This June marks PORT's ninth anniversary and fittingly this is our 3,000th post as Portland's most critically attuned and comprehensively in depth delving visual art website. It has always been a group effort as this early interview in the Mercury from 2005 can attest
. I'm planning a site revamp and a retrospective publication for our tenth (next) year. We have practiced the way we preach about how persistence and follow through matter.
Overall, critical writing about visual art is incredibly hard and I've always likened PORT as a confederacy rather than the old news room model, which makes sense since criticism and journalism have never been a natural fit. Instead, we have always placed a premium on critical thinking rather than simple reportage (or community mongering)... mostly because PORT is a trade journal devoted to hard core visual art and design geeks. I've always seen it as a first draft of history as it happens and the internet allows us the speed and ability to edit the inevitable grammar gaffs that working without an formal editor creates (we do edit the interviews). As a rule it's easy to separate the bad from the good... it takes something more to give those unsatisfied with the merely good enough feedback to reach a bit higher. It also makes our reviews matter
Not all blogs are the same (PORT bears very little comparison with most) but I feel it is our dogged focus on just a few things like critical in depth thinking on visual art and design (usually with a civic icon-like status) that has kept us a strong, undiluted source with far more expertise than generalists can claim. This is important because the visual arts usually get the short shrift compared to performing arts and literature, which are naturally more capable of reaching out to their audiences. Think of art criticism as a charismatic predator (wolves, mountain lions) that helps keep an ecosystem in balance and healthy. What's more we aren't the parasitic press, we care because we are part of the scene we discuss. This facet of what we do is especially important when so much arts writing is just flattery, navel gazing and networking designed to ingratiate. Our massive trove of reviews prove otherwise and it is crucial for a midsize city like Portland, which can naturally fall into too easy consensus. That is why PORT matters, what we do may be wonderful or unsettling to some but it always presents a developed viewpoint that comes from experience... not a generalist or the typical career driven academician, but one of real expertise and unafraid to share it.
This last year has been our best yet with articles like Amy's interview Luc Tuyman's a few days ago
and Victor's with Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson late last month
like that take a tremendous amount of effort (40-150 man hours is not atypical). The reviews can explore relevant critical tangents that are crucial, like this one on Andrea Geyer's current show at PICA
. There are complicated issues at work. All this takes a tremendous effort and all of our writers have put in far more time than they can ever be truly compensated for. I suspect the payoff is intellectual relevancy andengagement as criticalthinking, especially in a public manner is perhaps the best innoculation for the complacency that easily takes root in nice, vibrant places like Portland. PORT is all about serving a community by not merely echoing or mirroring it, which are particularly insidious kinds of neglect.
Thank you to all of our sponsors, readers and writers... even our detractors... you all make it possible. Last year we reached over 1.3 million unique readers.
As the year goes on you can look forward to numerous reviews, another major interview, an expose on a major patron (kicking off a new series on patronage) and an expose on the workings of the scene as only PORT can.