Burning Question

How can artists participate in rebuilding a community that has suffered tremendous loss?


Traveled To

Port au Prince and Bigones, Haiti


About the Artist

Born 1977, New London, Connecticut. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


Konbit shelter is a group of artists and architects who are working with the community of Bigones, Haiti to rebuild after last January’s earthquake. As soon as we received news of the quake, we began asking ourselves how we might participate in the rebuilding of one community in Haiti, and how our particular skills and passions as artists might serve in this effort.


Our immediate goal is to assist a community by working with members of that community to build three to five structures using the super-adobe style of dome architecture as a starting point. This building technique was designed by Iranian born architect Nader Khalili as a humanitarian effort to come up with building solutions that would address the world’s housing needs by creating structures that could be affordably built out of local materials, and whose structural properties could withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.


As a small group working on an independent idea, we were able to connect quickly and directly with a community, and begin the process last July. The construction phase was set up to serve as a teaching tool for everyone involved as well as to provide jobs in a devastated economy. Bigones is a village with a large population of sculptors and stone carvers, and we are just beginning to see what kinds of collaborations might arise between ourselves and the local artists and craftspeople as we build. Returning in December, we hope to put the finishing touches on the first building, a community center that was built on the land of the Mango Grower’s Association, and to begin the construction of a house for a single mother of two, who participated in the first construction.


It is our belief that even in the midst of this tremendous crisis, there is a place for the consideration of beauty, soulfulness, and innovation. We have discovered the impact of one small community reaching out to another, and forming a lasting relationship. We are excited to see if, through this effort, we can create further opportunities for artists to bring their skills and resources into the effort to create a safer and stronger built environment for people living in Haiti—and to do so out of the bottoms of our hearts and imaginations.


For more information, visit the Konbit Shelter website here.


Swoon is a Brooklyn-based artist whose life-sized woodblock and cut-paper portraits hang on walls in various states of decay in cities around the world. She has designed and built several large-scale installations, most notably the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea at Deitch Projects in 2008. Her pieces have been collected by of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Tate Modern. Major pieces have appeared at MoMA P.S.1, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Black Rat Press. Swoon has been traveling for the past several years creating exhibitions and workshops in the United States and abroad.


Swoon is also an instigator and a collaborator. She founded the Toyshop collective and the Miss Rockaway Armada, and is a member of Just Seeds and the Transformazium. Since 2006, she has organized four large-scale raft projects and floated down the Mississippi and Hudson rivers with them. Most recently, she and her collaborators designed a flotilla of sea-going rafts that invaded the 2009 Venice Biennale.