Image of a seated figure wearing a white, sleeveless top grips the edge of their chair, which is balanced on the ridge of a roof. The rest of the frame is dominated by a blue sky with wisps of white cloud cover. Powerlines interrupt an otherwise very minimal scene.

Chantal Peñalosa: There’s Something About the Weather of this Place

BEST PRACTICE is pleased to announce a new show of works by Tecate-based artist Chantal Peñalosa. The exhibition will bring together current and past works in photography, painting, and video that broadly address the sociopolitical tensions that pervade the U.S./Mexico border through investigations of the mutual clime, shared firmament, and bifurcated landscape of this charged region.

The camera is aimed at the sky to create photo diptychs that record the subtle shifts in cloud formations that happen in the time it takes to cross the U.S/Mexico border.

A video records a performance work made on Avenida México, a street in Tecate, Baja California, that runs along the border between Mexico and the United States in which the artist assumed eye-level height with a USA border patrol truck parked on a small hill to survey the border by sitting atop the roof of a house. She first sits with her back to the truck and describes the scenery to it; she then turns to face the truck creating a one-sided dialogue with her action.

Another video work reconciles a childhood memory of a colloquialism that explains, through myth, the phenomenon of condensation trails formed by the engines of aircraft “crossing the border” several miles overhead.

Blank canvases coated with white paint were laid on their backs and exposed to the falling ash and soot created by the wildfires that plagued the California/Baja California border region in 2019.

A custom fragrance is crafted through collaboration with a chemist that faithfully reproduces the smells one encounters at and around the Tijuana/San Diego border. This fragrance will fill the gallery for the duration of the exhibition.

* * *

Through gestures and actions that intervene in everyday life, Chantal Peñalosa establishes dialogues with entities that apparently cannot respond: memories, rumors, architecture, stones, clouds, aromas, or gestures. Performative actions archived in photographs, sculptures, installations, publications, or videos dialogue with phenomena such as waiting, the unnoticed, and the passage of time, shining light on political and social issues. She has recently been working on art history and literature passages that seem to be forever on standby, having been omitted, forgotten, or rejected.

Her work has been shown in institutions like M HKA Museum, Belgium (2019); ESPAC, Mexico (2019); XII Bienal FEMSA, Mexico (2018); Museo Amparo, Mexico (2018); CCI Fabrika, Russia (2017), La Tallera, Mexico (2015); ZKM Center for Art and Media, Germany (2015), MUAC, Mexico (2014), amongst others.

For more on Chantal’s work please visit https://proyectosmonclova.com/en/artista/chantal-penalosa/

A film still showing a view through a window. Behind the window, a white sculpture of a man's head in the style of Ancient Greek sculpture lies on its side on a table covered in a taupe, satiny cloth. A large, shiny, gold object that could be a sculpture of a sun shape sits below it, cut off by the bottom of the frame. The scene outside the window reflects in it, creating a surreal compression of space.

Love Letter to Nathaniel Dorsky

A film still showing a view through a window. Behind the window, a white sculpture of a man's head in the style of Ancient Greek sculpture lies on its side on a table covered in a taupe, satiny cloth. A large, shiny, gold object that could be a sculpture of a sun shape sits below it, cut off by the bottom of the frame. The scene outside the window reflects in it, creating a surreal compression of space.
Nathaniel Dorsky, Threnody 2, 2010. Epson ColorFast pigment ink, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl (100% cotton rag).
4 x 6 inches. Courtesy of Anglim Gilbert Gallery.

“How can you use the tender light of cinema to touch the heart of an audience?”—Nathaniel Dorsky

On any given day, on the foggy edge of Golden Gate Park, Nathaniel Dorsky is surely working away. One of North America’s most important experimental filmmakers, Nick has been living in San Francisco since he moved from New York with his partner Jerome Hiler in 1971, in the midst of one of San Francisco’s most vibrant and creative chapters. Since then, the two have held down the metaphorical fort for the city’s dwindling art community and spent their lives safeguarding the aesthetic and cultural importance of experimental art. Nick’s work, most famously in the form of silent 16mm films shot on a Bolex camera, exposes our world from a dream-like perspective: a face through the lines of a tree branch, a golden pendant in a shop window reflected in a sea of colors, Nick’s own wide smile behind the heavy barrier of the camera when the moment has been secured. 

Through the interplay of reflection, light, and shadow, Nick’s films create a form of visual poetry that have moved me since I first saw them as a little girl. He translates San Francisco to the screen through an intimate understanding of its most unique qualities and a deep appreciation for its beauty. Despite the city’s fundamentally transient history, Nick has remained an observer, telling the story of San Francisco through its enduring details. Throughout my life, Nick has taught me and so many others that the key to making meaningful art is to commit to the practice of awareness. Nick’s work speaks to the unspeakable, to the remarkable beauty of life’s subtleties.

Light blue background with graphic, light lined stylized building with red, yellow, orange, green, and pink flames on rooftop and side left. Text on building placard says "PIGZ". Italic outline text on left of image says "Burn It Down."

Things that have to do with fire

Things that have to do with fire
Vo Vo
February 18 – April 01, 2021

(Portland, OR) Fuller Rosen Gallery is pleased to present Things that have to do with fire, a solo show of new work by Portland-based artist Vo Vo. Their newest series of video, print and large-scale textile banners focus on the social, racial and environmental upheaval during the summer of 2020. Led by the ideals of Black Lives Matter, Antifa and their own background as a radical educator, Vo’s solo show investigates the multitudes of activism and is a call for social justice and global solidarity.

Come with curiosity. Approach with openness.

Opening weekend February 18 – 21, 12-5 pm.
Virtual workshop and artist talk with Vo Vo March 13, 5-6pm.
Email fullerrosen@gmail.com to schedule a viewing appointment or stop by during open gallery hours.

As a 14-year-old I was radicalized by a free contemporary art exhibition downtown. It was a compendium of John Pilger’s journalistic and film work, enlightening me on environmental justice, Indigenous sovereignty, global border conflicts, war reportage, and corporate exploitation. A hand had reached in and switched on the light. Whilst in no way comparing my meagre blip with the gargantuan reach of Pilger’s work, I similarly seek to open an awareness with questions, analysis, knowledge and curiosity; with the hope of reaching towards a trauma-informed, disability justice, harm reduction, and transformative ideal. With the hope that it can plant seeds of learning, discomfort, expansion, conflict, and exploration.

A recent immigrant to the States and a kid of Vietnamese refugees, I often witness the centering of the United States in any dialogue around oppression. Anti-Blackness, militarism, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, racism, environmental degradation and the pandemic are all global problems we face. Don’t let the media crud machine convince you these are only “American issues.” Opening up to international solidarity means gathering insight to creative, inspiring, and proven strategies to create better worlds.

Anarchists and anti-fascists have been constructed as puerile, unthinking neanderthals whilst we seek to end exploitation and abuse of state power; by doing and building
capacity.

We don’t do it for kicks, we do this out of necessity.

We hold a multitude of experiences and perspectives; we are philosophers, builders, teachers, social workers, mutual aid providers, carers, retail and service industry workers, union organizers, health workers, academics, immigrants, refugees, BIPOC, parents, grandparents, students, and young people. We are compelled by a desire for justice and fueled by the astonishment caused by oppressive and repressive violences. Many critics have come from a spirit of protectionism, bringing in property relations and capitalism as a “tsk tsk” response. We ask people to move away from individualistic and materialistic concerns, and towards collective concerns of the basic human rights for communities to stay alive; to thrive with dignity and feel connectedness and belonging.

This past year, these diametrically opposing weights at each end of the scale have appeared in many forms: debates over mask-wearing, conflict around providing lifesaving financial aid, how we as a society prioritize an abstract economy, convenience and instant gratification over the lived realities and safety of our workers; resulting in the subsequent continued spread of a vicious global pandemic. We find ourselves calling for a unity when again dominant colonial culture and whitewashed liberalism seeks to decide that point of unity.

Consider the questions posed here today. Consider how your actions were to change if you looked beyond your personal, or domestic, needs and experience. Consider tangible steps you can take towards furthering people power, and social and racial justice.

Vo Vo (they/them/theirs) is a radical educator of 11 years in over 20 countries in inclusion, racial justice, intercultural communication, Trauma-Informed Care, De-escalation and Restorative Justice. They have trained staff and board members from over 300 organizations in OR and WA since immigrating to the US in 2014. Editor of an internationally renowned publication, speaker, curator, artist and musician who has exhibited and toured in Australia, Germany, Indonesia, The Netherlands, Singapore, Croatia, Mexico, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Vietnam, Sweden, Malaysia, and the UnitedStates. They have curated for IntersectFest: A Festival For and By People Of Color, now in its sixth year. It has featured over 200 Black, Indigenous, and POC artists, including dancers, poets, filmmakers, curators, visual artists and more.

Vo Vo primarily works in textiles, embroidery, weaving, and furniture. Their installations seek to interrogate power dynamics and structural oppression while challenging histories and realities of imperialism, white supremacy, and colonization. They continue to explore support strategies and models of community care within a post traumatic social landscape, focusing on the resilience of BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+ and disabled communities.

Fuller Rosen Gallery was founded in 2018 by artists EM Fuller (she/her) and BriAnna Rosen (she/her) as a collaborative curatorial project. The gallery exhibits regional and national artists who address urgent, contemporary issues. Fuller Rosen Gallery is located at 1928 NW Lovejoy St. in Portland, OR and is ADA accessible. The gallery is open Thursday – Sunday from 12 to 5 PM and by appointment.

COVID-19 Protocols
Please do not visit the gallery if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have been in contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms, and/or has tested positive for COVID-19

Maximum 4 guests allowed inside gallery
Maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from one another
Wear an effective face mask at all times
Please be courteous to our neighbors and maintain social distancing

 

 

Event poster. Background is completely pink. At the top in white, capital letters, and modern/geometric font type, it reads LAURA FRITZ. Below Laura Fritz, in quotations it reads in white letters, and humanist font type, Mechanism of Uncertainty. Below the text, in the middle of the poster is a side profile photo of the artist. She is wearing black and looking forward, not looking at camera. She is in soft blue lighting. Below the photo are text with event details and logos.

Laura Fritz: Mechanisms of Uncertainty

Zoom Webinar with Pacific Northwest artist Laura Fritz.
Register here: https://uoregon.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_rTT_tBW4QHydCal1YRlWgA
Laura Fritz is a Portland-based artist who works with a range of media, including, sculpture, video, and light. Her immersive installations explore the cognition of uncertainty. Her work Alvarium 2, currently on display in Laura Fritz/Rick Silva: Encounters at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Eugene) presents a mysterious structure inhabited by a spectral swarm of bees. Recently, her Apex Series solo show at the Portland Art Museum explored surreal architecture, swarms, and the psychology of cognition. She has also exhibited at the Des Moines Art Center, Reed College, Portland; Soil, Seattle; Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, New Jersey; University of Oregon, Portland; and the Couture Stipend Series at the New American Art Union in Portland. Fritz received an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship in the Visual Arts (2014). She holds a BFA from Drake University, and also attended the Pacific Northwest College of Art (CE program), Portland.

 

 

 

 

A collaged image that resembles the Temperance card: an ancient Egyptian figure hurryingly pours one cup of water into another. Underneath their feet, the advertisement for Miss Cleo’s number creeps up; the description for this card reads: “The US Public Health Service began ‘The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in African American Male.’”

Black Life Exploited for White Lies: Ilana Harris-Babou’s Long Con at Jacob Lawrence Gallery

A collaged image that resembles the Temperance card: an ancient Egyptian figure hurryingly pours one cup of water into another. Underneath their feet, the advertisement for Miss Cleo’s number creeps up; the description for this card reads: “The US Public Health Service began ‘The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in African American Male.’”
Ilana Harris-Babou, installation detail, 2020. Courtesy of Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

How can satire and collage techniques expose capitalist strategies of using Black bodies to exploit spiritual, mental, and physical health, and to force mystifying consumer relationships? How can satire and collage create new imaginative storylines that explore the emphatic performance of Black iconic, hotep-ish figures, like Miss Cleo and Dr. Sebi, amid such mystifying consumer relationships? These are the questions ruminating in my head as I experienced Ilana Harris-Babou’s Long Con at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery in Seattle, WA. Painter, sculptor, multimedia, and performance artist Harris-Babou was commissioned by the Black Embodiments Studio at the University of Washington, an art writing incubator that holds theoretical and technical conversations about the ways Black artists express ideas of Black life. In Long Con, Harris-Babou poses the question: can our ways of consumption lead us to buy expensive “truths” falsely advertised?

Through collage, Harris-Babou doesn’t just superimpose different materials, fabrics, and textures, she extends this technique by interweaving and layering varied voices, personalities, scenes, and histories into one video still, gif, video, or tarot card. Upon entering the gallery, I could hear voices playing from three different video streams in different rooms. The chorus set the tone for a show full of sarcasm, cynicism, and dry humor that mocks consumerism, progressive politics, and popular culture. One voice played from Harris-Babou’s Reparation Hardware (2018), where the main “Reparator,” discusses how she and her team will contribute to Black American reparation efforts by using rugged, slippery materials, and ineffective hammering techniques. Despite the narrator’s claims, the project only produces assemblage sculptures named after Black icons like Malcom X, which disregard the life and demands of the person, ossifying them as voiceless figureheads. Faintly, I could hear a voice demonstrating a DIY Cheeto face mask from Decision Fatigue (2019), which was playing in a small offset cubby room. The loudest voices came from the main gallery, where Dr. Sebi and Miss Cleo spoke their flamboyant gospel over lo-fi hip-hop beats. These icons are known for being outrageously emphatic, but the soft, lulling music had a calming effect on Dr. Sebi’s and Miss Cleo’s message. As I will come to understand, pacifying audiences can be a ploy to dupe people into purchasing spiritual services they think they need to survive.

An installation image of Ilana Harris-Babou's video "Decision Fatigue." In the image, a woman has written DECISION on a mirror in pink lipstick. Her hand is up to the mirror as she starts to write FATIGUE.
Installation view of Decision Fatigue at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. Photographer: Jueqian Fang. Courtesy of Jacob Lawrence Gallery.
Installation view of Long Con at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. Photographer: Jueqian Fang. Courtesy of Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

I was drawn to the deep purple wall surrounding the wall-mounted videos and still images of Miss Cleo and Dr. Sebi, but I couldn’t resist the draw to the oversized cards that lined the left wall. The cards play off of the aesthetics of tarot cards, with many featuring a person in ancient Egyptian clothes holding or using ancient tools. Along with figures and images popular in tarot illustrations, Harris-Babou’s cards also have collaged images of Dr. Sebi’s and Miss Cleo’s popular ads, hand motions, and the “call me now” slogan. Sometimes the bodily figures are cut out of the card and replaced with the sky, earth, or fire backgrounds.

Each tarot card lists a date and a corresponding event connected to Miss Cleo and Dr. Sebi, as well as health crises largely affecting Black communities. A card dated 1937 references the US involvement with “Eugenics Medical Sterilization Law 116” of Puerto Rico. Another card dated 1985 references Ronald Regan’s acknowledgment of AIDS crises, an acknowledgment that came far too late for a crisis known for being most brutal on Black and Brown queer communities. Harris-Babou references moments where the US neglected, or outright caused, turmoil for Black peoples’ spiritual, mental, and physical health. She juxtaposes these moments with cards that indicate important events of Miss Cleo’s and Dr. Sebi’s lives and career. Immediately following the 1985 card is another card dated 1987 that references Dr. Sebi’s lawsuit for claiming to cure AIDS. The chronological order of the cards offers an alternative storyline to the lives of these two icons and links the performances of Miss Cleo and Dr. Sebi to corporations’ scamming techniques. 

A collaged image that resembles a tarot card. The card describes the birth of Dr. Sebi and resembles the Queen of Cups holding out a cup towards the heavens, but the body of the Queen and the bird is cut out, replaced by the sky, rivers, and earth.
Ilana Harris-Babou, installation detail, 2020. Courtesy of Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

The tarot cards reorient my perception of Miss Cleo and Dr. Sebi. The first card in the storyline resembles the Temperance card: an ancient Egyptian figure hurryingly pours one cup of water into another. Underneath their feet, the advertisement for Miss Cleo’s number creeps up; the description for this card reads: “The US Public Health Service began ‘The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in African American Male.’” The next card indicates the birth of Dr. Sebi and resembles the Queen of Cups holding out a cup towards the heavens, but the body of the Queen and the bird is cut out, replaced by the sky, rivers, and earth. This juxtaposition alludes to a narrative that reveals what public health negligence and capitalist consumerism tries to disguise: capitalist systems alchemize and manipulate conditions to create con artists, making Dr. Sebi a figure that takes money by claiming to save people from crises started and perpetuated by the US government. Consumers, at the hands of such capitalist ploys, buy into the narrative believing that the US, corporations, and their use of iconic figures can save their lives when these very entities are destroying lives.  

An installation view of Long Con by Ilana Harris-Babou at Jacob Lawrence Gallery in Seattle, WA. A dark purple wall has one large video screen mounted on it. To the right , there is a long line of small rectangular cards hung on the wall.
Installation view of Long Con at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. Photographer: Jueqian Fang. Courtesy of Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

I turn to the wall where Harris-Babou brings the figures back to life by distilling clips of their past studio interviews, talks, and ads. The alternative storyline told through tarot cards revealed how Miss Cleo’s exuberant rejoicing and Dr. Sebi’s self-righteous medical knowledge are rhetorical tools that dupe people into buying their products and services. Furthermore, especially in the case of Miss Cleo, the manipulative performance of a fabricated accent and inauthentic attire increases the wealth of white corporations on the backs of Black spiritual culture. Both Dr. Sebi’s and Miss Cleo’s performance becomes a costume created in the service of capitalism via medical health and spirituality.

Ilana Harris-Babou’s Long Con reinforces the ideas that suggest much (if not all) of our material realities are shaped and constructed by white imaginations, and Black people are forced to participate in these realities. The exhibition gave me a chance to reflect on how I’ve mistaken Dr. Sebi’s and Miss Cleo’s performances as just spiritual mumbo jumbo, not understanding the grander devious tactics of corporations and governments lying underneath. Long Con critiques white imagined and dictated consumerism and its relationship to Black spirituality, wellness, and labor, and emphasizes the absurd ways that we, as consumers, participate in these relationships.   

Ilana Harris-Babou: Long Con
Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Seattle, WA
November 19, 2020 – January 16, 2021

This interview is supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in cultural critics of color cofounded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Read more about Variable West’s Critical Minded Grant here.

A person in a black sweatshirt, black pants, and a beige bucket hat stands near the top run of a ladder in a cluster of tall, thin, rough-barked coniferous trees. The person holds an IV bag full of a clear liquid.

Know Thyself, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Fordism: Jeamin Cha at Kadist San Francisco

A person in a black sweatshirt, black pants, and a beige bucket hat stands near the top run of a ladder in a cluster of tall, thin, rough-barked coniferous trees. The person holds an IV bag full of a clear liquid.
Jeamin Cha, Sound Garden, 2019 (still). FHD video, color/sound, 30:00 mins. Photo by Jeff Warrin. Courtesy of Kadist San Francisco.

There was no viewing experience of Jeamin Cha’s exhibition at Kadist, San Francisco untouched by COVID-19 for the entirety of its run. It opened late, was extended past the initial June closing date, then prematurely closed on November 30 in response to new California state restrictions. Troubleshooting Mind I, II, III was the culmination of Cha’s residency at the gallery, one spent researching the rise in depression under late capitalism, the diagnostic tools of mental health professionals, and, more recently, the way new technologies affect our conception of treatment, communication, and the limits of our self-understanding. Her work often focuses on the effect the dislocation and isolation felt under neoliberalism has on our health, gauzy sensations now concretized by the pandemic with a kind of cruel, uncanny prescience. All I can think about is the strangeness of feeling uprooted, when everything has come to a standstill.

Cha’s film Sound Garden (2019) follows a few journeys over its thirty-minute run-time. The camera trails a bushy pine tree as it travels from the northern, coastal province of Gangwon-do to Seoul, strapped in the back of a truck, bouncing along through lush mountain landscapes, foggy, barren stretches, tunnels, and light industrial areas. Most of the footage appears shot from the dashboard of a vehicle behind the truck, steady and straight on, the tree’s branches bobbing and swaying to the rhythm of the road.

People in work clothes and hard hats stand in a bizarre landscape. The background is the wall of a concrete building with a striped pattern of dark and light gray bricks. The middleground is a slope of craggy gray rocks, one person stands balanced on the edge of a rock. The foreground is a slope of brown dirt with two large thin, coniferous trees laying horizontally, with their tops angled toward the building in the background.
Jeamin Cha, Sound Garden, 2019 (still). FHD video, color/sound, 30:00 mins. Photo by Jeff Warrin. Courtesy of Kadist San Francisco.

The video’s audio comes from interviews Cha did with four female mental health counselors, subtitled in English. The women speak about their patients—university students, office workers, union members, other counselors—as well as the challenges of working within a society that uses their work as a management strategy with measurable results over its more complicated, therapeutic intentions. “They quantify the sessions, make statistics, and equate them with performance,” one counselor says of the company that hired her to treat their employees. “They talk as if these numbers give meaning to the counseling center.”

Along the way, the tree is dropped off at a kind of nursery, where its branches are heavily cut back, its look taken from full and shaggy to lean and more symmetrical. The brutality of the pruning—the chainsaws, the unnatural bareness, the roaring fire into which the branches are thrown—is countered by the plump IV bags of nutrient sap strapped around each trunk by an attentive arborist. At night, the grove of transplanted trees glows with the faint light of the devices—science experiment meets enchanted forest. The final destination of each tree, revealed at the close of the video, is an under-construction business park in the capital. Grown in Gangwon-do to be harvested and aestheticized for city life, it was never really wild. It’s an investment, just as mental and behavioral health services are an investment, a means to better workers, more efficient work. We are dominated and then consoled—cultivated. As usual, self-awareness does not always bring relief; realizing your status as cog does not necessarily make the grind more comfortable. “Function in society and reflecting oneself, I’m not sure if people can do both at the same time,” one counselor posits. “The system may maintain itself.”

A diptych of two images. On the left is a close-up view of an animal's eye. The animal has pink skin and white fur, and the wide pupil is cloudy. The image on the right has a cream background and text that reads "This one is Barbie's eye" in Korean and English.
Jeamin Cha, Ellie’s Eye, 2020 (still). 2-channel FHD video installation, 11:00 mins, color/sound. Photo by Jeff Warrin. Courtesy of Kadist San Francisco.
A diptych of two images. The image on the left is a tan dog lying on an exam table with its tongue out, looking at the camera. The room has tan walls, and there are two rows of cages on the back wall. There are shelves filled with medical supplies.
Jeamin Cha, Ellie’s Eye, 2020 (still). 2-channel FHD video installation, 11:00 mins, color/sound. Photo by Jeff Warrin. Courtesy of Kadist San Francisco.

Sound Garden’s reflective, almost doleful commentary is a collaged portrait of the counselors’ psyches as much as those of their patients—the desire to see and know, to be seen and known, connects them. The essay video Ellie’s Eye (2020) interrogates the therapeutic potential of that which exists beyond natural human senses, weaving together the history of x-ray technology the development of computer and AI-based mental health counselors, and images representing the visual and aural perception of animals.

The titular Ellie is a virtual avatar developed by the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, designed to reveal psychological distress by interpreting human speech and gestures, monitoring micro-expressions, and responding to facial cues. Revealing the intimate depths reachable by technology, Cha juxtaposes our precision with AI, imaging, etc. with the fuzziness of emotional well-being and connection. These therapeutic technologies encourage a redefinition of our relationship to non-human subjects—Ellie’s creator notes we talk to our pets all the time—as well as those parts of ourselves that are little known. Does discussing mental health require that my interlocutor has access to the human condition, or do I just need something to listen to me?

While Cha’s videos carefully examine the intersection of personal, societal, and technological responses to contemporary mental health crises, a small suite of drawings really resonates with the psychological burden of 2020. Crushed or Unfolded (2020) is Cha’s appropriation of the Clock Drawing Test, an exam used by therapists and doctors to detect cognitive impairments and Alzheimer’s dementia, for which patients are asked to draw a circular clock from memory. A clock that is distorted or warped, as Cha’s are, means something is off. The test’s efficacy and ethics are debated, however, as research shows that patients who are less educated, or suffering from depression, also tend to produce similar results. The drawings aren’t subtle: they are a refutation of attempts to pathologize mental distress and an indictment of a capitalist obsession with productivity, an obsession that is currently killing people through the vector of the coronavirus, as the unrelenting logic of capitalism eclipses public and private health.

A row of drawings on white paper hanging on a yellow wall. Each drawing is of a clock, but the numbers and the face of the clock are distorted in each image.
Jeamin Cha, Crushed or Unfolded, 2020. Carbon drawings on white paper, 9 x 12 in each. Photo by Jeff Warrin. Courtesy Kadist San Francisco.

Personally, I crave a time clock. Not just for work, but for chores, for hobbies, for tasks I do and do not want to do. I fear the bleed, which is all days seem to do now. For the all the jokes, time per se so often feels dependent on the mechanism and metrics by which we measure it. This is why the notion of indexical time is usually so enamoring, some measure in which the signifier is actually, downright physically caused by the signified: proof. Trees acquire their rings according to the conditions and cycles of their growth. What an affront, so relative and so specific, to those attempts to quantify and control in the name of productivity, efficiency, management. As San Francisco enters another lockdown, I just want the clock to make sense so badly I’m crying.

A video still with layered images of a woman dancing. The image has high contrast and pixelated swaths of color in the background.

IGNITE!: Fernanda D’Agostino and Sarah Turner

Astoria Visual Arts welcomes Portland’s Mobile Projection Unit for IGNITE!, an evening of mega light installations and sound spatialization throughout Astoria on Saturday, January 9, beginning at 7:00pm.

The Mobile Projection Unit (MPU) is a roving media studio that presents new, experimental, site specific outdoor projected video installations.

Founded in 2018, MPU is the brainchild of Fernanda D’Agostino and Sarah Turner, and has produced many massive light installations including for the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art for TBA2020, the Virtual Venice Biennale Film Festival, and the Portland International Film Festival, including site specific installations on the Burnside Bridge, the Portland Art Museum and many others.

MPU co-founder Fernanda D’Agostino’s installations incorporate sculpture, interactive video, projection mapping and sound in novel ways. She’s the recipient of a Bronson Fellowship, Flintridge Foundation Fellowship, and grants from the NEA, Precipice Fund and Ford Family Foundation. Notable exhibitions include Festival de la Imagin, Columbia SA; SoundWave Biennial, San Francisco; 1A Space, Hong Kong; CyberFest, St Petersburg; Video Guerillha, Sao Paolo; Suyama Space, Seattle; and Fuori Festival, Italy.

About bringing her art to Astoria, D’Agostino says, “It was a special challenge and joy for me to create a new digital platform, The Liminal Performance Space, that would allow the collaboration that is at the heart of our practice to continue despite the restrictions imposed by COVID. Introducing new collaborators like Astoria’s Sparrow Dance Company to the transformations that live video coding permits is always a thrill. It was wonderful to see how they immediately grasped the potential of this new medium to create work that beautifully embodies the concepts driving ‘Sea Creatures.'”

“Sea Creatures,” the title of one of MPU’s four planned installations for IGNITE!, was conceived as an investigation of the ocean’s transformational power and its age-old position in myth and cosmology in every culture. Each of the installations investigates a different mood or aspect of water and how it pervades our consciousness, our mythologies, and our rituals of health and healing. Working remotely with both local dance group Sparrow Dance Company and with diverse collaborators from Portland and Japan, MPU used digital programming to allow performers to embody the reality that in our essence we are all “sea creatures.” Other collaborators include the Kusanagi Sisters, Jaleesa Johnston and Sophia Wright Emigh, Sahra Brahim and Yaara Valey.

“I’m excited to bring our new work to Astoria to enlighten the city during a particularly dark time of the year,” says MPU co-founder Sarah Turner, “Debuting right next to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, many of the themes of the piece may awaken the next time you stare into the water at your own reflection. Sea Creatures delves into our subconscious realms, right below the surface, to unearth new realities in the wake of this year that dredged up so many possibilities.” Turner’s immersive installations often explore the depths and artistic capabilities of curatorial collaborations, experimentation with technology, and community building. She is the artistic director of Pink noise and along with the list of MPU productions, her credentials also include productions for the Northwest Film Center, Spaceness Festival, and Marfa Open Festival.

Joining the MPU cast for IGNITE! is Crystal Cortez, a composer, creative coder, professor and creative producer based in Portland, Oregon. Under her performance moniker Crystal Quartez she weaves field recordings, synthesis, self-made electronics, and multi-channel sound spatialization to produce complex sonic realms. Her work often blends sound with interactive tech and performance art to produce atmospheres for deconstruction, release and rebuilding. Her practice has recently explored the development of interactive sculptural interfaces and wearable technology that use movement and sensor data to free the performer from their equipment. Her art has been shown at PNCA, Disjecta, PICA, Navel (LA) and more.

How to attend: Installation map coming to this page soon. You may also pick up a map at AVA or numerous galleries participating in Astoria’s Art Walk. All site locations are in downtown Astoria between 10th and 12th Streets. Bundle up, social distance, and wear a mask.

Funding for this project was provided by the Oregon Cultural Trust, Ford Family Foundation, and the City of Astoria. Supporters also include Hipfish Monthly, the Astoria Institute of Music and Center for the Arts, the Liberty Theater, and the Labor Temple.

An arm reaches out from the bottom left of the frame to touch a sandy-colored rock wall. The arm has a long sleeve white shirt, the rock wall has grooves and marks of various depths. The image is slightly blurred, indicating that it was taken while the camera-holder was in motion, as if walking.

Timelines for the Future: Christine Hope Sandoval

We already know where we exist in the land, how we have remained for thousands of years in the place of our ancestors. We are rising from the ground and literally toppling colonial structures and its monuments to genocide. The seeds of our future have always been alive and present, and are growing into visible manifestations of what we know to be the truth.”   –Christine Howard Sandoval

Christine Howard Sandoval’s practice revolves around the embodied act of walking on sites of precarious and contested land. Negotiating the material contours of urban and rural landscapes, their inherent layers of human memory, and their political and ecological stakes in the present, she seeks to un-learn things as they are. Through sustained artistic research, and working through video, drawing, and sculpture, she forges future imaginaries of place that emerge from competing records of human inhabitance.

Working with community members, anthropologists and scientists, and researching historical documents, Howard Sandoval often creates scripted narratives that are performed as voice-overs in videos that trace her laborious walking paths. Through an experimental use of film, she provides disorienting bodily perspectives that destabilize the norms of viewing, moving away from the photographic gaze and its extraction of images from place. Walking thus becomes an active form of knowledge creation. Embedded with site-specific materials, Howard Sandoval’s drawings and sculptures seek to counteract the distance and abstraction of cartography and its complicity with territorial imposition. Her archival constellations act as an unwinding of imaginaries in search of alternate forms of inhabitation and human agency.

The Disjecta exhibition will present a series of new and recent works that encompass these many facets of Howard Sandoval’s oeuvre. Channel (2016-19), a passage of sculpture, video installation, and mixed media drawings, addresses the complex relationship between Hispanic and Native agrarian histories and current riparian rights and land uses. Live Stream (2018) is a performance-based video that re-inscribes disappeared migratory paths and waterways in and around the site of the Acequia Madre in Taos, New Mexico; drawing on her research on ancient water democracies (Acequias). Filmed using a body-cam, the video work sets out to deflect the surveillance-oriented nature of this technology to create an embodied portrait which foregrounds invisible and contested narratives of human inhabitation.

Howard Sandoval’s latest project A wall is a shadow on the land (2020- ) un-tells the story of Spanish “missionization” by taking the departure point of her Chumash great-grandparents. Unfolding a history of enslaved laborers who built the missionary adobe structures along the Pacific Coast, her research teases out the material forms of this architecture and engages with modularized constructions built on top of Indigenous sacred sites and architectures from South America to Alta California. Through archival images and adobe drawings, Howard Sandoval re-maps these sites to work towards alternate political and material imaginaries.

Christine Howard Sandoval (b.1975, Anaheim, California) is an interdisciplinary artist of Obispeño Chumash and Hispanic ancestry based in Vancouver B.C. Her work challenges the boundaries of representation, access, and habitation of contested places through performance, video, and sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include Channel at The Colorado Springs Fine Art Center (2019) and A Wall is A Shadow on the Land, opening at Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C., opening in January 2021. She has exhibited nationally and internationally at, among other venues, El Museo Del Barrio (Bronx, NY); Socrates Sculpture Park (Queens, NY); The Museum of Capitalism (Oakland, CA), and Designtransfer, Universität der Künste (Berlin, Germany). Howard Sandoval has been awarded residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Triangle Arts; The Vermont Studio Center, and Colorado College. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute (NY) and an MFA from Parsons The New School for Design (NY). She is currently an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Praxis at Emily Carr University, Vancouver (BC).

 

A close-up photograph of a small rectangular box with two eye wholes. The exterior of the box is painted with swaths of green, brown, blue, grey, and yellow paint. The inside of the box, visible through the holes has a small video screen. The moment caught in this photograph shows a person in all black bending over with arms outstretched, as though bowing.

Like Apples and Knives: Estefania Velez Rodriguez & Michael Siporin Levine

Like Apples and Knives uses painting, drawing, collage, printmaking, and video to explore autobiography, abstraction, and narrative—three themes that are inherent to Estefania Velez Rodriguez and Michael Siporin Levine’s artistic process. In this exhibition the artists created personal work that is in direct response to their everyday life, as they consider the changes brought about by the global pandemic. Painting is a device: one that can hinge, move, activate, sing, task, travel, negotiate, and change. Painting is an object that can enact change, just as a knife cuts. Both artists’ approach to video-making, specifically the ‘thing-ness’ of the physical object and process of making, are immediately seen with the artist’s hands showing in the finished works. Whether it’s jumping at the opportunity to work out of her friend’s studio in Mexico City, or creating a stop-motion animation in his girlfriend’s kitchen window, both artists trusted their intuition as they adapted to a new routine.

Working across mediums, we see a relationship between how Estefania and Michael mix abstraction with observation, through their experimental approach to process, interest in formal composition, use of humor, and each artists’ personal introspection into memory and daily experiences. Both artists’ approach to video-making, specifically the ‘thing-ness’ of the physical object and process of making, are seen through the evidence of the artists’ hand in the finished piece.

In Like Apples and Knives, Michael will present new work including a large-scale work on paper, several smaller scale monoprints, and two recent animations. Imagery in his new body of work includes references to observations on his daily bike commute through Manhattan, park scenes, construction workers, home gyms, and cooking utensils. In his animation KITCHEN, he explores aspects of his daily life in the beginning part of the NYC lockdown through facetime conversations between himself and his girlfriend, the NY Dept. of Labor’s answering machine, and his mom explaining her matzo ball soup recipe.

Estefania Velez Rodriguez includes videos embedded into painting boxes which insulates the viewer into the confined world of the moving image. The videos are created with elements of painting and drawing activated by time, and oral language. Abstracted language, slang, and multiple tongues are explored in the videos as the artist processes life’s inputs through translation. In her video Salta Monte, meaning grasshopper in Spanish, but references transcending obstacles, she quietly chants in multiple languages about moving mountains while pushing painting through an unidentified space. Estefania utilizes cut out paintings and collages to further process notions of isolation, and cultural context of islands, which also isolate societies from larger transitory spaces.

Estefania and Michael met in 2017 while working as artist assistants for the New York based painter, Emily Mason. As Michael and Estefania worked together in Emily’s studio, they shared videos and images of recent work, and both felt a connection to each other’s artistic process– specifically the way they incorporate humor, identity, and performative elements in their paintings, prints, animations, installations, and videos.

 

 

A large, satiny cloth draped over an unrecognizable object that juts out in round and sharp points. In the background, there is a wall-sized image that resembles a cyanotype. What look like shattered vinyl records collage with explosive shapes that may be flowers or fireworks. A violet light highlights the cloth in the foreground.

Emily Tanner-McLean: Ghost Mass

Ghost Mass is a multimedia installation designed to be experienced from outside the gallery. No appointment necessary –– just show up Thursday through Saturday after 5 p.m. through
February 15.

These days, it can feel as if we’re floating through the world like spirits, unable to tangibly engage in it. Yet the world is physically impacting us through events so enormous, complex, and pervasive they seem abstract or surreal. Measuring the gravity of this impact begins with considering the solid, the objective, the truth. Like ghost particles or neutrinos, which are studied to better understand dark matter, Ghost Mass is a piece that gauges what’s missing or lost by interpreting what remains through video projections, sound, and objects.

Emily Tanner-McLean (b. 1983) is an artist whose work explores the transformative potential of liminal, discordant spaces. Her practice encompasses video art and immersive installations that
examine media’s generative capacity to promote new, conscious-building ways of thinking, particularly within moments of apparent paradox. Emily received a Bachelor’s degree in Studio
Art and a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University.

All photos by Christian Sorensen Hansen, http://www.csh.studio