Date(s) - 10/26/2018 - 01/27/2019
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Portland Art Museum
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- January 2, 2019, 8 – 10 p.m. The Sun Ra Arkestra
Museum Hours: Mon Closed; Tue 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Wed 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thu 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Fri 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
In the final project of the year-long series We. Construct. Marvels. Between. Monuments., artistic director Libby Werbel partners with Deep Underground (Bethlehem Daniel, Madenna Ibrahim, Mia O’Connor-Smith, and Janessa Narciso) to present MONUMENTS. The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra ―a multimedia presentation of film, music, and art by Afrofuturist artist, musician, and philosopher Sun Ra (active on earth 1934 – 1993). As the critical conversation develops around the removal of public monuments across the American landscape, we ask ourselves: what are the new monuments we wish to build? Who are the artists, thinkers, and heroes we wish to exalt and preserve for future generations? MONUMENTS. upholds Sun Ra as one of these visionary figures.
Sun Ra was a jazz composer, musician, bandleader, teacher, and poet who became known for his theatrical performances and personal mythology: his name references the Egyptian sun god, Ra, and his origin story proclaimed that he had come to Earth from Saturn. Sun Ra has been considered the pioneer of Afrofuturism, a school of thinking that utilizes science fiction, music, art, and political theory to propose a thriving destiny for black people. From the mid-1950s on, he led a musical ensemble best known as The Arkestra. They were infamous for their avant garde jazz compositions, dances, and clothing inspired by ancient Egypt and the space age. Sun Ra and The Arkestra collectively lived their lives dedicated to preaching peace and promoting enlightenment through their music, art, and film.
The exhibition and accompanying performances highlight Sun Ra’s idea of an “altered destiny,” a utopian belief that a more meaningful and just world awaits humanity in Outer Space. To Sun Ra, Outer Space was not an escapist fantasy―it was a place where society, culture, and beliefs are reimagined to give power to the oppressed. Sun Ra’s message still resonates with many people, including Portland’s Deep Underground community, who have embraced his philosophy and see his art as a hopeful vision that offers significant pathways for black and brown identity.
Sun Ra and his collaborators left a comprehensive archive including 130 albums, countless books and broadsheets of poetry, posters, paintings, photographs, and performance attire. The exhibition includes artifacts on loan from the University of Chicago’s Alton Abraham Collection of Sun Ra Archive, with supplemental support from private collectors and music enthusiasts. Regional artists, fabricators, and designers have contributed to the exhibition design to help bring Sun Ra’s world to life for PAM visitors.