Spotlight: Killjoy Collective
BriAnna Rosen of Killjoy Collective.
An interview with artist and founding member of Killjoy Collective, highlighting their art space which has been showcasing artists who identify as women in Southeast Portland since 2016.
Who is involved in Killjoy Collective?
Killjoy Collective is currently comprised of E.M. Fuller, Maggie-Rose Condit, Rachel Rosenkoetter, and myself (BriAnna Rosen).
When did Killjoy Collective start and what's the inspiration behind it?
Killjoy Collective started in late 2016 and was founded by a group of artists from the MFA in Visual Studies Class of 2016 at PNCA. After going through the rigorous program, it was decided (after many discussions between the artists, mentors, and visiting art professionals) to form a collective after realizing the six of us shared a similar vision of advancing women, women-identifying, LGBTQ+ artists in the art world.
What are the reasons and motivating factors for wanting to create an art space?
Originally, the newly formed collective wanted to find a location that could house both art studios and an exhibition area in order to create a comprehensive artist-run-space. Due to the competitive and pricey real-estate market in Portland, the collective had to shift gears and decided that an exhibition space was more important and financially possible. The desire and dream to host and showcase fellow artists in Portland, OR and abroad was more important to the collective members than having studios next to each other.
I found it was imperative to create an artist-run space that highlighted the continued gender inequity in the art world with inter-sectionalism at the core of a philosophy woven together by feminism, womanism, and queer theory. The patriarchy creates a stratified and inequitable socio-economic system that is continually propagated by denial, complicity, and apathy. In fostering and cultivating a physical, inclusive space, not only can I raise awareness, but hopefully I can spark change.
What type of artists/artwork does Killjoy Collective highlight?
Killjoy Collective provides a platform for artists exploring urgent, contemporary issues. Killjoy Collective seeks to connect audiences to artists who reveal hidden potentials, juxtapose disparate elements, destroy expectations, or surprise the senses.
I want to give solo and group exhibitions to artists of color, womxn, womxn-identifying, queer, femme, gender non-conforming, LGBTQ+, and anyone else who defies the patriarchy and the assumption that artists are white men. I also want to point attention to the fact that creative industries, along with being sexist and racist, are also classist and elitist. Art should not be a rich person's game.
The parameters for artists are flexible and organic, just like the language I use to describe the work and the collective's mission. Artists selected have unique and strong voices that often are not heard in traditional art spaces, but need to be heard by everyone. They exemplify passion and creativity, transcending the times we live in. It all sounds grandiose, but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes the most important voices that audiences need to hear are the quietest and shyest ones that rarely are given a platform to be listened to.
Why do you think it's important to create art spaces in your community?
First and foremost, art is what survives. Monuments, stories, artifacts... these are the redeeming creations of humanity. In Sci-Fi stories when an alien species is about to decimate the Earth, society points to music, poetry, and art as the reason why humans should continue to exist. Art crystallizes all the beautiful minutia of everyday life and reflects the time from whence it was constructed.
Art turns observation and interacting to experiencing and understanding. I consider it the most direct way for one soul to connect with another. Providing an inclusive art space that could foster critical thinking and strategic action was the best way to achieve goals of cooperation over competition.
Portland has a special place in my heart and not just for the friendly and accessible art community. It has helped me to define and deconstruct what it means to be part of a community both through personal experience and academic research.
Portland as a city is homogenized because of its overwhelming white racial demographics and white supremacist past. These two factors also contribute heavily to the extreme gentrification of the urban core and the continual displacement of marginalized groups. Artists are at the heart of many of these interlocking issues because their economic and cultural capital are utilized by real-estate groups, planning commissions, and policymakers to flip neighborhoods.
A real-time example of this is how the former Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland) used the relocation of PNCA from the Pearl District to the North Park Blocks to jumpstart the gentrification of Old Town/Chinatown. Or how the former PNCA site in the Pearl is now a high-rise luxury condominium. Or the purchase and re-configuration of the affordable Towne Storage art studios into a pricey creative office.
Overall, these toxic practices are creating a more expensive, less diverse, less culturally cosmopolitan city where zombie formalism reigns supreme and art spaces left and right has to close. It is of vital importance to create and maintain creative spaces that continue to dismantle the patriarchy and questions the practices of unchecked capitalism.
What are some of the challenges you've faced with starting your own art space?
Time is money and when you're already in debt from your secondary education, things start to get expensive very quickly. This is the precarious business of being an artist and curator. It's extremely difficult to manage your time as a living, breathing, working adult in the United States and even crazier if you're trying to lasso in an entire collective. Some of the biggest challenges to the collective's artistic aspirations are overcoming logistical hurdles such as coordinating everyone's day-job schedule. Another challenge has been reconciling each individual's goals and views of how and why the collective should function. But through these challenges, it makes me hungrier and more determined to be the best gallery operator and artist possible.
What have you learned from creating and having an art space and/or curatorial project?
It's easy to create the future; all you have to do is put brilliant minds together in a room.
I am dumbfounded at every reception Killjoy Collective throws because I do not recognize 90% of the people who attend. That's wonderful!!! I love that Killjoy Collective is becoming a hub for different artistic fields that normally don't congregate at an art gallery. I've learned that the power of the artwork also doesn't solely lie in the aesthetic or conceptual framework, but that its truest and most impactful beauty arises in the conversations that it can spark. The empathetic connection it can create is far more vital than the aesthetic pleasure it's wrapped in. After overhearing two women find solidarity during their conversation about surviving sexual assault, and the art exhibition was not directly about these themes, I knew that all the work and sacrifices I was making were actually beneficial and not just theoretical whimsy.
Is there anything exciting you have coming up for Killjoy Collective that you can share with us?
June 16, 2018, from 7-9 PM is the closing reception of Children of Revulsion curated by Tabitha Nikolai. Performances include Laurence Myers Reese and VR by Stephanie Mendoza.
Next at Killjoy Collective, Kanani Miyamoto will have a solo exhibition and installation that runs June 30-July 21, 2018 with an opening reception on June 30 from 7-9 PM at night. Miyamoto's work will critically investigate the Tahitian residency of artist Paul Gaugin.
July 9-August 2, 2018 Killjoy Collective will have an exhibition Sun Kittens and Moon Puppies at Portland State University's Littman Gallery. The reception will be July 20 at PSU. I'm personally excited to release my first book, Sun Kittens and Moon Puppies - Radiant Futures, in conjunction with the exhibition.