HERE // Humboldt: More Than An Instillation, More than Interactive
What’s It About?
Until April 25th, PCC’s Paragon Art Gallery on N Killingsworth is hosting an interactive installation. HERE // Humboldt, centers the voices of black artists and community members located in the rapidly gentrifying, and historically black neighborhood of North/Northeast Portland.
The curators of HERE // Humboldt are committed to a narrative that emphasizes not only that Black Lives Matter, but that Black Life Matters. Much of the event was run through the organizational lens of the Black Life Experiential Research Group (BLERG). BLERG was founded in 2017 by Urban Studies and Planning Professor, Lisa K. Bates along with transdisciplinary artist and PNCA professor, Sharita Towne. BLERG is as much a “think tank” focused on creating and curating Black imagination as it is a means to promote historical examination through multimedia documentation. More recently, BLERG became a vehicle to organize both Bates and Townes’ experience in a year long artist-in-residency program. sponsored by Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) Through the residency, Bates and Towne conducted historical art based research and worked closely with Humboldt’s Black community to develop, and celebrate black life in this historic neighborhood. All of their work, research, experience and art culminated into the Here//Humboldt exhibition as well as the Black Sentinel; a monthly newspaper dealing with pressing issues facing Portland’s black community.
Jefferson High School
Standing historically as the only majority black high school in Portland, Bates and Towne worked closely with Jefferson High School’s Senior Inquiry Class and Black Student Union to develop the idea and layout of HERE//Humboldt. Students featured at the exhibition include poet Nichole Champion, entrepreneur and videographer Tamaryah ‘Twixx’ Williams, Imani Washington and many others. In an interview with the Bridge, Lisa K. Bates stated that she was “inspired seeing younger people develop identities that are both social and political”. The work that these students contributed to HERE // Humboldt emboldens individuals to possess a state of hope and continued resistance in the present, as well as the future; and emphasizes the living breath of black activism, black existence, and black imagination.
Nearly every part of the installation is interactive. Students at Jefferson High School were asked to “Mark Up” and respond to a 1973 survey that asked 8th graders across Portland to share their thoughts about Jefferson High School. The surveys Consist of racist, anti black sentiments on behalf of white students and generally positive answers from black students. The survey is displayed with the original responses and overlaid by “Mark Ups” from their contemporaries to form a cohesive intergenerational timeline.
A recording of Nichole Champion reading her poem Untitled at Jefferson High School’s talent show plays along with two snippets of Twixx Williams videography on a loop. A few other things which line the walls of HERE//Humboldt include an alter to Black queens, a timeline of Black activism and tenet struggles, a button making station, and the words of pioneering and current activists and thinkers.
A very compelling feature of this exhibition is the Black Life Telephone Service. BLERG uses a classic payphone provided by Futel Phones to begin an interactive family history documentation site. Attendees are asked to dial 1 to record their family history onto the service.
See It For Yourself!
No description of the Gallery can make up for visiting in person. The exhibition is open until April 25th, 2019 and you can visit Wednesday-Friday between 12-7pm and on Saturdays between 12-5pm. Paragon Art Gallery is located at 815 N Killingsworth St in Portland.
HERE // Humboldt is a collaboration between Portland’s Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF), features organization by the Black Life Experiential Research Group, displays by Laquita Landford, and contributions from Jefferson High School students.