Gestures of Resistance
January 26, 2010 - June 26, 2010
724 Northwest Davis Street, Portland, Oregon 97209
Sara Black and John Preus, Anthea Black, Carole Lung, Cat Mazza, Mung Lar Lam, Ehren Tool, and Theaster Gates
Co-curated by Shannon Stratton and Judith Leemann
The exhibition Gestures of Resistance brings to Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft a focus on contemporary craft actions: work that deploys craft to agitate for change through direct political statements, public interventions, or dialogical, community-specific projects. The curators, artists and museum delineate and invite engagement with a new arena of action in which context-savvy crafting, hierarchical mischief-making, and cultural re-scripting play themselves out.
Designed to unfold over its tenure at the museum, with 8 artists slated to take up residency in the galleries and in the city, Gestures of Resistance posits craft as methodology, extending its province to a range of performances that embody care through deliberate movements and canny gesture. Planned as a dynamic, collective studio, with each artist remaking the space to suit their own purposes, the museum will be work space, performance venue and town square. The 'work' in the museum is both the doing of art work: the process and practice of studio, and the evidence of that doing: the materials, detritus, and resulting objects. The exhibition takes the approach that to understand ‘performative craft’ requires a relational lens that sees objects and gestures as deriving meaning largely from how and where they are deployed, and that sees action as situated within social and political particulars. Layered on this is the framing of the exhibition itself as a performance in which each artist manipulates the exhibition as they take up residence, usurping the curator's position as narrator of objects by choosing with what and how they chose to mark their intentions.
Gestures of Resistance is a timely exhibition that addresses what it means to create, to have personal agency and to reject the numbing, conjoined drives for productivity and consumption. As an increasing number of citizens turn to DIY practices, grassroots politics, community organizing, local production and craft, it appears that craft may once again have a pivotal role to play in how humans orient themselves to current cultural conditions. This deployment of craft, in concert with other forms of resistance and expressions of agency, acts as a fulcrum across which new forms of relationships within communities can be imagined and articulated.
Sara Black and John Preus begin the exhibition through a live build-out of the museum. Working with inherited lumber and the other artists' requests, they build a workshop space that acts simultaneously as platform, town square and performance installation. This space becomes the staging area for all subsequent resident artists, who will transform and manipulate the space through their performances and objects. Ensuing artists include, Anthea Black, a Canadian printmaker known for her subversive postering campaigns who will recruit queer youth to deploy her two-sided poster prints across the city; Carole Lung, AKA Frau Fiber, itinerant textile worker, who will address herself to the specifics of Portland's garment culture--hacking a Columbia sportswear design for rain gear and sewing five sets of the garment using a bicycle-powered sewing machine; Cat Mazza, whose Nike blanket petition won her acclaim in both the craft and anti-sweatshop movements, will set up a process by which cast-offs of Michelle Obama's favorite clothing brands are cut into strips and knit into a giant portrait of the first lady; Mung Lar Lam who will perform Ironings, a meditation on labor, gender and class in which the task of ironing becomes the means of mark-making; Ehren Tool, a veteran of the first Gulf War and a potter, will exhaust a supply of porcelain over the course of a durational performance throwing cups. These cups will act as building blocks to construct and then deconstruct divisions within the gallery, as Tool gives cups away to museum visitors. Over the course of the exhibition each artist will by necessity reconfigure the space to serve their working needs and will by choice leave something of their work behind. Closing the exhibition, Chicago artist Theaster Gates will whitewash everything that's come before in delicate porcelain slip, traditionally an act of annual maintenance, to 'reset' the site at the exhibition's culmination.
The upstairs gallery of the museum will house a study center, with a pivotal object representing each artist's past work as well as books and articles about the intersections of craft and performance. A weekly podcast of readings-aloud will take a performative turn on the study of craft.
A limited edition catalog will be available at the close of the exhibition. With an introduction by MoCC curator Namita Wiggers and an essay by exhibition co-curators Stratton and Leemann, the catalog will take form through and alongside the artists' inhabiting of the galleries, reflecting both the performative orientation of the exhibition and the choices made by artists over the course of their residencies.