Open Engagement 2011 – Portland, Oregon


Last weekend I went to Open Engagement in Portland Oregon USA.

The Open Engagement conference is an initiative of Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice MFA concentration. Directed and founded by Jen Delos Reyes and planned in conjunction with Harrell Fletcher and the Art and Social Practice students, this year’s conference features internationally renowned artists Julie Ault, Fritz Haeg, and Pablo Helguera. The work by these artists’ touch on subjects including democracy, group work, the boundary (or lack there of) between art and life, education, and transdisciplinarity.

This year’s Open Engagement sets out to discuss various perspectives on art and social practice. Through conversations, interviews, open reflection on experiences, and related projects created for or presented at the conference we will be looking at five themes that encompass ideas connected to social practice: Peoples and Publics, Social Economies, In Between Places, Tracking and Tracing, and Sentiment and Strategies

My experience of the conference was three solid days of listening to Artists from across the US discuss their work in relation to Social Practice, what it is, it’s history, it’s relation between art and activism, it’s role as ‘useful’ art, it’s parameters. I absorbed a lot; I am still processing it. As with all, festivals, conferences, symposiums etc, the people you meet, the new friends you make and the conversations you have can often affect your experiences and help shape perspectives and of course this is what happened to me. Rather than write about it, I wanted to share this with you as directly and as quickly as possible.

In an attempt to introduce you to some of the inspiring people I met, on the last day I recorded a series of short interviews with some of these people. The recordings are pretty raw, you will notice … Um..Um..Um… The stereotypical Ozzie ‘um’ is there way, way too much, forgive me, I was constantly being ‘glamoured ‘ by these dudes and often found myself lost for words.

I tried to keep each interview to a total of 15 minutes and asked questions that would give you a context, like what is social practice ( does it matter?) and what is Open Engagement…

I hope these recordings give you a glimpse into the nature of the conference, the content and work being discussed over the weekend.

1. Susannah Tantemsapya

Creative Migration

2. Eadie Tsong

Edie Tsong’s explorations in interactive portraiture have used traditional media as well as performance, facsimile, videoconference and plasticene. She has exhibited her works nationally and internationally including exhibitions at the Mattress Factory, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Time-Based Arts Festival, and April Meetings in Belgrade, Serbia. Tsong lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

3. Kelsie Nelson – Artist and new local Portland resident

4. Michelle Swineheart – PSU MFA Student

5. Joseph del Pesco and Christian Nagler

The aging of Social Practice and How to get to know your parents through political economy

Unfortunately our conversation had to be cut short, I have included what I have anyway because I found this research project fascinating, I want to know more and thought you might to.

Joseph del Pesco – An independent curator, art journalist, and perennial collaborator. While he’s organized projects and exhibitions for museums internationally, he has also disbursed artist grants, presented video programs in private homes, distributed posters and other ephemera through informal channels, and produced content for the internet.

Christian Nagler – Works as a writer/teacher in San Francisco. Recent work can be found in forthcoming issues of the journals Encyclopedia and Paul Revere’s Horse. He has been a resident at Millay and the Anderson Center, and has received a fellowship from the Wallace Foundation. He directs the Colima Project at San Francisco State University, a social practice project focused on immigration issues. He is currently working on a novel, a book of essays, and a series of performance texts.

6. Radical Arts Administrators

Tracy Candido, Chelsea Haines and Bryce Dwyer

Tracy Cadido

Bryce Dwyer

7. Katy Asher and Ariana Jacob_ Planning Committee Portland Stock and Host

Portland Stock

Sarah Rodigari.

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