When Paul Middendorf and Paige Saez founded Gallery Homeland last October, one of the most intriguing aspects of their project was their plan to develop a residency program that would bring artists from across the country to Portland. The program has begun to take shape recently, with Harrell Fletcher and Stephanie Snyder serving as advisors. Plans are also in the works to begin exporting local artists to San Francisco, Chicago, and New York for similar residencies. Last week, the inaugural resident, Chicago-based artist Bonnie Fortune, arrived in Portland for a weeklong stay. Fortune, who Middendorf calls a "DIY geographer," is best known for projects that map personal relationships to a city. Both Free Walking (freewalking.org) and In the Weather (intheweather.org) are essentially self-guided tours created by a host of artists that lead participants to explore their city, their relationship to it, and space in general.
What are you working on during your residency?
I'll be giving a laundry lecture [an ongoing Red76 project], leading a walk, and making a zine to commemorate the walk. Every walking project has a zine that collects the philosophy surrounding it and anchors it in dialogue. I'm calling this one PDX=PDA because the walk itself is, in a way, a public display of affection.
How did you begin to work on these self-guided walks?
Walking in urban areas has a long history—particularly in art, with the Situationists. For me, it began when I moved from Nashville to Chicago in 2001 and experienced a kind of shock living in an urban environment. One day, I walked three miles home from my office job and discovered neighborhoods I never could have seen from the train or a car. I also felt more connected to the city, to space, and my own body.
What happens on the walks?
I rarely lead the walks; that's usually left to other artists whom I invite to participate. I just organize and compile writings in the zines. But Free Walking is really about interrupting your daily routine and connecting with other people. Trying to look at everyday life in a different way—that's where the art comes in.