05 Mar 2015 - 08 Mar 2015
PIERS 92 & 94


As the Lead Partners of the Armory Focus - Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean (MENAM), Art Jameel and Edge of Arabia presented CULTURUNNERS as a program of artistic collaborations and conversations to connect cultural territories between MENAM regions and communities across New York. CULTURUNNERS @ The Armory was sited in a mobile artist studio and broadcast vehicle, in the form of a modified Gulf Stream RV, curated by Azra Aksamija and developed in collaboration with artists from MIT's Program in Art, Culture and Technology.

CULTURUNNERS @ ARMORY encompassed three main activities:

  • six special CULTURUNNERS projects developed especially for The Armory Show
  • a dedicated CULTURUNNERS panel discussion as part of The Armory Show's Open Furum Symposium
  • the launch of Edge of Arabia's US Tour online Broadcast platfom, FREEWAY.


  • YARN-DEZ-VOUS: a giant quilt made of American and Middle Eastern textiles that can be transformed into letterman’s jackets. Created by Azra Aksamija and developed with Andrea Boit, Lillian Harden and Karina Silvester. Watch video below.
  • MENAM ART MAP: based on a text-network analysis of the region’s contemporary art scene. Created by Dietmar Offenhuber, Nick Beauchamp, Chris Riedl and Siqi Zhu from NU Lab for Text, Maps and Networks at Northeastern University.
  • THE FLYING CARPET: A series of performances by Darvish Fakhr, who will use a customised, motorized longboard (long skateboard) / Persian Carpet to travel through selected MENAM communities across New York. Watch video below.
  • AUTOLUMINESCENCE: live audio and visual performances improvising with audio and video samples collected from MENAM communities. Created by Madeleine Gallagher and John Steiner. Watch video below.
  • A Now for MENAM: a digital calendar that negotiates different perceptions and experiences of time across cultural artifacts from the MENAM region and the US. Created by Orkan Telhan.
  • RV SKIN-NY:  An interactive re-skinning of the exterior of the CULTURUNNERS RV which will be launched on the first day of the fair. Led by Azra Aksamija and Stephen Stapleton. Website by One Darnley Road.


A special CULTURUNNERS panel discussion, moderated by Renata Papsch, General Manager Art Jameel, was held on Friday 6th March. Panelists included: Azra Aksamija, MIT Assistant Professor and CULTURNNERS co-author; Husam Al Sayed, Telfaz 11; Ava Ansari, Edge of Arabia Associate Curator; and Matthew Mazzotta, Artist. .

This panel discussed CULTURUNNERS as an artistic expedition and road trip setting out to explore, communicate, and archive interconnected cultural histories between the Middle East and the United States. Each panelist discussed their personal journey that brought them to the project and showed examples of previous work. The Panel included a screening of Matthew Mazzotta’s Open House, Tefaz 11’s No Woman, No Cry and a demonstration of the Varn-Dez-Vous project by Azra Aksamija.

After the panel selected audience members had a tour of the CULTURUNNERS RV with the panelists.


  • CULTURUNNER RV secured a highly visible and accessible location close to the entrance of Pier 94 (overcoming significant weather and permissions challenges) welcoming over 300 visitors over 5 days including: Tom Finkelpearl (Commissioner for the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs), Abdallah Y. Al- Mouallimi (Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations), and Hashim Sarkis (Dean, School of Architecture and Planning, MIT)
  • 12 American and Middle Eastern artists successfully presented 6 special projects, developed especially for CULTURUNNERS at Armory, curated by Azra Aksamija.
  • A highly successful communications campaign including a full-page feature in the New York Observer highlighting CULTURUNNERS project and a number of features about Darvish Fakhr’s Whirling Dervish project in Voice of America and ArtNews amongst others.
  • The CULTURUNNER RV was successfully upgraded and transformed for the Armory. Changes included interior upholstery, 3 on board touch screen computers, fitted audio broadcast technology for the bedroom, and exterior branding which successfully promoted the project, website, and partners both at the fair and as the RV drove for different programing around New York City.
  • The cutting edge CULTURUNNERS Website was successfully launched with daily posts about the fair.
  • FREEWAY broadcast program was successfully launched and extended the Armory programming to MENA communities in New York. Broadcasts included Little Syria (released) and Harlem (pending).
  • RV logistics including driver, permissions and parking were successfully coordinated and secured.


Azra Akšamija is the Class of 1922 Career Development Professor and Assistant Professor of the Arts at MIT's Art, Culture and Technology Program. As an artist and architectural historian, Akšamija investigates the politics of identity and memory through clothing and wearable technologies, through civic scale cultural forms, such as religious architecture and museums, and within the context of history and global cultural flows. Her recent work focuses on the representation of Islam in the West, post-socialist.

Stephen Stapleton is Founding Director of Edge of Arabia. Stephen is an artist, curator, and the co-founder and director of Edge of Arabia. After encountering the artistic community in Abha, Saudi Arabia, during a journey across the Middle East in 2003, he founded the Offscreen Education Programme and Edge of Arabia as platforms for cultural dialogue between the Middle East and western world. He has published several books related to the Middle East, including Offscreen: Four Young Artists in the Middle East (Booth-Clibborn, 2004), Edge of Arabia (Offscreen Education, 2009), and Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia, and won several awards for his work in the field of intercultural education.


Ava Ansari is the co-founder of The Back Room, a curatorial and pedagogical project which facilitates exchanges between artists and scholars in Iran and the U.S. Recent curatorial projects include Fixed Unknowns, Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York, 2014; I am Only a Reporter, Ardeshir Mohassess, Modern Section of Art Dubai, 2014; and A Call, a remote project with 80 performers between Tehran and New York. This project was conceptualized with Wafaa Bilal, and opened concurrently at Arran Gallery in Tehran and White Box Art Space in New York in 2011. She has presented work at Dixon Place, La Mama, Eyebeam, the AC Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, among others. She has previously worked at Aperture Foundation, New York; Shirin Gallery, New York; Basement Gallery, Dubai; and Silk Road Gallery, Tehran. She currently works at the Edge of Arabia, where she serves as an associate curator and the manager of the E.O.A. U.S. Tour. She got her B.A. in Public Relations and Journalism from Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran, and her M.A. in Art Politics from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.


Orkan Telhan is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility. Telhan is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts - Emerging Design Practices at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design. He holds a Ph.D. in Design and Computation from MIT's Department of Architecture. He was part of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory and the Mobile Experience Lab at the MIT Design Laboratory. He studied Media Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo and theories of media and representation, visual studies, and graphic design at Bilkent University, Ankara. Telhan's individual and collaborative work has been exhibited in venues including the 13th Istanbul Biennial, 1st Istanbul Design Biennial, Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Archilab, Architectural Association, the Architectural League of New York, MIT Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.

Madeleine Gallagher is an interdisciplinary artist, technologist and educator at MIT . Her practice embraces a wide variety of mediums, including traditional object making, photography, time-based media, and performance in order to investigate cultural phenomena related to technology and how media culture shapes human interactions. Her core process as an artist practitioner is rooted in painting. Her artwork has recently been presented at Berklee College of Music, MIT, Duke University, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center, Roulette NYC and Issue Project Room.Madeleine has collaborated with several musicians and artists including Scanner, Stephen Vitiello, Either/Or, D. Edward Davis, Adam Savje, embarker, evidence and Jane Rigler.

John Steiner is a performer, songwriter and visual artist working in audio, sculpture, electronic media and design. As a performer and songwriter, John's musical accomplishments are lengthy; aside from five successful international tours and two American tours, he has also enjoyed a long list of publishing credits. Many of his songs have been used on MTV, NPR, ABC, NBC, Showtime, as well as feature films.

Nick Beauchamp is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and a member of the core faculty of the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks. He received his Ph.D. from New York University in 2013, and prior to Northeastern was on the faculty of the Quantitative Methods in Social Sciences program at Columbia University. He works in the fields of US politics (political behavior, campaigns, political psychology, social media) and political methodology (quantitative text analysis, machine learning, bayesian methods, networks). His recent work has examined the interplay between speech, belief, and behavior in legislatures, campaign advertising, and online communication. His current projects include examining deliberation and long-term opinion change online; predicting state-level polling using Twitter textual data; predicting and explaining Supreme Court decisions using the text of legal briefs; and developing experimental methods for optimizing the persuasive effect of text treatments such as political advertisements.

Christoph Riedl is assistant professor for Information Systems at Northeastern University. He holds appointments at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business and the College of Computer & Information Science. He is a core faculty at the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. He is also a fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard University and a fellow of the NASA Tournament Lab. He is recipient of a Young Investigator Award (YIP) for his work on social networks in collaborative decision-making. Before joining Northeastern University he was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Business School and IQSS. He received a PhD in Information Systems from Technische Universität München (TUM), Germany in 2011, a MSc in Information Systems in 2007, and a BSc in Computer Science in 2006. His work has been published in leading business and computer science journals including Management Science, Communications of the AIS, and International Journal of Electronic Commerce, and conferences including the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS).

Armin Akhavan has a BA in Urban Planning from Tehran University, Iran, an MS in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern University, and is currently studying for a MFA in Information Design at Northeastern. Since 2013, he has been working in projects ranging from scenario modeling, land-use planning, and data mining/predictive analysis to data visualization, web development and design. He is interested in working on web-based application projects aimed at perpetuating civic good. His other interests include interactive front-end design, web-mapping, and database development for web.

Darvish Fakhr is an artist and a painter. Born in 1969, Fakhr grew up in the U.S. before moving to Britain where his practice has been based for the last two decades. He currently lives in Brighton, Sussex. He is an award-winning artist in the field of Iranian portrait paintings. Of American/ Iranian heritage, Fakhr trained at the Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In 2004 he won the BP Travel Award and used the opportunity to go to Iran and paint local people in Tehran and Isfahan.



Renata Papsch is General Manager at Art Jameel.


Azra Aksamija is Assistant Professor of the Arts at MIT's Art, Culture and Technology Program(see above for biography).

Husam Al-Sayed is a Saudi-based Palestinian filmmaker and founding member of the Telfaz 11, one of the Middle East's most influential Arabic online video networks based in Riyadh. With over seven million subscribers and over 750 million views throughout its network, Telfaz11 has attracted and helped launch some of the top creative internet talent in the Middle East. SALAR is a Dubai-based Iranian performance artist, electronic music composer and founding member of the Analog Room, a DJ and music platform in the Middle East with an international residency program for electronic music composers. Since launching in 2012, Analog Room has cultivated an extensive network of regional-grown electronic music composers and generated increased awareness about the medium.

Ava Ansari is Associate Curator Edge of Arabia US Tour (see above for biography).

Matthew Mazzotta is an artist, alumnus of ACT at MIT, inventor and lecturer at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology. Mazzotta’s work evolves from an interest in exploring the relationship between people and their environments, as well as between each other. His practice is conceptual and manifests as participatory public interventions that aim at bringing criticality and a sense of openness to the places we live. These socially-engaged interventions allow for a re-entry of the physical and metaphorical landscapes of our lives by provoking conversations around exploring the local, questions of ecology, public involvement, community building, artist sensibilities, science, and dissecting the systems that make up our ‘everyday’. His work is about reversing the top down one-way exchange of ideas and allowing people to contribute in a more tangible way to their own environment. Often times these projects include working with community members, laborers, academics, engineers, builders, city governments, activists, artists, poets, and anyone else that is willing to be involved in something experiential and participatory.

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