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Sea Creatures light up Museum courtyard

Immersive light and sound installation kicks off new series with Mobile Projection Unit, beginning with the Portland Winter Light (non)Festival

Sea Creatures ONE NIGHT ONLY:  This Friday, February 5, 7–9 p.m.
Hank Willis Thomas neon LOVERULES: included in Winter Light (non)Festival, February 5–6 and 12–13

In a night of immersive light and projection installation, the Portland Art Museum and the Northwest Film Center invite visitors to this year’s Portland Winter Light (non)Festival. A free, annual event of the Willamette Light Brigade, the Portland Winter Light Festival builds community by bringing art and technology to inclusive audiences while invigorating Portland in the winter. Last year’s festival showcased nearly 100 illuminated art installations, and over 70 performances, live events, and educational programs. This year, the Portland Winter Light (non)Festival takes the form of physically distanced pop-up light art installations spread throughout the city across two weekends this month, February 5–6 and 12–13.  

The Museum and Film Center’s participation in this year’s (non)Festival includes our long-term installation of LOVERULES, by Hank Willis Thomas, and a one-night-only presentation on Friday, February 4 from 7–9 p.m. of Sea Creatures with the Mobile Projection Unit (MPU) in partnership with artist Crystal Cortez.  LOVERULES first appeared above the Museum Park Avenue entrance during Thomas’s exhibition All Things Being Equal…, and has remained above our doors since. Hank Willis Thomas created LOVERULES (2019) as a message of peace, resilience, and gratitude, though new meanings can be interpreted by any viewer. We are grateful to Jordan Schnitzer for lending us this moving artwork.

The Museum’s display of Sea Creatures showcases an iteration of this recent work by Mobile Projection Unit and is the latest in a continued partnership with MPU, a roving studio that presents new, experimental, site specific outdoor video projections throughout Portland, Oregon. Their work as an artist team focuses on spatializing video through projection mapping, and live interactive video performance through creative coding. Founded and directed by Fernanda D’Agostino and Sarah Turner in 2018, MPU is a curatorial project and artistic vehicle. Part of MPU’s curatorial ethos is to put the tools of production into the hands of artists.

Our collaboration with Mobile Projection Unit began last year through a series of larger programs integrating the studio’s mapped-projection artistry, beginning with the Film Center’s 2020 Cinema Unbound Awards, and continuing through the Venice VR Expanded 2020 exhibition and the annual Dia de Muertos celebration. As the pandemic has posed many challenges to sustaining community around the arts, MPU’s use of outdoor projections provides a supportive platform for artists that is also responsive to the precautions around physical distancing.

Sea Creatures was conceived as an investigation of the ocean’s transformational power and its age-old position in myth and cosmology in every culture. The installation investigates the different moods of water and how it pervades our consciousness, our mythologies, and our rituals of health and healing.  Sea Creatures’ projection imagery includes the work of artists Yunuen Rhi, Lisa and Juju Kusanagi, Jaleesa Johnston and Sophia Wright Emigh, Sarah Turner, Sparrow Dance, Yaara Valey and Sahra Brahim, and Linda K. Johnson, and is presented in partnership with a live sound performance by artist Crystal Cortez. Crystal Cortez is a Portland-based sound installation artist and programmer, as well as a professor of Creative Coding & Sonic Arts at Portland Community College. As someone who never saw herself represented in computer music or creative tech, her work focuses on the empowerment of underserved populations gaining access and knowledge around technology.

Crystal Cortez performing a sounds work

This Winter Light (non)Festival collaboration is the kick-off event for a series of monthly projection works curated by the Mobile Projection Unit spanning from February through May.  After receiving a Re:Imagine Sustainability Grant from the Museum and Film Center’s Artist Fund, Sarah Turner’s work with MPU continues to be supported by the Fund. This new media collaboration extends the mission of the Artist Fund in centering artists and their work by using both onsite and offsite projection installation, performance and sound as catalysts for artistic intervention that transforms outdoor and architectural spaces into digitally immersive environments.  

We hope that you will come out and partake in the work of both local and national artists during this series. More information coming soon!  Please stay tuned to our online event calendar, our blog, and our social media channels for news of future programs.


Portland Winter Light (non)Festival: Sea Creatures
Friday, February 5, 2021
7–9 p.m.