Chiara Giovando

Disjecta connects to Kenton with music as the medium

For her last show at Disjecta, curator Chiara Giovando reaches out to the musicians of the Kenton neighborhood

By Grace Kook-Anderson

For the past several months, Chiara Giovando has used her curator-in-residence position at Disjecta to bring Portland, national, and international artists together. In her final exhibition, however, Giovando concludes her residency by focusing on her North Portland neighborhood, Kenton, originally a company town founded by Swift Meat Packing company, before it was absorbed by the City of Portland in 1915.

At Disjecta, Giovando has created an overarching theme of sound and the ephemeral qualities in art that push toward materiality. In her first exhibition, Book of Scores, Giovando invited artists to explore the idea of a score or the act of scoring—both as musical form and action—interpreting process as symbol. Contact Expo by DLS Solutions (Downtown Light and Sound Solution) explored how environment becomes sculpture, shifting form and perception. In her most recent exhibition A Mortal Song, two artists at different points in their career were brought together to explore music as an inherently challenging medium and subject. They dealt with the more emotional connections bound in music.


“The Music That Makes Us” at Disjecta/Photo by Worksighted

Continuing with the broad theme of sound, Giovando has collaborated with the Social Practice MFA Program at Portland State University—Emma Colburn, Roz Crews, Amanda Leigh Evans, Emily Fitzgerald, Harrell Fletcher, Lauren Moran, Anke Schuettler, Renee Sills, and Kimberly Sutherland. Together, they partnered with community members who maintain a musical practice. The Music That Makes Us aims to establish a music hub in the neighborhood at Disjecta—a site some local residents are still not familiar with.


ArtsWatch just received a review copy of We Women by Edith Södergran, just published by Tavern Books. I didn’t recognize the name of the poet, so I read the introductions by the translator Samuel Charters (this edition builds on a previous one he had assembled and translated). Södergran was born in a village north of St. Petersburg in 1892, part of a small Finn and Swedish community. Her father was an engineer, and she studied at a prominent German school. Her father died of tuberculosis when she was 15, and then she contracted the disease and spent several years in various sanitariums. World War I and the the Bolshevik revolution landed on her little life after the disease abated a bit.

All along she was writing poems, mostly in Swedish, modern free-verse poems, influenced by the Symbolists, poems often savagely criticized by the Swedish poetry “people.” She kept at it. She and her mother tumbled into abject poverty. She kept writing. Her tuberculosis returned. She wrote on. Then in 1923 at the age of 31 she died, from her disease aggravated by malnourishment. Before her death, she rounded up her loose poems and notebooks and burned them. So we are left with the four little volumes she published during her lifetime, a small book of aphorisms, and a notebook of her earliest work, which somehow survived. Charters treats them lovingly.

What are the poems like? Short, even fragmentary. Symbolist, I suppose. Beautiful and heart-breaking. Keen about male and female natures, roles, expectations. Here’s a short one, “Discovered”:

“Your love clouds my stars,
the moon rises in my life.
My hand isn’t at home in yours.
Your hand is desire—
my hand is longing.”

Once I had read about her life, I read them obsessively. You might, too.

Cynthia Lahti, THREE WOMEN (detail), 2011, Paper on clay base

Cynthia Lahti, THREE WOMEN (detail), 2011, Paper on clay base

Disjecta Contemporary Art Center has announced the selection of Chiara Giovando as its fifth Curator-in-Residence for the 2015/2016 exhibition season. She is an LA artist and curator, who studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and then at the California Institute of the Arts, focusing on projects built around sound art.

“Sound is ephemeral, temporal, and pervasive; it has physicality yet it is intangible. It can sooth or irritate our organs, shatter glass, and map the depths of the ocean floor. Sound surrounds us, inspires us, and while it often brings us together, it may also confuse and disorient us,” says Giovando in the press release. “Disjecta’s 2015-16 program will explore an expanded definition of sound, looking at historical experiments in musical notation, new sound art practices, and ways that sound functions in architecture and installation.”

Some of these experiments will be conducted by local sound artists, and some by international ones. “Chiara has a wealth of experience working with artists from abroad and we’re excited to see her expand the boundaries of the program,” said Bryan Suereth, Disjecta’s Executive Director. “But she’s also intrigued by the work of Portland-based artists and that results in a highly cross-pollinated vision for her exhibitions.”

Cynthia Lahti is this year’s Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award winner, and the public reception for her will be 6-7:30 pm Thursday, April 15, in the Reed College Performing Arts Building, 3rd Floor Atrium. Lahti is a sculptor whose accolades include the Hallie Ford Fellowship (2013) and Oregon Arts Commission Artist Fellowship (2006). She shows regularly at PDX Contemporary Art.

Past Bronson Fellowship recipients include: Christine Bourdette, Judy Cooke, Ronna Neuenschwander, Fernanda D’Agostino, Carolyn King, Lucinda Parker, Judy Hill, Adriene Cruz, Helen Lessick, Ann Hughes, Malia Jensen, Christopher Rauschenberg, Kristy Edmunds, Paul Sutinen, Bill Will, Laura Ross-Paul, MK Guth, Marie Watt, David Eckard, Nan Curtis, Pat Boas, Wynne Greenwood and Vanessa Renwick.