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MIKE MANDEL
CHANTAL ZAKARI
2018
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A WORK IN
PROGRESS
2020
INTRODUCTION
 

This work is political in its ambition, but possibly the most poetic visuals I have made. I am looking at the past and present of the Watertown Federal Arsenal, a small chunk of real estate in Watertown, Massachusetts once owned by the U.S. Army.

It reveals a lot about how I feel about the recent history of this country: the post-war economic boom, technological innovations, the immigrant experience, mixed in with bomb making, toxic waste, and the most recent transformation of this space into business spaces, shopping mall and hulking parking garages. But I've tried to keep it personal. I grew up in an apartment building right across the NATO headquarters in Izmir, and some of the portraits I found in the National Archives in Waltham remind me of the American officers I would see in the street on a daily basis.

I got interested in the Watertown Arsenal because of the many dichotomies it represents; good jobs and upward mobility for immigrants employed in the creation of giant canons and munitions. The massive and beautiful brick buildings that were constructed for war production were designed by renowned architects whose aesthetic vision surpasses the banal commercial development in construction today. And because these buildings were occupied by the Army until 1995, and required a Superfund toxic waste clean-up, they were not razed and churned into the typical malls of the 70s and 80s.

As pandemic life has shifted our experience onto the screen, the exhibition space I have designed resembles my desktop, layered and a bit messy. Photographs lay on top of each other, some are on the floor, others closer to the ceiling.

In the Center Gallery you will see About The Past, a video installation of two projections: In one Em Papineau and Sofia Engelman choreographed dance movements referencing the workers and officers of the past. In the other, Ruth Harcovitz dressed in her vintage Women's Army Corps uniform sings Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. In the background the new construction dwarfs the old buildings. I was lucky to have an "in-house" editor, Leyla Mandel, who diligently put up with my requests to create both videos.

I had the most fun designing Arsenal News, an homage to a bi-weekly publication produced by the workers of the Watertown Arsenal that lasted 23 years. My 2020 edition consists of a non-linear visual history with recreated headlines. It will be distributed at the gallery and concurrently in various locations at the Arsenal Yards and Mall.

Established before the Civil War, the Watertown Arsenal closed in 1995, four years before Mike and I moved to our home only blocks away. Also, a decade before Leyla found her voice on the stage of the Watertown Children's Theater housed in Building 312, the Old Erecting Shop where the giant 12-inch guns and field mortars were built. The title of this work, A Work in Progress refers to the continuous transformation of this space.

This exhibition and artist’s publication was generously supported by a Daynard Grant from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, a Faculty Research Grant and a Tisch Faculty Fellowship from Tufts University.

See companion piece:

COLLECTION OF OBJECTS
 
EXHIBITIONS

2020

Kingston Gallery, A Work in Progress, Boston, MA

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KINGSTON GALLERY

BOSTON, MA   |   NOVEMBER 2020

 
REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS

BOSTON HASSLE

The Watertown Arsenal and Its Ghosts

by Gabby Onessimo, November 29, 2020 

KINGSTON CONVERSATIONS

Chantal Zakari in Conversation with Margaret Hart

November 18, 2020 

WATERTOWN NEWS

Artist's Exhibit Captures the Transformation of the Watertown Arsenal with Historica, Modern Images

by Charlie Bretrose, November 13, 2020

 

KINGSTON GALLERY BLOG

All in the Timing: Chantal Zakari's "A Work in Progress" at Kingston Gallery

by Emma Newberry, November 5, 2020 

Commanders