Meta-Practice, Travelogue

Residency wrap-up: c3:studio residency, c3:initiative, Portland, OR

Looking back at my 17-day residency.

The stunningly picturesque Mt. Hood is visible from many parts of Portland.

The stunningly picturesque Mt. Hood is visible from many parts of Portland.

From May 20 to June 6, I was in residence at c3:initiative’s c3:studio residency, which

“partners with local arts institutions to provide a studio residency for visiting artists… to develop work to be exhibited regionally.”

How it came about. I’d been invited by the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society (“‘Pata,” for short) to exhibit The Eve Of…. I needed to be in Portland to install the large sculptures and installations. With our budget stretched thin by the shipping and transportation costs, ‘Pata contacted c3. I’d heard about c3 from the art collective ERNEST—which is in a long-term, ongoing residency there—and had received updates about Andy Coolquitt’s residency for his Disjecta show. c3 was available and offered not only to let me stay during installation, but to come out earlier for a residency to make new work with a membership to Pulp & Deckle, the onsite papermaking studio they incubate. I said yes.

Getting settled. Founder and Director Shir Ly Grisanti and Program Manager Erin Mallea got in touch and asked me what I needed. They were communicative, prompt, professional, responsive, and happy to triangulate with third parties as needed. They picked me up at the airport; lent a bicycle for getting around town; connected me with a lender of woodworking tools; and hooked me up with advising hours from Jenn Woodward, who runs Pulp & Deckle. Furthermore, they arranged for me to present Make Things (Happen) at PSU’s MFA in Social Practice un-conference, Assembly.

A discussion about Make Things (Happen): Christine Wong Yap with Lexa Walsh and Julie Perini. Presented by c3:initiative and Portland 'Pataphysical Society for Portland State University's Assembly 2015. Photo credit: Joe Greer.

A discussion about Make Things (Happen): Christine Wong Yap with Lexa Walsh and Julie Perini. Presented by c3:initiative and Portland ‘Pataphysical Society for Portland State University’s Assembly 2015. Photo credit: Joe Greer.

c3 occupies a building with a small office, a cozy kitchen, a front room with a glass garage door that was an exhibition space, a larger middle room that I took over as a studio space, a shared bathroom with good-smelling shampoos and lotions, a closet with a large industrial sink and a few hand tools, Pulp and Deckle, and a one-room residence. The residence is sort of a white concrete cube afforded privacy with heavy black curtains. It’s outfitted with low furnishings that lend it a peaceful feeling—a comfy futon, pine credenzas with books and magazines, a lounge chair, and a tri-fold mattress, which turned out to be a nice place to sit cross-legged and work on my laptop. There’s also a large gated yard with patio furniture and plenty of space.

c3 is located in St. John’s, a neighborhood in North Portland. It feels like a small town. Its main street reminded me of Albany, CA, with its little movie theater, many bars, and vintage look. Transportation is pretty easy, with two bus lines that run to the galleries in the Pearl district.

Shir, Erin, and Jenn were incredibly accommodating. They said I was pretty much free to use anything in the office, kitchen, and closet. That meant I could print activity sheets for my Assembly event, had access to basics like olive oil and spices, and could use their washer, dryer and detergent, etc. These things seem small or mundane, but they make a big difference when you’re traveling.

What I did. In the first week, I made paper at Pulp & Deckle. I came to find the process of making paper to be pretty fun. The large sheets I started out with were technically challenging and physically demanding, so when I later made US letter-sized miniature multiples, I couldn’t stop giggling at how easy it was.

Making miniature multiples at Pulp & Deckle.

Making miniature multiples at Pulp & Deckle.



After that, I turned my attention to sketching, procuring, and making a plinth, A/V box, light blocks to cover ‘Pata’s clerestory windows, and scrims as backdrops for the handmade paper. I tend to work in ways that are very straightforward, and have found that attending to the physical space behooves the viewing experience. This was made possible with the chop saw, compressor, nailer, and Skil saw lent by Devan; Pulp & Deckle’s sewing machine; and a car lent by ‘Pata. I can be a control freak and it can be hard for me to ask for help (and flexible enough to accept it). But I thought about Torreya Cumming’s advice when I interviewed her for an essay for Art Practical:

“The first principle is beg, borrow, or steal. That is, don’t buy something if you need it once or twice, and you know someone who has one, or you can lightly hitch a ride on something that was going to be wasted anyway. This puts one in a complicated social network I call the ‘favor economy.’ Unlike some other barter systems, it relies not on a one-to-one exchange of goods or services, but on vague, consensus-based goodwill and mutual aid.”

I’m very grateful to Shir, Erin, Jenn, and Devan for providing the space, equipment, and knowledge for me to be productive. I feel really lucky to have been the recipient of so much generosity and hospitality. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I have plenty of time and all of the tools—physical, technical, and psychological—for the task at hand.

First Thursdays opening reception, The Eve Of..., Portland 'Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

First Thursdays opening reception, The Eve Of…, Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

Results. I’m very happy with how The Eve Of… looks at ‘Pata and also at its satellite location in the PDX Contemporary windows, alongside Ethan Rose’s excellent solo show. I owe huge thanks to Josephine Zarkovich and David Huff at ‘Pata, as well as Caitlin and James at PDX Contemporary. During the openings on First Thursdays, I ran into old classmates who’d moved to Portland recently, collaborators who happened to be driving through town, and even a colleague who I’d recently met in Wichita. Moreover, so many people came in to the galleries—friends, colleagues, supporters, and the curious. It was a very satisfying conclusion.

Christine Wong Yap, Projection, 2014, video installation: video, wood, fabric, acrylic, 80 x 32 x 32.125 inches.  Installation view at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

Christine Wong Yap, Projection, 2014, video installation: video, wood, fabric, acrylic, 80 x 32 x 32.125 inches. Installation view at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

The Eve Of…, including works created in residence at c3:initiative, will be on view through July 18 at the Portland ’Pataphysical Society in Portland, OR. A satellite exhibition is on view until June 27 in the windows project space at PDX Contemporary.

Correction: The link to photographer Joe Greer has been updated.

Make Things (Happen), News, The Eve Of...

Residency and Exhibition of The Eve Of… and a Talk about Make Things (Happen)

Christine Wong Yap, Mirror #1, 2014, wood, asphalt-based coating, light, acrylic, mirror, 13.625 x 13.625 x 5.5 inches

Christine Wong Yap, Mirror #1, 2014, wood, asphalt-based coating, light, acrylic, mirror, 13.625 x 13.625 x 5.5 inches

I’m in Portland, OR…

…exhibiting The Eve Of… at the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society and in the windows at PDX Contemporary…

…developing new work for the show in a residency at c3:initiative (and using the Pulp and Deckle paper making studio)….

…and talking about Make Things (Happen) with guests Julie Perini and Lexa Walsh in PSU’s Assembly.

Join me!

May 20–June 6, 2015

June 4–July 17
Exhibition: The Eve Of…
Portland ’Pataphysical Society (PataPDX)
625 NW Everett St #104

May 30–June 27
Window Project Satellite Exhibition : The Eve Of…
PDX Contemporary Windows, 925 NW Flanders

June 4, 6–8pm
Opening Reception
at both ‘PataPDX and PDX Contemporary

Wednesday, May 27, 8-10 pm
PSU Assembly
A discussion about Make Things (Happen) (in partnership with PSU MFA in Art & Social Practice’s Assembly 2015). Features guest dialogists and Make Things (Happen) participating artists Julie Perini and Lexa Walsh. At Portland ‘Pataphysical Society. Limited seating.


Matter Over Mind: Work and the Importance of Rest

The non-art life that makes an art-life possible.

In the past three and a half weeks, I was home in NYC working my various freelance and day jobs. Artists generally don’t like to publicize their day jobs, for fear of seeming less serious or successful as an artist. But perhaps by omitting my jobs on my blog, I’m implying a falsehood that my art is my income. So: I work as an artist assistant, freelance art handler (recently at the Frieze and NADA fairs, and occasionally at the Museum of Arts and Design), and freelance graphic designer. This is how I cobble together an income to live in NYC, make art, and save up for and recover financially from residencies and exhibitions. The multiple streams mean I’m not tied down or dependent on any one employer (say, for fear of losing health insurance). The trade-off is that it’s financially precarious but strategically flexible. As someone at the Center for Cultural Innovation once explained, artists often advance opportunistically, by taking opportunities as they come.

For example, my residency at c3:initiative happened quite by chance: the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society invited me to do a show. I asked them to suggest places to stay. They asked c3. Then we figured out that making new work for the windows at ‘Pata fit c3’s mission. (Thank you Jo, Dave, Shir and Erin!) Luckily, the people I work with get that I’m a worker and an artist; they psychologically support me by tolerating my occasional unavailability. I realize how uncommon this is, especially as workers’ personal time is increasingly infringed upon by work responsibilities like answering emails, etc.

When I look back at the past few weeks, I’ve realized two small lessons:

I need to be intentional about down time. My body has been forcing me to take breaks via jet lag, exhaustion, and back pain. I’ve been working long days and late nights to maximize on art opportunities and income generation, and to reciprocate clients’ and employers’ commitment. It’s been a sprint. Running training plans outline different types of training for each day of the week, including speed, endurance, active recovery, and rest. Skipping the latter two is a recipe for injury. I have to fight the “cult of busyness.” It’s not enough to catch up on sleep, either; I can’t be like a toddler, toggling between ‘overdrive’ and ‘knocked out’—I need to be conscious to decompress. Though I want to be productive this residency, I also need it to recharge me. Period. It’s not about slowing down to serve the creative process. Utility isn’t everything. (E.g, I’m not a corporation craving insights on creativity and happy workers in order to increase revenue and productivity). I need to prioritize the inherent value of rest and recovery.

Follow-up is work. I left the residency at Harvester Arts on the day after my opening. It was emotionally satisfying to do so—I left just after the high point. But there were a few days’ worth of color-correcting, writing captions, blogging, web updates, bookkeeping, etc. that followed. Administrative labor is work. It’s often very gendered labor, which may contribute to why it’s often invisible and undervalued, as ET pointed out. I can’t fall into that trap. I need to acknowledge that a residency project doesn’t always end when the actual residency does. Just as I’d try to schedule out time to prepare for a project, I have to allow the time and energy for post-residency labor.