Portland ‘Pataphysical Society
Address: 625 NW Everett st #104, Portland, OR, 97209
Contact: Josephine Zarkovich
Open Hours: Friday/Saturday, Noon – 5pm; Other times by appointment or chance
How is the project operated?
How long has it been in existence?
Public programming began in October 2014.
What was your motivation?
We were inspired by Swiss curator Harald Szeemann’s description of independent curating as a ‘pataphysical solution to many of the challenges and limitations of working within traditional institutions.
Using ‘pataphysics (the science of imaginary solutions) as a tool, we decided to create a space to present exhibitions and ideas in ways that might not be possible in more established organizations. We began as a domestic space, hosting exhibitions, screenings, and events in a 2nd floor apartment in downtown Portland, and have since moved to a ground-floor gallery that is accessible to the public.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
The space is co-directed by Josephine Zarkovich and David Huff.
How are programs funded?
We are a ‘no-profit’ organization. Programs are primarily subsidized by our day jobs. However we have received grants from the Precipice Fund (supported through the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Calligram Foundation/Allie Furlotti) and the Regional Arts & Culture Council.
Who is responsible for the programming?
Exhibitions are curated by the co-directors (Zarkovich and Huff). We also partner with like-minded groups and organizations for collaborative programming (such as Signal Fire, HTML (hundred thousand million labyrinths).
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We stage 6 exhibitions per year, along with 1-2 events/programs per month.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Our space is small, so we tend to focus on solo exhibitions and fairly intimate programming. Over the past year we’ve shown a large hand-painted floor-based spirit board, an original animation showing the last tragic hours of Laika the Soviet space-dog, oil paintings featuring landscapes taken from Zombie films, and wildfire maps made from pigment created with charcoal collected from burn sites. So it’s basically a lot of death and destruction so far. We’ve also hosted constrains-based writing events, film screenings, and communal dinners.
How is your programming determined?
The gallery is a live/work space, so whatever happens there has to be something we can live with (literally). We often seek out partnerships that are interesting to us and have the potential to bring new people into our space. When choosing projects, we strive to show challenging, risk-taking work that also has some entry point for non-art viewers.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes! Proposals should be short, interesting, and stripped of unnecessary adjectives. Proposals should also demonstrate a general understanding of our space and the kind of programming we are interested in. You can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We believe spaces are better defined by their limitations than their strengths. We have a small footprint, big windows, a good location, two small dogs, and a shoe-string budget.
We routinely ask ourselves ‘What is the most ambitious thing we can do given what we have?’ We often ask our artists what they’ve always wanted to do, but were unable to because it was too risky or weird.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Working: Artists seem excited to show here; lots of foot traffic; good neighbors (both art-folks and non-art-folks); strong cocktails have led to good late night conversations; paying artist honorariums (even small ones) makes us feel like we are doing the right thing.
Not Working: Day jobs mean limited hours and less time spent on programming; we need to find a better process to commission writers; event attendance can be a crapshoot; paying artist honorariums (even small ones) makes us broke.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We are not a commercial gallery, so the potential for sales does not drive our curatorial decisions. We are also not a non-profit, so we do not have or need a mission statement/vision statement/sustainability plan. We see ourselves as a laboratory and make curatorial decision based on our interest and conversations with our audience.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We’ve been kicking around the idea of putting together a 501(c)10 organization. 501(c)10 is the little-used IRS nonprofit designation for Fraternal Orders. We think there might be some benefit to starting a Fraternal Order for Artists and Arts workers, and would like to get other people (especially in other cities) together to form a lodge system. If you are interested please email us!
Images courtesy of Portland ‘Pataphysical Society.