On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, at 11.30am Joseph Gallivan interviews Jaleesa Johnston of the Portland Art Museum about the five-day show Conductions Black Imaginings, which shows the work of Black artists ariella tai, Ella Ray and Sharyll Burroughs. Runs March 22-26 in various galleries.
Johnston talks about Ella Ray’s Burning Questions which are written on sandwich boards in the galleries; Sharyll Burroughs’s word mobiles and pickaninny images, and ariella tai’s glitchy pop videos. Johnston says the installation is about relationships to and exchanges of power, power as a malleable material, and our collective potential to manipulate, exchange and destabilize it.
They are “Unconcerned with politeness, respectability and political correctness” and “gesture towards honest and challenging conversations around agency and self-determination.”
This interview was recorded on March 18 2023, using Zoom videoconferencing software engineered by KBOO volunteer Ray Bodwell. https://kboo.fm/blog/55224
From the press release” Conductions: Black Imaginings
Mar 22, 2023 – Mar 26, 2023
Conductions: Black Imaginings is a programmatic series of in-gallery ephemeral activations by Black artists that look at the ways in which Black performance, sound, video and social practice works become bridges between present Museum practices and future Black imaginings of those spaces. Drawing on the use of the term “conduction” in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ novel The Water Dancer as well as the work of composer and conductor Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, conduction is a practice of possibilities and a conjuring of unconventional routes towards collective creation and living.
This iteration of Conductions engages the work of artists ariella tai, Ella Ray and Sharyll Burroughs in considerations around relationships to and exchanges of power. The works in this first iteration directly recognize power as a malleable material, nodding to our collective potential to manipulate, exchange and destabilize it. Unconcerned with politeness, respectability and political correctness, these works gesture towards honest and challenging conversations around agency and self-determination.
Conductions: Black Imaginings takes inspiration from the process of “conduction” in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ novel, The Water Dancer, where engaging past stories and histories via emotionally charged objects is important in the pathway towards new futures. This idea is personified in the book’s Harriet Tubman character, who taps into conduction with her walking stick, which serves as both a symbol of her painful past in slavery and also as a part of the key to freedom.
In this closing program for Conductions, we invite visitors to explore this theme of object activation as a pathway to agency in a participatory discussion with artist Sharyll Burroughs. Burroughs will use her work on view to look at the language of oppression, how it has formed our society and our self-perception within society, and how we can relate to one another.
Sharyll Burroughs uses history, racism, and identity to elicit new ways of contemplating what it truly means to be human. Her interdisciplinary practice includes digital art, mixed media, performance, and art commentary. Additionally, she engages in social practice facilitating group dialogues which reimagine identity. She thinks of herself as an artist who writes, primarily about art, identity, and culture.
Please note that the works in this program contain challenging content.
This program is supported by the Portland Art Museum’s Artist Fund and the Learning and Community Partnerships Department.