by Kala Zanis
Sunday’s panel on hospitality, moderated by Spencer Byrne-Seres, began with an acknowledgment of the native land on which PICA was built. Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Cowlitz bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and many other Tribes were displaced by seizure and violent colonization. The displacement extends to the present. The warehouse space where the panel took place was introduced as a space that wasn’t designed to regard the human body as assembly and individual, but as a warehouse made for large trucks. Panelists remarked on the ongoing effort to translate a space for all bodies as an essential practice towards cultivating a sense of safety, hospitality, and belonging.
Beyond minimal accommodations legally proposed for the body, the directors and guests described their commitment to honoring the artistic body, singularly and communally. A crucial component of curating a space which expresses respect and reverence for bodies requires a critical look at the labor economy in artistic institutions from the people who administer them. The hope is to initiate artists, audience, and community into the space. The phenomenon of belonging is realized by an institution’s success in embodying an unconditional positive regard and sustainable interdependence with artists. The specific groups that panelists consider in this process include facilitators, museum audiences, and artists.
Panelists expressed a value for decentralizing power in institutions, moving forward through curation with “as little hierarchy as possible.” The task of curating artistic spaces in residential homes was said to present a sort of crisis in communicating the artistic intention of the space as the dominant mode over the domestic functions. The legitimacy of the domestic space seemed, to some, as a failing foundation for artistic community. Other community art directors discussed how they source and use second-hand material to furnish otherwise substandard spaces, like a dark basement, as spaces that welcome the body with all its needs, all its creativity.
A central effort in shifting the gaze of institutional hospitality has been offering communal meals and increasing access to food and personal goods throughout programming. The festival convenience store, open during program hours, was created to cater to miscellany and essentials. Historically, artistic institutions are spaces that cater exclusively to the white mind and body. The directors discussed their effort to solicit feedback from marginal communities that have been widely underserved and separated from integrating their experience in designing and participating in programming. Contemplating this insight was important in developing an idea of how the bodies of oppressed people read space, and how the resulting understanding either facilitates or hinders connective experiences.
Looking towards the future of hospitality in art, the directors questioned what the exact qualities of contemporary gallery are and who assumes the role of “arbiter” in establishing these norms. The imprint of such norms can be seen in the homogeneous publicity materials mailed out from museums. An imagination for hospitality in institutions is one step towards diverse, accessible, and nourishing creative spaces. As the panel came to a close, Director Roya Amirsoleymani addressed the audience and the panel, asking everyone to take what was discussed and use it to influence the spaces they occupy. The audience applauded before entering the festival’s outdoor common space. They gathered to sit at lunch tables, sheltered together, sipping cheap drinks in the rain.