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Kathleen and William Laziza
Artists in Resident

Micro Museum – 123 Smith Street
Brooklyn, New York

Written by Wendy R. Williams

Photographed by Mary Blanco

On Saturday June 4th, I went to Boerum Hill in Brooklyn with New York Cool photographer Mary Bianco and models Cynthia Hartzell (the Jaguar girl) and Ryan Link (formerly Roger in Rent). We were going to shoot a fashion story (some very fun jackets, see June Fashion) at the Micro Museum at 123 Smith Street. While we were there, we met Kathleen Laziza and were amazed by the interactive art that Kathleen and her husband Williams Laziza had created. The place was filled with fun and funky pieces of art. So we ended up photographing more than just the jackets - and afterwards I emailed Kathleen for information about the art.

Cynthia Hartzell kisses her ass good-bye.

Wendy: Tell me about the kissing exercise machine.

Kathleen: The Kissing Installation was designed by William Laziza and me in 2003 and it was inspired by our observations that repetitive exercise on gym equipment is equivalent to mental, and in some cases physical, torture. Originally the installation included six pieces of exercise equipment, but was reduced to one when we decided to make the installation part of the permanent exhibits for 2005-06. The images of flowers, kissing and words of encouragement were selected to remedy boredom. Our work typically borders performance art because those who participate complete the feedback loop by adding their personal energy, making this interactive video art installation purely about commitment or the lack thereof. 

Wendy: Would you also tell me about the large chair - same things?

Kathleen: The Big Chair was created in 1997-98, again by William and myself. We made it to bring attention to the concept that there are no small ideas. From 1998-2001, it became part of a school curriculum project called "The Big Chair Interview,"  in which I asked kids what they wanted to be when they grew up.  The results were often hilarious and in some cases insightful because there was no child who said he wanted to be a lowlife. They all had some kind of big ambition. Of course Lily Tomlin's "Edith Ann" is a pop cultural icon who comes to mind when you see the chair. That character ended each statement with, "And that is the truth!" Ideas are both instinctive and gut oriented and that is the truth. 

Wendy: And the 1960's television set.

Kathleen: 3D TV is part of Phone-I-Ture (the periwinkle plaid telephone loveseat) created in 1994. It was designed to be a passive experience where you adjusted colors and grouping of the lighting while sitting on the loveseat - it is reminiscent of the videotape Yule logs usually played at wintertime holiday parties (a video of a fireplace in action). Phone-I-Ture was an experiment in communication. It was our understanding that people would disclose different information by phone or by sitting parallel, rather than having a face-to-face experience. This was a learned response from parenting a teenager together.

Wendy: The two black stick figures

Guess Who? is an assemblage by Kathleen Laziza - created in 2005, it is a response to the wartime torture programs propagated by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two faceless figures are connected by a red chain of lights, symbolizing both blood spilled - and the bond we all share. The two figures are framed by a large fork and spoon metaphorically stating that war eats the youngest members first through loss and deprivation.   

Wendy: The old-fashioned turntable.

The Prepared Victrola is considered a "grand upright" and was retrofitted in 1982 by William and myself and acted as a part of two performance pieces, I'm Forever and The Lighthouse, before it became a purely audio exhibition work when Micro Museum received the 78 RPM record collection of Philharmonic music from the Metropolitan Museum in 1990. The Prepared Victrola has a prominent position in the Haunted Maze, an annual event during the month of October, because classical music often has a dramatic and eerie quality to the modern ear. What is interesting about this work is that what is old can be new, meaning that the younger audiences who come to Micro Museum have never before seen one of these windup music boxes in action. The quaint and charming sound never gets old. 

Wendy: Also, about the Micro Museum - how long has it been in operation and how did it get started?

Kathleen: Micro Museum is a living art center that began in 1986 when we came to Brooklyn and started programming on the second floor of our loft building in downtown Brooklyn. We were early adopters of the internet and in 1994 began broadcasting Spontaneous Combustion (a video program that highlighted NYC artists). We produced many virtual exhibitions and narrowcast events. In 1996, Kathleen published an artist article in the international journal for art, science and technology, Leonardo Magazine (published by MIT Press). That article related her collaborative experiences and gained the attention of The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Library, resulting in an invitation for her to be a guest speaker about women using technology. This in turn opened up various inquiries from all over the globe, most especially Japan, with more TV interviews and collaborations to follow. In 1997 The Lazizas purchased the building and in 2002, they moved much of their operation to the ground floor space as a way of creating a pubic persona for the hundreds of artists who have regularly used the facility to create or present their works every year. 2005 is the twenty-fifth anniversary year for William and Kathleen Laziza and as a way of celebrating that anniversary, they are now the dominate artists on display.  Micro Museum is a diverse eclectic environment that fosters artists as they explore a lively interconnection between various art mediums, bridging performance art with video art in an installation that can be appreciated by forward-thinking people. Micro Museum® was officially trademarked in 2004. It continues to strive for connection between the community of artists using interdisciplinary methods, either as they are working around the corner or around the globe. 

So there you have it, a fun and funky art installation – the kind of thing that makes New York special and magical, the kind of place where you never know what is behind the door until you open it.

Rock on!

Wendy


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