About The Watcher Files Project

In March of this year, Garrick Imatani and Kaia Sand were awarded a public art project by the Regional Arts & Culture Council that takes the form of a residency with the City of Portland Archives and Records Center. The Archives center—formerly housed inside a defunct incinerator in North Portland—was relocated to the 5th floor of the Portland State University Academic & Student Recreation Center in 2010. Portland Percent for Art funds generated through this construction serves to fund the residency, and the public programming and material works we will make.


We are engaging a series of surveillance documents collected by the Portland Police Bureau on various activist groups in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In 1981, an Oregon law made it illegal to conduct surveillance on organizations not linked to a criminal investigation, and the files were slated for systematic liquidation. Officer Winfield Falk, a lead detective conducting this surveillance, stole away 36 boxes of files into a barn. In 1987, he died of a heart attack. It would be another 15 years until someone anonymously donated the boxes to the Portland Tribune newspaper, which subsequently ran a series of articles (and coined the term “Watcher Files”) that caught the eyes of City Archivists who then laid the legal groundwork to acquire the documents on behalf of the city of Portland. The archivists ventilated the documents with springtime air, drying out the mold blooms, clearing off mice droppings, and sweeping off encrusted dirt. They were successful saving most of the documents but some were unsalvageable, such as stacks of photos that had emulsified into bricks. The remaining files contain information on 301 different organizations.


We are creating a series of artistic and literary interventions that served as an addendum to those original files, a way to talk back and infuse the official accounts with unrepresented voices. Our project attempts to underline and annotate what is missing within the institutional record.

The Watcher Files Project is a City of Portland Percent for Art project, managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council


Thank You:
Abra Ancliffe, Assistant Professor in Printmaking, Pacific Northwest College of Art
Lydia Au, Research Assistant
Katherine Ball, artist, activist and designer
Diana Banning, City Archivist
Chris Beanes, City Planner, Design Review, City of Portland
Jules Boykoff, poet and Associate Professor & Dept Chair of Politics and Government, Pacific University
Inge Bruggeman, artist and Oregon College of Arts & Crafts faculty
Sasha Burchuk, web designer
Devin Busby
Kristin Calhoun, Public Art Manager, Regional Arts & Culture Council
Kathy Carbone, Performing Art Librarian and Institute Archivist, CalArts
Jim Carmin, John Wilson Special Collections Librarian, Multnomah County Library
Clare Carpenter, owner of Tiger Food Press, faculty and Studio Manager in Book Arts at Oregon College of Arts and Crafts
Marti Clemmons
Liam Drain, artist and owner of Primo Laser
Ann Marie Fallon, Director of Portland State Honors Program and Associate Professor of Humanities
Mary Hansen, Assistant Archivist
Jen Hofer and John Pluecker, founders of the language justice collaborative, Antena
Haley Heynderickx
Brian Johnson, Assistant Archivist
Max Johnson
Lloyd Marbet, activist, caretaker and Executive Director of the Oregon Conservancy Foundation
and members of archive staff
Jeremy McWilliams, programmer and Digital Services Coordinator, Lewis & Clark College
Palmarin Merges and Printmaking Dept, Pacific Northwest College of Art
Joanne Oleksiak
Henry Polacek
George Raggett, artist
Irina Rudenko
Crystal Rodger
Susan Stoner, novelist
Heather Watkins, artist
Bethy William


This website was designed and developed by Sasha Burchuk – www.sashaburchuk.com