There is a reason they made a show about this town; it’s so true it’s a cliché : Portland is a kind of paradise. From the Tiki bar at the airport to the food truck shanty town we hit at midnight where twenty-thirty somethings fulfilled all college cuisine fantasies (the center of the parking lot contained a small circus tent where diners could enjoy they paper plated fare), the farm to table restaurants, bookstores, record stores and basement galleries named after after major art institutions, it’s no wonder people live here. What’s amazing is that somehow people who live here manage to get to work at all. And yet, Portland with all it’s West Coast consciousness is a city with abundant social services.
So for all those reason, combined with the blend of experimentalism and casual earnestness, Portland seems like a perfect site for a social practice MFA. Perhaps even more perfect site for a conference about social practice. Which is why I am here. I am covering the 5th annual Open Engagement conference for our very own Bad at Sports.
The first Open Engagement was the result of Jen Delos Reyes‘ thesis project at the University of Regina back in 2007; Reyes wanted to create a “different kind of conference,” one platforming emerging and established artists while providing a site for both “production and reflection.” This is Open Engagement: a conference dedicated to socially engaged art practices. Delos Reyes came to Portland State to co-direct the MFA in Art and Social Practice once she had finished her MFA, and in 2010 Open Engagement came to Portland State. To this day, the conference is the result of collaboration between MFA students, Delos Reyes and OE Co-director, Crystal Baxley. In her opening remarks, Delos Reyes remarked on the sometimes “unkempt” nature of the conference, highlighting that it was focused on an artistic discipline that by its very nature is influx, and sometimes messy. That directive affords a kind of experimental quality which is perhaps missing from what she refered to as a more “rigid professionalism.”
The day went on from there — featuring a fantastic keynote from Michael Rakowitz given to a jam packed room. Rakowitz brought out a “spinning set list,” inviting select members of the audience to come up and spin the wheel and thereby determine which of his art projects he would discuss. Each “spinner” was then awarded a prize, from a small zip lock bag of Iraqi cardamom to a date seed the artist had previously eaten. I then attended a panel about harm and risk in social practice, and later a Portland Art Museum event “Shine Your Light,” complete with (among other things) a reenactment of a lost Grateful Dead concert. I’ll continue to post about things this weekend and am going to conduct a series of interviews while I’m here as well. All of which is to say, STAY TUNED. Follow the conference on twitter via #OE2013
This week: We kick off with the most depressing intro ever (yet still hilarious) and then get to the good stuff. We talk to Shannon Jackson at the Open Engagement conference, preceded by a (unfortunately) truncated conversation with Jen Delos Reyes.
Shannon Jackson is Professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. She is also currently the Director of the Arts Research Center. Her most recent book is Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics, and she is also working on a book about The Builders Association. Other awards and grants include: Lilla Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Performance Studies (NCA); Junior Faculty Fellowship, Radcliffe College; the Kahan Scholar’s Prize in Theatre History (ASTR); the Spencer Foundation Dissertation fellowship; the Black Theater Network; the National Endowment for the Humanities, and several project grants from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, UCIRA, the San Francisco Foundation, and the LEF Foundation. Selected adaptation, performance, and directing credits: White Noises, The Smell of Death and Flowers, Hull-House Women, Catastrophe, The Successful Life of 3. Jackson serves on the boards of Cal Performances, the Berkeley Art Museum, and the Berkeley Center for New Media. She serves on the editorial boards of several journals, has been a keynote speaker at a variety of international symposia, and has co-organized conferences and residencies with the Arts Research Center, The Builders Association, Touchable Stories, American Society of Theatre Research, the American Studies Association, the Women and Theatre Project, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Multi-campus Research Group on International Performance, and UCB’s Center for Community Innovation. Jackson was an Erasmus Mundus visiting professor in Paris at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Nord and at the Université Libre de Bruxelles for the 2008-09 academic year. Before moving to Berkeley, Jackson was an assistant professor of English and Literature at Harvard University from 1995 to 1998.
Jen Delos Reyes is an artist originally from Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Her research interests include the history of socially engaged art, group work, and artists’ social roles. She has exhibited works across North America and Europe, and has contributed writing to various catalogues and institutional publications. In 2008 she contributed writing to Decentre: Concerning Artist-Run Culture published by YYZBOOKS. In 2006 she completed an intensive workshop, Come Together: Art and Social Engagement, at The Kitchen in New York. She has received numerous grants and awards including a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant. She is the founder and organizer of Open Engagement, a conference on socially engaged art practices. She is currently an Assistant Professor and teaches in the Art and Social Practice MFA concentration at Portland State University.
This week: Duncan MacKenzie, Brian Andrews Abigail Satinsky and Bryce Dwyer begin an adventure in caring and sharing called “Open Engagement.” These four adventures of love check in with all the haps in Portland over the next 6 episodes. This week they kick it live with Jen Delos Reyes and FRITZ HAEG! Take that internet.
Jen Delos Reyes (From PSU site…)
Jen Delos Reyes is an artist originally from Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Her research interests include the history of socially engaged art, group work, and artists’ social roles. She has exhibited works across North America and Europe, and has contributed writing to various catalogues and institutional publications. She contributed writing to Decentre:
Concerning Artist-Run Culture published by YYZBOOKS in 2008. In 2006 she completed an intensive workshop, Come Together: Art and Social Engagement, at The Kitchen in New York. She has received numerous grants and awards including a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant. Jen is the founder and director of Open Engagement, a conference on socially engaged art practice. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Art and Social Practice MFA concentration.
Fritz Haeg From Wikipedia… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Haeg
Fritz Haeg (born 1969) was trained as an architect, but his current work spans a range of disciplines and media including gardens, dance, performance, design, installation, ecology and architecture, most of which is commissioned and presented by art museums and institutions.
His work often involves collaboration with other individuals and site specific projects that respond to particular places.
Haeg’s recent architecture projects have included the design for various residential and art projects including the contemporary art gallery peres projects and the Bernardi residence, both in Los Angeles, CA. He studied architecture in Italy at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia and Carnegie Mellon University, where he received his B. Arch. He has variously taught in architecture, design, and fine art programs at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Art Center College of Design, Parsons School of Design, and the University of Southern California.
This week: Our Open Engagement series draws to a close with an interview with conference organizers Jen Delos Reyes and Harrell Fletcher.