As an Artist-in-Resident at Poa Cafe, I wanted to examine the structural identity of the neighborhood (in particular dis/investment in the built environment) while creating improvisational relationships to and in it. The Williams Avenue Map Circles investigated the score of this North Portland street in four phases: walking workshops, collaborative sewing circles, a walking installation, and a performance with live projection. Here is the Press Release (originally published on Poa Cafe website) :
If urban landscapes are living history books, then building facades, business signs, and bike lanes compose a structural alphabet that writes the stories told by street pages. And decoding this language, or learning to read the city as a text, is just what artist Emma Colburn is doing during a year-long residency at Poa Cafe.
Last March she launched The Williams Ave Mapcircles as a series of weekly walking workshops where participants learned about and looked for different eras of investment into (and disinvestment from) the Williams Avenue neighborhood. Special guests joined each week to juxtapose local and international experiences of urban development, including Andrew Land with Friends of Trees, Portland BadAssness Map creator Dillon Mahmoudi, Stephanie Cheung with MAD Asia, and Davina and Bonnie Drummond from the British Council. By coding architectural styles with the historic moments that produced them, the mapcircles sought to expose places in the landscape that signify moments in history still negotiating through bodies performing the neighborhood today. During the next phase, Colburn collaborated with artists and staff at Project Grow to create a structuralist map of Williams Ave that leads from Tillamook (just south of Project Grow) to Shaver (just south of Poa Cafe), building a wooden framework of the fifteen blocks between these two locations. During Assembly 2016 (a conference hosted by the PSU Art and Social Practice MFA cohort of which Colburn is a member), individual artists wove personal embellishments into the wooden structure to create a map that captures the personal and collective nature of space and time. This month, Colburn collaborated with urban geographer Dirk Kinsey to incorporate the addresses along this 15-block stretch that harken to an era when the street was known as Black Broadway. In equal parts object and participation, this map expands traditional notions of legibility. Not only is it a straight line that can be read from right to left, or north to south, but what it shows depends on the people who visit it. This summer it activates audience members into participants by sending visitors into the neighborhood to photograph and upload images of the street today. And this final phase points to Colburn’s phenomenological underpinnings, capturing West as both an end point and a motion, object as form and inertia, and history as a past and a re-visioning. In fact, the structure of the map reflects this cyclical, simultaneous cosmology, as Kinsey undertook the mapping project initially in 2011 to revise the GhostMap printed by the Skanner Newspaper as part of a special edition featuring Colburn’s work at the time.
So how can you participate? For the rest of the summer, neighbors have a chance to experience this project first-hand by visiting Poa Cafe, selecting an address, and uploading a photo of what it looks like today for a scavenger hunt that combines virtual technology with old fashioned triangulation. Join us for the opening reception to experience a mapcircle in action on Saturday June 25th from 3-5pm at 4025 N Williams Ave. Poa Cafe is served directly by bus line 44, with a short walk from lines 44, 6 and the yellow line max. This event is free and open to the public, and all agesare welcome! Contact Emma Colburn at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.