A re-installed shot of CarryOn Homes' "Living Room" installation, part of at the exhibition “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art & Migration” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Photo: CarryOn Homes.

Three weeks before the pandemic shutdown museums, the Minneapolis Institute of Art opened the provocative exhibition “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art & Migration,” a touring show of work by 21 artists and artist groups that originated at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.

When Mia reopened to the public on July 16, it extended the run of this exhibition through August 23, and also changed the last room, entitled "Living Room." It is a space made for relaxation, created by Minnneapolis-based international art collective CarryOnHomes. The artists had to completely re-envision the once very hands-on, tactile project for our pandemic times. The group will discuss the re-installation and how they reconsidered ideas of "being welcoming" and "home" in a virtual conversation on Zoom and Facebook Live on Friday, August 7 at 11 a.m. Email communityarts@artsmia.org to register for the free event.

“We know that the pandemic changed the perception of safety in indoor spaces and in proximity with other people, but the idea of home, invitation, and belonging are still at the core of our mission and the mission of this artwork," CarryOn Homes wrote in a statement.

The five artists in the collective -- China (Peng Wu), Malaysia (Shun Jie Yong), Japan (Aki Shibata), Italy (Zoe Cinel) and the United States (Preston Drum) -- are often dealing with ideas of home, change, and immigration.

In the original installation "Living Room" was a relaxing space at the end of the emotionally intense exhibition about immigration, asylum-seekers, and refugees. Visitors could rest on soft pillows, read books, listen to interviews with immigrants, and write on house-shaped tags. 

Rather than fight the change, CarryOn Homes felt excited by the possibility of turning the work into something new and welcoming, “following new ideas of what welcoming means,” they wrote.

The pillows are arranged on the wall. People can sit on small wooden seats, or just stand. The audio stories of immigrants still play on a projection onto the wall. Ironically, the installation has a "before and after," reflecting how COVID has changed ideas of home and safety.

Not everyone could be there for the installation.

Peng Wu, one of the collective members, got stuck in China because of COVID-19, and couldn't attend the first opening. As the second iteration begins, he's still in China for the foreseeable future, contemplating what the project means on a broader scale.

“I am grateful to be involved in the process of the both two events,” Wu wrote via email. “I feel all of our team members are contributing equally in a very organic way. Redesign solutions are developed through conversations and ideas bouncing back and forth.”

Because the installation changed as a result of COVID-19, it now offers a second experience: To give people time to sit (in a socially distanced way) and reflect on the wild pandemic journey.

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