Portland/UK Fellows 2015-2016
Yara El-Sherbini and Davina Drummond (UK to Portland)
Yara El-Sherbini’s playful interdisciplinary practice uses pop culture and humour to engage audiences in questioning social and political systems of power and influence. She appropriates familiar objects and social events, which are universally recognizable within specific cultural contexts (games, souvenirs), to invite audiences to take a look at the society that they live in, often revealing underlying belief systems, drawing audiences into a series of questions that ask ‘how do we come to know what it is that we know?’
Davina Drummond works at the intersection between art and art education, purposely blurring the boundaries between the two disciplines. She creates site or date specific relational works, often incorporating the use of text and textiles. Davina’s practice explores modes of making artworks, which involve the process of social interactions and creative collaborations with others in gallery, non-gallery spaces and educational settings.
Yara and Davina hosted a social practice picnic and led talks at PSU to address their enquiry into this aspect of career sustainability: Articles which attempt to address the real-life difficulties, such as “You can be a Mother and Still be an Artist” (August 2016 - artsy.net) continue to present the ‘artists’ as painters or artists who make work for a wall, with the backing of a commercial gallery, and travel to art fairs to sell their work. But what about the vast majority of artists, like ourselves, who do not work in such a traditional model, and don’t have commercial backing? Artists who are not making work to sell, but are passionate about social practice, public art, and live art, who make site specific politically challenging work that simply does not ‘sell’?
Image credit (above): courtesy of the artists
Phoebe Davies (UK to Portland)
Phoebe Davies’ practice is defined by its location and context, investigating and exploring how people perceive their social framework. She works in response to and in collaboration with individuals and communities. She generates work through instruction, discussion and live interaction, which may be initiated by an individual or group but completed or extended by others, be it producing DJ sets in elderly care homes, road side installation connecting local farming villages or feminist nail salons. Her outcomes are project dependent; she works across media, including text, installation, performance, audio, video and photography. Her work is often ephemeral and chanced upon, existing primarily in pedestrian spaces as well as in galleries and institutions, including Tate Britain (London), Whitechapel Gallery (London), Arnolfini (Bristol), Tramway (Glasgow), Fierce Festival (Birmingham), South London Gallery (London), Camden Arts Centre (London), stierischer herbst festival (Graz, AU) and SA-UK British Council Season (Johannesburg, SA). Phoebe is an Artsadmin artist. She is currently one third of the Bedfellows, a research collective exploring sex education, sexualized imagery and feminist porn. Bedfellows are Artists in Residence 2016 at Tate Modern for the Learning Tate Exchange Programme. For her fellowship Phoebe explored 2 avenues, the first being social curatorial programming and artist-led projects situating work within marginalized contexts alongside Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Disjecta and Likewise. The second focused on self publishing as a political and social medium working with Publication Studio PDX and ASP alumni Guestwork and Molly Sherman. She also worked alongside Harrell Fletcher and the PSU Art and Social Practice MFA to present a work SEX TALK MTG as part of the Assembly Conference 2015.
Image credit (above): Phoebe Davies' feminist nail salon, Influences. Photo by James Allen
Travis Souza (Portland to UK)
Travis Souza's practice tends towards documentary and research based strategies to reflect cultural identities within specific contexts, that often produces unlikely institutional or organisational relationships. Through these relationships, platforms are created for the ‘personal’ and ‘private’ aspects of our cultural identities to be seen, articulated, celebrated, and understood in relation to larger societal issues. For example, Travis walked the 520 mile route of a proposed high speed rail line connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco and his resulting video, revealing what impact it would have on those who live in its path, was submitted to the High Speed Rail authority to inform their planning process.
Travis focused his ASP fellowship on spending time in rural and remote areas in Scotland: Deveron Arts and the Walking Institute; Atlas Arts, based in Portlee on the Isle of Skye; and the Bothy Project on the self-governing Isle of Eigg. He also visited the Environmental Arts Department at the Glasgow School of Art and Grisedale Arts in the Lake District.
Image credit (above): THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD, project following Travis' fellowship
Travis Neel (Portland to UK)
Travis Neel is half of the artistic partnership called Guestwork with Erin Charpentier. Guestwork creates work that addresses modes of collaboration and participation and uses humor to play with established forms of production to unpack power dynamics and test idealism in the politics of everyday life. Their work has included an artists’ iteration of karaoke in which a local political issue is matched with a pop song that is then rewritten to reflect a new narrative, and high stakes arm wrestling involving intimate conversation about the value of artists' labor and the ethics of compensation. For this fellowship, Travis and Erin visited London to explore UK approaches to peer-led alternative art schools; research archives of social movements and arts activism; and meet with practitioners and arts organizations engaged in social practice.
Image credit (above): Wages For Housework-From the Mayday Room Archives, Travis Neel fellowship documentation