look back at me video still (2022) by ariella tai
look back at me video still (2022) by ariella tai

Conductions: Black Imaginings

Mar 22, 2023 – Mar 26, 2023

Conductions: Black Imaginings is a programmatic series of in-gallery ephemeral activations by Black artists that look at the ways in which Black performance, sound, video and social practice works become bridges between present Museum practices and future Black imaginings of those spaces. Drawing on the use of the term “conduction” in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ novel The Water Dancer as well as the work of composer and conductor Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, conduction is a practice of possibilities and a conjuring of unconventional routes towards collective creation and living.

This iteration of Conductions engages the work of artists ariella tai, Ella Ray and Sharyll Burroughs in considerations around relationships to and exchanges of power. The works in this first iteration directly recognize power as a malleable material, nodding to our collective potential to manipulate, exchange and destabilize it. Unconcerned with politeness, respectability and political correctness, these works gesture towards honest and challenging conversations around agency and self-determination.

Left: Burning Questions (2020) by Ella Ray; Right: KOAN (2019) by Sharyll Burroughs
Left: Burning Questions (2020) by Ella Ray; Right: KOAN (2019) by Sharyll Burroughs

ariella tai is an experimental filmmaker and independent programmer born and raised in Queens, NY, currently based in Portland, OR.  tai is one half of “the first and the last,” a fellowship, workshop and screening series supporting and celebrating the work of black women and femmes in film, video and new media art. They have shown work at Anthology Film Archives, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art, Northwest Film Center, Wa Na Wari, the Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival, MOCA and Smack Mellon, amongst others.

Ella Ray is a writer, library worker, and curator concerned with the manner in which refusal, friendship, and illegibility can be embodied in visual and performance art. These lines of study are augmented by Ray’s desire to create pathways for their people to access educational and artistic material for their own research and pleasure. Ray was the 2019 Kress Interpretive Fellow at the Portland Art Museum and has been a writer in residence with the Black Arts Ecology of Portland, the Black Abbey Residency, Stelo Arts, and, most recently, Black Embodiments Studio. They made their curatorial debut in 2021 with the group show “Nobody’s Fool,” hosted by Carnation Contemporary.

Ray’s essays, reviews, and research have appeared in/on Variable West, Cult Classic Magazine, the Studio Museum in Harlem’s website, in exhibition catalogs for King School Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. Beyond work, Ella is committed to being a sister and a friend.

Sharyll Burroughs uses history, racism, and identity to elicit new ways of contemplating what it truly means to be human. Her interdisciplinary practice includes digital art, mixed media, performance, and art commentary. Additionally, she engages in social practice facilitating group dialogues which reimagine identity. She thinks of herself as an artist who writes, primarily about art, identity, and culture.

Sharyll attended the Santa Monica College of Design, Art, and Architecture, founded by MacArthur Fellow Joan Abrahamson. Her art has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Los Angeles, CA, and Portland, OR. Performance and social practice works have been experienced in venues such as the New School, New York City, the Portland Art Museum, and in galleries and public spaces in the Portland area.

This iteration of Conductions: Black Imaginings is curated by Jaleesa Johnston, Head of Public Programs and Engagement and supported by the Artist Fund and the Learning and Community Partnerships Department at the Portland Art Museum.