Rebekah Modrak Cited on Design Incubation

A recent article published on Design Incubation cites Rebekah Modrak’s project Re Made Co. as an emerging model of speculative work in design, using research-based production and media-based dissemination. In the article “Critical Practices as Design Scholarship: Opportunities and Strategies,” scholars Jessica Barness and Steven McCarthy ask “How might design faculty approach the production and dissemination of creative work that is neither client-based nor fine art? Over the past decade, other paths to knowledge formation and scholarly productivity have emerged, and we refer to these as critical practices. Involving a speculative approach to design (experimental, expressive, future-oriented), critical practices combine an authorial point-of-view with research and the tangible aspects of media, technology, materials, and process.” The paper “is written for faculty, scholars, administrators, and practitioners interested in learning more about critical practices and their connection with design scholarship.”

The Re Made project is online at

Critical Practices as Design Scholarship: Opportunities and Strategies

Critical Practices as Design Scholarship: Opportunities and Strategies

In this paper, we expand upon our guest presentation from Design Incubation 3.3 at Kent State University on March 11, 2017. This paper is written for faculty, scholars, administrators, and practiti…


Praxis Center Features “Rethink Shinola”

Rebekah Modrak’s Rethink Shinola was recently featured by the Praxis Center, an online resource center for scholars, activists, and artists hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College.

“RETHINK SHINOLA is a multi-part, Internet-based artwork analyzing and critiquing the branding messages publicized by the company Shinola, founded in 2011. Shinola’s name is “a nod” to the former Shinola, a shoe polish company that promoted its products using racist caricatures of African Americans. The “new” Shinola company planted itself in Detroit and leverages and profiteers from the extreme conditions and image of the city as a site of grit and resilience. The brand creates representations of patriarchal whiteness to enforce perceptions of their “leadership” and circulates images of African American employees being grateful for this so-called governance. In Shinola’s narratives, the “wild” Detroit environment needs a civilized savior who can first identify with and then tame and civilize the savage.”

Rethink Shinola

Rethink Shinola

By Rebekah Modrak RETHINK SHINOLA is a multi-part, Internet-based artwork analyzing and critiquing the branding messages publicized by the company Shinola, founded in 2011. Shinola’s name is “a nod” to …


Humility Colloquium at the University of Michigan

Rebekah Modrak and Jamie Vander Broek (Art & Design Librarian, U-M) have been working since August 2016 with Aaron Ahuvia (Professor of Marketing, U-M Dearborn) and Sarah Buss (Professor of Philosophy, U-M) to design a colloquium on Humility in the Age of Self-Promotion within the University of Michigan.

The colloquium will occur this Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 21, and will bring together leading figures from psychology, philosophy, journalism, religion, medicine, the military, the law, business, the arts, and the humanities to contemplate the nature of humility, its benefits and costs, and its role in this time of billionaire entrepreneurs, pervasive reality television, social media, and Donald Trump. The interdisciplinary collaborative group asks: What might we learn from humility and different expressions of humbleness? By investigating humility, its enabling conditions and effects, we gain insight into what it is to be human, as well as discovering ways to understand/interpret and respond constructively to the present social and political moment.

The colloquium will be held on and off the Michigan campus and will be primarily a closed event. Invited guests include Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, a scholar examining how humility constrains and enables the ways that black girls envision their future. Richard C. Boothman, JD Chief Risk Officer at the University of Michigan Health System, recounts changing the culture of the UM healthcare system from one of “deny and defend” to one of apology, honesty, and transparency. Russell Belks, York University consumer ethnographer, shares his findings on the humble performance of old age, “without the benefits of all the sets, masks, and props that are a part of living as thriving consumers during our younger years.” Lynette Clemetson, Director of the University of Michigan’s Wallace House, offers insights into the changing role of the journalist, from an astute observer who recedes into the background, to a personality with a social media brand.

Throughout the colloquium, Stamps students Ana Vincent and Marjorie Gaber will work with Nick Sousanis, award-winning author of the graphic novel Unflattening, to illustrate ideas and conversations. The team’s illustrations will be published in the book that develops from the event. Colloquium Undergraduate Research Assistants Tori Essex and Mara Ezekiel have been key in organizing the event ,and will participate in the discussions and workshop. Carolyn Gennari (MFA 2017) is the Graduate Research Assistant, and is directing design elements and videography to record and distribute some of the talks.

On Friday evening, October 20, 2017, NY Times Op-Ed columnist Charles M. Blow will present the colloquium’s public event, a keynote lecture at Rackham Auditorium.

The Colloquium on Humility is funded by MCubed, a campus-wide seed funding program at the University of Michigan, with involvement from the University of Michigan Libraries, the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, and the School of Business at University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“Implicit Jacques Panis” Featured and Awarded at ArtPrize

Rebekah Modrak’s ArtPrize Nine work, The Implicit Jacques Panis on Shinola’s Quest to Revive American Manufacturing, has been awarded a Jurors Special Recognition Award by the Fountain Street Church, an ArtPrize venue dedicated to social justice.

Modrak’s work has also been featured in recent Detroit News and Detroit Free Press articles on ArtPrize Nine.

In a reminder that art can be political, University of Michigan art professor Rebekah Modrak’s short video takes dead aim at a company that prides itself on boosting Detroit — Shinola.

‘The Implicit Jacques Panis on Shinola’s Quest to Revive American Manufacturing’ takes an existing promotional video starring Panis, Shinola’s president, and alters it to cast him in a series of colonialist guises.

ArtPrize Nine opens Wednesday with 1,346 artists | Detroit News

Rebekah Modrak, “The Implicit Jacques Panis on Shinola’s Quest to Revive American Manufacturing”
This thought-provoking video piece is, on a straightforward level, a critique of the Shinola company’s use of its Detroit roots to project authenticity while producing watches that are wildly unaffordable for most of the city’s residents. The Ann Arbor artist uses a Shinola promo video featuring Panis, the company’s president, to whose image she adds a shifting series of animated hats, each alluding to a period of historical conquest, as a wider statement on class, oppression and appropriation.

ArtPrize 2017: Metro Detroit artists shine at massive competition in Grand Rapids

#exstrange Book Publication and International Launch

Maize Books, an imprint of Michigan Publishing, has just published #exstrange: A CURATORIAL INTERVENTION ON EBAY. The book documents the #exstrange project, curated by Rebekah Modrak and Marialaura Ghidini (Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology Professor). Over 80 contemporary artists and designers created as auctions-as-artworks for the project on eBay using the elements of the auction listing as tools of production.

The book features essays and interviews by prominent cultural critic Mark Dery, journalist Rob Walker, critic Miriam La Rosa, curator Gaia Tedone, and media scholar Padma Chirumamilla.

#exstrange book launches around the world will celebrate the DIY spirit of the project in circumventing traditional art gatekeeping. The first event has already taken place in Berlin, Germany. Upcoming launches are planned for Mexico City (Mexico); Barcelona (Spain); Hong Kong; Melbourne (Australia); Providence (RI, USA); London (UK); and Calgary (Alberta, Canada). For updates about events, visit the #exstrange Facebook page.

Locally, Professor Modrak will host an event at Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, October 10 at 7pm, with #exstrange participants Sophia Brueckner (Assistant Professor, Stamps School), Masimba Hwati (MFA candidate, Stamps School), Fred Feinberg (Professor, Ross School of Business), and Padma Chirumamilla (PhD candidate, School of Information) describing their contributions to the project.

Tuesday, October 10 at 7pm
Literati Bookstore
124 E Washington, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

“Implicit Jacques Panis” at Art Prize’s Social Justice Venue

Rebekah Modrak’s new video work, The Implicit Jacques Panis on Shinola’s Quest to Revive American Manufacturing, was selected for exhibition in Art Prize by Fountain Street Church. Fountain Street Church and the ACLU of Michigan represent an important ArtPrize venue that explores issues of social justice through artwork that demands basic human needs be met, diversity respected, and freedom of expression and action fostered.

“Modrak’s video is a rectified readymade made by painting on an existing promotional video. The source video shows a day-in-the-life of Shinola President Jacques Panis. The company Shinola sells $800 watches that they falsely claimed were “made in Detroit.” Shinola’s name is “a nod” to the shoe polish company that promoted their product using caricature of blacks. The contemporary white-owned Shinola uses images of black workers in full-page ads in the NY Times as proof of the company’s authentic Detroit identity. The altered video shows Panis choreographed in a succession of hats, revealing the historical implications of hierarchy and power in each scene.”

Rebekah Modrak: The Implicit Jacques Panis on Shinola’s Quest to Revive American Manufacturing
Opening Reception: Tuesday, September 19, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Fountain Street Church
24 Fountain Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

#exstrange Featured in Journal of Curatorial Studies

The current edition of the Journal of Curatorial Studies features “#exstrange: Curatorial Interventions on eBay.” The article describes Rebekah Modrak’s #exstrange project, which presented one artwork-as-auction per day on eBay, and proposes that the curatorial work interrogated the functioning of the e-commerce platform and the role of digital culture in everyday life, and used the interactivity of the Internet in order to reconsider the relationship between exhibitions, artworks and audiences.

The Journal of Curatorial Studies is an international, peer-reviewed publication that explores the cultural functioning of curating and its relation to exhibitions, institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture.

Hyperallergic Features #exstrange

Rebekah Modrak’s #exstrange project – a curated series of eBay auctions as exhibition – is featured in a new Hyperallergic essay by Rob Walker.

“The fifth episode of Robert Hughes’s famous 1980 documentary series “The Shock of the New” memorably sees the critic striding through one in Paris, bellowing about the Surrealists, who had found inspiration in such settings and their ‘endless profusion of battling objects’ in the early 20th century. ‘The flea market was like the unconscious mind of capitalism,’ Hughes booms; artists prowled the sales stalls to mine connections from the seemingly impersonal goods on offer, revealing ‘secret affinities’ within a world that their work ‘declassified.’ And then the curators of #exstrange, Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak, showed up in eBay’s infinite flea market with a different, but not unrelated, intent: to set up shop.

The selling of goods and services, in this context, would serve as a ‘pretense,’ as Modrak put it, for facilitating exchanges among strangers — borrowing sociologist Georg Simmel’s take on the ‘stranger’ as a ‘mobile figure who circulates goods.’ And thus, through more than 100 auctions, involving dozens of artists (and non-artists), #exstrange joined and added to the commodity conversation, simultaneously cacophonous and silent, happening on one of our most familiar online agoras.”

Selling Sticks and a Slap in the Face: Artists Intervene in eBay | Hyperallergic

Arshake Interview

Arshake recently published a two-part interview with Rebekah Modrak and her collaborative partner Marialaura Ghidini. The conversation between them and Arshake Editiorial Director Elena Giulia Rossi explored the nature of the curatorial project #exstrange and its relationship with the art market, the contemporary art system, the concept of site-specificity on eBay, the economics of the auctions, and exchanges between artists and bidders. Learn more about the #exstrange project online:

Arshake (reinventing technology) is an atelier for contextualizing technology and art in the wider cultural context by presenting new projects that deconstruct, reinterpret and reinvent art in its encounter with varied disciplines.


Interview | Marialaura Ghidini e Rebekah Modrak. Part II

Interview | Marialaura Ghidini e Rebekah Modrak. Part II

Interview by Elena Giulia Abbiatici to Marialaura Ghidini e Rebekah Modrak, founders of #exstrange, continues from Part I…


Curating the Contemporary Interview

On April 24, Curating the Contemporary’s Miriam La Rosa spoke to curators Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak about their project #exstrange, an online exhibition space that uses eBay as a site for artistic and curatorial practice.

Curating the Contemporary (CtC) is a meeting place for discussions on contemporary art and its practices. It functions as a platform and resource for an international community of artists, curators, museologists and other specialists, sharing diverse perspectives in the format of exhibition reviews, interviews, previews, special features, academic pieces and creative texts.

CtC was established in October 2013 and has since grown as an experimental publisher, through the collaboration with different contributors and institutions. The interview begins …

“Miriam La Rosa: Let’s begin with a very basic question: why did you choose the hashtag #exstrange to name this project?

Marialaura Ghidini: #exstrange comes from a shortening of the title Rebekah and I gave to the project at the beginning of our discussions, Exchange with Stranger. With the hashtag, we wanted to suggest the idea of the online content search, and refer to the hashtag archives that are so entrenched in the culture of social media. Because the project relies so much on categories and the way goods are ‘catalogued’ for consumption—the whole eBay business is based on this—we wanted to propose our own category; one that is open to forming unexpected relationships, that breaks with the definitions implied by a commercial index, and that proposes a different way of making and engaging with art.

Rebekah Modrak: The idea of the ‘Stranger’ came from our desire for artists and designers to engage with eBay communities. Georg Simmel described the ‘stranger’ as someone who enters into a community with the ability to perceive entrenched dynamics with new eyes, and our initial discussions for the project recognised that artists and designers could enact this role within eBay’s categories. At the same time, we envisioned that bidders and browsers would also serve as ‘strangers,’ confronting and commenting on art experiences.”


In conversation with… #exstrange

In conversation with… #exstrange

Miriam La Rosa talks to curators Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak about their  project #exstrange, an online exhibition space that uses eBay as a site for artistic and curatorial practice.  Mi…