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The Watcher Files Project


Artists Bring Archived Surveillance Records To Light.” Think Out Loud on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“Poetry and Art from the Archives of Big Brother” by Judith Pulman in Oregon ArtsWatch

The Watchers at the Gate” by Jake Thomas in Street Roots

In 2013, Garrick Imatani and I began a collaborative artist residency with the City of Portland Archives and Records Center, a Percent for Art project commissioned by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Our collaboration resulted in The Watcher Files Project, an engagement with surveillance documents collected by the Portland Police Bureau on civic and activist groups in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In collaboration with some people surveilled in the files, as well as other artists, we created a series of artistic and poetic interventions as a way to annotate some of what is missing within the institutional record, as well as investigate and transform what is there.

So He Raised His Hand
So He Raised His Hand emerged from conversations with Lloyd Marbet from July to October 2013. The poems tell stories of his dogged activism that helped free Oregon from nuclear power plants, both through the demolition of Trojan nuclear plant and the prevention of additional plants such as the Pebble Springs nuclear plant.

Exhibits & Performances


We have exbibited the Watcher Files Project in a number of settings, including the Blaffer Art Museum at University of Houston as part of the Antena exhibit; UCSanta Barbara, Portland City Archives, the North Portland Branch of Multnomah Public Library, and Portland State University (Laminated1). We have also given a number of talks and performances. (more).

During this segement on OPB’s Think Out Loud that Garrick Imatani and I did , you can hear the clip where Marbet tells the story that leads to his statement, “So He Raised His Hand.”

After reading police surveillance reports on Lloyd’s activism, Garrick Imatani & I traveled to the land Lloyd caretakes north of Estacada, Oregon, to learn some of his stories. I then arranged seven of these stories onto the page, adding verses based on his images and rhythms. Lloyd next edited the text, and I wrote opening & closing poems casting Lloyd as “the Caretaker.” Inge Bruggeman letterpress printed the poem from hand-set metal type and photopolymer plates on a Vandercook proof press. The entire poem is available here.

She Had Her Own Reason for Participating
As I culled through files, I noticed that a number of the surveilled groups were fighting for the rights of women. If the editorial logic of these investigators was one of fear—a sense that people posed a danger, meriting surveillance—then what did they fear about women and people organizing for the rights of women? I began to gather sentences in the files that began with “She.” The language comes from the files on the Alliance for Social Change, American Indian Movement, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Friends of the Sisters of the Streets, George Jackson Brigade, Mom’s Garage, National Organization for Women, Patriot Party, Rape Relief Hotline, Trojan, Tudeh Party, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament, Women of All Red Nations, Women Strike for Peace, Women’s Night Watch, and Women’s Rights Coalition. This poem forms a small populace of women—women who organized dissent; women who labored; women who suffered violence and imprisonment; women engaged in struggles during my girlhood years when I learned to be proud of a legacy of feminism, unaware of just how threatening those with power found feminism.


Various iterations of She Had Her Own Reason for Participating has appeared in various print publications, including Tripwire, Everyday Genius, and Toward. Some. Air. Daniela Molnar recast “She Had Her Own Reason for Participating” with this sign project.

In the first iteration of the poem, I sledgehammered copper index cards, a poetic alternative to the meticulous index cards the police investigators kept on activists, the cards comprise a drawer of copper cards Garrick Imatani built into a plinth. Many of these same struggles continue, and it was with this in mind that Daniela Molnar and I walked the route of that original Flashlight March, and she created the signs to shift this language into a contemporary space. Molnar and I collaborated on an accordion-fold book sandwiched between copper covers.

The Bright Threat of Attention
Imatani & I posed a question to each other: “where is anonymity within a public document.” My response was to embroidered cursive lines of poetry, black thread on black cloth, like an underexposed print. We then recast the poem, my handwriting laser cut into the panels of a cabinet Imatani built to be read like a book, with drawers of artwork.