STILL LIFE: From Creative Material Group’s Motelhaus.
Artists, designers, film- and bookmakers, teachers, performers, cooks, and motorcyclists Leon Johnson and Megan O’Connell recently made Portland the home for their life, work, and family. Along with them they brought the nascent non-profit organization they’ve just founded, Creative Material Group.
A post-disciplinary laboratory for extraordinary forms of cultural experience, CMG has a series of ambitious projects underway and grand visions for more to come. The Phoenix caught up with Johnson and O’Connell to find out more about this — in their words — ”convergence of artists who actively invent, develop, and bring to the public games, interactive works, publications and performances.”
Do you have a vision for what you and your organization wish to be in five years? What does this look and sound like?
We intend to develop original, collaborative intermedia performance works for theater, film and video, and site-specific venues.
We will publish artist books, ephemera, and zines. We have bought our first manuscript, Sweet Matthew: The Life & Works of Matthew Roydon by Charles Nicholl, who is the author of Leonardo Da Vinci: Flights of the Mind and Somebody Else, his account of Arthur Rimbaud’s life in Africa, which won the Hawthornden Prize.
Performance works in development include Blue Hammer, a post-colonial nightmare unfolding on the set of a cable television show in Wartburg, Iowa. With dance numbers.
Concerning Creative Material Group, we understand this endeavor to, quite simply, be the most vivid way to dwell, engage, and collaborate within a community. That is, we want to bring in artists locally, nationally, and internationally, and conjure work and creative speculations together. We think this is a fabulous way to link communities and join conversations.
What’s the story you tell about how the idea came about, and how it moved from a good idea, to a concept with real traction, to really getting underway with inventing it, incorporating it, etc.?
In reviewing our community of artists, over dinner one night, in Eugene, Oregon, in 1997, we were amazed at the diversity of artists and creative players and the fact that most of them were, at best, temporary inhabitants. Soon, many of them would migrate, some far afield.
We decided to mark the time and honor the group with an event — and so the project Motelhaus: One Night Stand[s] was birthed.
We conceived of this event as an opportunity to examine issues of personal and global identity, transience and place, tapping the narratives of embarking, traveling, arriving, leaving, and so forth. Ten artists were invited to design and install projects in the rooms of a downtown motel for two nights. The parameters were simple: nothing could be removed from the rooms, and they were not to be used as traditional gallery spaces. Check-in time was 12 noon.
The group consisted of artists originating from China, Romania, Vietnam, Iran, North America, and South Africa, most of them temporary, some permanent, residents in the Pacific Northwest. Over 1100 people attended the event. Entire families from our community were out and engaging with the project. It was quite remarkable.