Amber Ginsburg and Aaron Hughes work collaboratively to uncover moments of beauty, poetics and shared humanity within little known military histories. Taking as its starting point the curious love story of a Guantanamo Bay guard who fell in love with the drawings on the Styrofoam cups carved by detainees, the Tea Project is an ongoing series of exhibitions and performances that offers counter-narratives to disrupt the numbing effects of war and detention. Through the Tea Project, Ginsburg and Hughes create scenarios that allow audiences a role in telling the story of our current involvement in war and torture.
Artists and Iraq War veteran Aaron Hughes originally developed the Tea Project after a return trip to Iraq, as a civilian, in 2009. It was during this trip he had tea prepared in the Iraqi tradition for the first time. After returning home, Aaron began hosting Tea Project performances in order to draw out guests' stories connected to living during the ongoing Global War on Terror while interlacing stories of his deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003, his return trip in 2009, and the curious love stories of his friend Chris Arendt, a Guantanamo Detention Camp guard, who fell in love with drawings carved by detainees into Styrofoam cups.
In 2013, Aaron Hughes invited Amber Ginsburg to join in the Tea Project in order to cast 779 porcelain Styrofoam teacups, one for each individual held in extra-legal detention since 2001. Since then, Ginsburg and Hughes have worked collaboratively to expand the project and develop a multi-faceted forum to engage with individuals' personal relationships to love, war, and extra-legal detention.
Together with collaborators, Amber Ginsburg creates site-generated projects and social sculpture that insert historical scenarios into present day situations. Her background in craft orients her projects towards the continuities and ruptures in material, social, and utopic histories. She teaches in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago.
Her research-based multimedia installations have been shown in museums and galleries including: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, MN; The Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburg, PA; World Ceramic Biennale, Korea; KunstTREFFpunkt, Darmstadt, Germany; Artsonje, Seoul, Korea; Raid Projects, Los Angeles, CA and the Bristol Biennial, England.
Aaron Hughes is an artist, activist, organizer, teacher, and Iraq War veteran, whose work seeks out poetics, connections, and moments of beauty, in order to construct new languages and meanings out of personal and collective traumas. He uses these new languages and meanings to create projects that deconstruct systems of dehumanization and oppression.
He works with a variety of art, veteran, and activist organizations and projects including: Warrior Writers Project, Dirty Canteen, National Veterans Art Museum, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, and Center for Artistic Activism. He has shown his work throughout the United States and internationally in museums and galleries to include: Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Maruki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; School of Visual Arts Museum, New York, NY; Open Engagement, Portland, OR; Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, Lebanon; Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; The Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI; among other locations. He received The Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists for his work on the Tea Project.
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