IN THE FIELD WITH LORI ZIMMER
“NO TURNING BACK”
A Profile of Mikal Hameed
I literally met Mikal Hameed on a dance floor. I was doing my usual dance-off thing, this time being served by Rock Steady Crew’s Doze Green, when he came out of nowhere, and started shrugging his shoulders and throwing it back at me. Several songs later, we were fast friends, and soon continued to meet on dance floors all over town. I quickly learned that Mikal was an artist involved with the Barnstormers, a group of mostly street artists started by David Ellis. They would travel to the south and bomb the sides of barns, in giant collaborative paintings. These pieces were incredible, creative, and beauty for the sake of beauty. I knew a few of the members, and so Mikal and I became acquainted off the dance floor.
Mikal is a man of many flavors–visual artist, sound artist, gallerist, musician, sustainable designer, storyteller, father. He is all over the map, and with each facet being as important and personal as the last. His artwork often involves sound, in the form of metal spiked Eames chairs that have working turntables, and paintings that incorporate speakers. Heavily influenced by his musician parents, Mikal naturally ties visuals in with sound, as he sees the two are synonymous in expressing his vision.
Last year for a few shining months, Mikal turned his giant studio space on North 10th Street in Williamsburg into 99% Gallery, showing a range of street artist friends and photographers. Unfortunately, 2010 was not a good year for Mikal, and not only did Vice Magazine push him out of his space to expand their offices, but Mikal’s partner also made away with a great deal of his and the artists’ money.
But all hope was not lost! With the help of friend Rebecca Paul, Mikal fused his sound installations into a green design product line called Rebaroque Speaker Frames. Essentially, each speaker frame was an ornately framed wall hanging that could play music–each work of art came with speakers and an iPod/smart device jack. Fusing all of his passions together–music, visual art and recycled products/sustainable design–Mikal made the move to the next step of his brand.
I stepped in a few months later, and curated 20 artists to create one-offs of each frame, which were then wired together to form a giant sound wall. Called the Rebaroque Artists Series, the sound installation played mixes by some of our favorite musicians, and debuted at Scope New York Art Fair. The project was a big hit, and will travel to several events, acting as the sound system with Mikal on turntables.
Mikal’s common interest in many many facets of the art world is what I most identify with–the desire to be everywhere, all the time, exploring different mediums, all the while being a social butterfly, dancing his heart out and smiling the entire way.
Lori Zimmer: I love your story of how you landed in New York! Please recount for our readers.
Mikal Hameed: I was a storyteller living in San Francisco when I was invited to perform at the Apollo theater with other storytellers I did my story and got a standing ovation. I thought I made it. Everyone I met kept saying that I should stay in New York, so I went back home, packed up, and left and that was it. It was winter, and was the first time I lived in a place where it snowed. I was getting used to bundling up, and one day on the subway I was wearing my hat and my head phones when it came to me–what I thought was my genius idea. I sewed them together and took them to every shop in East Village, thinking I’d be famous…but nobody wanted them back then…so I moved on…
LZ: Right, so you’re originally from LA, and you’ve been here for how long now?
MH: Yeah, I was a southern Cali beach bum. I skateboarded, surfed, and played music with my friends. There was no thought in my head to tell me I was an artist. I thought I was a writer when I came to New York. A friend told me one day that in New York you have to do the time. He said I would have to do a whole ten years here to find myself and who I’m really supposed to be. I didn’t believe him until now, because I am in my tenth year in NY–and I don’t know if I found myself, but I definitely lost the person I was.
LZ: You had a shitty 2010. What happened and what have you learned?
MH: Wow, this is a heavy question. In 2010 I decided to believe in myself and go for my goals. I took a lot of risks and I put trust in people and it backfired and nearly destroyed me. I lost everything that I held close to my heart but my art. I took a chance on me with no support, but in my mind I knew there would be sacrifices. Life has a strange way of showing you people’s true colors if you’re not the person that they want you to be. I had no choice. I had to be myself. I had reached an age of change and there was no turning back.
LZ: Most of your work meshes visual art with sound. When did you start combining the senses? Why?
I had the design in my head but I couldn’t afford to execute them. I was offered and given a chance by my friend David Ellis and Hollis King (people who believed in me) to design a chair for a commission job for an album cover. So with some help from my friends Orlando Reyes and Ian Kuali’I, we were able to put my vision into action. I wanted to use music more than sound because my parents are both musicians. I also have a strong fetish for furniture design so to it was easy. The world was open and I was free to do what I wanted (I had no rules).
LZ: Tell me about your green design product company, Rebaroque?
MH: I made the first Rebaroque for my wife at the time as a birthday gift. I didn’t have much money and I had to make something fast, so I looked around my studio to see what I had available and made one–which combined music, design, and art. I realized the items I found could be found everywhere (old frames, discarded fabric speaker boxes, etc.). So with some help from my friend Rebecca Paul we were able to put together the product line that enables the customer to listen to their favorite music in a different way–combined with interior design. It took off, but like all things it is a lot of work.
LZ: What did you think of our debut at Scope with the Artist Series of Rebaroque sound frames?
MH: This show was very special because I was able to work with all kinds of artist like Tara McPherson, Beau Stanton, Sharktoof, Rostarr, and Jon Burgerman. To have it showcased at Scope was incredible.I think people really enjoy interacting with their art and their favorite artists through their smart devices.
LZ: You have a new sound product coming out–do tell!
MH: Yes, the New Design is called Line-N-Sound. I wish I could tell you more, but I’m waiting until design week where it will debut.
LZ: Ok…fine! So, what is the difference between your fine art and your product lines?
MH: To me nothing–it’s all the same. I just like to make what I make. You can call it art or design. I call it me.
LZ: What do you have going next?
MH: My goal now is to get a history of all the work I’ve been making over the years and put it all in one place to promote sustainable design, technology, and lifestyle. So, I’m in the process of working with smart devices to support the cause. To me, being green is more than just using recycled materials. To me, it is about showing companies the benefits of working with green artists–to help us all.
I always thought why are we saving the planet when we should save ourselves. There is no difference between us and the planet.
Mikal Hameed is a Brooklyn-based artist, curator, producer and story teller. His sound pieces can be found in cafes, clubs and design stores across New York, as well as private collections.
Mikal Hameed by Lori Zimmer
Written by Lori Zimmer
Photography by Mikal Hameed
Design by Jillian Mercado
Self-Portrait/Mikal Hameed, 2011, Photography by Mikal Hameed