manuel arturo abreu and Jaleesa Johnston explore and compare notes about digital performance and Blackness, amorphousness and commitments to the ephemeral, and how they each deal with “untrustworthy archives” in their bodies and memories. They share experiences in navigating colonized art spaces and the ways that oversimplified receptions of their work impact their approaches. Both work fluidly among various mediums and disciplines and they discuss the ways that collaboration, Portland, and alternative art spaces have influenced their work.
This conversation is part of a collaboration between Centrum and New Archives, focused on supporting dialogue between artists across the Northwest. Curated by Satpreet Kahlon, editor for New Archives, the conversations will also be published in a condensed form at new-archives.org.
New Archives is an online journal covering art exhibitions, events, conversations and projects along the Pacific side of BC, Washington and Oregon, west of the Cascades (roughly, from Vancouver BC to Eugene, OR). We are based in Seattle and come to publishing by way of being artists, curators, and community organizers.
manuel arturo abreu (b. 1991, Santo Domingo) is a poet and artist from the Bronx. They studied linguistics (BA Reed College 2014). abreu works in text, ephemeral sculpture, and what is at hand in a process of magical thinking with attention to ritual aspects of aesthetics. They are the author of two books of poetry and one book of critical art writing, the Oregon Book Awards Sarah Winnemucca creative nonfiction finalist Incalculable Loss (2018). Their writing has appeared in Rhizome, Art in America, CURA, The New Inquiry, Art Practical, SFMoMA Open Space, AQNB, etc. abreu also composes club-feasible worship music as Tabor Dark, with nine releases to date. They also co-founded and co-run home school, a free pop-up art school in Portland in its fifth year of curriculum. Recent solo and duo shows: Portland State University, Portland; Yaby, Madrid; the Art Gym, Portland; Open Signal, Portland; Institute for New Connotative Action, Seattle. Recent group shows: Superposition, LA; Veronica, Seattle; Felix Gaudlitz, Vienna; Critical Path, Sydney; Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC; NCAD Gallery, Dublin; online with Rhizome and the New Museum; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva. Recent curatorial: Yale Union, Portland; Center for Afrofuturist Studies, Iowa City; SOIL, Seattle; Paragon Gallery, Portland; old Pfizer Factory, Brooklyn; S1, Portland; AA|LA Gallery, LA; MoMA PS1, NYC.
abreu was a Centrum Emerging Artist Resident in 2019.
Jaleesa Johnston is an interdisciplinary artist currently living and working in the Pacific Northwest. She holds a BA from Vassar College and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work explores the black female body as both subject and material through performance, video, photography, sculpture and collage. She has been the recipient of the AICAD Post-Graduate Teaching Fellowship, Centrum’s Emerging Artist Residency and Open Signal’s New Media Fellowship. Jaleesa has exhibited her work in cities along the west coast, including San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and she currently facilitates workshops and classes in new media and performance art.
Johnston was a Centrum Emerging Artist Resident in 2018.