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The art of rediscovery: citydrift/Portland

This weekend's citydrift/Portland is a project that Executive Curator Jenna Crowder hopes can help people "shed their ideas of themselves for just 72 hours and discover what Portland means to them outside of work, outside of their normal routines."

The project, which has weighty DNA in Situationism, and vigorous nods to Guy Debord, Jan Hoet and Colin DeLand, will include works by area "artists, performers, poets, musicians, printers, dancers, writers, gallerists, curators, choreographers, and more, as well as participants and drifters from across the U.S. and the world."

We recently asked Crowder, a Portland-based visual artist and designer, to walk us through what's behind citydrift and what she hopes the project accomplishes.

What is the genesis of citydrift/Portland?

I hope that people can shed their ideas of themselves for just 72 hours and discover what Portland means to them outside of work, outside of their normal routines.

I started organizing citydrift/Portland after I had serendipitously stumbled into citydrift/Detroit in July 2013. I was visiting friends in Detroit and wound up staying in a house where all of the citydrift/Detroit curators were living for the week. We had incredible, expansive conversations all weekend, and they encouraged me to drift, even though I wasn't very sure of what that meant. I explored the city in a way that probably wouldn't have been possible otherwise; I met interesting strangers, walked around, saw some really powerful work and some really fun work, made friends, and was engaged in the city in a particularly profound way. When I got back to Portland, I knew that model would be a great fit here. I called artist Peter Hopkins, the original creator of citydrift, and he encouraged me to take the lead and make it happen in Portland.

Hopkins was inspired largely by Guy Debord's Situationist theories; Jan Hoet's project in Ghent, called Chambres D'Amis; and by his friend Colin DeLand's work in the New York City gallery scene, which took a very playful stance on the idea of the gallery and the art fair. DeLand passed away in 2002, and Hopkins created citydrift to serve as an homage to him and his work.


Who is at the helm of the citydrift website?

Wilson Duggan, an artist and curator who has curated citydrifts in both Bushwick and Detroit, created the site with Hopkins. I've taken over the Portland pages for now, adding in drifts, schedules, and making as much information available there as we can. But it's actually an interesting question, because I almost see the website as being secondary; we'll have schedules at the three major venues (SPACE Gallery Annex, Zero Station, and Thompson's Point), and we try to encourage people getting together to drift as much as possible and wander around. The website hopefully supports that, while simultaneously using the digital realm for its potential to make things as accessible as possible.

How does citydrift work across multiple cities?

Because I'm not the original creator of citydrift, I probably can't give as best an answer as Hopkins might. However, I do think the idea behind the multi-city approach is that every place has something very specific to think and talk about. The constraints and parameters are different; the contexts are different. It allows its inhabitants — and those "from away" — to dive into a place and discover what it means to live and exist in a place and be an active participant therein. Having citydrifts in various cities means that we cannot only talk about what's going on in each of these places, but eventually we create an integrated network of drifters across the globe. We've invited some of the Detroit and Bushwick curators to play with us here in Portland, and I'm sure that model will only continue to develop and connect people across cities in meaningful ways. 

Is the project a one-off for Portland or will it reappear?

Though citydrift is a replicable event, it may be that citydrift/Portland is a one-time event, but citydrift/Lewiston or citydrift/Biddeford appears. I think it'd be great to see people inspired by what happens this weekend — and even how this has been unfolding over the last year — and replicate it in other places with different contexts. I do think, however, that it's possible we could see this again in Portland sometime in the future if someone would like to take the reins!

What do you hope transpires?

You know, actually, in some hosting and group facilitation communities, there are four guiding ideas that help frame conversations:

  1. that whoever shows up are the right people,
  2. whenever it starts it starts,
  3. whenever it ends it ends, and
  4. whatever happens was the absolute right thing to happen.

I think this is an incredibly relevant way to look at citydrift/Portland and the potential for the weekend.

So that being said, I hope that people have fun. I hope that people can shed their ideas of themselves for just 72 hours and discover what Portland means to them outside of work, outside of their normal routines. I'd love if people who've seen each other a hundred times actually met and talked, and maybe became friends. I'd love for people to learn something new about themselves or the city. I'd love for people to take risks and laugh and try something new. I hope that citydrift/Portland brings tremendous joy to the people who drift and anyone who experiences the drifts. 

Anything else you would like Portlanders to know about citydrift?

I'd like Portlanders (and everyone!) to know that really anyone can participate in any way they feel comfortable. A drift could be a wandering conversation. It could be an impromptu drawing. It could be a mass bicycle ride. It could be an installation of things found on a walk through the city. Whatever it is, note how it changes how you look at the place in which you live. Talk to someone about that experience. Bring back a piece of the drift to the SPACE Gallery Annex — it could be a photo, a leaf, a sample of material, an audio file — and share with us and other drifters what you discovered. The best way to know what citydrift is is to participate. And anyone can always come talk to any of the organizers, curators, or drifters at anytime. Let's have fun!


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