Probably Just the Wind at Parallax Art Center, Portland, OR

"Probably Just the Wind," is a collaborative project with guest curator Aaron Gach, founder of the Center for Tactical Magic. This exhibition will be a multimedia contemporary arts exhibition exploring Death, Necropolitics, and Transformation. 22 internationally acclaimed artists will take a variety of approaches to their art making. Each is an incarnation of a social haunting; a scream or a shout, a whisper or a chill, that calls attention to the many traces of death drawn throughout our lives. Each is its own flame, smoke, and glow that travels from one to another, reigniting in the shadows. Is it an illusion? A protest? An invocation? It’s Probably Just the Wind. 

Aaron Gach’s diverse artistic practice consistently addresses public concerns, social politics and power dynamics. Inspired by studies with a private investigator, a magician, and a ninja, he established the Center for Tactical Magic in 2000. His work has been presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; Hayward Gallery, London; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Vigo, Spain; Deutsches Theater, Berlin; and a major public commission for the City of Toronto. Aaron Gach has taught courses in Community Art, Street Media, Art & Magic, Collaborative Practices, and 4D Art at the University of California Santa Cruz, Stanford University, the San Francisco Art Institute, and currently at the California College of the Arts.

Curatorial Vision
Aaron Gach, Guest Curator for Parallax Art Center

Probably Just the Wind is not merely a survey of art and death; nor, is it a morbid fascination or fetishization of the loss of life.  It is an attempt to reconcile such attitudes within a society and culture that has yet to fully come to terms with the ways in which it, or rather we, are, in fact, collaborators, accomplices, witnesses, victims, and ritual participants in a faded rainbow of thanatological expressions.  

Death has been called “the great equalizer” and yet, there is nothing equal about the ways in which we encounter death.  Death is both custom-tailored and mass-produced.  It is sublimely private and grotesquely public.  It is feared, avoided, instrumentalized, and, at times, even celebrated.  Can an art exhibition about death be serious and somber while still being irreverent and celebratory?  Does one cast a shadow over the other?  Or is it possible that the shadows need the light to exist, and vice versa?

There’s a magic trick called the Traveling Flame in which an extinguished candle is relit using its smoke as a flame bridge.  It’s a simple illusion that’s often overlooked and only occasionally resurrected as a parlor trick or party divertissement.  And yet, in the right hands, it can be a profound, poetic moment that conjoins chemistry and art with our perception of what is or isn’t possible.  Throughout art and culture, the burning candle has become a familiar trope to represent life and death; spark and shadow.  In the performance of the Traveling Flame, the audience witnesses an illumination extinguished in an act of finality that nevertheless leaves behind sensed traces of its former existence - wafting smoke; a whiff of wax; perhaps a faint, dying glow.  In the hands of the conjuror, a scientific principle is applied to make the flame reappear with an appeal to the miraculous.  What was lost, has returned as if time has been turned back.  Light and heat and flame come alive once again.