The exhibition I gently place my brain into cold rice. is homeschool founders manuel arturo abreu and Victoria Anne Reis’ first installation of their year-long curatorial residency at Oregon Contemporary. Homeschool is an institution that has been operating since 2015. The school aims at providing creative nourishment to encourage contemplation and appreciation of contemporary art. It can take many forms, including an art school or a distance learning platform. All iterations place a strong emphasis on slow-learning, individual relationships and diversity of thought.
Reis and abreu describe their professional synergy, non-deterministic approach to curation, and homeschool’s existence as a “space of sacred duty.” I understand that phrase to be a necessary cultivation of an educational culture that exists beyond the traditional tired, non-inclusionary, and for-profit learning environments. I gently place my brain into cold rice. It features eight works by national and international artists working in a range od disciplines. As a whole, it reads as the visual embodiment of homeschool’s pedagogy, emphasizing the transmission of communal care and healing, through the lens of contemporary art.
Every possibility of action, contemplation, and relation is embodied by an eternal witness who, without voyeurism, follows you through all your changes. He/she is not the last angel of history or the first / original daemon for the future. Water is memory. And when the air seethes wet, the archive of water itself becomes visible. She gently places her brain in cold rice when the water walks.
Upon a first reading of this excerpt from the exhibition text, I registered “eternal” as “internal” thus briefly interpreting the statement not as a temporal alignment but as a more intrinsic action for viewer and artist alike. I interpret the line within each decision as a possibility of movement or connection. It is an internal signifier that moves with the unpredictable currents of creative output.
In the multimedia assemblage, both the eternal and internal collide Reclaiming Beatrice Studio Abioto, Intisar Abioto Photos, newspaper clippings, inspirations, and a live installation of plants constitute the historically and emotionally poignant work named for the Portland civil rights activist Beatrice Morrow Cannady. The collaged images on the south wall of this gallery combine portraiture by Abioto with archival imagery from James S. Bell, an early Black Oregon/Portland photographer. The images were taken from early editions (1903-1938) of The Advocate and published by Cannady. Abioto’s figures appear with force and determination behind the lens – shown posing with bodies moving, reaching, or simply at rest – captured stoically and commandingly. A connective thread is created by the juxtaposition of contemporary photography and historical records of Black Oregon residents. This allows for an ambitious, successful cross-generational story. Abioto honors the deep-rooted Black radical traditions and dreams exercised by Cannady and continues this work with the related project of purchasing and rematriating Cannady’s home in NE Portland. This work is centered in the gallery by the living focal point of the artwork, which is provided by the plants and foliage at the base.
Another photograph is that of the Kigali-based artist group Ibisazi Designers Nyabyo. (IDN). Hanged at regular intervals throughout this gallery Shadows of Ideas (2022) This series of works was created specifically for the exhibit. It features Kigali residents posing in or wearing functional art, including swathes of cloths, repurposed leaves, living and found materials. The exhibition materials describe the images as illustrating “the hidden and unshared thoughts of each living being.” Shadows of ideas These are stills, immobile, of lively, improvisational and grand performances that were created in and with the Rwandan community where they were recorded. This deliberate quietening of movement, which transfers lively human activity into the digital realm, makes the collective’s improvisational spirit a little more opaque. Gallery-goers can see an individual wearing a makeshift raft costume, half-submerged in water, and holding a television above their heads. Another individual is upside down, with their legs extended high above their bodies, and two sculptural elements attached to their feet. It is important to understand that the visuals presented are meant to be both informative and curious. Shadows of ideas They begin to exist in the liminality they create.
Guts, Jasmine Nyende’s yarn sculpture hangs from the ceiling of the back gallery. It then drops to the ground as a soft coil. Its layers of purple and pink appear to undulate and pulse. The layers drape carefully over each other, a nod to traditional weaving of internal organs. Though the yarn appears thick and sturdy, my emotional response to this work instead calls to fragility, speaking to the spirit of one’s “insides” and feelings with the tendency to unravel, drip and transform.
Equally evocative of a move towards the transformative is artist Olivia McKayla Ross’s Lake of Stars The same title is used for both a physical publication and an installation. On a gallery shelf, several copies of the spiral-bound book are housed between two obsidian pieces (cherished for their grounding and protection qualities). Lake of Stars It invites viewers into deep exploration of its poetic imagery to find the right compositional juncture to heal. This tangible book represents a simple example of a personal yearning for freedom and the desire to find its right vessel. The book’s underbelly is mirrored and digitally translated by Ross as they flip through its pages. Ross solidifies the resonance frequencies of the exhibition, which weigh the boundaries between a private self and a shared one.
Oregon Contemporary has a poetic line connecting all the works displayed. It is the desire for the viewer to go beyond the static limits of their work. I gently place my brain into cold rice. it evokes imagination and the potential of our present. A brain that is overstimulated and heated can be likened to a drowned phone. It will be submerged in rice. These works provide the opposite in the face of content saturation. The gallery is activated in response to each artist’s inquiry and consideration, giving the exhibition a sense-intense immediacy. I gently place my brain into cold rice. Pulls from a conscientious, generative contemplation that solidly aligns personal care with external craft.
I gently place my brain into cold rice. Through January 8, the exhibit will be on display at Oregon Contemporary. Oregon Contemporary can be found at 8371 North Interstate Ave. They are open Fridays through Sundays from noon to 5pm. The gallery is currently open on November 25, 26, 27, and 28.