It’s once again that time of year when artists and art lovers from around the world coalesce here in the cloud covered rain swept dramatic rose city of Portland Oregon for the PICA TBA Festival.  That means I get to take off my work gloves for a few days, dust off my cameras and head out and expose myself to art.  PICA TBA 10 headquarters is again at the old condemned yet wonderfully reclaimed Washington High School on SE Stark street.  This year’s opening night seemed a bit more subdued than last year, it appeared that there were a few less people for the free show, and I missed the giant colored video projections that they had on the front of the building last year.  Anyhow I was excited to get out of the house and check things out.  I didn’t have much time to check out the visual art galleries out before they did a sweep to start the music puppet performance, but I did get a chance to see a few things.

The first visual art gallery (converted classrooms) that I walked into was a video projection piece by Christopher Miner titled ” The Safest Place”.  This video was simple and relaxing consisting of what appears to be someone doing somersaults over and over in zero-g, like on the space shuttle or MIR space station or something with a meditative singing or chanting going on for a soundtrack.  I usually have no idea what these performance art pieces mean, but I generally like them and just try to surrender myself and senses to them and see what it feels like.  Although simplistic I liked Christopher Miner’s “The Safest Place”.  The next visual art gallery that I made it to was another video projection piece called: “Episode 3 and Bedroom w/ TV and Woman Lays W/ Aide” by Yemenwed.  This was probably the most impressive video art piece I have ever seen, the computer animation in this video makes Sci-Fi Hollywood Blockbusters look like children’s crayon drawings; the amount of detail and sheer beauty of this video is amazing.  It consists of computer animation and green screen techniques that blew me away, I wonder how they made this this. The central character is a type of dancer/dreamer/invalid wandering through these incredible dreamscapes all the while dressed in weird harnesses and braces doing all these cool modern dance movements, to a funky primordial soundtrack, occasionally there are three similarly attired male figures moving along also, I’d definitely recommend this one to my friends.  I cant wait to see the other episodes.  The third visual art gallery that I stepped into had another video projection piece by John Smith called “The Girl Chewing Gum” done in 1976.  This piece was more interesting historically than artistically just because I felt like I had seen it before, and also I think the projector could have been slightly out of focus so it was hard to watch and concentrate on, especially after having just seen Yemenwed’s video.  I like these high contrast situations, Portland itself is a place of high contrasts, a land of constantly intermingling light and shadows.  Anyhow the last visual art gallery I made it to before they kicked people out of the building had another video projection piece by Ronnie Bass, “2012 and The Astronomer, Part 1: Departure from Shed.”  I didn’t get to see much of this one but from what I saw it was kind of like “The Safest Place” video in that it had a fellow singing a mellow tune/chant, floating in space petting a blanket, it sounds strange, but I kind of liked it.   Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and check out these galleries more in the future. 

Part two of the evening, Japanther and the Shadow Puppet show was running a bit late, but one of my favorite things about the PICA TBA Festival is just people watching and that’s what I did while waiting for Japanther and the puppet show.  The artists and art lovers in Portland are a beautiful people, the are very individualistic and creative yet not snooty but kind hearted and that’s what gives them their real beauty.  I’d would have loved to photo all the outfits the ladies wore this evening, that ranged from vintage to homemade, yet they all looked great, comfortable, colorful, creative, unique and sexy.  Soon we were let back in for Japanther and the shadow puppet show and for me the music PICA programs is always a mixed bag.  I’d like the bands as just bands, or the visual art as just visual art, but in trying to mix the two inorganically I feel that the music and visual art are both hampered a tad.  Such was  the case with the Japanther puppet show last night.  I’m not familiar with Japanther  but I did like their songs and could tell they rocked, especially the drumming, but I could not completely focus on them because they were behind this shadow puppet screen, which was cool yet was hard to tie into the music, at least for me, mainly because someone forgot to dim the house lights so that you really couldn’t see the shadow puppet show that well.   This lighting glitch began to frustrate the audience and I imagine the performers also.  Then when a few radicals began screaming for them to turn down the house lights, security came in and threw these poor art lovers out, that were just trying to improve the show for everyone, which was also kind of a bummer.  By the end of the set they finally tore down the shadow puppet screen and Japanther played a few songs just as a band, which was good although the house lights were still on, creating an undercurrent not of a rock concert, but more of a church social.  Anyhow the puppet masters did their best and you could tell they have talent, it’s to bad a technical difficulty messed up the show, se la vie.  The second band rocked, although not my favorite type of music, I like hippy jazz funk surf space rock, the remaining audience seemed to enjoy it immensely.  Well art is supposed to challenge you and make you question yourself and your expectations and as far as that goes I’d say the PICA TBA 10 Opening Night was a success, I’ll be back.

gordon wilson 9-10-2010