Thursday, January 25, 2007

more on PORT

“People love to talk about emerging artists; people talk less about emerging critics, emerging writers….”

And this is another reason to support PORT. I never saw it quite so clearly as when I listened to that remark, made by Katherine Bovee, when she came on Artstar Radio along with Jeff Jahn the other day.

We need not only more writing but also better writing about art. It has been too easy to toss something out and for us to feel in some way grateful to get that toss. Of course you can’t blame a paper which, as Jeff said, must set its sights at an 8th grade education. But this interview made me fully realize just what PORT is fostering here: a future for writers, a place where the writer can grow up in public. And since that is what every artist is doing as they exhibit throughout the years, it’s only fair that writers also have that kind of opportunity.

During this conversation, we also talked about the wearing of many hats and if this is any kind of conflict of interest. I like the confidence that Jeff enjoys in being able to make art and hang shows and write about them all at the same time. Katherine, too, had no nagging questions at the end of day.

The idea of artist-as-curator has been canvassed a bit in Baby Smith’s journal, where she says she is surprised that more curators do not take risks and create taste and style, as opposed to following it. I had to point out - and it was a revelation while I was doing it - that someone who does not represent artists is in that risk-taking position. I mention the representation part because not everyone is happy that Chambers does not do it.

We absolutely need even more galleries who represent than we have at present here in PDX, but I saw from the start of my curating that this was not to be my deal. We are actually living in a place where you can curate not only good artists into special exhibitions, but artists who have been in biennials, received all kinds of press, have an interesting and substantial track record and are still unrepresented! I learn a lot from every new artist I work with.

Jeff mentioned that for him to write about the work, he had to have a vested interest in it. No ‘conflict of interest’ in his view - just plenty of it. “We wear our hearts on our sleeves,” he said, maybe more than once. I translated that into passion.


C said...

I listened to this program on ArtStar, but I don't buy Jahn's argument or concern about "conflict of interest." Pretentious at best. Portland is a very small puddle and it's only the matter of a diligent minute before you know everyone who is anyone or might become someone, someday, even by candlelight. And frankly, with the MSM art schools churning out how many MFAs in Oregon each year - five hundred? - this economy encourages the most competitive, most popular, and most acceptable. Reading the opinions of a "vested interest" should not be confused with journalism, or anything but puffery.
Read Jonathan Jones - reference the other day by D K Row - at,,1991720,00.html and BTW the Guardian has a great arts section.

Eva Lake said...

I can't think of any writer here who writes without bias. This includes the Oregonian. And they still can't get the facts straight. I can give alot of examples, but suffice to say that I haven't said half the things 'journalists' have quoted me as saying. Most of this is harmless, but slangs about the museum were very mean-spirited. Alot of people around me were very unhappy about that. I was very grateful that Lovelake was written about, but what purpose did those jabs against the museum serve? Was that journalism?

Jeff Jahn said...

My role is catalytic but any advocacy either through a positive or negative review is absolutely earned... which is precisely why they are influential here and elsewhere. I have to believe in what Im writing and for that an artist has to convince me, (over and over again).

To that end I never write a one-dimesnional review, they have sting even when I like a show.

Thanks for having us on Eva