Our Picks For TBA 2019
by Robert Ham and Suzette Smith
Originally published in Portland Mercury

TBA:19 artist Myles de Bastion stands with an "all the senses" t-shirt in the middle of a blue lit room with dynamic lighting
Myles de Bastion WILLIAM DODD

If this is your first TBA, welcome! Everyone has a first. Mine was in 2008, and I just followed someone I had a crush on for the entire event—a fine approach. One of the reasons I love the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s (PICA) Time-Based Art Festival is that, year after year, they always strive to mix academic, fine conceptual art with fun, challenging performances that deserve to be included in our considerations of “art.” Last year there was a big emphasis on recognizing food as art. This year my psychic art senses feel a strong intention toward exploring bodies in space—be they human or heavenly. Here are our picks! And keep an eye out for our Time-Based Art (TBA) blog, portlandmercury.com/tba, which will review the festival’s performances as they happen. -SUZETTE SMITH

Eiko Otake
The return of Eiko Otake to TBA is a centerpiece of this year’s festival, as evidenced by her multiple performances, a screening of photographs documenting her work, and—easiest to identify—her presence on the darn festival program cover. Otake performed at the first TBA in 2003, as a part of Eiko & Koma, her longstanding performance duo with Takashi Koma Otake. But in 2014, she branched out into a solo project called A Body in Places, of which she has performed variations at more than 40 locations, most notably in contaminated landscapes impacted by the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Otake’s dance isn’t butoh, although Eiko & Koma studied with Kazuo Ohno (an early butoh figure) and cited him as an influence. Otake is known for her ability to move slowly, with critics noting that, in her solo work, her slow gracefulness feels even more intense. Otake will perform A Body in Places on TBA’s opening night. Later in the festival, she will unveil an iteration of her newest work, The Duet Project: Distance Is Malleable, with choreographer Ishmael Huston-Jones, poet Mark McCloughan, and filmmaker Alexis Moh. (A Body in Places, Thurs Sept 5, 6 pm, Center for Contemporary Art & Cultures, 511 NW Broadway, FREE; A Body in Fukushima: Reflections on the Nuclear in Everyday Life, Mon Sept 9, 7 pm, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park, $8-10; The Duet Project: Distance Is Malleable, Thurs Sept 12-Sat Sept 14, 8:30 pm, PICA [Annex], 15 NE Hancock, $20) SS

TBA:19 artist Eiko Otake stands with her white jacket open, a projection of outdoors lighting up on it
Eiko Otake WILLIAM JOHNSTON

Back to School Kiki
Last year House of Flora father Brandon Harrison gave out a serious education in ballroom dance as he emceed the late-night TBA show The Beautiful Street. Locking, popping, waacking, vogue fem, dancehall, and even krumping were included in his tutorial. If what I wrote doesn’t make any sense to you, then this Back to School Kiki is something you need to see. Best known thanks to the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, or FX’s celebrated TV show Pose, balls and ballroom culture have long been a home for queer communities to showcase their fashion, dance, and performance art. This year, Harrison hosts a Back to School Kiki (drag or ballroom gathering) and benevolently invites “spectators and first-time ball attendees to join in the fun.” Read the whole invite and don’t be late for class. (Sat Sept 7, 10 pm, PICA [Mainspace], 15 NE Hancock $5-15 sliding scale) SS

Kara-Lis stands with a black jacked under a bridge
SCOTT PILGRIM

Kara-Lis Coverdale
While Kara-Lis Coverdale’s studio works are conceptually grand and musically spellbinding, some of the Canadian composer’s most fascinating and gorgeous material has been site-specific—determined by the instrument or location. That’s why her appearance at TBA, facilitated by the curators of sound art gallery Variform, should be one of this year’s festival highlights. Coverdale will create a work specifically for the First Presbyterian Church’s pipe organ, which was custom built in the late ’90s by Dan Jaeckel, using designs first conceived in the 17th century. If the sound of the organ and Coverdale’s previous recorded work are anything to go by, the music will be huge, soul stirring, and skull shaking. (Sun Sept 8, First Presbyterian Church, 1200 SW Alder, 6:30 pm, $20-25)

Anthony Hudson
When I see Looking for Tiger Lily at this year’s TBA it will be my third time seeing an incarnation of Anthony Hudson’s drag/dance/spoken-word exploration into his First Nations identity, which Hudson says was formed somewhere between watching keynote presentations his father gave as a social worker for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and repeated viewings of the 1954 Broadway musical Peter Pan. Hudson was especially impacted by the song “Ugg-a-Wugg,” which featured a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Sandra Lee as Tiger Lily. It’s a curious and dynamic show. Watching Hudson incorporate his drag clown persona, Carla Rossi, into the fine art world (the idea that she’s a white lady from Lake Oswego kind of fits with the concept) has been fascinating and I’m grateful for his perspective, which is so entertaining you almost forget it’s an education, too. (Thurs Sept 12-Sat Sept 14, 6:30 pm, PICA [Annex], 15 NE Hancock, $20) SS

Myles de Bastion
For the past five years, Myles de Bastion and the braintrust behind Cymaspace have been developing technology aiming to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing access music and sound art through their other senses. You may have seen their delightful LED piano at OMSI, which translates the sound of someone playing the keys into light, movement, and color, or the sound-reactive light display that twinkled behind Esperanza Spalding when she played on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2015. For TBA, De Bastion and Cymaspace will present a night of experimental music that will hopefully carry on the spirit of their recent collaboration with sound-art gallery Variform, which made use of low-frequency vibrations to help any and all feel the music being played swim through their muscles and bones. (Thurs Sept 12, 10:30 pm, PICA [Mainspace], 15 NE Hancock, $5-15 sliding scale) RH

TBA:19 artist Ahaamefule stings with a brown tweed suits at a microphone
NOWIMFINE.COM

Ahaamefule Oluo
In 2015 Ahaamefule Oluo unveiled Now I’m Fine, an autobiographical live show focused on his relationship with his absent Nigerian father and the year following his father’s death. (You may have heard Oluo tell a side story about his long-lost half-brother showing up at his wedding on the “Put a Bow on It” episode of This American Life. Now I’m Fine was hailed with rave reviews for its combined elements of stand-up comedy monologue and live jazz music performance (co-written by Oluo). Oluo’s new work Susan is his next foray into his family history (a family that includes his sister, author Ijeoma Olou, and his wife, Lindy West) this time focused on his white, Midwestern mother. (Fri Sept 13 & Sat Sept 14, 6:30 pm, Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, $25) SS

Takashi Makino
In his statement announcing the creation of Memento Stella, experimental filmmaker Takashi Makino writes that he titled this work “to remind me to ‘remember the stars’ and ‘never forget that we too reside among the stars.’” Like Carl Sagan’s reflection on Earth being nothing more than a “pale blue dot” floating in the cosmos, it immediately cuts the ego down and makes one feel light-headed at the immensity of the universe we reside in. That comes alive in Takashi’s new film through gorgeous abstract images, soundtracked by stirring ambient music. For Memento Stella’s West Coast premiere, PICA and Cinema Project are offering up two different screenings: one, with an original score provided by the director, and another with a live soundtrack by composer, pianist, and experimental artist Reiner van Houdt. (Sat Sept 14 & Sun Sept 15, OMSI, 1945 SE Water, 4:30 pm, $8-10) RH

Nivhek
Liz Harris’ latest project Nivhek arrived in this world much like her music, with minute but concentrated intention. Her recent album After its own death/Walking in a spiral towards the house was a surprise, dropped without forewarning, but it immediately beguiled anyone who fell into its orbit. Not a far cry from Harris’ work as Grouper, Nivhek leans deeper into soundscapes—drones, pinging bells, and tape hiss swimming together. To close out this year’s TBA, Harris reckons with the ancient region of Mesopotamia through new Nivhek compositions with Requiem, her collaboration with fellow sound artist January Hunt, and visuals by LA artist Dicky Bahto. (Sun Sept 15, PICA [Mainspace], 15 NE Hancock, 6:30 pm, $20) RH

Robert Ham
Robert Ham is the Mercury’s Copy Chief and writes regularly about music, film, arts, sports, and tech.

Suzette Smith
Suzette Smith is the Arts Editor of the Portland Mercury where she writes about books, comics, performance, and anything else that looks like it might be art if you squint at it right.