can be exquisite. Proceeds from the installation’s sales benefit The Wolfsonian. Although there is no salesperson stationed in the Bridge Tender House, the goods are available for purchase through The Dynamo Museum Shop.

For more information about Mr Somebody & Mr Nobody, visit the company’s website at www.mrsomebodyandmrnobody.com.

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