This is not an exhibition. “…community declared itself a medium…” is a fragment of a sentence, ripped off, taken out of context, and divorced from its beginning and ending.* It is about this community and that one. “That one” = the one you belong to, the one you don’t belong to, the one you hope to belong to, the one that does not yet exist but is forming or might yet emerge.
Early on in our organization’s history, our founder Kristy Edmunds wrote: “The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) is about the activity generated by a community using its energy.”
What a curious way to describe what we are. Then again, what a perfect way to describe what we are. This energy exchange could just as easily apply to this Festival and this exhibition (or non-exhibition, as it were). The artists included in this year’s program will certainly be using our energy. This might make us feel uncomfortable, and it might uplift us. “Community. Ugh.” “Community, yeah!” Their projects will live in several different locations and they will expand \over time. They will take the form of classrooms, workshops, publications, essays, performances, scraps of paper, games, sounds, flickering films, public residencies, and discrete unannounced activities. Sometimes they will be all of these things at once. Like a “community,” their activity will occasionally bring us together; at other times it will send us to opposite ends of the room or city. We can use the artists’ energy, too. In fact, we must. It is crucial. “Community” is exhausting.
For the sake of this engagement, it feels important to keep “community” in quotes. It helps preserve its mutable and debatable meaning. “Community” is fragile, dangerous, galvanizing, ineffective, affective. Let’s think of the quotation marks as a little suit of armor. It is not yet clear whether we are protecting ourselves from “community” or it from us. Can “community” be dangerous? Absolutely. Maybe. Really? I don’t know yet. Let’s talk about it? Let’s try and figure it out. Together? We must. It is crucial.
–Kristan Kennedy, Visual Art Curator