NAVEL began in 2014 when a group of friends, Caspar Boehme, Kristoffer Josefsson and Jonas Wendelin, initiated the renovation of our space in Downtown Los Angeles (a former IBM server room facility), with the intention of exploring togetherness and collaborative practices. From 2014-2017, accolades and collaborators contributed greatly to the embellishment and energy of the space, and many local and visiting international artists, architects, academics, and other creatives had the opportunity to test out and exhibit their projects. From this collaborative spirit, experiment, work, and love, NAVEL was born.
From 2016-2017, NAVEL also incubated different initiatives including NAVEL.live, an exploration of VR-broadcasting revisiting the formats, hierarchies, and aesthetics of the media industry, and FOAM, a geospatial protocol technology on the blockchain.
In 2017, Michael Holt and Amanda Vincelli joined NAVEL and began a private rental program in order to sustain operations and fund a wide range of events, performances, and exhibitions.
Those early years of programming taught us that a clearer articulation of our ethos was necessary and in May 2018 we co-founded the non-profit collectively-driven cultural organization we are today. Unlike many other cultural projects which often begin with a specific curatorial vision or agenda, we started with a shared resource, a space, and a deep-seated belief in fostering more collectivity, accessibility, equitability, and kinship. How could we make the best use of this space while remaining true to these values?
We began by launching our Collective Residency, inviting over 60 local and international artists, curators, scientists, technologists, and activists to have access to our space, equipment, and resources at no cost for a period of 1 or 2 years while actively influencing our mission and programs, diversifying the voices and perspectives represented at NAVEL.
One of the main ways our residents have an influence over the direction of NAVEL is by annually electing our Programming Committee, a group charged with creating seasons of original programs and events. In 2019, the programming committee planned six major programs including:
- NO CRUISING: a three-day festival which included the world premiere of “Pistil” by artist Sebastian Hernandez, called “revelatory” by CARLA magazine
- A RIGHT TO DEFIANCE: a queer punk music festival featuring brown, black, trans/non-binary bands from around the country.
- سفره دايمه SOFRA DAYMEH: a dinner exploring the decolonization of food through the lens of Palestinian cuisine and featuring James Beard nominated chef Reem Assil
Since May 2018 we have facilitated over 70 free or low-cost programs sourced via an open proposal process and ongoing collaborations with partner organizations which have attracted thousands of guests and involved hundreds of participants. Highlights include the Queer Biennial, the world premiere of “Position 3” by Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey, a co-production with CalArts School of Dance, and Making Kin, a group exhibition with screening and talk by Donna Haraway, named one of 2018’s best international art programs by Artforum Magazine.
In early 2019, noticing that our space was still underutilized and desiring to support proposals that didn’t fall neatly into the category of event-based programming, we launched ASSEMBLIES, where learning happens together through the exchange of ideas, traditions, and experience. The first quarter of ASSEMBLIES ran in Spring 2019 and supported 10 learning groups chosen from 27 proposals. This overwhelming interest prompted us to initiate a second quarter of ASSEMBLIES in Fall 2019 with support given to 8 learning groups selected from 22 proposals.