PSST: Mack McFarland
Our new season of Portland State Social Practice Talks focuses on activism. Over the next six weeks we will explore activism in its many forms, and how it relates to art and social practice.
To inaugurate our new term, we are joined by Mack McFarland, an artist and curator at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
You can find the full conversation here.
Mack McFarland is an artist and has worked as Curator for Pacific Northwest College of Art since 2006. Currently McFarland is the Director of the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA. His past exploits have included commissioned projects of new works from tactical media practitioners Critical Art Ensemble, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Disorientalism. He has also curated survey exhibitions such as a review of Luc Tuymans’s printed works, a group exhibit marking the centennial of John Cage’s birth, and a comprehensive look at the process of the comic journalist Joe Sacco. McFarland’s current focus swirls around issues of class, representation, information environments, and phenomenological perception. These ideas manifest in the forms of exhibitions, postcards, performances, and videos. With his artworks and exhibitions McFarland aims to develop a space for the viewer to experience an intersection of visceral aesthetic and cognition via contemplative sensory experiments.
Front/Space: Exhibitions and Programming
Exhibitions & Programming: Utilizing space in non-conventional methods
As we wrap up our Open Call for 2017, exhibitions plotted on a calendar and studio visits scheduled, we look forward to a robust year of programming featuring artists, performers and cultural workers spanning across many disciplines. This year, our call specifically emphasized proposals that were from people of color, low-income individuals, immigrants, sex workers, folks living in rural areas, Muslims, youth, people with disabilities, women, GNC and LGBTQIA+ people, as direct action against the results of the election and current administration.
Our Open Call process consists of gathering proposals over a two month period and then distributing them to a Review Collective, a 8-12 person panel, consisting of past artists who have exhibited at Front/Space. We see this as a way to create a platform that is driven not by the vision of two co-directors, but a way to generate input from those who have experience with the space, understand our audience and can envision the project coming to fruition in the small but mighty project space. We are still exploring methods of inclusion in this process and understand there are still biases that exist in choosing the work, however, as one of the only remaining DIY spaces in the Crossroads Arts District, it is a way to keep Front/Space community driven. Once the proposals are chosen, my collaborator Kendell Harbin and I, schedule the exhibitions and work on the logistics. We strive to create autonomy and confidence in each individual’s process, guide artists in directions not fully explored, create access to new partnerships and audiences. This assistance can span from installation and hardware consultation, material collection, sponsorship solicitation and/or conceptual actualization.
Front/Space has been long identified as a place for experimentation and risk taking. Due to the unusual architecture of the space, many individuals respond with site-specific work or work that is not quite fully realized that can be best executed in a non-traditional gallery context. One of the greatest defining features of Front/Space are the windows, which creates many unique relationships between inside and outside viewers during openings or performances. Many artists use the windows as part of the work utilizing projection screens, painting, or even harnessing the power of the sun.
Often the scope of projects proposed go beyond the size of the space and some artists choose to use Front/Space as a launching point to other locations in Kansas City. As exemplified through Rail Sail and Floodplain Buyout (see below), Front/Space was utilized as a type of “visitor center” or a gathering place to then be transported to the site where the physical manifestation of the project would take place.
As we look forward to the next round of exhibitions, I want to reflect on a some of the exhibitions that showcase what we strive for in a proposal. This way, to someone who has never visited Front/Space, can understand the spectrum of experimentation that happens in this small storefront. For more examples of past exhibitions please visit frontspace.info
CASP: Begumpur Community Engagement Program
CASP – Begumpur Community Engagement Program (C-BCEP) is an initiative in New Delhi which focuses on the community histories and cultural practices of this urban village, while facilitating art education workshops. The Begumpur Balwadi is housed in a two storey Basti Vikas Kendra building which is the property of Delhi Development Authority. Children and young adults follow a non-formal curriculum and are imparted training in tailoring, computer, and other soft skills. Over the last 23 years, the Balwadi program has benefited the community through a range of summer workshops and educational camps. C-BCEP collaborates with the Balwadi program to run transdisciplinary workshops for practice-led thinking, artistic ideas and open knowledge.
Two artists, Nilanjana Nandy and Anni Sharan, facilitated two workshops in the Basti Vikas Kendra, focusing on questions of gender through popular representations in children’s books, fairytales and everyday objects.
1. Little Mermaid Project | Nilanjana Nandy | Age Group of Children: 5-8 years and 9-12 years / 2 days
This workshop involved representations of a mermaid in children’s books and fairytales. The children identified this half-human/animal representation as Jalpari (Hindi word for water fairy). Through simple indirect means and play, the children were induced to draw representations of Jalpari and articulate on the connections between the word and drawn image. Consisting of both young boys and girls, the workshop gently introduced conceptions of gender and fantasy, while allowing them to discuss colour, form, postures and sea life. Examples of this hybrid female form from Indian classical and folk art were shown to introduce visual examples through art history – Matsya Avatara (Lord Vishnu in Indian temple sculptures) and Matsakanya (Madhubani folk art).
2. Gendered Objects Project | Anni Sharan | Age Group of Children: 13 -16 years / 2 days
The workshop explored questions about everyday objects in daily life and how they develop gendered attributes. Through visualization exercises and collection of found objects, the discussion involved storytelling in Hindi and to identify five gendered objects through doodling, drawing and text. The second level (Me and my Object) was photographing each child with their own found object which they consider masculine or feminine. The third level involved a walk in the informal neighbourhood headed by a volunteer. This was a visual tour of the urban village and involved making quick sketches, scribbles and notes of the urban markers of development and makeshift housing, while locating attributes of gendered objects in the public space.
These community based workshops was organized by CASP – New Delhi chapter from June 26-29, 2015
PSST: Prison Pipeline Radio
Our final conversation for our series focussing on mass incarceration welcomes Emma Lugo and Doug McVay, two of the producers of Prison Pipeline Radio.
The full conversation can be heard here.
For more information about Prison Pipeline, check out their page on the KBOO website. You can listen on KBOO every Monday from 6:30-7:00pm.
PSST: Francesca Piantadosi
Our PSST conversation from February 21st welcomed Francesca Piantadosi to talk about her work teaching playwriting in Prisons.
You can listen to the full talk here.
Francesca Piantadosi (Playwright Instructor) is an award winning playwright who hails from Portland, Oregon. She’s been a participant at Seven Devils Paywriting Conference; a Finalist for the Rosenthal New Play Prize, Seattle Rep’s New Work Festival, Ojai Playwriting Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, JAW, New Harmony Project, Play Labs (Playwright’s Center Minneapolis) and has had productions from Bangalore, India to New York.
For the past three years she’s been teaching playwriting (a program she started) at MacLaren Correctional Facility (which serves men age fourteen to twenty six.)
MoMAZoZo: An Interview With Paula Wilson and Mike Lagg
Carrizozo is a small railroad town in southern New Mexico surrounded by mountains to the East and White Sands Missile Range to the West. I visited there last December and was fortunate to meet Paula Wilson and Mike Lagg, the founders of MoMAZoZo, an art space located in Downtown Carrizozo. Mike and Paula have been developing a residency program over the past several years to bring artists to Carrizozo, where they can find both solitude and engagement with the community, history, and landscape of South Central New Mexico. The following interviews looks into the history and future of MoMAZoZo, and the dynamics of art spaces in small towns. It also offers a glimpse into how artists are incorporating structures from art institutions, such as that of a residency, into their own practices.
Spencer: First, I’d love to get a little background and timeline for MoMAZoZo. How and when did it get going as an art space and as a residency? Were you following a specific vision in establishing it, or working intuitively as things progressed?
Paula: Mike and I remember how MoMAZoZo began differently. I have a distinct memory of Mike coming up with the name in my studio while I was painting. It clicked– funny yet somehow accurate. Kind of like, let’s dream big and fill those shoes. It was more of an idea than a program, institution, or plan of action. It was about us joining forces. We aren’t married but have been together for 10 years, so it represents our union– our idea, our coming into being and the meeting of our minds and artistry. I made a poster for MoMAZoZo. A picture of a cube in the desert or an empty blank space. That was the start for me.
Mike: What I remember is that we were offered a free space on 12th Street in Carrizozo. Large, abandoned, and unencumbered. We proceeded to it make it MoMAZoZo. We made signs, we made pretzels, we made it a space to be visible. The MoMAZoZo hour is what made it possible.
Paula: Our open hours have been consistent and unwavering from the start– Fridays, from noon to one.
Mike: Except we are closed on Black Fridays for humanity’s insanity.
Spencer: How did each of you come to Carrizozo? What prompted you to stay?
Mike: Paula came here for the promise of a green chili cheese burger. I came here because of the cheap rent and I saw the opportunity of Carrizozo to be my art center.
Paula: Yeah. I was living in Brooklyn, making art and teaching. I became familiar with the area because my Mom had moved to Lincoln, NM, which is about 45 minutes from Carrizozo. I always loved being in New Mexico and spent as much time as possible here. I hooked up with Mike while I was visiting her and we were long distance lovers for a year before I saw a chance to leap into this new life. It seemed so full of possibility and a means to be fully in my artistic life. And then there is the green chili addiction…
Spencer: I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience traveling down to Carrizozo. It’s a very specific experience, much like traveling to Marfa, or visiting Spiral Jetty: each highway, turn and small town you pass through adds to the meaning of the place you wind up. But that is my experience as an outsider, coming from an urban center. I think there is this urban-center/rural-periphery divide that dominates many narratives of the art landscape and privileges cities over small towns. What has been your experience of working in a rural town? Does this distinction hold up? Does MoMAZoZo operate as a periphery or a center?
Paula: MoMAZoZo is definitely a center in the new global and virtual paradigm.
Mike: It wasn’t until recently until we physically became the center of the art scene in Carrizozo with the purchase of the Lyric Complexu on Twelfth Street. It was an abandoned suite of buildings. Two of them were on the verge of being condemned. The third one, being Paula’s studio, was recently remodeled for a micro brewery. Included in this complexu are ten lots of open space. It is across from a park that is basically the center of Carrizozo with Twelfth street being the historic and artistic biway. So all told we have a 5,000 square foot studio and a two story abandoned hotel with lots of potential.
Paula: Not to mention the Lyric Theater. I like how you talk about the experience of traveling here. We find ourselves at the spot near where White Sand National Monument meets the Valley of Fires lava flow. There is a tension of forces that give Carrizozo its vitality. A mix of liberals and conservatives, newcomers and old timers, preservationists and cattle ranchers.
Spencer: I was struck by Paula’s comment that as visitors we sort of functioned like currency. I reflected on how laid bare a lot of transaction is in small communities: visitors bring income or extend networks or increase visibility. These transactions are not always so transparent in large cities, and aren’t necessarily intuitive either. Starting a residency seems like a good way to foster transaction and serve both artists and communities. What has been your experience so far running the residency? What have been some of the experiences of participants?
Mike: We found that the residents of Carrizozo have embraced our Artists-in-Residences with open arms.
Paula: It is the simple things, like when Sully volunteered to take Jemima back to the airport, or when Anya was able to procure bicycle tire tubes from Bill at the municipal airport. The need arrived and was satisfied without the exchange of dollars but just with good will. In Carrizozo we can privilege quality and diversity of human interaction.
Mike: The other day someone asked– “When is OUR next Artists-in-Residence coming?”
Paula: Yay. I wasn’t quite expecting the community to have such a stake and investment in our artist’s experience. And there is a reverberating impact that each visitor and artist has– recommending and bringing new people to the area… a network. The Carrizozo Colony AiR is a collaboration with Joan & Warren Malkerson. They provide the housing and studio spaces. We work together to make this thing sustainable and smooth operating.
Mike: There is a community email newsletter and each artist has been getting a profile in the local paper. It is just the way small communities work and we try not to take it for granted.
Spencer: What has been your experience as partners and collaborators? As two artists with individual practices, a collaborative practice, AND an art space and residency that you run together, I’m always curious about process…
Mike: In most things, that an artist does, you basically are doing by yourself, because that is just the nature of the artist’s life. So when an opportunity does come along to collaborate, that is a special moment. Those are the rare occasions that you gotta jump on. Because two people working together have the exponential power of creative force.
Paula: Yes, I like it. I think it is hard for us to see how often and successfully we collaborate. I tend to focus on the production…
Mike: … but that is really not that important sometimes.
Paula: Right. We live and work together, the parsley in our garden, the painting on our kitchen cabinets, the flat files that you made… it is in the grown and digested life that fuses us. There are plenty instances of manifestation of our collaborations, like our workshops and…
Mike: … our wooden spoons.
Spencer: Looking forward, what is on the horizon?
Paula: We have been blessed by support both within and outside of Carrizozo. Currently a New York collector of mine, who visited and loved Carrizozo, is funding an Executive Director position. We are welcoming 13 artists in 2017 for the Carrizozo Colony Artist-in-Residence. We look forward to hosting lots of events in the Lyric Theater.
Mike: So far I have been tearing down the fences along our new properties. I look forward to more openings, more access, and more diverse collaborations.
Paula: Yes! And visitors. Please come visit us.
To visit: LYRIC COMPLEXU on Twelfth St in downtown Carrizozo 503 12th St, Carrizozo, NM, 88301. The MoMAZoZo hour happens every Friday from 12pm-1pm.
PSST: Joshua Safran
Joshua Safran talks about his ongoing work as a lawyer advocating for the wrongly imprisoned and survivors of domestic abuse, and the film Crime After Crime.
The full podcast can be heard here.
For its second season of public conversations, the Portland State Social Practice Talks public conversation series has focused on various aspects of the prison-industrial complex in the United States. These talks have ranged from artists to reform advocates, playwrights to curators, all engaging with, challenging, and questioning the role of prisons in our society. The conversations serve as a form of public research in relation to an ongoing project at the Columbia River Correctional Institution. The goal is learning how different people approach contact with the corrections system, and the potential role of art in this context. The conversations were held publicly at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.
Program Report: Front/Space
Sustainability: Molding a Fundraiser
Becoming a sustainable organization, especially at the DIY level, is something constantly in balance at Front/Space. Over the last two and a half years, we have experienced unprecedented growth which has challenged the way Kendell and I look at finances in our small volunteer run organization. It may seem hard to believe, but our operating budget for the year is close to $18,000. With rent as our largest expense, we constantly come back to our core question: How can we serve artists and pay them for their creative labor?
We strive to provide support by the means of stipends to in-town and out-of-town artists, as well as paying a photographer to document our exhibitions. With these expenses being the foundation of our budget, we realized that we would need a variety of funding sources to close the gap between our grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and operating expenses. With multiple consultations with a variety of community partners, we decided to look into fundraising models created by similar sized DIY organizations.
We landed on the idea for Hot Hands, a live drawing and fundraising event, because we saw it as an opportunity to showcase a distilled version of our goals as a whole for Front/Space. Hot Hands is centered around a very simple format of promoting artists. One night only, artists make their work on the spot that can be purchased for a flat rate of $30.
Each artists tackles this challenge in a different way, forging new ways of thinking in their personal studio practice. We quickly realized how democratic the event can be for both those who are participating or attending. The $30 price point makes the art work extremely accessible, “leveling the playing field” between emerging and established artists. Whether you are a first time collector or a savvy buyer, anyone can witness the magic of an artwork’s creation from the artists’ hands to the finished piece on the wall.
Below are a few tips and tricks, if you choose to create your own Hot Hands or to be applied to your own fundraising model:
- Establish your venue. This will assist in knowing the capacity for your event.
- Form a budget that seems reasonable to fit within that venue. For instance, if your goal is to raise $10,000 but your space’s capacity is 150 people, perhaps you need to partner with another larger organization with enough space to host your event.
- Establish your artist roster. Who will be participating? Be sure it is a mix of well known artists in the community as well as emerging artists who are looking for opportunities. Outline the event to the artists and make sure they are a good fit. Many might be nervous about crowds or making work on the spot.
- Establish a Volunteer Coordinator and gather volunteers. Communicate your expectations to the Volunteer Coordinator and make sure they understand the multiple roles that need to be filled such as the register, greeting guests, runners, art handlers, set up and break down, etc. Do not forget to make your volunteers feel appreciated!
- Solicit Donations. Ask ask ask! You never know if someone will donate until you ask. Soliciting alcohol donations to be then distributed (not sold) is helpful and tips can be a large source of income for the event.
- Communicate with your artists and establish a meet and greet so they can get to know each other. It is also helpful to have your volunteers meet the artists before hand so they can accurately promote and advocate the artist’s work and help answer any questions to guests.
- Establish a system for taking money. Since Front/Space has a parent organization as our fiscal sponsor (Fractured Atlas) we had to conform to a couple of rules set in place by them. Determine if you will take sales with cash and/or card.
- Merch! A commemorative t-shirt or tote bag (if marketed correctly) can go a long way but also do not forget to do a non-specific-to-the-event merch item as well. That way if you do not sell out of the t-shirts that say “Hot Hands 2017” you can use them for other fundraising opportunities or sell them throughout the year.
- Understand your audience. Figuring out who you are targeting to attend your event. Most people who are excited to spend $30 on a piece of artwork (a steal!) will not pay a $20 admission cover. Understanding who you are throwing this event for will contribute to its success.
- Follow up! Thank you cards, emails, whatever it takes. Be sure to follow up with your audience, volunteers and artists after the event to be sure everyone knows that without their support this event (and your organization!) is not possible.
For more information about Hot Hands please view this article written by KCUR : http://kcur.org/post/hot-hands-pulls-back-curtain-artistic-process-annual-fundraiser#stream/0
Program Report: CASP
The Centre for Arts & Social Practice introduces a project from 2015 that involved a notebook exchange and creation of a large collaborative rug.
Navi Mumbai l Kolkata l Pune l New Delhi
Derdh Guna Derdh | (one and half by one and half)
Community based art project by Anuradha Pathak | Installation Artist & Head – Kolkata Chapter
The community based art project Derdh Guna Derdh was developed at Shankar Camp in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. The people living in this area are rural migrants from Sunderbans – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and their basic occupation is as house-helps of the residents living in Vasant Kunj area. These people live in an urban cluster with impermanent housing and civic facilities, and share diverse religious and cultural practices. The project developed through dialogues with the women of Shankar Camp who brought forth issues of migration and belonging, amidst the economic need to live in the city. The memories of domestic craft and recycling of textiles became the context through which this project was implemented in two main activities:
1. Documenting the Daily: There is a long standing practice of women in India from marginalized communities to buy household items in exchange of old clothes. Here the notebooks and pen/pencil were provided in exchange for clothes to make the 1.5 x 1.5 ft Aasans (cloth rugs). The notebooks were used as diaries by the children in that area where they documented their daily experiences and aspirations for three months.
2. Mark on the Plot: Aasans (small cloth rugs) are generally used in rural areas where they are spread on the floor for people to sit on. In this workshop, aasans, with a size of 1.5 x 1.5 ft were made from the worn-out clothes (sarees and dupattas) by the women in the community. These old clothes were exchanged first with the note-books/pencils and then each woman was given colourful cloths of the exact size along with a white small cloth on which they wrote an unfulfilled desire or an issue plaguing their living spaces in Shankar Camp. After this, they did needle-work on the writings and stitched them on their respective aasans. They also decorated the aasans with colourful beads and patterns. When each 1.5 x 1.5 ft cloth was complete, all the cloths were joined together to form a big rug.
Derdh Guna Derdh (one and half x one and half) was conceptualized and facilitated by Anuradha Pathak (installation artist, Kolkata) and supported by Parul Kiri Roy (architect-academic) and assisted by an architecture student, Michael Vivian Ekka. The community based art project workshop was organized by CASP – New Delhi chapter from 30 March – 2 April, 2015
PSST: Yaelle S. Amir
Continuing our series on mass incarceration in the United States, we are joined by curator Yaelle S. Amir of Newspace Center for Photography. She talks about the exhibition Prison Obscura which was on view at Newspace from April 1st-May 28th 2016. The exhibition, curated by Pete Brook, examines the imagery surrounding prisons both from inside and outside the walls.
You can listen to the entire podcast here.
Yaelle S. Amir has worked as a curator and researcher for over a decade, focusing primarily on socially-engaged photography, video, and installation with an emphasis on community engagement. She has held curatorial and research positions at several institutions including the International Center of Photography, Museum of Modern Art, and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. She has curated exhibitions at Artists Space, CUE Art Foundation, Center for Book Arts, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, Franklin Street Works, ISE Cultural Foundation, Marginal Utility, and the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, among others. Yaelle is the recipient of several curatorial fellowships and awards by national organizations from The Luminary and Paul Artspace in St. Louis, to BRIC Media and the Art & Law Program in New York. At Newspace, Yaelle manages exhibitions, lectures, and public programs.