Artists in residence with Portland Archives present “The Watcher Files” at North Portland Library October 27 – December 5

From The Watcher Files: "She had her own reason for participating," a poem stamped on 3x5 copper cards.

PORTLAND, ORE.— Artists Garrick Imatani & Kaia Sand have been in residence at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center (PARC) since 2013, and will present their selections from the work they have produced at a special exhibit at the North Portland Library, 512 N Killingworth Street from October 27 – December 5. The public is invited to attend a free opening reception on October 27th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with light refreshments and a performance that will begin at 6:00 p.m.

Working with PARC files known as “The Watcher Files,” a set of police surveillance files of activists and civic groups from the 1960s through the 1980s, Imatani and Sand created a series of artistic and literary interventions that serve as an addendum to the original files. They responded not only to the documents, but also to the archival materials themselves, such as cabinets, binders, folders, and index cards, which inform the sculptural objects and printed matter in this exhibit. Pull out cabinet drawers to discover framed photography and graphite drawings. Thumb through copper index cards to read a poem. The artists’ residency is a City of Portland Percent for Art Project funded through the building of PARC, administered by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. City Archivist Diana Banning suggested the residency as a way to expand the public’s knowledge of the archives. “We know how historians and academics tend to use the Archives and were interested in how artists might approach them.”

The artists’ work emerged from two threads of inquiry, “Where is anonymity within a public document?” and “Passing It On.” 

  • Where is anonymity within a public document? Surveillance creates a bright threat of attention on private lives. But how is this attention blurred? How might someone’s identity masquerade inside these files? Imatani explored the paradox of anonymity within public documents through photography and graphite drawings housed in a sculptural cabinet inscribed with language. Sand’s exploration took the form of poems embroidered into black textile panels. 
  • Passing it On. Working with several people who participated in decades of activism and civic engagement, Imatani and Sand considered some of what they continue to pass along—programs created, destruction prevented, enduring concerns, and in particular, books they read. In particular, this exhibit launches an ongoing activist bookshelf project, presenting sculptural bookshelves comprised of book selections by Kent Ford, Lloyd Marbet and Joanne Oleksiak. We borrowed the title from Ford’s description of sharing books: “I kept passing it on, passing it on to all my friends.”


About the event:  

About the project:

This exhibition will travel to Portland State University in January 2015.