Chantal Zakari is a Turkish-Levantine artist (and recent US citizen). Trained as a graphic designer she has been creating hyper narratives for the Web practically since its inception: I.D. was published on the Web in 1994. She collaborated on a Web journal, The Turk and The Jew, with her husband Mike Mandel and in 1998 they published the work as an artists' book under the same title. In 2001 under the pseudonym "Show-n-tell," she began a four-year-long performance and documentation of an adult Webcam community. She authored and designed the book webAffairs (Eighteen Publications, 2005).
Mandel and Zakari collaborated for 15 years on a body of work about the conflict between secularist culture and the Islamist movement in Turkey. Their journey, which began in 1997, has resulted in photographic images, video interviews, and public performances. In 2010 they published The State of Ata (Eighteen Publications) with exhibits in Izmir, Ankara, Atlanta, Boston and Baltimore.
The couple ran an election campaign as an activist performance in their home town in Massachusetts in order to protest Walmart's attempt to move in. After a successful six-month battle, in the spring of 2012, Walmart decided to pull out.
Their latest book, They Came to Baghdad, was published in September 2012 and is currently on tour as part of the "Al-Mutannabi Street Starts Here" artists' book collection.
Zakari is a full time faculty member at SMFA in Boston. She was an associate member of the Goat Island performance group (1995-2010) and is currently serving as a board member of Belmont World Film. She has had solo shows nationally and internationally.
In my work I access contemporary social issues by making connections with personal narratives, history, and popular culture. I am inspired by social phenomena and constantly try to position myself in relationship to a public or a sub-culture. I freely combine research methodologies and artistic strategies borrowed from various disciplines such as photography, documentary, graphic design, performance, storytelling, installation, and social interventions in my studio practice.
As I approach my work from a conceptual frame, the form is wide ranging; from fabric banners, to ceramic plates, oil paintings produced in China, resin cast sculptures and news media ads. Often the project culminates in an artist's publication. Educated as a designer I've used the computer since the mid-80s and was actively participating in the digital revolution that came through image manipulation software, desktop publishing, internet communication, web publishing and more recently mass customization. Text and language is an inherent part of my work; interviews, personal narrative, found text, all have the potential to contextualize the imagery. The book format allows me to develop an idea in much greater detail and create dialogues outside art establishments where it can reach a wider audience. With my collaborator (and husband) Mike Mandel, I actively interact with the media as part of the work. We have given press conferences and staged street events to open the work to a non-art audience.
As Eighteen Publications, Mike and I have self-published several artist's books. Our combined skills in photo, design, printing and publishing enables us the artistic freedom from the industry and thus we are able to produce books at a much lower cost. We both are committed to create works of art that are cheap and accessible to a wider audience. As my studio practice evolves, I have embraced the rapid changes in technology and in recent years I’ve also used print-on-demand technology to produce and distribute my work.
My work is project based. I draw from academic research as much as intuitive explorations in design. As I explore projects for several years the work can transform into exhibitions, installations, publications, performances and street happenings. Designing and re-designing, the work into different contexts brings a greater understanding of the ideas, and makes it more accessible to different groups of audiences.