Dreams of Unknown Islands transforms the Cooley into an ecological dreamscape in which coastal shores, animal migrations, and the shifting colors of the sky are transmitted through ritual sound, projected film, and a group of functional island sculptures, commissioned for the exhibition. These listening islands invite the visitor to sit or recline, and absorb the images and sounds floating through the museum. This soundscape is the exhibition’s weather—a Meltempi of overlapping voices reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning. The prayer originated c. 30 BCE, written mostly in Aramaic, at the same time as the Lord’s Prayer, written in Koine Greek; its purpose is to comfort the soul of the deceased and reaffirm the faith of the mourner. Wortzel awakens us to the tenderness and empathy necessary to confront the political and ecological challenges we face today. Through visual poetry and aural invocation, Wortzel offers us the opportunity to feel and reflect upon the nature of mourning—a universal ritual practiced by both humans (and some animals) that has evolved over millennia into a pronouncement of belief, hope, and possibility that does not ignore the suffering we face. Wortzel shows us how the health and flourishing of queer and trans bodies is bound to the health and vibrancy of the natural environment.
Dreams of Unknown Islands is presented by Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College and Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art Festival. As part of T:BA’s festival programming, The Cooley and PICA partnered with Hollywood Theater to present an evening of Sasha’s short films, “This is an Address, the Films of Sasha Wortzel.”