"A God is Passing By" (Detail), 2007
"You'll Never Walk Alone" is the brazen statement made by the title of the current exhibit up at one of the many lively alternative exhibition spaces in Portland: Worksound. Curated by the Belgian based artist, Vanessa Van Obberghen, "You'll Never Walk Alone" is an exhibition of comradery. Based on the necessity and confluence of great minds and creative peers, Obberghen has gathered this group of internationally based artists on this premise alone: that the experience of exhibiting and creating together is powerful enough and meaningful enough to warrant an audience. Because of this the exhibition lacks any sort of obvious visual or conceptual continuity, yet the exhibition is full of interesting work nonetheless. Obberghen's rather romantic, stream of consciousness statement on the exhibition's blog (yes, it has its own too who doesn't?) states that the show's curation and continuation is, appropriately, a fluid thing; as the show travels to its next destination, it will add two artists from Portland to its roster, thus continuing the experience and the testimonial.
"Cuba", DVD, Moshekwa Langa
Portlanders should see this show. It's strangeness is one of the most exciting things about it; there is absolutely not another show quite like it in the city. All of the artists operate and create out of an entirely different culture, geography, and degree of metaphysical thought. In this last respect, it is almost as if the age and tradition of thought has the ability to be determined by place. This is, of course, only a small facet of what defines culture, yet this exhibition highlights this cultural thinking uniquely and somewhat awkwardly, especially when compared to most exhibitions here. The ideas presented in "You'll Never Walk Alone" are not necessarily intellectually more or less complex or morally weighty, they simply address radically different topics than one might encounter on a typical gallery going day in Portland, Oregon. It is for this reason alone that this exhibition is electrically refreshing. God; spiritual identity; nationalism; nihilism; global commerce and its repercussions; senseless gore; fashion; cultural kitsch; and overarching, unabashed narcissistic existentialism are all present in this one exhibition. It is rich and harried and extreme in its levels of success. A surprise and a question await you simultaneously in each piece, and this is interesting, even in its failure.
Untitled Photographs, Alex Salinas, 2011
"A God is Passing By" is a documentary by the french artist David Gheron Tretiakoff which follows a throng of excited Egyptians as they gather to witness the relocation of a statue of the ancient pharoah Ramses. Made even more poignant by the recent political events in Egypt, this event catalyzes a torrent of nationalism within the citizens depicted in the documentary. They use the event as pulpit to vent their political and personal grievances as well as an excuse to chant spiritedly and in unison to the statue as it passes: a brief opportunity to converse with a god. The documentary is a surprisingly intimate encounter with the citizens' experience with the statue; it is the symbol made real, and they expect the statue to listen to their woe and to benefit from their devotion.
Ramesses The Great
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the diptych dvd, "Cut Up" invites viewers to a snarky gore fest of domesticity gone weird. This piece seems rather juvenile, referencing suicide for unknown reasons and not really giving many clues as to the reason behind the blood and gore. The show's blog indicates some sense of narrative, yet even this seems rather far fetched. One half of the collaboration's team, David Wauters, is also the painter behind the pieces: "Tough Luck #1" and "Tough Luck #2" as well as the "Dot Dot Dot" paintings. These two paintings indicate a strange occurrence in this exhibition having to do with language. Either there is a loss in the translation of what this artist is attempting to communicate through these titles, or the art itself is actually as insensitive and as narcissistic as it seems. Both sets of paintings, while very well painted, seem to stem from an adolescent mockery of others that is somewhat appalling, and this is entirely due to their titles. The indication that perhaps this is not a loss in translation is indicated by the ways in which the film fails, yet this is circumspect.
"Tough Luck #1" and "Tough Luck #2", Oil on Enamel, David Wauters, 2011
These pieces are accompanied, among others, by the curator's own work, which attempts to depict a global community that reflects an increasingly placeless identity. Obberghen's subjects indicate an otherness that involves Africa but does not stake its claim in it; these images are quietly suggestive in their idea of what it is to be looked at, pulling people and symbols together to incite the question of from where and what we cull our identities. It is the one question that runs somewhat thematically through the exhibit and is posed both as poignantly and as faultily as it is answered.
"Off Shore World", Detail, Mixed Media, Vanessa Van Obberghen, 2010-11
Through various media and references that range from pop typography to Cuban political history, "You'll Never Walk Alone" is an amalgamation of cultural investigations into quantifiers; these are the tools with which we make and choose our symbols, with which we search for identity.