Aspex Portsmouth

Week 25, Boîte-en-Valise, 40 Stories

Joanne Bushnell, Director

This week we look back to a collaborative project between artists and curators which provided an opportunity for Aspex to dip our toes in the extraordinary international water of the Venice Biennale!

Stephanie James and Mark Segal, working with Carol Maund had already presented the first iteration of Boîte-en-Valise in 2013, with the project taking its name from Duchamp’s portable reproduction in a suitcase. They invited Aspex and I to get involved, a collaboration which continued for over 4 years, supporting 15 artists to exhibit in ‘pop-out’ events in Venice, Portsmouth and later Syracuse, NY, USA. 

Mark Segal sets out our rationale: Boîte-en-Valise brought together a number of concerns we’d been thinking about regarding exhibiting at the Venice Biennale & other international presentations, including the costs, access to spaces and finding new ways of presenting work by contemporary artists internationally and later, sharing with audiences at home. Critical to this was artists’ understanding and responding to the way we decided to work; transportability of artworks, flexibility in presentation and collaboration. All the artists involved responded with highly innovative work, a culture of advocacy of each other’s practice and supporting each other.” 

Stephanie James takes up the story: “In 2015 Boîte-en-Valise: exchanges through performativity & practice was a collaboration between 9 artists from the US, UK and Switzerland. Artists were invited to consider adapting existing or creating new work for transport in a suitcase to exhibit/perform at the Swiss Consulate as part of the Venice Biennale fringe, & from there to Aspex to engage in a public seminar on the ‘transportability of practice’.”

Artists included in Boîte-en-Valise: exchanges through performativity & practice in 2015 were:

Sam Van Aken (USA), Nelly Haliti (Swiss), Juan Juarez (USA), Kypros Kyprianou (UK), Karin Lehmann (Swiss), Beat Lippert (Swiss), Stuart Nolan (UK), Matt Parsons (UK), Joanna Spitzner (USA).

“Following on In 2017 we focused on production, hence the title; Boîte-en-Valise: Generator. This time the suitcase contained all that the artists required to create work; materials, tools, equipment and so on. 6 artists were selected to participate and began the process with an intensive period of engagement at Aspex with communities in and around Portsmouth, and then continued to develop and make new work for an exhibition at the Venice Biennale, exhibiting next door to the Diaspora Pavilion. The final phase of Boîte-en-Valise: Generator was held at the Point of Contact Gallery in Syracuse, NY, continuing the fluid process of transportability, production & engagement.”

Artists included in Boîte-en-Valise: Generator in 2017 were: 

Yvonne Buchanan (USA), Mia Delve (UK), Tom Hall (UK/USA), Mika Mollenkopf (USA), Harold Offeh (UK), Susan Stockwell (UK).

​​The project provided Aspex with an opportunity to extend our artist support work, developing each of the artists international profiles, while they learnt from peers on separate continents, and expanded their professional networks. The artists shared knowledge, experience and creative practices, discussing and debating their work with each other and audiences. The project was also supported by dedicated student interns providing valuable professional development opportunities for students from Arts University Bournemouth and Syracuse University. Best of all, the Boîte en Valise approach was extremely light touch and lo-tech, enabling low cost transportation and distribution of works, which minimised environmental impact. It was a joy to work with such a fantastic bunch of artists and curators over the two projects, and to have the space and time to collaborate and debate.

I’ll leave the final word to Steph: “They were such exciting times with so many extraordinary outcomes, well worth the tremendous effort and planning from all the curators and artists.

Boîte-en-Valise was a partnership between curator Mark Segal, the Artist Agency; Stephanie James, Director of the School of Art, Syracuse University (now Professor at Florida State University); and Joanne Bushnell, Aspex. Funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Syracuse University and supported by Arts University Bournemouth.

Student helpers

Stefan Zoller 

Emma Mckinney 

Monica Bonomo 


Sam Van Aken 

Nelly Haliti  

Juan Juarez 

Kypros Kyprianou

Karin Lehmann 

Beat Lippert 

Stuart Nolan 

Matt Parsons 

Joanna Spitzner 


Yvonne Buchanan 

Mia Delve 

Tom Hall 

Mika Mollenkopf 

Harold Offeh 

Susan Stockwell