Gestures of Resistance

Gestures of Resistance

An introduction to Gestures of Resistance and the seven artist residencies by exhibition curators Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton.

Gestures of Resistance

Something in the current cultural moment has triggered an acceleration in critical dialogue about contemporary craft. Gestures of Resistance brings together a cohort of eight artists whose trajectories through the terrain of craft show us what craft can offer us now. As diverse as their practices are, they share a profound understanding of craft as a context they can draw from, push against, and play with. Each, in their own way, builds on the craftsperson’s sense of agency, that capacity for autonomous action, even as they make mischief with conventional expectations about how craft should behave. The emphasis in this exhibition is on contemporary craft actions: work that deploys craft to agitate for change through direct political statements, public interventions, or dialogical, community-specific projects. As each Gestures of Resistance artist takes up residency within these walls, reconfiguring the space to match the needs of their individual projects, the Museum becomes a work space, performance venue and town square.

Rebuilding Mayfield
Sara Black and John Preus
January 26 – February 6, 2010

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the first whisper in the current record-holding “telephone game” as “They inherited the world and then the army came and scorched it.” The final words passed on were “Mayfield College.”

In Rebuilding Mayfield, Sara Black and John Preus perform a live build-out of the Museum’s lower exhibition gallery floor. Using inherited materials, Black and Preus treat the Museum as a workshop space, transforming the Museum into platform, town square and performance installation. This structure becomes the staging area for all subsequent resident artists, who will transform and manipulate the space further through their performances and objects.

Limiting themselves to verbal communication through a small portal cut into a central wall, Black and Preus attempt to produce two identical worlds on each side of that wall, exploring the zone between transmission and reception. Their performance examines the condition of subjectivity, the interdependence of what is inherited and what is produced, and the uncertainty of perception. At the end of the two-week build-out, the central wall is removed.

Anthea Black
February 19 – March 10, 2010

Anthea Black, a Canadian printmaker known for her subversive postering campaigns, produces an edition of two-sided posters deployed across Portland in collaboration with local printmaking students and queer youth. Black designed the poster with collaborator Wednesday Lupypciw to be produced as an edition with the printmaking students of Christy Wyckoff at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). On one side of the poster is the text “CALLING ALL NEXXXT GENERATION MIND INFLUENCERS:” On the other side of the poster is the text “ARE YOU READY TO SERIOUSLY EFF WITH PUBLIC DECENCY?!?” Postering kits are available to Museum visitors who want to assist in the deployment, with a large public performance of the text erupting in the heart of the city during and following the residency.

KO Enterprises: High Performance Apparel Production, an experiment of uneconomical production
Carole Lung, a.k.a. Frau Fiber
March 18–27, 2010

Frau Fiber, itinerant textile worker, addresses Portland’s garment culture by “hacking” a Columbia Sportswear Company design for rain gear and sewing multiple sets of the garment using a bicycle-powered sewing machine constructed specifically for this project. High Performance Apparel Production (HPAP) is a two-person apparel micro-manufacturing unit consisting of Frau Fiber (operating the sewing machine) and volunteer citizens (providing power by pedaling the bike). The synchronized efforts of this Production Team are necessary to accomplish daily manufacturing goals of two pieces of high performance apparel each day, for seven days. Manufacturing takes place throughout Portland’s shopping districts and items are for sale at prices based on local wages at Columbia Sportswear Company manufacturing locations. A Manufacturing Code of Conduct for KO Enterprises are developed and posted on the machine.

Mung Lar Lam
April 1–3, 2010

Mung Lar Lam performs Ironings, a meditation on labor, gender and class, in which the task of ironing becomes the means of mark making. Lam works principally with reclaimed factory-produced textiles that she carefully steams and presses into origami-like folds. While some works remain discreet pieces, maintaining their autonomy, others are opened to expansively tile the walls, creating an environment for her performative labors. Lam recycles her Ironings for subsequent performances by un-ironing and re-ironing, and inscribes dates on each piece to disclose the number of iterations it has been through and the number of memories each one holds. Working with rudimentary textile operations, and pulling from practices of drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture, Lam has been developing a new and overtly gendered discipline for herself.

Fiber Alliance
Cat Mazza
May 18–22, 2010

Cat Mazza, whose Nike Blanket Petition earned her acclaim in both the craft and anti-sweatshop movements, embarks on a new project intended to initiate a conversation around global manufacturing practices. Setting up a process by which knitted cast-offs of American brands are unmade – unraveled and spun into new balls of yarn, Mazza uses a knitting machine and her freeware knitPro to recreate knitted textiles, sampling motifs and patterns that have origin in the country where the garments were actually made. A world map connects the brand headquarters to the country where the product was manufactured.

Ehren Tool
June 1–12, 2010

Ehren Tool, a veteran of the First Gulf War and a potter, uses bags of porcelain clay to construct a bunker with a potter’s wheel inside. Assisted by students, Portland-area potters and veterans or survivors of war, Tool’s production is a communal effort; inhabiting this bunker in an extended, durational performance, Tool will attempt to throw all of the clay into cups. Once fired, he uses the cups as building blocks, erecting dividing walls within the Museum’s exhibition gallery. While these walls temporarily obscure views or interrupt space, they are ultimately fragile barriers in danger of falling, shattering or, in turn, deteriorating – as Tool demonstrates – when the cups are given away in an act of generosity and concord. Through this act, Tool builds a new structure, a dispersed community of people who have taken the cups home with them.

A Good Whitewashing
Theaster Gates
June 18–19, 2010

Over the course of twenty weeks, the Museum will have been transfigured by the labor of seven artists, their collaborators and their audiences. The result is a culmination of actions and objects, a work site continually reinterpreted through new performance and the mnemonic objects left in their wake. The final gesture of transformation is a coat of fine porcelain slip, applied by Theaster Gates, to the performance space and its contents. As a ‘resetting’ of the site, the whitewash cleanses and maintains, yet conceals the actions and exchanges that have left their mark. The whitewash, made precious by virtue of its porcelain identity, both coats the Museum in a fine glaze as well as humbles it – and the worksite built therein – with associations of sanitation and poverty. As a closing performance, Gates projects images from his glass slide collection across a purified space, attributing the work to unknown black artists. The wash itself, traditionally unstable, leaves behind a trace on the bodies who brush past, marking them with this final gesture – the ghosted presence of the unknown or obliterated craftsman.

Curating with Abandon

Gestures of Resistance co-curators Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton talk with MoCC curator Namita Gupta Wiggers about Curating with Abandon as part of the Open Engagement Conference, an initiative of Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice MFA concentration. May 15, 2010.

Craft Conversation: Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton

Exhibition co-curators Judith Leeman and Shannon Stratton talk about Gestures of Resistance. January 26, 2010.

Sara Black and John Preus

Anthea Black

Carole Lung, a.k.a. Frau Fiber

Mung Lar Lam

Cat Mazza

Ehren Tool

Theaster Gates Performance Excerpts

Theaster Gates

Craft Conversation: Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton
January 26, 2010

CraftPerspectives Lecture: Hannah B. Higgins
“The Multiple Intelligences of Fluxus”
Note: Lectured postponed.

Curator Walkthrough
May 4, 2010

Open Engagement 2010: Curating with Abandon
Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton
May 15, 2010

Craft Conversation: Gestures of Resistance
Looking at How Craft Performs
June 17, 2010

January 26, 2010 – June 26, 2010

Curated by: Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton

Gestures of Resistance examines work by contemporary artists who focus on craft actions and create works that use craft to agitate for change. Rather than present a grouping of objects, the exhibition unfolds over its tenure at the Museum. Through a series of seven artist residencies, open conversations and a study center, the exhibition is a timely examination of what it means to create, to have personal agency, and to counter drives towards productivity and consumption through craft.

Elements of the exhibition can be accessed online through performance documentation, interviews, student responses and the co-curators ongoing research via the following:

Photo documentation of the exhibition and performances on Flickr

Audio interviews on PNCA Radio between PNCA students and resident artists and the co-curators

Watch video interviews with resident artists and co-curators on YouTube

Read Gestures of Resistance: Behind the Scenes, a blog by PNCA students

Connect with curators Leemann and Stratton at their website Performing Craft

Follow up-to-the-minute information on programs and events on Twitter and Facebook

Become a fan of MoCC and Gestures of Resistance on Facebook

A limited edition catalog will be available Winter 2010–11, with an introduction by MoCC curator Namita Gupta Wiggers and an essay by exhibition co-curators Judith Leemann and Shannon Stratton.

Sara Black and John Preus (January 26–February 6) begin the exhibition through a live buildout of the museum, creating a workshop space from inherited materials that acts simultaneously as platform, town square and sculpture. This space becomes the staging area for all subsequent resident artists, who will transform and manipulate the space through their performances and objects.

Anthea Black (February 19–March 10) is a Canadian printmaker known for her subversive postering campaigns who will recruit queer youth to deploy her two-sided poster prints across Portland.

Carole Lung, AKA Frau Fiber (March 18–27), an itinerant textile worker, 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.

Mung Lar Lam (April 1–3) will perform Ironings, a meditation on labor, gender and class in which the task of ironing becomes the means of mark-making, with the unfolded cloth acting as a mosaic fanning across the gallery walls.

Cat Mazza (May 18–22), 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 popular clothing brands are repurposed into a new sculpture on site.

Ehren Tool (June 1–12), 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 then act as building blocks to construct and then deconstruct divisions within the gallery, and ultimately will be given away to visitors in the Museum.

Theaster Gates (June 18–19) will whitewash everything that has come before in delicate porcelain slip and conclude the exhibition with a public performance in the Museum space.


PNCA+FIVE Ford Institute for Visual Education

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, boora Architects, John & Suzanne Bishop, Sue Horn-Caskey & Rick Caskey, The Collins Foundation, Maribeth Collins, Truman & Kristin Collins, John Gray Charitable Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, First Independent Wealth Management, The Ford Family Foundation, Selby & Doug Key, LAIKA, Dorothy Lemelson, Georgia Leupold-Marshall, Douglas Macy, Mary Maletis, Miller Nash LLP, Oregon Arts Commission, PGE Foundation, Regional Arts & Culture Council, Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, The Estate of Gordon Smyth, Al Solheim, The Standard, Mary Hoyt Stevenson Foundation, Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust, US Bank, The Western States Art Federation, Whiteman Foundation, ZIBA

With special thanks to: Gerding Edlen Development and their support of the Cyan PDX Cultural Residency Program, The Heathman Hotel, The Nines Hotel and Twentyfour Seven.