Hannah Krafcik

Hannah (they/them) is a nonbinary neurodivergent dancer, dance-maker, and writer residing on lands of the Cowlitz, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Clackamas, and many other tribes, also known as Southeast Portland, Oregon. In addition to creating zines and writing for Oregon ArtsWatch, their contributions have been published by Movement Research’s Critical Correspondence and Stance on Dance. They have been an artist-in-residence at New Expressive Works, Sou’wester Arts, Art Klub NOLA, and Performance Works NW. Their work has been presented by the Domestic Performance Agency, 912 Julia Gallery, Pieter Performance Space, and the Chehalem Cultural Center, among others. Hannah often works in close collaborations, most consistently with long-term collaborator Emily Jones. They continue to grow in the complex lineages of somatics, improvisation, and disability justice. They hold an MA in Performance Studies from New York University.

 

Subashini Ganesan: Last official project

Portland's Creative Laureate is leaving the post with one last community-healing project

Since January 2018, Subashini Ganesan (she/her) has filled a curious role within the regional arts scene. In addition to her own career as an artist and arts administrator, Ganesan has served as the Creative Laureate appointed by the City government of Portland to advocate for the vast arts and cultural ecosystem.

As is typical of government, the role of Creative Laureate comes with an expiration date and is designed to turn over every two years. However, Ganesan’s tenure proved an exception. Given the unexpected impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, she agreed to extend her term to three-and-a-half years in order to provide continuity of support during a time when, as she put it, “advocacy is needed.” 

Choreographer Subashini Ganesan in her “Listening to Silence” performance, 2020/Photo by Intisar Abioto

Times of change are afoot with the onset of spring. As more and more people get vaccinated and prepare for the possibilities of physical togetherness, the search for a new Creative Laureate appointee is also underway. In addition to interviewing with ArtsWatch’s Dmae Roberts for Stage and Studio about this transitional period, Ganesan met with me and spoke about her advocacy work during this time and her last, community-healing project as Creative Laureate.

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The Art of Learning: KSMoCA adapts to the pandemic

The innovative museum inside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School has stayed ahead of the creative curve during Covid-19

What is an art museum? Some would say it’s a classic cocktail of white walls, rare art objects, and 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Others might say it’s an ivory tower that thrives on cultural extraction. However, for the students of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, an art museum is an experience built into the very fabric of their learning environment. 

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School Museum of Contemporary Art (aka KSMoCA) began in 2013 as a collaboration between two parties—the Art and Social Practice program at Portland State University and the school in Northeast Portland. This one-of-a-kind museum continues to flourish and adapt to changing conditions. Since its inception, KSMoCA has developed an array of arts programming including rotating exhibitions featuring works by local and visiting artists—Melanie Stevens, Laylah Ali, Byron Kim, and Hank Willis Thomas to name a few. 

Museum Co-Directors Lisa Jarrett (she/her) and Harrell Fletcher (he/him), along with KSMoCA’s Program Director Amanda Leigh Evans (she/her), caught up with me to discuss developments in KSMoCA’s programming since the COVID-19 pandemic. They also invited me to meet some of their collaborators on the school staff. 

Students running outside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

In many ways, KSMoCA reads like a larger study in creation of alternate realities. It iterates on pre-existing institutional frameworks to conjure something distinct within the landscapes of both art and education.

All of KSMoCA’s core organizers teach at PSU. However, it was actually the school that planted the seed for this unlikely collaboration seven years ago. “Essentially, the then-principal [Kim Patterson] reached out to Harrell [Fletcher] to see if there was an interest in connecting the programming for the Social Practice MFA students with the site at MLK Jr. School,” Jarrett explains.


THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series


Changes in the school’s leadership brought new collaborators to this growing vision. These include Jill Sage (she/her), now in her sixth year as Principal. In discussing KSMoCA, Sage spoke about the intention to de-center whiteness in the art community while simultaneously broadening conceptions of what being an artist means. 

“It’s not about what adults think or having some kind of prescribed product,” says Sage. “It’s really about creating a space for kids to explore with some support, and tutelage, and just exposure, really, to different ideas.” 

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The Art of Astrology

Renee Sills, founder of Embodied Astrology, talks about developing a creative life with help from the cosmos

For many, the time-honored tradition of astrology is a staple of contemporary life in confusing times. With the psychic upheaval this tumultuous year has brought us, it seems fitting to turn to the cosmos for guidance. As it so happens, it has a lot to say!

Renee Sills (she/her & they/them), a local artist and founder of Embodied Astrology, offered me some insight into the signs of the times. Sills’ astrology practice draws on artistic interests—which include dance and social practice. In a recent conversation, we discussed how her work with the cosmos interweaves with her creative life.

In popular culture, astrology is associated with horoscopes. Take, for example, Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, whose beloved horoscopes are chronicled on the recent Netflix documentary Mucho Mucho Amor. Usually horoscopes offer advice for each sun sign in the zodiac, and the reader can apply that advice to such personal affairs as relationships, careers, and finances.

Photo by Salty Xi Jie Ng for the #EABodiesProject creative exchange

Embodied Astrology, however, differentiates itself from that general approach through its focus on “embodiment”—a term that can encompass one’s personal and ancestral history, identity, movement and physical sensations, among other meanings. This relationship of astrology to embodiment is not new. In the ancient practice of medical astrology, each sign in the zodiac also “rules” or connects to various body parts. Sills sometimes works with medical astrology methods in her practice with clients. She has suggested that, “If you can speak from your body, oftentimes, you can speak to the truth of something.”

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An academic conference for Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters

Artists Ralph Pugay and Roz Crews have designed a conference for our times

“I think a lot has changed for the project since we talked last,” says Ralph Pugay (he/him) as I caught up with him and Roz Crews (she/her) over coffee two weeks ago. I have been following these two artists as they have collaborated on the Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters Symposium , aka SSSS, since early last year.

“We’re not going to have Tonya Harding,” continued Pugay.

“Sadly,” added Crews.

Originally slated to take place in December 2018, SSSS was envisioned as an academic conference that would feature presentations by schemers, scammers, and subverters from a wide array of backgrounds. The aforementioned Olympian was high on the list of desirable presenters. However, Crews and Pugay have since shifted their timeline and programmatic vision, instead reaching out to locally-based artists, creatives, and cultural workers through their networks. The event will now take place February 23, from 10am-6pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Portland.

Living School of Art poster for the SSSS’s TOTALLY HONEST BARTER BAZAAR

The conceptual framework of the symposium carries layers of nuance underneath that sensationalist title. “The title of the project is a big part of the project…It’s totally critical, as is true with lots of conceptual art projects,” said Crews of its multiple meanings. “I think those words [scheme, scam, subvert] have negative connotations,” reflected Pugay, “but then I can also imagine, coming from my background, my experience of being a Filipino immigrant, those are also tools for survival for people.”

On the one hand, SSSS has been shaped by a dialogue between Crews and Pugay about this fraught historical moment. They began asking themselves what it would be like, in Crews words, “to make a project that’s about scheming and scamming and subverting systems, when we have a President who is just straight up scamming us all.”

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Mariana Valencia’s ‘Album’ comes to the Time-Based Art Festival

Mariana Valencia discusses her performance work, Album, opening today as part of the Time-Based Art Festival

“There are periods of time that are marked by the music that surrounds them,” says choreographer Mariana Valencia. We are discussing her work Album, which opens today as part of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival. For Valencia, two “psychologies of albums” come to bear in the work: music albums and photo albums.

Mariana Valencia, Photo by Ian Douglas

In preparing for our conversation earlier that day, I found myself turning the word “album” over in my mind, letting its peculiarities—its phonetics and multiple meanings—strike at me. “What does an album incite collectively and also individually?” asks Valencia during our conversation, gesturing to the ways in which albums can create context. “Conceptually, that seemed like a nice scaffold or platform to work from.”

When Valencia and I were teenagers, CDs were the most popular conduit for music. Both CDs and records, even to this day, have a certain materiality and substance to their packaging, often with special notes that foreground the music for listeners and with album art that pairs visual ethos with sound.  

In creating her own Album, Valencia taught herself to play a keyboard and wrote four original songs, which rest within the performance alongside other music by Miami Sound Machine, Joan Baez, and The Fugees. “A lot of the notes from my rehearsal books became lyrics, and then those lyrics needed sound to them, and so then I just started tinkering around on the keys,” she says. The fact that her rehearsal notes show up within the work seems to reference the notion of an archive—calling memory into what is happening now.

“I really only know how to play these songs, and don’t know how to play any other songs or read sheet music or anything,” Valencia continues, describing the way that humor and levity tend to show up in this aspect of the work. “If there’s a little glitch, I’m like, ‘Well, this is all of I know of this song, so we’re just going to have to go with it’.”

Like music albums, photo albums are also sites for both convergence and divergence of experience, time, and memory. At face value, photos situated within this type of “album” often portray discrete moments in time. However, photos can also reflect the varied experiences of each individual they reference, “from sharing that room together, from that day, from being that age,” says Valencia.  

“No single history is just that history, its the history of everything that surrounded it,” she adds. In this sense, both the photo and music album are resources for thinking about alternative ways that history, or, in the case of Valencia, herstory, might be archived and remembered. Valencia explained that she uses the term “herstory” so that her work of reshaping the archival process will not be sabotaged by its signifier. Herstory also gestures to the strong matriarchal foundations within Valencia’s own lineage.

“I get a chunk of [time] to live in, and so what is that?” Valencia asks, considering what will be remembered of her after her death.

Noting her identity as lesbian Latina, she adds, “I’m probably not going to be the most archivable,” at least given the archiving of history thus far. “So, how do I empower myself to do that? Or, how do I find power within that kind of marginalization or disempowerment?”—especially during this moment in time that contains herstory. These questions have seeded her work.

“It’s kind of like this lineage of: What is my history, what am I aligning with,” she continues, explaining how her Album involved an examination into the the oral histories that have preceded her and lineages she identifies with: her own family’s immigrant experience, her relationship to the postmodern dance artists, and her identity as “a younger queer to the elder queers of, per say, the aids generation.”

As our conversation drew to a close, Valencia, who was in residence at PICA last April, added that she was looking forward to performing Album for three nights in Portland—the first place she will have done so outside of New York City. “As scripted as it might be, as choreographed as it will be, it will always be different,” she says. Of her time in Portland prior to this Time-Based Arts Festival, she shares, “PICA was the most unique of any of the residencies I’ve had. It was really thoughtful, really fulfilling, and super generative and generous. I happily am coming back.”

NOTE

Catch Album at the Time-Based Art Festival, taking place at PICA, 15 NE Hancock Street, at 8:30 PM September 13, 14, and 15. The September 14 performance will be ASL interpreted. Tickets are $20 general admission, and $16 for PICA members.

Valencia will also be teaching a workshop as part of the Time-Based Art Festival entitled “See, Hear, Here,” taking place at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont Street. Entry is $5 – $15 sliding scale.

 

Beyond the walls: A social practice project goes global

Answers Without Words, a photography project, fosters creative dialogue between incarcerated artists in Oregon and photographers from around the world

I am watching a group of men set a scene to be photographed. Ben Turanski, one of the prisoners at Columbia River Correctional Institution, indicates I am witnessing “prison innovation” in the works. He and some others are turning one corner of a classroom space at CRCI into a faux hospice. He twists a long piece of plastic wrapper into a cord, like an IV, attaching it to the wrist of Joshua Wright, who is lying on a makeshift hospital bed. Now done setting the scene, Turanski sits beside Wright and takes his hand.

From several feet away, Ben Hall takes a photo with a digital camera. When I ask him about what is happening, he indicates that the scenario he is photographing is inspired by his time working hospice in prison.

“What changed you in prison and are you happy about that?” question by Sara Lamens from Belgium, answer by Ben Hall in collaboration with Ben Turanski and Joshua Wright, photographed by Ben Hall

Anke Schüttler stands outside the frame, making suggestions about photographic composition. Schüttler—a photographer by trade and an MFA candidate at Portland State University’s School of Art and Social Practice—is one of the facilitators of this art class at CRCI, a minimum security prison housing 595 *mostly* male prisoners in Northeast Portland, Oregon. (I add the caveat because, in my few hours visiting the facility, I was made aware of at least one female-identifying prisoner.)

Schüttler let me know that many of the incarcerated individuals participating in this PSU art class said they would prefer to be called prisoners, hence my use of the word here. Under the umbrella of PSU art class, these prisoners are also working artists-in-residence at CRCI.

For Wright, the patient in the hospice scenario, the title artist-in-residence felt generative. “You were in prison, yes, but you were also in residence,” he reflected. “You’re an artist. You took this time to pursue your craft. That’s a rare and brilliant idea, and to be able to utilize that in this space has been incredibly beneficial,” he continued, noting that the residency has helped keep him on track creatively while in prison, in addition to benefiting him upon his release. Wright is a published essayist and poet, living incarcerated with a terminal diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.

*****

“[If] someone is asking you a question, like, ‘What’s your favorite place?’, you just go there and take a photo of that place. But what happens if you cannot access that place?” asked Schüttler during the class lecture at CRCI that I attended. Before returning to Germany, her home country, Schüttler will be wrapping up her MFA thesis on a project she initiated at CRCI called “Answers Without Words,” developed in collaboration Roshani Thakore, another PSU Art and Social Practice student, along with the prisoners.

The name of the project is “pretty logical,” says Schüttler.

For the past several months, and with support from the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Precipice Fund, Schüttler has facilitated an exchange of written questions and photographic responses between incarcerated artists-in-residence at CRCI and photographers from around the world.

*****

Schüttler originally started visiting CRCI out of intrigue when she and her colleagues were invited by Harrell Fletcher, founder of the PSU Art and Social Practice MFA concentration. “Often times, when Harrell gets an opportunity here in Portland, he invites his students in,” said Schüttler. Harrell, who had done creative work with a prison in the past, was curious about CRCI and had been extended an invitation to visit an ongoing arts-based class there.

“We went, and had such a deep experience,” Schüttler recalled. “I mean, you’ve seen it.”

I have seen it. In spite of so many constraints, the four walls of the classroom contained an environment remarkable to enter into and be present within—at least, to my sensibilities.

“There’s something about these people…They have so much wisdom, and so much talent,” Schüttler continued. “Something that really stood out for me was also this vulnerability. When does that ever happen? A big group of men being vulnerable with each other? And it’s like, the last place you would expect that to happen is a prison.”

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High Tide in Astoria

Can extremely thoughtful, attentive urban design be art? The Tidal Rock project in Astoria may have some answers.

Tidal Rock—a green space in Astoria, Oregon, formerly overgrown and obscured from the public eye—has received a makeover courtesy of three artists, Agnes Field, Brenda Harper, and Jessica Schleif, who have rallied their community to create a space for public art in an unlikely spot. Known for its role in marking the water level for its coastal community, Tidal Rock is officially designated as a historic site. Since late 2017, the three artists have been hard at work cultivating the space as a place for temporary public art installations and community gatherings. A public art event at the site, taking place Saturday evening, September 8, is the sort of thing they have in mind.

Oddfellows dance collective at Tidal Rock; photo by Brenda Harper

When I connected with the artists to speak about Tidal Rock, I was shocked to learn that Field had severely broken her leg less than two weeks before this big event. “It’s just one of those crazy things that happens when you don’t expect it,” she said. “I was helping my friends with their new roller skates.” At this point, I let an unseemly pun slip out about rolling with the situation, to which she kindly replied, “I think that the truth. It’s the only choice you have.”

“I’m like, ‘gosh, how is she doing this?’” Schleif remarked of Field’s predicament. “She’s chipper and looks great.”

Field’s high spirits bodes well for Saturday’s event, and this pervasive positivity has likely had an impact on the progress of the project thus far. The artists talked me through some of the details surrounding how they were able to convince Astoria City Council to allow them to adopt the Tidal Rock site.

“I don’t think they had experienced anything like this before,” said Schleif. “It was a leap for them to start picturing what might happen.”

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