To help you navigate this year’s Festival, we’ll be sharing regular posts on some of the “through-lines” of this year’s program. Whether you have a particular interest in dance or site-specific projects or visual art or film, we’ve got a whole suite of projects for you to discover. So buy a pass and start making connections between this year’s artists. In this edition, we turn our attention to the thread of political activism running through some of our TBA projects.

Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol, El Rumor del Incendio. Photo: Anne Vijverman.

It’s natural that in any given cultural moment (local or global), certain ideas will percolate. You know how at certain moments it seems like Hollywood releases three asteroid blockbusters in a matter of weeks? Call it zeitgeist, call it coincidence, but we’ll come out and call it significant. This year, we were struck by the number of artists who are working at the borders of art and activism, exploring big political shifts in societies around the world. In 2011, the first inklings of these political leanings were already present in artistic practice, not least in our visual art program, entitled Evidence of BricksFollowing a year that spanned from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, it’s small wonder that so many artists are now unveiling projects that reflect revolution and protest and uprising and political renewal.

Perhaps central among these projects at TBA:12 will be a world-premiere dance piece by Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero Performance. Developed in-residence this spring at PICA , Turbulence (a dance about the economy) attempts to make sense of the global economic collapse through improvisation and deliberate failure. The performance references images as disparate (but eerily related) as circus performance and Abu Ghraib, while exploring the many ways that our language and ideas about economies are literally “embodied.” Through a June symposium hosted around their residency, the company explored the problematics of queer identity and performance, of alternative economies, and whether art can truly be political. Their questions and investigations will continue at the September TBA premiere.

Big Art Group also asked a lot of questions during their pre-TBA residency, some quite literally. Their time in Portland centered on a week of community interviews by Portland residents of their friends and neighbors. The questions they posed covered everything from census-style information to deep and challenging issues at the heart of democratic society. Can you wage a war on behalf of democracy? Is terrorism ever justified? What makes a community? Together, these videos form the digital “Greek chorus” of The People—Portland, a multi-city serial project that loosely examines the tragic Oresteia, often cited as a founding text of civic society. Big Art’s performance will span a monumental video projection on the facade of Washington High School and engage with some of the core values underlying our political system.

Seminal artist, musician, and storyteller Laurie Anderson has developed a new piece entitled Dirtday! to cap off her story cycle trilogy. Over a varied career spanning countless subjects and themes, Anderson has consistently tapped into the present and the echoes of our recent past. From the legacy of 9/11 to the impact of last year’s Occupy movement, Anderson is an astute chronicler of the American political consciousness.

Moving beyond American soils and concerns, Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol is a young Mexican company investigating the political heritage of their country and the society their generation has inherited. In two bold “documentary” plays at TBA, Lagartijas will expose two overlooked aspects of Mexico City’s history—the armed revolutionaries of the 60s (El Rumor del Incendio) and the destruction of its natural aquifers and water sources (Asalto al Agua Transparente). Through a mix of archival text and footage, video, and original theater,  the company will set out to, “document the truth within the fiction, not to interpret it.” A worthy goal for any politically-minded artist, to be sure.