The House of Trees Collective
House of Trees (HOT) is an artist collective working on expanding public appreciation and understanding of contemporary art, through art collaborations and curation. Their projects include murals, performance, installations, and other publicly engaged artworks, forming interventions in unpredictable sites.
At the core of this organisation is the Koshbin family, siblings Jennifer, Amy and Noah, all artists and curators with an urgent need to make their voices heard. The idea for their collective was born against the backdrop of the 2017 Women's March, an important manifestation demanding female rights, fighting oppression, and questioning the actions of some US politicians.
It was in response to this movement that Amy Koshbin (a Brooklyn-based artist who has shown her work at venues like The Whitney and The Guggenheim) reached out to her siblings Jennifer and Noah with the idea of forming a collective. Both Jennifer and Noah are artists who have exhibited and worked with some of the largest non-profit institutions across the globe, and so together the three united to create a powerful artistic project.
Thanks to the help of the writer Anne Carson, a Canadian poet, essayist, translator, and professor of Classics, and of a rich network of artists, HOT Collective created the first part of their Word On the Street: banners of politics and poetry series, an ongoing text-based art initiative. It consisted of original political and poetic banners created by female artists and writers, in collaboration with female refugee seamstresses.
Word on the Street has the peculiarity of being an exhibition in constant growth, changing its shape with each new work, new artists, and new location. The project has two main distinctive characteristics at its core; language and women.
The importance of language is central to a society where words can be used in such an irresponsible way, especially by politicians. It is easy to understand why phrases from the Greek tragedy Antigone, a symbol of social justice against tyrannical politics and female freedom, were included in some of the works produced.
Secondly, it is essential to highlight that all the artists and people involved in the project were women. Prominent female artists collaborated with female refugees in San Antonio (Texas) to make the work.
The work of House of Trees didn't go unnoticed. The public art programme Times Square Arts commissioned a series of banners to display in public spaces closer to Times Square, from August 2017 until February 2018. In this way Word on the Street found its first exhibition space, which also came with the opportunity to collaborate with new artists.
From this point, the banners also began to get closer to commercial culture. They changed from their original black, white and red design (a way to recall the Russian Constructivism movement) to include more vibrant and engaging colours.
Throughout 2018 Word on the Street was shown in other spaces across New York, including the Watermill Center, The Guggenheim, and Artpace in San Antonio. Amy and Jennifer also encouraged public involvement with a workshop in Times Square, a place that has the power to gather participants from all over the world with different viewpoints, including both locals and tourists. The idea was to create a safe space where everyone was free to express themselves and their creativity, encouraged to take a break from social media, and to live the moment. This event was not only a workshop, but a cathartic experience to express the right to freedom.
Now, House of Trees is planning to expand Word on the Street through new artistic projects. According to Amy Koshbin, it is also the moment to take their message outside of the US. Since language is a fundamental part of this exhibition, it is essential to create a balance between the language of the banners, that is English, and the language of future hosting countries. HOT is eager to find new people to collaborate with, from writers to artists, instigating a cultural dialogue all around the world. Encourage people to speak out, and fight for their rights.