Lisa Karrer, Slum with Sewer
Presented in partnership with Asian District Cultural Association, Latino Community Development Agency, Sooner Hope for Ukraine, and The Spero Project.
April 25-Aug. 19, 2024
Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery
SHELTER by artist Lisa Karrer explores the experiences of displaced peoples seeking shelter in refugee communities across different parts of the world through oral interviews and video projections, displayed within miniature ceramic structures inspired by global refugee camps. SHELTER invites viewers to consider the ways in which displaced peoples find homes and communities in unfamiliar places.
Featuring discrete “stations” of miniaturized ceramic tents, huts, and buildings, SHELTER comprises regionally specific dwellings inhabited by those seeking refuge in the face of displacement. Each station contains an embedded audio soundtrack, featuring refugees speaking in their native language or in English, sharing narratives of their memories from home. Intimate video scenarios, portraying individuals and families going about their daily lives, are also projected onto the interior walls of the ceramic forms.
Originally mounted at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Karrer’s hometown of Buffalo, New York, in 2020–2021, SHELTER illuminated the relationship between the city of Buffalo and its refugee organizations that help displaced peoples to resettle in local communities. Oklahoma Contemporary will present an iteration of the exhibition that is recontextualized for Oklahoma audiences, featuring audio and video recordings of residents in Oklahoma who have experienced displacement and who, with generosity of spirit, give voice to their respective trajectories.
Oklahoma Contemporary Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs Carina Evangelista notes, “The miniature ceramic structures—hand-built by Karrer in shapes informed by designs of actual shelters—appear stark white, glazed, textured with stucco, or bearing the imprint of miniature graffiti. They stand whole or bombed out. And through the small windows and doors, one can view individuals or families engaged in quotidian activities—reading, drinking tea, looking after children—that represent the small units of time that build toward eroding what might be alienating or frightening when grappling with dislocation.
“They bear witness to their own stories that speak of loss and sorrows, of struggle and courage, of painful chapters and new beginnings. The invocation of memory captures not only the massive disruption that war, climate disaster, or extreme poverty can trigger but also the source from which refugees draw strength, the roadblocks or hostility they face along the way, and renewed faith in humanity, bolstered by the embrace of welcoming support systems in their new communities.”
Karrer designed all the table mounts in collaboration with sculptor Bill Hochhausen, who oversaw their construction. The interviews conducted in Oklahoma were coordinated in partnership with The Spero Project, a local non-profit organization that welcomes resettled refugees in Oklahoma City, along with Asian District Cultural Association, Latino Community Development Agency, and Sooner Hope for Ukraine.
About the artist
Lisa Karrer (b. 1957, Buffalo, New York) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work often incorporates visual, audio, and sensory elements, combining technology with narrative and hand-built ceramics to create immersive installations. Karrer’s work explores physical approaches to digital software, creating what she has termed “warm technology.” Karrer describes her own work as seeking to utilize technology as “a tangible, hands-on practice, aiming to enhance and emphasize, rather than obscure, the human condition in the digital age.”