Critics’ Picks

Ditch Projects, One of These Nights, 2010, still from a color video, 3 minutes.

Ditch Projects, One of These Nights, 2010, still from a color video, 3 minutes.

Portland

Ditch Projects

Rocks Box Contemporary Fine Art
6540 North Interstate Avenue
March 13–April 25, 2010

“Are You Ready for the Country?,” the first outing by nine artists (Mike Bray, Julie Berkbuegler-Poremba, Damon Harris, Jared Davis-Haug, Tim Meyer, Donald Morgan, Dave Siebert, Rob Smith, and Jesse Sugarmann) who manage the Springfield, Oregon–based gallery and performance space Ditch Projects, extends the self-governing ethos of the venue, which is located in a vacated sawmill that is both physically and culturally removed from the hipster vibe of Portland and the hippie culture of Eugene. When offered a show as part of “Portland 2010,” the city’s latest iteration of a biennial, it was suggested by curator Cris Moss that the members exhibit as a collective, even though each maintains a separate practice. The group embraced the opportunity, and, in the resultant exhibition, no one artist takes authorship of any particular work.

The “country” according to Ditch includes tawdry tinted van windows sandwiched around a black light; a video of a burning air freshener on a car’s rearview mirror; and cheap fluorescent lighting––the kind often found in grimy outlet stores––that has been converted into geometric sculptural arrangements. Throughout the show, romantic notions of country life associated with the Northwest––the Slow Food movement and progressive agriculture of the region, or the Ken Kesey–inspired counterculture––are entirely absent. Instead, subtle insinuations of a repressed and increasingly unemployed working class prevail, which expands the meaning of the theme by depicting the collapsing industrial economy in the region.