Chantal Zakari is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and art educator; a Turkish-Levantine, and now a US citizen, residing in the Boston area. In her work she draws upon contemporary social issues by making connections through personal narratives, history and popular culture. Inspired by social phenomena she positions herself in relationship to a public or a sub-culture. Her studio practice freely combines research methodologies and artistic strategies borrowed from various disciplines such as photography, documentary, performance, storytelling, installation, graphic design and social interventions.
Her early books Bill: A Dime Novel (1992) and Reading TIME (1991) are one of a kind, hand crafted objects while she worked concurrently on creating hyper narratives for the Web with I.D. (1993-94). She collaborated on a diary The Turk and The Jew with her husband Mike Mandel while he lived in Pullman WA and she in Chicago IL, and in 1998 they published the work as an artists’ book with the same title. Combining her skills as a graphic designer and an artist, her works often culminates in the form of an artist’s book. In 2001 under the pseudonym “show-n-tell” she began a 4 year long performance and documentation of a webcam community where people meet to have virtual sex. This resulted in her book webAffairs (2005), a photo/text narrative of her experiences in virtual space.
Mandel and Zakari collaborated for 15 years on a body of work which includes street performances, interviews, archival research and photography, about the conflict between secularist culture and the Islamist movement in Turkey. In 2010 they published an encyclopedic artists’ publication, The State of Ata, followed later by a conceptual exhibit 7 Turkish Artists. In order to protest Walmart’s attempt to move into their hometown, the couple ran an Election Campaign for Mike's candidacy as a Town Councilor, as an activist performance piece. After a successful six-month battle which included street events, printed ephemera and the production and design of a billboard, in the spring of 2012, Walmart decided to pull out. In 2018 they published the archive of this performance as a photobook titled Campaign.
In 2012 they were invited to participate in the “Al-Mutannabi Street Starts Here” collection and created They Came to Baghdad (2012). The book has been touring with the show in the US, Europe and the Middle East. In response to the manhunt and lockdown of April 19, 2013, in their hometown of Watertown MA, the couple designed and produced a series of commemorative plates Shelter in Plates. Using an online store they sold (at cost value) hundreds of plates to local residents in order to protest the seige. The companion photobook Lockdown Archive was published in 2015 and followed by museum installations of a video projection.
Zakari served as the Area Representative for the Graphic Arts Area at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts from 1998 until 2015. She was an active faculty voice while the SMFA folded as an independent art school and eventually became part of Tufts University. Her experiences during the last years of the SMFA led in research on the business nomenclature that is used within the academic industry and resulted in Strategic Planning, an exhibition and the accompanying artist’s publication A Catalog of Flags for Academic Strategic Planning (2018).
Zakari is currently (and happily employed as) a Professor of the Practice at the SMFA at Tufts University. She is the Assistant Director at Kingston Gallery in Boston's SOWA neighborhood. She also practices as a graphic designer developing identity packages and collateral material for non-profit organizations. She was an associate member of the Goat Island performance group from 1995 until 2009 when the group dispersed. She has interpreted their work into print material including two instructional books School Book 1 and School Book 2. She has served as a board member of Belmont World Film collaboratively curating their yearly International Film Festival. Her work is in the collection of Yale University, The Addison Gallery of American Art, Getty Research Institute Library and many other artist’s books libraries. She has had solo shows, book readings and performances nationally and internationally.