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Heidi Schwegler, no social function, road sign, paint, birch plywood, 36” x 48” x 26”, 2016, Portland2016, Hazen Hardware, Clatskanie. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.
Disjecta Salon Exhibition, installation view, Portland2016: A Biennial of Contemporary Art, Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center.
Ryan Woodring (installation view), videos on loop, dimensions variable, 2015-2016, Portland2016, White Box at the University of Oregon, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.
Lisa Radon, The sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, white oak, Minecraft 1.6, Apple Mac Mini, bay branches, 24k gold, selenite, acrylic, Carmel stone, zip-ties, fake neoprene, rose geranium, engineering hum, dimensions variable to infinite, 2016, Portland2016, Muscle Beach, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.
Carla Bengtson, Call + Response (Northern flickers) – Response (Exterior gutter to interior horn), aluminum gutter, contact microphone, nickel and brass horn, paint, speaker, wiring, dimensions variable, 2016, Portland2016, c3:initiative, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and Carla Bengston.
Colin Kippen, Reap/Sow I, cement, perlite, shovel, wire mesh, binding wire,
Heidi Schwegler, no social function, road sign, paint, birch plywood, 36” x 48” x 26”, 2016, Portland2016, Hazen Hardware, Clatskanie. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.
Art

Curator of the 2016 Portland Biennial, Michelle Grabner

By Katy Donoghue

August 25, 2016

The 2016 Portland Biennial, curated by Michelle Grabner and presented by the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, opened on July 9. On view until September 18, it brings together the work of 34 artists across 25 venues at 13 sites around the state of Oregon. Whitewall caught up with Grabner to learn more about the biennial’s focus on regionalism in the Northwest.

WHITEWALL: As you embarked on your role as curator of the 2016 Portland Biennial, did you have a scope in mind?

Open Gallery

Heidi Schwegler, no social function, road sign, paint, birch plywood, 36” x 48” x 26”, 2016, Portland2016, Hazen Hardware, Clatskanie. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

MICHELLE GRABNER: Portland2016, since its conception, was always a state-wide biennial. This is the first iteration of the Portland Biennial that engages exhibition sites around the state. In the past, the city of Portland was the only community hosting exhibitions and projects by Oregon artists. Oregon is a big and marvelously diverse state so it made since to me to site Portland-based artists in Ashland and to bring Eugene-based artists to LaGrande, and so forth.

WW: You’ve said that the biennial highlights regionalism in Oregon, and that regional ideas are part of contemporary thinking. How so? How is that different from other parts of the U.S.?

Open Gallery

Disjecta Salon Exhibition, installation view, Portland2016: A Biennial of Contemporary Art, Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center.

MG: The Northwest actively nurtures and maintains a strong regional identity. Whereas other regions of the U.S. work hard to breakdown their regionality. But as we know, questions of innate or shared cultural characteristics is tricky business because globalism opportunistically transverses the local and the regional. But this can be exciting and dynamic for the cultural imagination based off-center. Today regionality is a construction that plays with, and even fictionalize the historic, geographic, and ethical elements shaping cultural identity.

WW: Its been over a month since the opening of the biennial, and there is about a month left. What have been some reactions that have struck you thus far?

Open Gallery

Ryan Woodring (installation view), videos on loop, dimensions variable, 2015-2016, Portland2016, White Box at the University of Oregon, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

MG: All of the hosting venues have expressed to me their delight in being a part of a state-wide discourse on contemporary art. As you can imagine, Portland sucks up a great deal of cultural air in both the state and the region so the fact that Astoria or Pendleton get an opportunity to foreground their cultural work instead of manifesting resentment toward Oregon’s center is rewarding. It is also in line with the feedback I have received from viewers who have zigzagged across the Oregon landscape, delighted to experiencing new locations and communities within the State they call home.

WW: We read in a recent interview that while there is a big emphasis and conversation around lifestyle in the Northwest, that you looked at artists here who are not engaged in their practice as a lifestyle, but rather in language, abstraction, expression, or social practice. Could you expand on that a bit?

Open Gallery

Lisa Radon, The sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, white oak, Minecraft 1.6, Apple Mac Mini, bay branches, 24k gold, selenite, acrylic, Carmel stone, zip-ties, fake neoprene, rose geranium, engineering hum, dimensions variable to infinite, 2016, Portland2016, Muscle Beach, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

MG: This is always a difficult question to answer because it is concerned with ethics and value systems. As a curator I seek to examine, analyze, critique, and translate work that leads to something more interesting than the individual making it.

WW: If someone is visiting the state this summer, with a limited amount of time, are there any must-see sites in the biennial? How is travel from site to site part of the experience of the biennial?

Open Gallery

Carla Bengtson, Call + Response (Northern flickers) – Response (Exterior gutter to interior horn), aluminum gutter, contact microphone, nickel and brass horn, paint, speaker, wiring, dimensions variable, 2016, Portland2016, c3:initiative, Portland. Courtesy of Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and Carla Bengston.

MG: The Cascades, the high deserts, the coast, the Columbia River Gorge…all extraordinary natural environments and each hosting exceptional biennial exhibitions. How can I possibly choose?

DisjectaMichelle GrabnerPortland BiennialPortland2016

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