Azra Akšamija

Associate Professor; ACT Director

Azra Akšamija is a Sarajevo born artist and architectural historian. Akšamija graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University Graz, Austria in 2001, and received her M.Arch. from Princeton University, USA in 2004, and Ph.D. from MIT (HTC / AKPIA) in 2011. In her multi-disciplinary practice, she investigates the potency of art and architecture to facilitate the process of transformative mediation in cultural or political conflicts, and in so doing, provide a framework for researching, analyzing, and intervening in contested socio-political realities. Her recent work focuses on representation of Islamic identities in the West, spatial mediation of identity politics, and cultural pedagogy through art and architecture.

Akšamija’s academic research highlights the significance of ethnic symbols, long-term cultural factors, and global cultural flows in the creation of contemporary nations. In her Ph.D. dissertation, Akšamija examined how Bosnian Muslims construct their identity through the lens of rebuilt or newly built mosques following the systematic destruction of religious architecture during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. Her academic inquiry informs her ongoing artistic explorations about Islam in the West and the conflicts over visibility of Muslims in the United States and Europe. Akšamija’s artistic work takes shape through different types of media, including clothing, video, performance, sculpture, and new media. Among her preceding curatorial projects was the Lost Highway Expedition (2006) that Akšamija co-organized with nine international artists and architects during her tenure as a Graduate Affiliate at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, as well as the Museum Solidarity project that she conceived and co-organized with members of the civic platform

Her work has been widely published and exhibited in leading international venues and was awarded the Honorable Mention at the Sixth Graz Biennial on Media and Architecture in 2003. Prominent institutions and festivals that exhibited her work include the Generali Foundation Vienna (2002), the Valencia Biennial (2003), Gallery for Contemporary Art Leipzig (2003), the Liverpool Biennial (2004), the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb (2005), the Sculpture Center New York (2006), the Secession Vienna (2007), Manifesta 7 (2008), the Stroom The Hague (2009), the Royal Academy of Arts London (2010), the Jewish Museum Berlin (2011), and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini as a part of the 54th Art Biennale in Venice. Recent exhibitions include Queens Museum of Art, New York (2013), ifa Gallery in Stuttgart and Berlin (2012), and curatorial projects such as the exhibition Interior View South-East at the Vorarlberg Architecture Institute in Dornbirn, Austria (2013).

Selected Publications

“Nomadic Mosque.” Volume. no.14. (2006): 124-126.
“Generic Mosque.” Critical Design 24 , (2007)
“Mosques.” In: OMaGiu. No.4., edited by Mihnea Mircan and Ciprian Tudor, 82-87. Bucharest: Daniel Adam, 2006.
“Nomadic Mosque.” Lovely Daze. New York City, NY. Editor and publisher Charwei Tsai. (2006):10-11.
“Dirndlmoschee” Bob 02: Eskapaden. Graz and Vienna: Club Bellevue, (2005):73.
“Nomadic Mosque: Wearable Prayer Space for Contemporary Islamic Practice in the West.” Thresholds 32. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (2005):17-21.
“The Bosnian Chronicle." In: On the Political Power of Cultural Territories, edited by Gallerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig in cooperation with Kulturstiftung des Bundes, 364-391. Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König, 2003/2004

Research Fellowships and Project Grants

Research Award provided by the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) for book project - Spring 2013
ACT Pilot Grant from the MIT Program in Art, Culture, Technology - Spring 2013
Director's Grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT (project grant) - Spring 2012
Grant by The Council for the Arts at MIT (project grant) - 2011-2013
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Tufts University Center for the Humanities (declined) - 2009-2010
Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (one year fellowship) - Summer 2009
Kress Travel Fellowships in the History of Art, awarded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation - 2008/2009
Krupp Foundation Fellowship, awarded by the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University (one year fellowship) - 2007/2008
MIT / Barakat Foundation Grant (project grant) - Fall 2007
Hyzen Fellowship, MIT (one semester fellowship) - Summer 2007
Grant by The Council for the Arts at MIT (project grant) - Summer 2006
Grant by The Council for the Arts at MIT (project grant) - Spring 2005
Travel Grant 2005-2006, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture MIT - 2004-2007
Aga Khan Fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (4 years) - Fall 2002
Grant by The Office of The Austrian Federal Chancellor (BKA) - 2002 - 2004
Princeton University Graduate Fellowship (1,5 years) - Summer 2002
Styrian Provincial Government Fellowship, Department for Science and Research - Spring 2001
Stipendium für kurzfristiges wissenschaftliches Arbeiten im Ausland (4 months), Technical University Graz - 1999-2000
Socrates/ Erasmus – Mobilitätsstipendium (1 year)

Honors and Awards

Nomination for the Prix Ars Electronica Award 2013 (Category: "Digital Communities"), Linz, Austria - Fall 2012/13
Nomination for The Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the project Islamic cemetery Altach (architecture by Bernardo Bader, art by Azra Aksamija) - Fall 2012
Winner of the International 2012 Piranesi Award for Architecture, for the project Islamic cemetery Altach (architecture by Bernardo Bader, art by Azra Aksamija)
- Fall 2012
Nomination for The Mies van der Rohe Award 2013, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture for the project Islamic cemetery Altach (architecture by Bernardo Bader, art by Azra Aksamija) - Fall 2012
Nomination for DETAIL Prize 2012 for the project Islamic cemetery Altach (architecture by Bernardo Bader, art by Azra Aksamija) - Spring 2006
Harold and Arlene Schitzer Prize in the Visual Arts 2006 (3rd pr.), MIT Council for the Arts - Fall 2003
Honorable Mention at 6th Graz Biennial on Media and Architecture - 2002