In Northwest Portland, off Naito Parkway, towering cylinders of curtain hang suspended and dancing in the wind. Presented against a panoramic view of the Willamette River, the massive installation of papery cloth slides against itself and roars. The tents obscure taut rigging, which keeps the sculptures aloft, but visable lines dangle within reach which—when pulled—send the sculptures spinning. The system works like ringing church bells and also occasionally produces old-timey accordion music.
Habitus, the Ann Hamilton installation in the Centennial Mills Pavilion, is an unusual wonder for Portland's art scene. Despite our size and bustling creative class, we physically lack the appropriate space for monumental installations like this. Commissioned in 2016 by the Fabric Workshop and Museum and installed at Municipal Pier 9 in Philadelphia, Habitus was originally a three-part exhibition. This year's collaboration between PICA and a newer Portland art festival, Converge 45, financed a remount of Habitus's massive, ethereal drapes for TBA. There's also a social media element to the installation which functions as a second site. Several changes to this iteration of the piece connect it to Portland as a site and our city's civic and cultural history.
At the center of the pavilion is a model of the City of Portland, last updated sometime in the ‘90s. It's a nostalgic representation of our city. Viewed through the amorphous drapery, which could be otherwise soft and calming, the city becomes eerie. Homogeneous wraiths twirl and obscure as mesmerizing obstacles of vision. Hidden behind their folds, at the edge of the composition (and society, and city planning discourse) a tiny home for the homeless sits. Designed by Dwellings of Hope, the reusable home shelter kit is designed to offer a “safe, secure place to rest, heal, and grow.” There's also meaning to be inferred from Centennial Mills Pavilion's history as the former base for the Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Horse Patrol.
All of this unexpected juxtaposition—by accident or intention—adds to the potentially whimsical installation. Habitus becomes an uncanny reflection of Portland. Like many cities, we’re dithering in circles around the past while our present and future needs go unfulfilled.
We'll be blogging about TBA 2018 every day of the fest! Keep up with us at: portlandmercury.com/tba