Getting to Know You 

Interrogating Disjecta's Newest Curator-in-Residence

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MEET DISJECTA'S 2014-2015 curator-in-residence, Rachel Adams. No, seriously, meet her: She's straight outta Austin and will hold her first local schmooze at Upfor Gallery on Sunday, June 1.

Prior to Portland, Adams served three years as associate curator of exhibitions and public programs for the Contemporary Austin. She also recently curated an installation by the Brooklyn-based Justin Cooper that made exuberant use of green garden hoses. In September, as the newest selection for Disjecta's curator-in-residence program—now in its fourth year—she'll announce a schedule of four major exhibitions and several events, panels, and tours. But right now, she's still getting the lay of the land.


MERCURY: What initially attracted you to Disjecta?

RACHEL ADAMS: About two years ago, I saw the call for the residency, and I thought it sounded like a great opportunity for a young curator. Young curators have so few opportunities to make our own work at an institution, or especially to curate an entire season. Plus, the multidisciplinary approach to programming was very attractive, as was the city of Portland, about which I only hear good things!

What aspects of Disjecta's programming do you want to build on or continue?

I can't speak too much about what was done in the past since I've only seen shows through images on the web, but I can say I want to utilize Disjecta's amazing space, both inside and outside.

What unique updates and changes will you bring to your residency?

I'm focusing my programming on the intersection between visual art and architecture, and how that relationship is symbiotic... yet sometimes a bit fraught. It's an exciting area of research, and Disjecta is a great place to explore that with some amazing artists.

My perspective will be unique, as each curator-in-residence's has been. I've lived in numerous cities with involved art scenes—New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and now Austin—but the fact that I'm coming not from an art center but a small city that embraces experimentation and community involvement will help me add to what is already happening at Disjecta, and Portland in general.

What does "art" mean to you?

That's a hard question! I think for me, art is anything that can elicit an emotional response of some kind... and of course you can experience that in many ways: visual, literary, dance, performance, theater, the list goes on. I'm most interested in introducing the artists I work with to the community and to [Disjecta's] space, and watching what happens.

Who is Disjecta's audience? What's distinct about this niche in Portland's—or the world's—art crowd?

This is something I'm looking forward to getting to know a bit more. I haven't spent any time in Portland besides short stints in the airport (which I remember being really nice, with free wifi) and then outside the city. So I'll spend a lot of my time getting to know the audience at Disjecta, the larger art community in Portland, and the city. When I moved to Austin, I worked at Arthouse at the Jones Center, which had a similar mission to Disjecta's. When I came on board there, a large part of the audience was primarily artists in the community. If that's similar to Disjecta, then that makes the art center distinct, and allows for great interaction between the artists I work with and those who are coming to see the work. But then again, I want to help expand the audience with my work in Portland. And I hope to meet many of them next weekend!

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