In late June, PICA hosted a four-day symposium centered on Keith Hennessy’s TBA:12 residency for Turbulence (a dance about the economy). Over the course of the events, a shifting group of participants, artists, and local thinkers gathered for performances, screenings, dinners, and the conversations that percolated from the activities. Symposium coordinator (and Turbulence company member) Roya Amirsoleymani reflects here on one of the big ideas underlying the weekend—namely, is it possible to make “political” art?
Open rehearsal for Turbulence (a dance about the economy). Photo: Patrick Leonard.
As coordinator of the recent PICA symposium, Bodies, Identities, & Alternative Economies, as well as a guest artist in Keith Hennessy’s Turbulence (a dance about the economy), the primary point of departure for the symposium’s questions and themes, I have a richly complicated and unresolved relationship to the intersections between Turbulence as a political performance project and the symposium as an exercise in artistic and political discourse.
PICA presents contemporary art—“the art of our time,” as we often say. It is, in many ways, not only captivated by, but obsessed with, what artists are doing with and about the present. Angela Mattox, PICA’s Artistic Director, recognized the political potency of Turbulence, and that Keith Hennessy and his group of collaborative dancers and choreographers are grappling, on both aesthetic and conceptual levels, with the most timely of concerns—the sociopolitical dimensions of our economic moment.
I could use this space to reflect on so many aspects of the symposium experience and the audiences and artists who came together to build it as it happened. For now, I sense the most urgency in a question that both frames and emerges from Turbulence and the symposium—how do we make political art now, and how do we create moments to talk about it? In retrospect, this feels like a question of structure extracted from architecture, sustainability without popularity, and support systems that make a gift of discomfort; and like dances and symposia, it is rendered by bodies in time and space. (more…)
An interview conducted on the the occasion of Alex Felton’s Resource Room Residency exhibition, As the World Churns, June 7, 2012 at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.
Kristan Kennedy: Let’s start from the beginning. I was thinking back on how this arrangement came to be. In some ways you have been “in residence” at PICA for a long while. Even though our former offices were limited in their access, you visited often…
Alex Felton: (laughs) Yeah, I found a way in.
KK: Yes! You found a way in, you were an occasional fixture, an active loafer. You stayed there to do your own work, steal wi-fi, read, maybe observe… And then, of course, there were all of the times you visited me in my office at Washington High School, when we were getting ready for exhibitions. Wherever we moved, you moved with us. We are used to artists interrupting us—it might even be what we live for—but the “work” of art or that of art administration can often be messy. Sometimes we try to hide that from artists because we’re on display in the space of an office, otherwise the curtain is lifted and we are just crazy people obsessively emailing, trying to make impossible stuff happen.
On one of your visits I was panicking trying to find 100,000 matches for Claire Fontaine. I asked you why you would possibly want to witness me working, that it was boring and complicated and painful… I was in the worst state of mind.
AF: Right. What did I say?
KK: You said (and I am paraphrasing!) that you like to be around the work of making art happen, because even in its most complicated or banal moments it made you hopeful that art was WORTH working for. That made me remember something I had almost forgotten, but had no real proof of: that we are all in it together. So that was the impetus in inviting you. You had already made yourself…
AF: …at home.
KK: Yes, at home, but also you were someone who embodied the role of an artist within an institution: to keep us on our toes, to keep it real. With PICA’s move to a more permanent and accessible home, there became a mandate to invite artists and audiences to infiltrate our space. In a sense, to sanction the voyeurism and make it official.
September marks the exciting tenth anniversary of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival, and the first curated by Artistic Director Angela Mattox. Happening September 6–16, 2012, TBA is a convergence of contemporary performance and visual art in Portland, Oregon. The Festival presents dozens of emerging talents and legacy artists from around the world, and particularly champions those individuals who challenge traditional forms and work across mediums. TBA activates the city landscape with projects that bring artists and audiences into close proximity. Itinerant programs fill warehouses, theaters, and city streets with exhibits and performances, while a full schedule of workshops, talks, and late-night socializing offers outlets for the crowds to cross and mingle.
“As a curator, I love when mediums and styles collide,” says Mattox, “and the projects in this year’s Festival are firmly interdisciplinary, often moving between theater, video, movement, and music in a single piece. It is a reflection of current artist practices and of our own desire to have audiences move fluidly between these experiences.” But it is not just the profusion of forms that makes TBA such a uniquely contemporary platform; the Festival also focuses on presenting work that directly addresses the complexity of our current moment. TBA reflects on what it means to be human in today’s times, while also celebrating the creativity and imagination with which artists respond to our circumstances.
The performances this fall reflect both epic themes of democracy, community, and freedom of speech, as well as deeply personal issues around identity, home, and exile. Among the many ideas carried between works in the Festival, there is a strong through-line that looks at art as a mode for social and political activism. Keith Hennessy, Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol, and Laurie Anderson all present bold new projects that are informed by historical legacy and significant contemporary events. Mattox affirms that, “Art has an important role in advancing culture and reflecting our aspirations for society; TBA supports those artists making an impact in their communities with their work.”
Glen Fogel, With Me…You. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Glen Fogel, My Apocalyptic Moment, runs through June 30, 2012, Tuesday–Friday 11am–6pm and Saturday 11am–4pm.
PART ONE: PDX/AMSTERDAM
Glen Fogel: Hello!
Kristan Kennedy: You are right on time. Hello! What are you doing in Amsterdam?
GF: I am trying to stay awake! I have been so jet lagged. Those overnight flights really suck unless you have some Ambien.
KK: Drugs are usually helpful. Except when they aren’t.
GF: Speaking of drugs, I have never been to Amsterdam and everyone is stoned! It’s really funny.
KK: Everyone is stoned in Portland as well, sometimes it is funny, sometimes not. You will see we have a fairly regular news segment called “Faces of Meth.” It is not amusing to watch humans shrink before your eyes.
GF: Meth is not cute.
KK: Exactly. Speaking of cute, why do you think you’ve been the subject of so much adoration?
GF: Well, I think it’s kinda over now, but it was really intense for a while—from about third grade through my early 20s.
KK: I read your interview with Antony in North Drive Press. It seems your hair had something to do with it.
GF: Oh no! I can’t even remember that. Please refresh my memory…
KK: Well, you mentioned that you were small for your age, and that you had large, feathered hair bigger than your head.
KK: You made it seem that you were simultaneously trying to hide and stand out. Or that you unintentionally stood out because of your unassuming nature. This is all leading somewhere…It seems that while your work is about portraiture and mining personal terrain, it is also about perception; other eyes seeing you before you see yourself.
GF: I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but that sounds about right. It’s as if I was found out before I knew what I was about.
GF: It happened consistently for many years. I found it at once thrilling, but also really disturbing—I could’t figure out what people were seeing.
We’ve been lucky enough to spend time with artist Glen Fogel, in advance of his upcoming show, My Apocalyptic Moment in our new space. To help you get a bit more familiar with Glen, we’ve put together some links, videos, and interviews that are the next best thing to hanging out with him in person. And you can always come to the opening, this Friday, April 13th, to see the artist and his work here in town.
If you roll in certain circles, by now you might have heard that the French have discovered Portland. In a big way. PICA’s own Visual Art Curator Kristan Kennedy shares her experience curating a night of music and video art for an all-Portland-themed Parisian festival:
In a recent interview I had with a Paris newspaper journalist, he asked me “What makes Portland weird?” I wanted to scream out, “There is nothing weird about this place, it just is what it is!” But of course, just moments before, I had seen someone pushing a hula hoop and a baby carriage in tandem down the street, and a guy wearing a sleeping bag like a cape, so I knew what he was getting at. I don’t want to be weird; I don’t want my city to be weird either. That is, I don’t want it to be looked at as a curiosity. If they want to talk about our creativity, I would rather us be looked at as a catalyst, a city that sparks something. I do think Portland is strange, as in “to make strange” or to be radical or free. What makes us unique here in Portland is certainly not the slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” which was lifted from the city Austin, Texas. We could not even come up with our own slogan. Now that’s weird.
Whatever feelings I might have about those cringe-inducing bumper stickers, “Keep Portland Weird” will have another more radical meaning this spring: it has been adopted as the name of a music festival taking place from April 19–29, across four art organizations and three French cities. The Keep Portland Weird Festival will feature scores of bands, video artists, and at least one writer who all call Portland their home. Last September, a contingent of curators visited Portland from the Centre Pompidou à Paris, Centre Pompidou-Metz, lieu unique à Nantes, and Gaité Lyrique to scout music and investigate the art scene that they had heard so much about. They had selected our city as the next in an annual series that highlights the music from iconic cities around the world. The fairly young festival had previously featured music from Berlin and Istanbul—Portland was next on their list… naturally?
The group attended PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival, where they could be seen huddled in the beer garden taking nightly meetings with regional bon vivants. They stayed up all night catching bands, performance art, and other happenings at THE WORKS, and immersed themselves in the shows at MusicFestNW, the culinary treats at the food carts, the vistas from the bridges, and anything and everything else they stumbled upon. As quickly as they were here, they were gone, but they left a lasting impression and promised we would hear from them all again someday soon.
Experimental 1/2 Hour at TBA:11. Photo: Karley Sullivan.
Many emails, contracts, and passport applications later, they have themselves a festival. Later this month, evenings curated by musicians Tom Greenwood, Tara Jane ONeil, Stephen Malkmus , artist Vanessa Renwick, and others including myself will test their French theory that our scene is ripe for the picking. On PICA’s night at Gaité Lyrique, we will start with quiet loops from Dragging an Ox Through Water and escalate to relentless percussion from Brainstorm, Miracles Club, White Rainbow, DJ Beyondadoubt, YACHT, and Glass Candy whose ecstatic beats will round out the evening. I also invited Eva Aguila & Brock Fansler to screen selections from Experimental 1/2 Hour on the flat screens that surround the space, the artist Stephen Slappe to co-curate a video program of local artists, and Publication Studio and others to give me some treats for a Portland Pop-Up Shoppe of artist ephemera. Of course the other curators have a long list of happenings, which you can check out here, featuring other concerts by Holcombe Waller, readings by Jon Raymond, music by Sun Foot, AU, and so many more! The whole thing already seems like a dream, and I can’t wait to be in the presence of all of these great sounds and sights alongside an audience of Frenchies who are trying to figure us out.
In the end, I did not really answer that reporter’s question about “weirdness.” Instead, I parlayed it into an opportunity to talk about what makes the Portland art and music scene so vibrant. We are fiercely independent, and yet highly collaborative; we are innovative and into the new, but have a reverence to craft and that which came before; we like the rough hewn and the slick; we are a giant contradiction and we like it that way. A few nights in France could never sum up what makes us weird, but it can give them a taste of what makes us wild. I will be attending the festival and taking notes along the way—stay tuned for updates and obsessive photo essays. I wish we could bring everyone along, for there is surely enough talent to fill their whole country with Portland music. That will just have to wait until next time, or part deux…
15-20% of the audience walked out of a dance performance I was at recently. We were in a theatre with no back exit and a stage that ran level with the front row – like Imago. Each person that left had to walk past everyone else in the audience and a few feet downstage of the performers.
I gave the show a standing ovation, like in that campy Norman Rockwell painting no one’s ever seen.
I was in an audience with dozens of artists who are deeply invested in performance making and opinionated as all hell, or at least I was in the audience with them for the early parts of the performance.
Afterwards, we fought about the piece as if daily economic calamity, war, global poverty, local poverty or any other number matters ceased to exist. Because fighting about the nature of this one performance was of central importance to us. And the best/only way we know how to contribute to society is wrapped up in these battles over art.
I knew we would argue like this, so I took time to write down all the things I admired about the performance. I anticipated how the haters would hate so as to readily refute their bogus claims. It got heated. It forced us to show what cards we were holding, where our values and allegiances aligned and where they recoiled.
Their critiques revealed that they weren’t seeing what I saw. It offended me that they would see simplicity where I saw intricacy. It was as if they were saying that all __(insert ethnicity)__ people looked alike. And it made me fear for a future blunt of perception.
Whenever I hate a performance, I love to hear others explain what they appreciated about it.
No one worth talking to will begrudge you your values; even though they may test them with flabbergasting insistence.
Whoever Krystal South is, she wrote a thoughtful and smart post far more worth your while than this entitled “Potential Risk of Failure“. Whoever Krystal South is, she seems pretty cool even if the potential risk of failure didn’t feel so palpable to me the majority of TBA:11′s performances.
Part of this boils down to the fact that most performances that are presented in TBA are already dialed in by national and international tours prior to their presentation in Portland. It’s crucial to consider how the human factor differentiates visual and live time-based arts. Imagine crafting a performance for a period of time (several piece at TBA:11 took years to develop) and then premiering the piece, and then performing the piece in a number of cities over the course of a year or longer, and then coming to Portland, Oregon.
How is the premier different from the performance that occurs a year later? How does a performance differ in the second city it tours to compared to the third? Can work fail if it’s already been deemed laudable by other cities’ critics, festivals and audiences?
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion premiered Radio Show in Pittsburgh in January of 2010 before performing in NYC and making their West Coast premier here in Portland.
Rude Mech‘s The Method Gun also premiered in the first half of 2010 and had been staged in at least six different venues before arriving at Portland’s Imago Theatre.
Rachid Ouramdane‘s World Fair is quite new, having premiered in May and touring France through July. Portland audience’s were the first outside France to see World Fair before it travels to a couple other cities in the USA and Canada and continues to tour Europe.
tEEth premiered Home Made here in Portland last November and received a killer cash prize presenting an excerpt of the work at Seattle’s On The Boards Theatre in January.
zoe | juniper‘s A Crack in Everything is even newer, having been performed only at its premier this past July at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts.
I love that Mike Daisy was able to premier his audacious 24-hour monologue in Portland. I love how Kyle Abraham could hop on the mic after presenting his work-in-progress solo and invite audience feedback. I love that zoe | juniper were able to make their first foray into dance installation because PICA facilitated a residency at Washington High School over the summer leading up to TBA. Zoe said she couldn’t imagine it happening anywhere else.
PICA and Portland (because it always feels like half the town volunteers during the festival) have achieved so much to be proud of, and we all owe them our sincere gratitude for their devotion, but the nights I was in attendance, the main-stage performances didn’t induce anyone to stomp/sneak out mid-show.
Why that is is a question worth considering. I’ll leave that thought open for now and thank you kindly for your consideration. Let’s close with fat copy and paste from Claudia La Rocco’s report on TBA:11 for the New York Times.
Still, Portland’s festival remains an outpost within the largely conservative landscape of performing arts presenters. Often what audiences see on these stages — especially the bigger ones — is more reflective of art from the past, with little attention paid to how artists currently approach and consider their traditions.
“That’s one of the biggest disappointments I have around the culture we live in, in the States,” said Philip Bither, senior curator for performing arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, one of the few major American institutions to throw its weight behind contemporary, interdisciplinary artistic practice. “That which is, to my mind, the norm of what our culture is producing now, that which is most relevant to our times, is viewed as fringe or oddball or just out of the mainstream. Internationally the keys to the big opera houses and major cultural institutions have been handed over years if not decades ago to contemporary artists. That’s not happened in the States, so it relegates those who are trying to support the work of our times to this odd, hard-to-describe, hard-to-understand, ghettoized thing.”
One of my friends spent hundreds of hours this summer installing the Claire Fontaine piece. Mapping out the United States of America onto the wall and drilling ten thousand tiny holes, then filling them with eco-friendly green-tipped matchsticks. The volunteer labor is a key part of Claire Fontaine’s conceptual gesture, as is the condition that the curator herself light the piece ablaze, something I was anxious to hear about after seeing footage of a burn of another work by Claire Fontaine shown in Europe. In the video footage, the curator repeatedly takes a blowtorch to a different map, and the hiss of flames is joined by the wail of fire alarms as smoke spreads through the exhibition space. The artists which comprise Claire Fontaine (more on that at Claire Fontaine’s site) described the scent of the kunsthalle, and the aftermath image of the burn is seared with a feeling of a man-made natural disaster, controlled destruction within the white cube.
Alas, this series of works has not gone over well in the United States, land of the free (except for some stuff!!!). A version was shown in New York unburned at Reena Spauling’s Fine Art gallery for what I assume are the same reasons it was shown that way here: you gotta get a permit…
Thing is: no one’s gonna give you that permit. Kristan Kennedy, curator of Evidence of Bricks, got the green light from everyone up the ranks except the final hurdle, ye olde fire marshal, “Not Possible At This Time” at the last step. The fire hazard was doused in retardant and remains in the state in which you can view it until October 30th. And it is a beautiful state! The protruding matchsticks create an optical illusion as you move around the room, and I found myself holding my breath as I looked closely, as though a breath could send them like dominoes across the wall.
But I was mad! I wanted to smell the work, I wanted to get the soot of the work in the soles of my shoes, I wanted to see the heat of the work in that classroom. It felt like weeks of anticipation were pent up in the thousands of green dots that wanted to BURN. The potential for so much more was heavy and hard, and I can’t go back to that room.
America! There is a special permit for artworks involving fire here in Portland (thanks, firedancers!) and something tells me that burning a map of the good old USA makes the whole thing hard to swallow for some. The bureaucracy of our great nation of paperwork withholds the completion of the act, all the more reason to burn it! The pent-up potential of the work feels true to the context of Portland, Oregon in the fall of the year 2011.
So many works within TBA felt like they were about RISK. Not the game, per se, but the idea of danger, a palpable anxiety of a threat to the self. The first definition of RISK, “possibility of loss or injury : PERIL,” sums up some ideas that appear behind a mutitude of works at TBA this year.
Claire Fontaine was risky but obviously restrained. (SEE: POTENTIAL)
Jesse Sugarmann’s video piece Lido (The Pride is Back) is full of risk. In it, the artist elevates three Chrysler mini-vans with 52 air mattresses within a giant interior space. The inflation of the mattresses in tandem creates a whine relative to the distance of the shot, creating a vaccum in the white space, and the vehicles look helpless as they are hoisted up into a slow and steady path with destruction. Their synchronized rise reaches a climax as the mattresses are filled and two risks present themselves; the mattresses on the verge of popping and the vans rolling off in forfeit to the suburban inflatables. When neither happens, the inertia is foiled while the tiny motors kept pumping and straining against the dead weight.
I caught two consecutive performances, and the scene was thick with both excitement and confusion. Art-goers, children, dogs and passers by watched the slow motion wreckage, as the vans slid to balance themselves on their front bumpers, ass-up but somehow balanced. During the second performance, two of the vans lost their balance, losing their perches and a cheer arose in the crowd at the actual action after all of that inflating anticipation.
In another video work, this one by Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor titled Rites of Spring, the camera follows Romanian children as they set fire to piles of poplar fluff that congregate in the Spring. The children run the streets with lighters, the camera follows as the flames exhaust their fuel, over and over again. And surely every Spring those children are warned of the risk of their actions, but the little fires are far too tempting to avoid the danger completely. In the silence of the room I was sure I heard Stravinsky.
There are many health risks involved with bouncy castles, (SEE: OK? A and B, but when the bouncy castle is a larger-than-life supine pink elephant, legs akimbo, into which one enters through the rectum, the risks leave the merely physical and creep into the philosophical and psychological. Citing Oscar Wilde’s decadent reputation, Patrick Rock (of http://www.rocksboxfineart.com/) presented Oscar’s Delerium Tremens as an outdoor jumping establishment to the festival. Opening night, the physical manifestation of a drunken hallucination watched over the throngs as inebriation levels rose to a peak, Oscar popped, victim to a karate chop at the seam. Flaccid on and off for the rest of the festival, the monumental Oscar was a risk of the second definition, “someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard”. The chain link fence caging in soft Oscar really punctuated the gazes of longing from kids who were allowed to look but not touch, nor jump in the inflatable creature. All of the paperwork was in order, but the DT’s had the elephant down. Watching Sugarmann’s mattresses inflate next to the prostrate Oscar broke my heart a little, and I never even had a chance to jump.
Artists and musicians Lucky Dragons, speaking after their PSU MFA Monday Night Lecture a few years ago, summed up their work as “an attempt to fail beautifully,” something which has stuck with me since. Though I missed their performance at The Works as part of the Experimental ½ Hour program (migraine!), I think their goal encapsulates something I love and always hope to see in artwork, which is the letting go of control and the presence of chance. In participatory work or performance, chance runs rampant, and while performative or participatory works probably fail at the same rate as other modes of art making, their failure is public and the artist is often present. Once the work is exposed to the populace, it is out of the artist’s hands, and the potential risk of failure looms. Perhaps this opportunity for failure lets us trust in the fallible object-ness of even the most transient artworks. Hearing a performer fumble over their lines snaps us back to the farce at hand, that distinction between performer and audience scantly separated by a stage, a fence, a string of caution tape or a screen.
This gesture is brave, temporal and feels full of possibility. It is based in time but lives on in the audience and the idea. The bevvy of performances and performative documents that made up this festival have overwhelmed me the past two weeks, and I am filled with a desire to fail, beautifully if possible.
After a few nights at the WORKS, it’s interesting to see the 40-and-over crowd mixed in with the art party scenesters. The evening promises to be easy on the ears: now married, both Dean and Britta were former members of Luna, Dean is the frontman for Galaxie 500, and Britta was the singing voice of super-glam cartoon superstar JEM. Yes, of JEM and the Holograms. Wow.
As concept albums go, it is a beauty. The stark portraiture and artsy nostalgia of Warhol’s screen tests provide a distilled, but achingly poignant backdrop for Dean and Britta’s layered psychedelic surf lullabies. (more…)
Wednesday, September 14, 10:30 pm
THE WORKS at Washington High School
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photos by: Chase Allgood
Act 1:Color Film 5 (Madison Brookshire) and Field Organ (Tashi Wada)
“The subject of the work is duration, with color as the medium through which we experience it.” – program guide, New Musics
A wall of color is the backdrop for two simultaneous reed organs. The color field almost imperceptibly shifts, meaning you can’t see the increments of change, just the change itself. As soon as you stop looking, everything is different. Wada’s two-organ duet produces a similar effect with an opposing approach; you hear every sustained note, both melodic and discordant, in real time. Because the musical progression is so fluid, however, the emotional responses generated can only be realized periodically. Brookshire and Wada’s works are a brilliant pair and together produce a realization about perception of time and visceral response that is greater than the sum of its parts. Something previously hidden becomes known: the liminal space between hearing/seeing and responding emotionally is suddenly visible. (more…)
Word on the mean streets is that the visual arts world is batting its eyes at dance and considering a more committed kind of a relationship (whatever that means these days). Artists working in contemporary dance are likely already aware of this dynamic, but might not have encountered many models that speak forcefully to the wild potential inherent to the prospect of making dance that operates in gallery contexts and formats.
If you care at all about those first two sentences, TBA:11 is premiering an installation very worth your while.
zoe | juniper’sA Crack in Everything: Installed can be situated on a compelling forefront of dance production methods. In all likelihood, it will feel quite foreign to you, yet it works with material that ought to be familiar from other performances here in Portland: bodies by Julia Calabrese, Jacob Coleman, Carlos Gonzales, David Krom, Christina Marks, Danielle Ross and Amber Whitehall. To see your own community inhabit a vibrant edge – that’s a special occurrence no matter where you live.
TBA 11 Opening Night at the WORKS Vockah Redu and the Cru Photo by Wayne Bund
If you look-up festival in the dictionary, you will find variations of two definitions:
1. A day or time of religious or other celebration, marked by feasting, ceremonies, or other observances.
2. A period or program of festive activities, cultural events, or entertainment: a music festival.
Immediately I knew which definition the TBA Festival is more akin to for me. #1, without hesitation #1. I think I had this gut reaction because the experience of the TBA Festival definitely extends beyond the what option 2 has to offer. Art is, for lack of a better word, the closest thing to my religion. Art is where I’ve seen and experienced a great deal of transformation, intellect and true consideration of others throughout my life. So when I think of the T:BA Festival, the work it supports, the dialogue it sparks and what it observes in celebration, #1 it is. I heard this sentiment repeated in conversations throughout the opening night party. People exhilarated by a gathering of “their people”, with all that implies, combined with the potential of new inspirations and knowledge. The first few days of the festival have continued to prove this true. Here is a snap shot of the celebrations, feasts and observances I’ve experienced so far.
Vockah Redu and the Cru – Three statements from their opening night performance have stuck with me: “Find what you love and do it – Art loves art – You are all so beautiful”. On the surface these may seem saccharin but lived with conviction they actually have quite serious ramifications. Vockah Redu and the Cru didn’t just perform these full-bodied sweaty electric truths for the audience to absorb by osmosis. They shot them directly into our hearts with conviction and deft. Good medicine and perfect mantras for the festival kick-off.
When Kristan began planning out the visual art exhibits for TBA this year, she had bricks on the brain. After her brother made an offhand comment about bricks and anger, she began to think about the janus nature of the simple block: the foundations of buildings, but also the weapon of protest, the message thrown through a window. She started tracking down artists whose work played with those same dualities of construction and demolition, and she began to go brick crazy. So, as she is wont to do, Kristan started a tumblr:
Well, through our office conversations and the wisdom of the internet, we quickly discovered that bricks have far more than two sides. The tumblr, which originated as an exploration of a symbolic object, became a repository of all of the very literal instances of bricks in our culture, from revolution to fashion to pop culture to music to philosophy. And as the Festival draws nearer, we keep coming across more bricks in the news, in history, in the current London protests, in art, and in the peripheries. And with all of these bricks around us, our culture is built up and dismantled every day.
We recently announced the hiring of Angela Mattox as our new, full-time Artistic Director, and we can’t wait until she starts in her new role. While we’ve all gotten to spend some time with her, we realized that you might like to learn a little more about her background, so we sent her a round of questions about her career and her approach to curating. You can ask her your own questions when she gets to town in September, just in time for TBA!
Angela enjoying the world’s greatest doughnuts at NYC’s Doughnut Plant.
PICA: How did you first get engaged with contemporary art?
Angela Mattox: My first point of entry was as a practitioner. I’m a former dancer and this first-hand experience has always informed how I work with artists and has been really valuable in providing insight into the creative process. I often reflect on the vulnerability of an artist as she puts forward her work to the public, and that has helped me be a more compassionate curator.
PICA: You’ve worked on both the funding and the presenting side of art—can you share a little about your background and the path you’ve taken to get here?
AM: I think it’s imperative to understand how the field really operates, from multiple points of view. While it wasn’t my intention to work in various branches of arts administration—from funding to presenting—the perspectives I gained really shaped my priorities and values.
PORTLAND, OR — Angela Mattox, former Performing Arts Curator at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), will join the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art as the new Artistic Director, Victoria Frey, PICA’s Executive Director, announced today.
“We are happy to welcome Angela to PICA and to Portland. She is a respected peer with a stellar reputation in the field and among artists,” said Frey. “As we look to expand our role in the community, it is inspiring to work with someone with such passion for the explorations of artists and commitment to their long-term careers. Her experience in working across disciplines, and her commitment to bringing communities together will be strong assets here.”
“I’m excited to bring my artistic vision to such a progressive art organization, situated in one of the most vibrant and creative hubs in the country,” said Mattox. “It is an amazing opportunity to connect art and ideas with Portland audiences at this particular cultural moment.”
Continuing our updates on what some of our past PICA interns have been up to, we check in with Raven Falquez Munsell, who moved to Marfa, Texas, last year to work on an internship with the Chinati Foundation.
For the past three months I have woken up to the warm light of the expansive West Texas landscape. I find myself energized by the vastness of the sky and the desert, but also by the warmth and complexity of the community here and the measures taken in order to support a rich cultural community in a town of 2,000. I initially arrived in Marfa thinking mostly about Donald Judd, the impressions he left on this town, as well as his reasons for coming out here: room to breathe, space to work and think. Many others have followed that notion, making this town home and a place think and work creatively. While interning at the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum founded by Judd, I have learned much about Judd’s vision and importantly, have come to realize the range of cultural production currently happening in Marfa.
Usually, the only radio station you can pick up around here is Marfa Public Radio, whose offices are located on the main drag. Their diverse programing includes great national and original local programing as well numerous music shows hosted by members of the community. The Marfa Book Co., a bookstore with a focus on poetry and art books, contributes greatly to the vibrancy of the community. Owners Tim Johnson and Caitlin Murray provide the space for art shows, yoga classes, and music, as well as for readings by visiting Lannan Foundation writers. Ballroom Marfa, a non-profit contemporary arts space, situated in the town’s former 1927 dancehall, brings in temporary exhibitions and a variety of music and art lectures. Ballroom is currently working on building a drive-in movie theater and cultural space just on the outskirts of town and are also responsible for the renowned Prada Marfa. I arrived in Marfa just in time to see the first annual CineMarfa Film Festival, showcasing 1970s No Wave cinema, which was truly a treat, I can’t wait to see what their future programming will be.
For many years, the community has welcomed visiting artists to spend time here and work. One of Marfa’s most charming attributes is in the history told through its architecture, each building has a unique history that is still very close to he surface. The former Ft. D.A. Russell is now home to the Chinati Foundation, Building 98 and other various homes and projects, the Judd Foundation’s collections are housed in old banks and grocery stores, and the former funeral home is now a bar. The various artist residency programs, Chinati, Building 98, the newly founded Fieldwork Marfa, and the Marfa Recording Co. continue to be instrumental in bringing artists and musicians from around the world to work and show their art in Marfa’s repurposed buildings.
Marfa has a small, transient community and the people who are here work very hard to keep this place thriving. While I am sad to leave Marfa, I am incredibly grateful for the time I have spent here.
Former PICA intern Rachel Peddersen left us last year for the big city, moving to New York to pursue an MFA in Visual Arts Administration from NYU. The world better watch out, because soon she’ll be out, and she’ll be more qualified to run PICA than we are. We asked her to fill us in on what she’s been up to in her program, her work, and her view into the NYC art world. Here’s her dispatch.
Bedside reading with bedbug.
This time last year I was packing up my things to move across the country. Six long years of waiting tables and assisting artists led me to think it was time to grow up, take out my septum ring, and learn the ropes of administration. Art Administration. It still sounds
vulgar, but I’m getting used to it. Since moving to the lower east part of Manhattan I’ve learned a ton about our country’s history, American contemporary art history, and of course my artist self. In an attempt to boil down my experience thus far, I think I’ll wax on the highlights of the past (almost) year.
I will be thirty in November and even though I still look sixteen, it’s not helping assuage the harsh reality that I am interning with people younger than myself. (Taking out the nose ring and wearing pencil skirts isn’t helping, either). Intern Nation is for real. I still love you though PICA, and I wouldn’t be here without you, it’s true! (Ed. note: It is true. And we were awesome to intern for.) In the Fall, I helped the Foundation for Contemporary Art (FCA) raise money to help artists through their amazing grant program. Yes, I will brag that I met Jasper Johns, the founder of FCA and many other amazing well known artists. That is why I am paying the mad scrilla to live here, so I can name drop and be narcissistic like all the other transplants that are here.
I was hired to work as a graduate assistant for an archive where David Wojnarowicz’s collection is tucked away in folders and boxes, but used regularly by hungry curators and researchers. There are many other things in the archive to brag about that I get to handle and ogle. Mostly though, I am grateful to be working with amazing archivists that value every piece of paper these people have touched.
The war with the government funding for the arts is not over. There’s too much to say here, but a revolution is forthcoming. Cuomo did a good job this weekend with gay marriage, but now its time for art and the artists…
Earlier in the month, I took a short trip to Chicago. I was in town to speak on a panel at ARTCHICAGO, put together by iCI and Jens Hoffmann around some of the ideas brought about by organizing and presenting People’s Biennial. While I was there, I met up with Portland artist and curator Rob Halverson of Cool Art who had just released a new print by Sara Greenberger Rafferty at Scott and Tyson Reeder’s art/comedy space Club Nutz. In addition to running into old friends and TBA Alums, I met so many interesting and engaging Chicago artist people.
One such human is Marco Kane Braunschweiler who, along with his co-director Martine Syms, runs the art space/bookshop, Golden Age. Marco helped me pick out some new books for the PICA Resource Room, and we became fast friends. I expect to write a full report of my spring adventures, flying from Atlanta to Berkeley to Chicago for various conferences and panel discussions, but until then, here is an interview with Marco. I love spaces like his, and we are lucky to have Reading Frenzy, Monograph Bookwerks, Stand Up Comedy and Fourteen30 here in Portland, all of which have tightly curated selections of artist books and publication. Each one represents a different point of view and Golden Age has their own special focus. Be sure to check them out on the interweb, or the next time you are in the windy city. —Kristan Kennedy
Kristan Kennedy: Tell me about Golden Age, how and why did it come into being? Marco Kane Braunschweiler: Golden Age started in 2007. Martine Syms and I (Co-Director of Golden Age) wanted to build an art economy that was not dependent on wealth. We also wanted to bring our international community to Chicago and share the amazing work in Chicago with the rest of the world. (more…)
Over the last month since our early lineup announcement, the TBA schedule has grown by leaps and bounds. One day, you’re working on a small program, and the next thing you know, you have a full-fledged art festival on your hands. They grow up so fast!
With general pass sales starting today, we thought it was high time we showed you the expanded TBA program. Read on to see what we’ve added, and remember to visit www.picaresourceroom.orgfor photos, videos and links on all of our Festival artists and projects.
Shantala Shivalingappa, Namasya. Photo: Nicolas Boudier.
Shantala Shivalingappa, Namsya [FRANCE/INDIA, DANCE]
Born in India, but educated in Paris, dancer and choreographer Shantala Shivalingappa successfully combines East and West in her movement. Namasya is a program of four solo dances, including collaborations with renowned choreographers Pina Bausch and Ushio Amagatsu; as well as a piece by Savitry Nair and one by Shivalingappa herself.
Sarah Dougher, Fin de Siècle [PORTLAND, MUSIC/POETRY]
A staging of three experimental poem-plays by Leslie Scalapino, using video projections, voice and a five part instrumental ensemble. Spanning the distance between the art song and the pop song, Dougher’s score transliterates Scalapino’s challenging language and conceptual framework through a melodic and complexly textured score, foregrounding the poet’s fundamental humanism.
James Benning, Ruhr. Film still courtesy of the artist.
THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT.
This September, PICA’s ninth-annual Time-Based Art Festival takes over Portland, Oregon, for an all-hours, city-wide happening of contemporary performance and visual art. The Festival gathers artists for morning workshops, expands the conversation with afternoon talks and salons, fills pop-up galleries with visual installations, and takes the stage until late in the night with experimental, genre-defying, live performances.
READ ON FOR THE FIRST ARTISTS OF THIS YEAR’S TBA FESTIVAL.
The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting a symposium this week on the changing modes of presenting performance and visual art, and both Erin and Kristan will be speaking on a panel there. The conference will dive into the questions raised by visual artists working with a performance-based set of tools, and traditional performing artists presenting in galleries and museums—familiar territory for us here at PICA. To initiate the conversation, ARC asked each of the participants to muse on the subject at hand and provide some early thoughts and confessions. For those of you who can’t make it to Berkeley, we thought we’d repost Erin and and Kristan’s contributions.
From Kristan Kennedy, Visual Art Curator:
In my role at PICA I have often said yes. I have rarely had to say no. This feels like a privilege. I want to pass that along to the artists I work with. I want them to feel free to make what they want how they want where they want.
We just added a raft of new exhibit catalogs and small press books and zines to the Resource Room. Check out what’s new:
Dan Gilsdorf, Ad Absurdum
Weekend Leisure, Karaoke List by Song, List by Artist
Ralph Lemon, Sunshine Room Sing-a-long with Rufus Wainwright Songbook Has Art? from Lawrimore Project
Yemenwed, Episode 3
Grant Barnhart, A Red Thing Shutters Shut, A White Closet Moth is not a Queen
George Johanson, Seven Decades of Painting
Kristan Kennedy, Portland Art Museum Artist Talk Zine
New DVDS include PMMNLS from Mel Ziegler, Joseph Park, Laurel Nakadate, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, and Kenneth Goldsmith; a talk between People’s Biennial curators Jens Hoffmann and Harrell Fletcher; and TBA:10 performances by Blackfish and The Extreme Animals.
We’re open 10-5, Monday through Friday. Come visit and we’ll show you around.
Our Resource Room just received an infusion of fresh books, CDs and DVDs from TBA Festival alumni and artists from around the world. Stop by and check out what’s new!
From France: French Connection: 88 Contemporary Artists, 88 Art Critics FRAC Alsace Catalogue des Acquisitions 2003-2007 PALAIS Magazine: Fresh Hell/Carte Blanche à Adam McEwen
From Spain: Victoria Civera: atando el cielo
From China: Shouting Truth – A contemporary art exhibition
From here: Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture (Henry Art Gallery) ABSTRACT (Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College) Ruby Sky Stiler: Inherited and Borrowed Types (Publication Studio/PICA’s TBA:10) Holcombe Waller: Into the Dark Unknown
DVDs include TBA:10 performances:
Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre – In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
Maria Hassabi – SoloShow
TBA:10 Chats and Salons:
TBA In a Nutshell
Mike Daisey and Jean-Michele Gregory
Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players
Maria Hassabi, Danielle Kelly + Noelle Stiles, and Jonathan Turner of Yemenwed
Storm Tharp and Jessica Jackson Hutchins
Ronnie Bass, Gandalf Gavan, and astrophysicist Ethan Siegel
Nature Theater of Oklahoma
and the recent lecture by Khaela Maricich and Melissa Dyne.
Browse these new materials, and our entire collection when you visit our Resource Room at 224 NW 13th Ave, Suite 305, Monday through Friday, from 10am – 5pm.
Currently on view at PNCA, Between my head and my hand, there is always the face of death gathers together seven distinctive artists for a clear-eyed look at the resurgence of figurative painting. PICA’s Visual Art Curator Kristan Kennedy spent the past year researching and tracking down painters from Germany, Ireland, New York, Los Angeles, and our own backyard in the Pacific Northwest. From Tala Madani’s comedic, impasto animations to Grant Barnhart’s constructed studio environments, the work may not at first glance reveal a close stylistic kinship, and yet each piece attests to the fact that figurative painting is very much thriving at the edges of the medium while keeping a keen eye on the historical canon.
If you weren’t able to make it to last night’s opening, we’ve uploaded some photos of the finished exhibition and of Kristan and her crew hanging the show:
And download a copy (PDF) of Kristan’s curator essay, Shells of Our Selves.
Between my head and my hand runs through March 26 at PNCA’s Philip Feldman Gallery. Click here for more information on the exhibit and for links to videos and reviews on the included artists.
And make sure to join us for a free and public curator’s walk-through, led by Kennedy on February 15, from 6:30-7:30 pm.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN It’s been a few weeks now that we’ve all been back in the office after our trip to New York, but we’re still thinking of and talking about and hashing out all of the work that we saw there. With the APAP conference, the Under the Radar, COIL, and American Realness Festivals, countless presenter showcases, and dozens of open rehearsals and “speed-dating” pitches, there are literally hundreds of performances running day and night through the first two weeks of January, and we didn’t even make it to Pee Wee Herman’s Broadway comeback! Then, factor in day-long treks through the Met, New Museum, Whitney, and galleries across the city, and bowl upon bowl of spicy Chinese soups, and you’ve got the basis for some serious art indigestion. It was overwhelming, really, but thankfully we’ve cross-trained (ahem, TBA) for this kind of marathon. Here’s a bit of what we encountered on stage, in galleries, and at the peripheries. Put another way, these are the sights, sounds, and performances that we’re still processing.
Between myself, Erin, Cathy, Kristan, Victoria, Jessica, and Scott, we covered:
I started the my annual trip to NY happily trapped in South Brooklyn, where snow plows feared to tread and where there wasn’t a Q train or a loaf of bread available for four days. At least my sister was there to lighten the mood.
When I did make it into the city, all of the galleries were still closed from the storm. Luckily, the Housing Works Authority Thrift Shop was open, because there I found two books that I expect will change my life forever. One was about Miss Piggy and her private collection, the “Kermitage.” See her here in a fetching Mondrian inspired frock:
Each year, PICA produces a companion program to our Time-Based Art ON SIGHT Visual Arts exhibitions. Over the past few days, we’ve posted some of the artist interviews from TBA:10 to the blog, but there is a lot more packed inside the latest catalogue. With all of this rich content at our disposal, we wanted to make the past programs available online for your enjoyment. For more artist interviews, recordings, and art publications, visit the PICA Resource Room, Monday-Friday, 10 am – 5 pm.
Download the TBA:10 ON SIGHT Catalogue (PDF), featuring artists Charles Atlas, Ronnie Bass, Dan Gilsdorf, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Anissa Mack, Miller & Shellabarger, Christopher Miner, John Smith, Ruby Sky Stiler, Storm Tharp, and Yemenwed. The catalogue also includes a photo essay by Visual Art Curator Kristan Kennedy; an interview between People’s Biennial curators Jens Hoffmann and Harrell Fletcher; an essay by Mack McFarland on Nina Katchadourian; and original writing by Anne Marie Oliver, Sam Korman, and Rebecca Steele.
Storm Tharp has been looking in the same mirror for more than a decade. It has moved with him from studio to studio, accumulating paint marks, bits of tape, and various scuffs. The mirror is as great an influence on his work as any other single tool, piece of research, beautiful peony, or sad song. For his residency at PICA, Tharp brings together objects and ephemera that provide the hidden, joyful, and meaningful subtext to his work to form arrangements in a room that is part studio, part gallery, and part home: a still life.
Kristan Kennedy:High House is an arrangement of things and a constructed environment that is both of the studio and of the home. How do you define this space, is it in-between or a blending of the two?
Storm Tharp: My house and my studio are where I spend the majority of my time—but there are ideas in High House that are about other spaces. Being outdoors, being in the sun, eating alone—these kinds of things. The intent was to showcase real inspiration, or the ideas that fill life. (more…)
Diabolus in Musica is a single uninterrupted chord, a sound banned by the Catholic Church in the eighteenth century. On two Sundays—one at the beginning and one at the closing of TBA:10—Gilsdorf has enlisted Beati Chorum to perform this score for the entirety of the exhibition’s open hours. The resulting performance is an exercise in human stamina and tonal dissonance.
Kristan Kennedy: What does it mean to be human?
Dan Gilsdorf: Maybe the key to the question is in the fact that we can even conceptualize it as a question at all, and that we can explore its answer. I’d say that it has something to do with questioning, with differentiating between the known and unknown, and examining the assignment of meaning to our own condition.
Bedroom w TV and Woman Lays w Aide. Courtesy of Yemenwed.
The video piece Episode 3 presents a surreal sci-fi journey that melds animation, live action, painting, and sculpture. Taking queues from performance, ritual, dance, and cinema, Episode 3 is an abstract meditation on multiplicity, spiritual transcendence, and architectural experience. Bedroom w TV and Woman Lays w Aide is compiled from three distinct performances and examines several characters within an abstract interior. In a space of illusionary privacy, based on a bedroom in a New York City Housing Project, two women are accompanied by three backup dancers: one human, one sculptural, and one animate hybrid.
Kristan Kennedy: In your work, live and otherwise, you construct environments that are of this world, but also possibly of another. What is the intersection between them? Is this other world of the past or the present, or is it reflective of the future?
Yememwed: Our work often conveys the idea of a peripheral reality superimposed onto the main stage of experience. It is all happening right now: the immediate present, past, and future. The intersection of these worlds is probably best described as an overlay or filter, where one contextualizes the other, yet they run parallel at all times. (more…)
Photo: Patrick Leonard. Courtesy of the artist, the lumber room, and Laurel Gitlen.
Although frequently referred to as “disposable” in our society, objects often predate and outlast us, continually cycling through owners and contexts over time. Museums, junk shops, curio cabinets, auctions, and collections all serve as sites that help to define the narratives and emotions that we bring to our things. Within the context of a private collector’s artwork holdings, Mack’s project examines the magnetism and lingering appeal of objects and images.
Kristan Kennedy: This project is a likely and unlikely collaboration: between you and a patron and an institution, and between you and a collection of objects and a site. Where do you begin? How will you go about developing a new body of work while in residence? Will you shut out or let in influences, and from where and from whom?
Anissa Mack: I will begin by trying to start where I left off in my studio—trying to keep the momentum going. I’ve brought along a few pieces that I just finished, as well as a piece that’s almost done. I think in two weeks it’s more about considering how to integrate my work (or my collection) and Sarah Miller Meigs’ [of the lumber room] collection, rather than making a new body of work. In terms of influence, I’m sure that the artwork in the collection, the conversations I have with you and Sarah, as well as just my experiences in Portland will have a great effect on the final project. I can already see certain trajectories developing that wouldn’t have occurred to me back home.
Photo: Talia Chetrit. Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery.
Stiler’s sculptural forms reference and reconstruct classical iconography from artist-constructed “rubble.” The ancient-seeming silhouettes are, at first glance, authoritative in their connection to this canon of history. However, closer inspection of their mash-up elements—which conflate imagery and objects that span centuries and societies—reveal the works to be peculiar interpretations of historical reality. Stiler’s distorted quotation
of the familiar and banal classical nude exposes the absence of a single, eternal “truth.”
Kristan Kennedy: In discussing your past work—and specifically the work for this exhibition—we have talked quite a bit about the relationship of the sculptures to the room. Sight lines, color, and placement; no surface has been overlooked. In some instances it seems like you are controlling the environment and in others it seems like you are reacting/responding to it. Is there an ideal space for your work to exist? Or will you always construct their environment in some way?
Ruby Sky Stiler: I’m preoccupied with where and when an object should end, and with its placement in the room. I think I have a tic for creating rules that assist in my decision making, and help me defer some of this responsibility. (more…)
The Safest Place, photo courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
Miner’s video charts a lone man rotating endlessly, floating in an undefined space ship-like interior. As he spins, the figure clasps his knees in perpetual fetal-positioned prayer. Lost in a space of contemplation, he becomes a kind of everyman who quietly reaches out to the great beyond. The music, recorded by Miner, is a reinvented southern spiritual whose song becomes incantation:
No harm have I done on my knees / When you see me on my knees / Come here, Jesus, if you please.
The searcher takes comfort in this act of petition, though his waiting, like the silence of the answer, is infinite.
Kristan Kennedy: What does it mean to be human?
Christopher Miner: Maybe, just to ask that question. Or to try to answer it.
KK: Your work has a slow, methodical, and repetitive pace, which is supported by its beautiful and eerie score. I grew up attending mass every Sunday, and there is something similar in the meditative pacing of your video; even though the figure is suspended in an anti-gravity chamber, it might as well be a church. Can you talk to me about the religious under/overtones in your work, and in particular in The Safest Place?
CM: This video makes me think about man’s ongoing effort to know God. I’ve always liked the idea of space travel as a literal example of man blasting himself into the heavens to gain some kind of connection with an ultimately unknowable expanse. There can be something wonderful about feeling lost, when you’re lost in the presence of something larger than yourself. My own experience growing up in the church was very much focused on the “being found” part—the salvation and redemptive aspects of faith—with a clear suspicion of any mystery or uncertainty. In the video, I like the idea of the old spiritual’s lyric of, “no harm have I done on my knees”, where just the act of subjecting yourself before heaven, like a man in space, is comforting.
KK: When you turn the camera on your life, are you creating a document or a diary? Is the subject you or how you see/feel the world?
CM: I don’t want the subject to ever be about me, or how I feel about the world. I try to use myself and my life as materials to build work from, but I’m never satisfied with any piece that feels like I’m just ‘expressing’ something. Even if the work is 30 minutes of me talking about my life, I try to compress the video and narration down into an impenetrable event for the viewer to experience. I was with a friend of mine once when his father sliced into his own hand with an electric knife while cleaning a fish.
I was standing 2 feet away and when his father raised his hand up from the cutting board there was blood going everywhere and his fingers were hanging from his hand in an unnatural way. It was horrible; but really, my experience viewing this had nothing to do with the actual details of what the man was feeling. I remember looking down at my own hand while he was screaming and it was like I’d never looked at my hand before. I remember thinking that it looked like this beautiful, miracle object, and I was amazed that my brain could control my fingers the way they did. I want my work to function this way: where the events of my life just act as a singular, specific event to create a unique experience for the viewer.
Miner is represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
This conversation was excerpted from a collection of interviews published on the occasion of Human Being, a series of exhibitions, installations, and happenings curated by Kristan Kennedy, for PICA’s 2010 Time-Based Art Festival. You can download a PDF of the full ON SIGHT catalogue here, or pick up a hard copy at the Washington High School galleries (through October 17), or at the PICA Resource Room.
Untitled (Graves), photo courtesy of the artists and Western Exhibitions, Chicago.
Husband and husband artist team Dutes Miller & Stan Shellabarger’s art documents the bittersweet rhythms of human relationships. Their work shifts between moments of togetherness and moments of separation, between spaces of private and public, protection and pain, and visibility and invisibility. In Untitled (Graves), the artists dig, in close proximity to each other, two holes, deep and large enough for each man to lie in. They then dig a small tunnel between the holes that enable them to hold hands while lying in the graves.
Kristan Kennedy: Many of your individual and collaborative performances test the limits of your bodies through exhaustive, repetitive action. How do they test the limits of your mind?
Dutes Miller: Some of our longer performances really test my ability to stay focused or concentrated, which is a limit of the mind. But the limits of my mind are more apt to be tested during the development of a piece; how will the action of the performance work in the world, how could it be interpreted, how do I translate or manifest a concept into a meaningful performance or object?
Stan Shellabarger: I’d have to agree that by the time the performance takes place, we already have prepared ourselves for what lies ahead. Not to say we aren’t surprised sometimes.
Piano Print, 2010. Photo courtesy of the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York.
In Hutchins’ home, the family piano provides both a literal and figurative rhythm to daily life. Transformed from a worn instrument into a body of artwork, the piano inspires a series of woodcut and collaged prints, forms the basis of a sculptural work, and serves as the set for a family and friends music video jam to the song Children of the Sunshine. In Hutchins’ hands, domestic routines and objects blend with empathic and amorphous ceramic forms to stage abstract, yet resolutely human scenes.
Kristan Kennedy: When we last met you talked to me about your frustration with people who dismiss religious zealots, cult leaders, and other visionaries. You likened them to artists in their steadfast beliefs, especially as their ideas relate to the immaterial having value. In relation to this discussion, what makes your art important? Why is it worth defending, pursuing, and believing in?
Jessica Jackson Hutchins: My work is of the utmost importance to me and, by extension, to those right around me whom I directly affect. But I think it is better left to others to evaluate the kind of importance I think you are referring to; that [importance] would be contingent and whimsical and according to politics and the times. (more…)
Ronnie Bass, The Astronomer at TBA:10. Photo: Rio. Ronnie Bass’ videos are narratives of transformation rooted in the ideals of contemporary belief structures. Both 2012 and The Astronomer involve a vision of escape to a better place, and the start of a new world. Against a backdrop of amateur astronomy and housebound experiments, Bass’ synth-driven soundtracks provide soothing affirmations to assuage our hesitancies and fears of a brand new age. Kristan Kennedy: When we first met, you spoke to me about how the voice of your characters–in this case the Astronomer–was an extension of yourself, related to your natural proclivity to be a sort of constant reassuring presence. At first, it was brought to life by a voice detached from the body (through the computer); what made you attach the voice to a body and moreover, your body? Ronnie Bass: I was watching Steve Wilson, a musician that I was producing at the time. He would come to the studio and speak, sing, or scream into the microphone and what he wanted to convey was immediate and unquestionable. At the same time, in my own work, I was thinking about how to use prose to depict more internal situations within the course of a narrative.
Charles Atlas, Tornado Warning at TBA:10. Photo: kerosene rose. With a career in filmmaking that spans nearly four decades, Charles Atlas has been called the “court portraitist of the American choreography and post-punk scenes.” His work has ranged from gallery installations to live video performances to documentary collaborations with artists including Merce Cunningham and Marina Abramovic. In this five-channel video installation, Atlas contrasts an orderly space with a chaotic environment of sound and images that evoke memories of his personal history and reflect a culture in constant flux.
Kristan Kennedy: Tornado Warning is a rush of images and sound, all of it together acting as an alarm of some sort. When discussing the piece, you have described it as referencing your childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, and the awareness that, with the storm alerts, came anxiety, preparation, wonder, and fear. The soundtrack traverses many decades, with strong, relentless passages of eighties industrial music. It is this music in particular that evokes memories of other threats against us past and present: AIDS, war, political upheaval… When you started delving into your personal memory and experience for the piece, did you expect that it would speak to a greater cultural chaos? Charles Atlas: The origins of this piece really started with a vague feeling I was experiencing of anxiety, apprehension, dread, and concern, directly related to what I felt was going on in the wider world. As with many of my art works, I began to collect images as a way to find out what I was thinking and feeling; the ones that stuck became my guideposts.
ON SIGHT Salon: Storm Tharp Storm Tharp: High House
Friday Sept 10 – Sunday Oct 17
THE WORKS at Washington High School
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photos by: kerosenerose A large window framing a collection of thriving potted plants. A video of sunlight through an open door, curtains blowing in the breeze. A central pedestal with stairs ascending towards the ceiling, prompting a circular exploration of the room. A fan blowing sheer flags gently towards a hanging pendant brushed with the words “I’m sorry”. A tiny dancing figure under a plexiglas vitrine on an antique table. A wall of dripping, monochromatic canvases. An oversized mural of iconic actresses, drawn in pastel shades. Stacks of newspapers and books (Alaska, California) and a spoonful of melted ice cream. A collection of colors in glass jars labeled with enigmatic titles (“Dirty Tan Pants”, “Beachy Night”).
Dan Gilsdorf, Diabolus in Musica
Posted by Michael Evans
In a dimly lit classroom, a small vocal group stands almost motionless on a simple raised platform, They harmonize a steady ominous tone–a sound supposedly banned by the Catholic Church back in the 18th Century day . The stage and edges around the room are ringed by a white powder. Is it salt to ward off evil spirits? Or priests?
I know what you’re thinking. Hey, is this the new episode of “Glee”?
ON SIGHT: Nina Katchadourian: Sorted Books
September 2 – October 23 Every Day, 10 am – 7 pm
Feldman Gallery + Project Space
Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA)
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photos by: Sara Regan Nina Katchadourian‘s Sorted Books is installed against a vivid red background in the Feldman Gallery at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). The intense color accentuates photographs of books spines against black backdrops lined up in neat rows on the gallery’s walls. Katchadourian’s book-sorting projects began in 1993 and continue through the present. For each project, she visits a personal or public library and selects and stacks books so titles can be read in sequence. She has produced over 130 book clusters to date, and her current show at PNCA is comprised of sortings at six different libraries from 1993 through 2008.
Emily Johnson/Catalyst, The Thank-you Bar
The Wooster Group, There Is Still Time…Brother
Eric Fredericksen & Weekend Leisure, Karaoke & Authenticity
Posted By: Jimmy Radosta
Photo By: Marty Schnapf
Every year at TBA, I look forward to seeing how performers invite audience participation. It can quickly change the dynamic of a show, especially when the material isn’t strongly connecting with the crowd.
Emily Johnson’s The Thank-you Bar is a good example. The dancer/choreographer shared random memories from her native Alaska while holding up signs describing objects in the room: “This is my amp,” “Vaux swifts live in this beam,” etc. It all felt rather disjointed and precious, and the complex, multilayered music from Blackfish didn’t mesh with her whimsical tone. However, Johnson kept the audience involved when she brought out an illuminated “igloo” that she then deconstructed, distributing one translucent paper “brick” to each viewer. (It was an attempt, I believe, to literally deconstruct the myth that Native people live in dwellings made from ice.) Johnson then invited us to gather around an inflated kiddie pool filled with leaves while she told one final story about the resilient blackfish. It created an intimate atmosphere that captured my attention, despite the show’s shortcomings.
Meanwhile, The Wooster Group provided my favorite interactive experience of the festival when it let audience members sit in the director’s chair, so to speak, during There Is Still Time…Brother. The 360-degree film surrounded several swivel seats, and the person sitting in the middle of the room controlled a virtual “peephole” window that determined which portion of the film would be spotlighted. It was a compelling exercise that made every screening unique.
Unfortunately, audience participation doesn’t always enhance a performance. Last night’s finale at THE WORKS promised a karaoke party featuring music videos by Weekend Leisure, while Seattle-based curator Eric Fredericksen presented a lecture examining “Karaoke & Authenticity.” It could have been a fantastic experiment to let the audience command the same stage where we had been entertained for the past 10 days. But instead, most of the singers seemed to be preselected friends of the KJ, and Fredericksen’s lecture spent more time analyzing the 1968 Rolling Stones documentary Sympathy for the Devil than discussing the merits of karaoke culture.
In the end, it felt like nothing more than an exclusive karaoke party with a $10 cover charge, while an academic delivered a dull, sloppy lecture to justify his “research” at the karaoke bars of Berlin. (And you were screwed even if you avoided the auditorium, because THE WORKS shut down all of the video installations early.) A disappointing finish to an otherwise impressive festival.
Nature Theatre of Oklahoma
Romeo and Juliet
Posted by Ariel Frager
My father-in-law is a college professor. One day after class he overheard a couple of his students talking. One said to the other, “You know I like Shakespeare but he is so full of clichés.” What we don’t know about Shakespeare is immense. The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma brings this to life by asking people to recount what they remember about Romeo and Juliet. Two actors then retold their exact and often incorrect musing about the play. It was a performance about memory, and about trying to sounds smart. We laughed at the funny accentuated accents, we laughed at the hilarious overacting, but really we laughed because most of us in the audience could do no better a job of recounting the finer points of Romeo and Juliet than the poor schmucks the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma called.
By far the most interesting part was the very funny commentary the callers made about the play. “Had they not killed themselves and had lived happily ever after, I feel that they would have gotten a divorce,” said one insightful caller. Another said, “To me, it was kind of like 9/11.” And another, “They were bad parents. If they had let them fuck each other silly it would have all been OK.” This very simple concept was taken to the very silliest degree. It never stopped being funny when they got the plot points wrong. And there was also an erotically dancing chicken. What more could you ask from a night at the theatre.
The Thank-You Bar
Posted by Ariel Frager
It didn’t happen intentionally, but for me at this year’s TBA, the best performance was saved for last. I was an invited guest into Emily Johnson’s inventive little world. One part dance, one part soundscape, one part storytelling, one part quirky otherness brought a wide grin to my face and I didn’t look at my watch even once.
Johnson and musicians James Everest and Joel Pickard played with the space, light and sound, reinventing the traditional performance and surrounding us in the audience with sound and movement in every corner of the theatre. We were a small group, the performance limited audience members to only 30 in number, so before the show, I had already felt like I won the lottery when I was chosen to get in from the waiting list. They brought in us, literally having the audience turn around to face the back of the theatre and then get up off our chairs and sit on the floor while Johnson told us the story about blackfish while sitting in a dry leaf filled kiddy pool bed. As a Native American from Alaska, Johnson played with our stereotypes of her people and wheeled out a Tiny Igloo, made from opaque boxes filled with lights. Each brick/box lit up the darkened theatre space and when Johnson handed me a piece of her igloo, I felt special as if this magic light held the key to something important. From the audience lists, put on “Hello my name is” stickers with each of our names. When I saw her wearing for a split second, the Hello my name is Ariel sticker I knew that this piece was for me and about me. We were important. The stories were for us, about us, even though they were about Johnson. The best parts of The Thank You Bar, were a lot like the best parts of my annual TBA immersion: touching that part of myself where I can see and feel myself reflected in the performance. And the very best pieces are the ones where I walk out of the theatre and say, “I wish I had thought of that.” And so it was. Thank you Emily Johnson.
Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
posted by: dirtybombpdx
Are self-hating fags by definition homophobic? Toward the end of In the Solitude of Cotton Fields a video montage plays showing bestial acts, acts of violence, drag queens, gay sex, cocks, tits, some psuedo-nihilistic captions and an animated Madonna from Who’s That Girl. I think it’s meant to be scary and shocking, and possibly some sort of commentary on present morality, but what it most definitely is, is banal (and way too long). Like the entirety of the show, everything goes on far too long and is at too high a decibel level. The two actors look cool enough in their retro black suits, white cocks, I mean socks, and loafers, and are quite self-possessed, taking turns rattling off their esoteric “poetry” about cruising each other in the dark. But all the screaming into the mics and forced laughter and Polish and tears are, aside from my bleeding eardrums, sadly laughable and totally HOMOPHOBIC. Or could this possibly be a parody ala Spinal Tap? (certainly the volume was at 11). Was I punked? I think, unfortunately, it was all meant in earnest and is basically a circle-jerk for the actors and director. Everything about the piece is tired, from the suits to the bass and drum score (so 90′s, played live by Natural Born Chillers), to the idea that gay love by definition must be aberrant or torturous or nihilistic (so Reagan 80′s). Good god, no wonder most of the planet runs screaming from anything labeled performance art. Really? You want me to pay you money so you can scream in my face and tell me I’m damned? I’m just glad the cute one stripped so I could see his uncircumcised penis. Because like all self-hating fags, all I really want out of life is anonymous cock.
Nature Theater of Oklahoma
performance: Romeo and Juliet
noon-time chat: The Telephone Game
posted by: laura becker
photo by: Rio
During Thursday’s noon-time chat, Kelly Cotton of Nature Theater of Oklahoma admitted that, as artists working in New York City during the past couple of decades, she and colleagues sometimes felt like they couldn’t get away from The Wooster Group. It seems Wooster is treated as the industry-standard of success for avant-garde theatre in New York, in caliber, creativity, and available technology and funds. As the TBA festival continues, I’m starting to know how they feel. It’s been hard for me to get away from my impressions of the various layers of the Wooster piece when watching and thinking about everything since, and even performances of past years (specifically Hand2Mouth’s Repeat After Me from 2007, but I’ll save those thoughts for a different post). Actually, the only real reminder of TIST…B I had while giggling my way through R&J was the notion that in both pieces it all depends on who’s in the director’s chair. Both render ultimate control to, respectively, who is swiveling in the hot seat, and who’s on the other end of the telephone. I guess I could add that actors in both pieces had audio prompts fed into their ears to both distract and inform them during the performance.
On Thirteenth, Featuring Yukio Suzuki and Zan Yamashita, Curated by Offsite Dance Project
Posted By: Jimmy Radosta
Photo By: Gordon Wilson
For me, the best moments of TBA take the audience out of traditional performance venues and onto the streets of Portland. Remember in 2007 when Gary Wiseman threw a “Silent Tea Party” on the campus of Reed College, or in 2009 when Tyler Wallace and Nicole Dill invited us to listen in on their private conversation in the parking lot outside Washington High School? On Thirteenth, a two-part performance curated by Offsite Dance Project, took advantage of two very different spaces last night along Northwest 13th Avenue: inside Pacific Northwest College of Art and outside Bridgeport Brewery. In the first segment, choreographer Zan Yamashita read rapid-fire instructions to Ezra Dickinson, creating a crowd-pleasing blend of verbal gymnastics and physical movement.
Next up was the real endurance test: Amid a dreary downpour, the crowd filed out of PNCA and walked a few blocks down the street, where we huddled under umbrellas to see Yukio Suzuki sprawled on the railing of a balcony, fully exposed to the elements. The weather only enhanced the bleak material: As the performer slowly sprang to life, he launched into a brutal cycle of death and reanimation, inflating a white balloon, tumbling down a set of stairs, throwing himself on the wet pavement and climbing a rusty ladder to a nearby rooftop, where he howled into a chimney. It was a demonstration of true commitment to one’s craft and easily the site-specific highlight of this year’s festival.
Dayna Hanson, Gloria’s Cause
Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Romeo & Juliet
Posted By: Jimmy Radosta
Photo By: Rio
That question has been burning in my mind ever since I noticed a strange trend at this year’s festival.
Nature Theater of Oklahoma ruffled my feathers when a performer wearing a chicken costume arrived in the middle of Romeo & Juliet, in which an actor and an actress take turns clumsily describing the Shakespearean tragedy. Their fuzzy recollections are crass (Paris supposedly visited Juliet’s deathbed to “jerk off” on her corpse), their pronunciations are butchered (“balcony” becomes “bal-COE-ny”), and their tangents are random (9/11, Anna Nicole Smith, a loss of virginity). It’s like having high art filtered through the mind of a pothead Sarah Palin. The end result is goofy and unpredictable at times, but the joke quickly wears thin. Nature Theater of Oklahoma impressed me at past TBA Festivals by fusing amusing scenarios with its uniquely juvenile choreography, but Romeo & Juliet offered minimal movement…except for the chicken that showed up intermittently, for unknown reasons.
Dayna Hanson was similarly bird-brained when a performer wearing a bald eagle mask inexplicably showed up in Gloria’s Cause, an off-key rock musical inspired by the American Revolution. In this case, the national symbol at least loosely matched the patriotic proceedings, but I’m crying fowl.
Emily Johnson The Thank-you Bar
Posted by: Ariana Jacob
Dimly glowing blocks of metaphorical igloo ice handed out to everyone
Dreamy layers of sound at times building slowly, at times appearing suddenly throughout the room
360 degrees of stage around the audience fading away into darkness
The realer side of the magical realism moments where Emily includes herself, the history of the building and some exit signs into the performance
Time to think about relationships with place in the North West
Heavy handed metaphors: an endless stack of name-tags = oh, all our shifting identities, the fish that can’t be dissected = well, somethings just can’t be studied, only known in their own contexts
The uncomfortably practiced performance of sincere in-the-moment-ness
Lots of jumping around
Danielle Kelly and Noelle Stiles, Blanket
Posted by: Robert Tyree
Blanket is aptly named; it felt really nice inside. Hugging helped. Nice to have the work’s aesthetic live inside me in a harmonious sensation; no small feat.
I was set up by magic: the moment my tactile experience of getting fresh with my dream pillow-sculpture echoed aurally in the idyllic installation space. How long were Lucy and I creating the pre-show sound score before it clicked that we were? I bet other (more knowing) audience members watched our discovery wistfully, vicariously re-living their own, moments passed, crystalline realization.
On the way to the show I was almost killed. Some car driver on NE Weidler probably thought that that text message, or tea-party-express radio interview, was so important that you could just assume the light at the intersection of 7th Avenue was green. 40 to 0 in no time flat, but an ugly smell. Luckily she looked up and realized I was there on my bike, ready to die, right?
posted by Kirsten Collins
At the TBA in a Nutshell chat, Cathy Edwards suggested Maria Hassabi’s SoloShow as a piece that would particularly appeal to visual artists. Hassabi uses her body as sculpture, creating a collage of representations of women throughout art history and popular culture.
photo by Rio
Hassabi dances on an elevated square platform, which at times evokes a pedestal, at others a bed. The dance is comprised of a series of postures, strung together like a slide show.
Hassabi remains a canvas throughout, void of personality or motivation. Dressed in loose white pants and shirt, hair drawn back in a bun, Hassabi is largely sexless. There is no flirtation, no feminizing. At several moments, I was reminded of fashion magazines with models casually leaning against ridiculous props, bodies slouched akimbo to seem more sexy. Rather than make these postures look effortless, Hassabi’s twitching muscles and stern expression emphasize her unnaturally contorted state. But overall, she does not offer an explicit commentary on the way women have been portrayed through the ages, and instead lets the movements speak for themselves.
Danielle Kelly + Noelle Stiles: Blanket
Blanket Space, 1100 NW Glisan
posted by: dirtybombpdx
Non-narrative solo performance is extremely difficult to pull off, but especially so at 45 minutes in length. Having heard (and seen) so much about this show and the art installation aspect of it, I have to admit, I was sadly under-whelmed by the “blanket space”. The soft sculptures hanging in the space at 11th and Glisan are lumpy pastel sacks that, in their messy whimsy, would be pretty light fare if shown in a gallery setting. A few of the sacks are wired for sound and when touched create an interactive music-scape (an original score is credited to Unrecognizable Now). Given the opportunity to explore the interactivity between dancer, object and sound, the resulting score, like the space, is less than dynamic, and ironically, feels completely unoriginal (late 80′s New Age. I wanted to light a scented candle). The choreography, though not completely uninteresting, at times borders on parody. The opening 10 minutes (it may have been less, but felt twice that long) has Ms. Stiles seated on a puffy chair with a giant stylized pillow on her head and right arm as she slowly (way way too slowly) looks for the most comfortable way to sit. I nearly laughed and/or walked out. The piece takes a tremendous amount of effort on Ms. Stiles part and I applaud her commitment. But though there are some interesting shapes and cadences to be had mid-floor, overall there is very little of compelling interest. I’ve seen a fair amount of contemporary dance of late and I’m realizing how very difficult it is to come up with something compelling AND original (then again, the same could be said about any of the creative mediums).
Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, First Love
Posted by: Liam Drain
First Love’s narrator claims his recollection (fractured by significant memory lapses and meandering tangents) of meeting a woman on a bench, reluctantly occupying a room in her apartment and leaving her as she gives birth to their child, is the story of his first love and only love. The character, drawn directly from that ubiquitous cohort of lonely, isolated, angry male characters who somehow evoke sympathy and interest again and again, might be dead. He is certainly speaking from outside of the world. As essentially misanthropic and unlikable as First Love’s sole character is, the way he understands love, his single experience of love, is so profoundly impoverished and incongruous with the conventions of romance (which may be fraught with all kinds of political complications, but they’re better than nothing and at least we get some good pop songs out of them), his claim of love raises an uncomfortable question about the intelligibility of a central human experience.
Posted by Mead Hunter
Okay, Nature Theater of Oklahoma‘s Romeo and Juliet closes TONIGHT, so let me just say: do not miss this final performance. Whether Shakespeare’s famous text last baffled you in high school or you’ve suffered countless outdoor summer performances of it or you’ve actually trod the boards with it, this affectionate mish-mash is a laugh-out-loud epiphany.
Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre, In The Solitude of Cotton Fields
Posted by: Forrest Martin
Photo by: Gordon Wilson In The Solitude of Cotton Fields is what you’d get by steeping a bag of A Clockwork Orange in an expensive tumbler of crazy Polish water. Set to a relentless, live drum ‘n bass soundtrack, two men wax philosophic/poetic about cruising each other on a dark street. The eternally literary back and forth – as they take turns spilling their respective, cerebral views in the form of rock-opera monologues – does nothing to personally pull me into a narrative (the whole show is in Polish, and subtitled, so you can’t get too involved in fixing your attention on any one person for long – though the projected subtitles make for an arresting visual effect). You could call this show “communication”, but not “entertainment”. I left the 75 minute production battered, aware that the actors just gave strenuous performances (they’re both impressively self-commanding), but the screaming, naked catharsis was for them, not me.
Charles Atlas / Tornado Warning
Posted by: John Wilmot
For sheer energy, it’s hard to beat Tornado Warning by video artist Charles Atlas. Easily my favorite TBA 10 installation at The Works, the two rooms of projections offer very different but equally exciting experiences. Inspired by memories from his Midwestern childhood of — you guessed it — tornado warnings, the videos capture both the tense anticipation and the ensuing chaos of a life altering force of nature.
The first room offers a single video, but it is the star of the show. Beginning with bars of white light; nervously pulsating, splitting, multiplying, they gradually become a large grid. The grid recedes slowly; the glowing lines against black seem to get farther away. Then they creep out of the flat screen, along the floor and walls, seeming to envelop us in mathematically delineated Newtonian space, bringing us into the world where something gravely serious is about to happen.
The Wooster Group/There is Still Time..Brother
Posted by Jim Withington
There’s a lot to consider in The Wooster Group‘s There is Still Time..Brother. How long should I stay? Should I sit in the control seat, and if so, when? And most importantly: what am I missing when I choose to watch something else?
John Jasperse Company Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, & Flat Out Lies
Posted by: John Wilmot
It’s hard not to appreciate tits and ass. I, for one, think they’re totally awesome. So it’s not a good sign that, in a show positively bursting with titillation, I had to struggle to stay awake.
Don’t get me wrong; the John Jasperse Company delivered everything you could want in a dance performance, including those bare breasts and butts. With thoroughly professional dancers, well rehearsed moves, and simple but intelligent costume and set design, I wanted to like the show. The problem was that there was just too much of it. Every sequence went on far too long. Every gesture lingered interminably, and every frozen pause stagnated. Even the music was too loud and the lights too bright. It was like a friend who keeps explaining a point, trying to make sure you “get it.” You just want to yell, “I get it! I get it! Let’s move on.”
posted by laura becker
I had the immense pleasure of pondering the technology richness behind the Wooster Group’s There Is Still Time..Brother, through my two hours inside its center (over a couple of visits) and the panel discussion with the makers of it, before stepping into Mike Daisey’s little-technology-needed simple set of a chair, a desk and a glass of water for his monologue, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.
Daisey is a lover of all things Apple and hater of all things Microsoft, but the only tool he needed for his performance was the power of his voice. Through his deft descriptions of the pointlessness of power point presentations, his grand gestures of the gospel of Macintosh, and his intertwined stories of the history of Jobs’ career and the capitalist gluttony of China, Daisey left the audience aching in laughter and yet heartbroken by the sad state of global economic greed.
Daisey’s dry sense of self-effacing humor almost disguised his own heroic evolution in his story. He starts out as a somewhat blind user of every new thing Apple puts out, but his obsessive reading of tech blogs leads him to a discovery of factory conditions that is just too horrid to ignore. By the end of his journey he’s become a Hawaiian-shirt wearing missionary of human rights, prodding the audience to join his army of informed activists. We are now all complicit in Apple’s slave-driving unless we use our new knowledge and our combined power as consumers to influence their work ethic.
While I loved the magic behind the Wooster Group’s installation, I felt a bit like a victim of false-advertising, since its “anti-war” promise was mostly lost in the shuffle of the needed concentration to absorb all the competing narratives and images on laptops that criscross the 360-degree screen. It is precisely Daisey’s drastically different use of theatrics, a spare set, a solo spotlight and a stirring story, that ingeniously inspires the ultimate interactivity of his audience with his message and his mission. But it is positively the fact that I can have both these experiences to ponder in one day that makes each one richer, and that is why I fucking love this festival.
Anissa Mack at The Lumber Room
Posted by: Ariana Jacob
image by Ryan Wilson Paulsen
When I entered the Lumber Room I thought I was going to see an exhibition of Anissa Mack’s work, so I was surprised to find an open, half living-space/half gallery filled with work by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Lee Bontecou, On Kawara and Yves Klein.
Anissa Mack’s work is in there too, but what she has graciously offered us is her particular curation of the space’s owner Sara Meigs’ impressive contemporary art collection. Anissa used her several week long residence in the Lumber Room to finish one of her “space-age craft” optically distorting quilts and make a site specific installation, which are both on display. But her time was largely spent looking through Meigs’ collections and pulling together a group show of works by major artists that speak to her own art. And while we don’t have the free reign to do our own thumbing through this collection we still get to feel an unusual intimacy with it just by entering this place.
When do you get a chance to spend casual, homey time with works of art of this level of historical significance?
This is a private space so go see it while they are opening their doors to us.
The Lumber Room 419 NW 9th
Nature Theater of Oklahoma: Romeo and Juliet
Posted by: Robert Tyree
“Fret not thine chuckle.”
-Made up Shakespeare by me.
Double backing, second guessing, hemming and hawing, WITH CRAZY GUSTO!
Romeo and Juliet operates through a slew of connections that reveal more about the recaller than the recalled. Shakespeare’s slaughtered text becomes a vehicle fueled and driven by contemporary memories and associations, careening about aimlessly. I care less about the make and model of the vehicle than the weight and momentum of its movement. Which is to say the stammering slang and staccato sort-of-sentences pipping from fabulous performers carried me across giggle land.
John Jasperse Company Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking & Flat-out Lies
PSU, Lincoln Hall
posted by: dirtybombpdx
Let’s have, like, an offensive rap song (but we’ll use it ironically) blast the audience while the dancers…well, who cares what they do, because I’ll be doing this really funny comedy bit in the middle of it all. Then there will be this butt-clench spotlight dance with the women in sequined shorty dresses. Yeah, I like it. And the rest of the choreography will be derivative to the point of banality. Yeah, I’m smelling a fellowship here. Then some more comedy…wait, is anything really that funny anymore, I mean, with the economy and the war and global warming and everything? Oh right, yeah, the butt-clench dance…30 seconds of funny (or mildly funny…I heard a chuckle, or was that the AC kicking on). And since, like, the butt-clenching is so genius and everything, I’ll have them butt clench in the pink/red blossom, matching swim-wear and umbrella beach scene – the scene with the muscle-stud cabana boy delivering pink cocktails. Now that’s comedy. Somebody will laugh. Right? Now for the art part. Hmm, hold on, it’s coming to me. Okay, I’ve got it, I’ve got it: titties and sweaty ass-holes, oh and men in body-stockings smelling girl’s crotches. Deep. The money’s gonna pour in. And the smoke machine, Jesus, I’ve never seen such good smoke. Maybe it could be a metaphor for something. Yeah, that’s what it is, a metaphor, a really good, thought-provoking metaphor followed by a lot of silence – a whole lot of silence. Then some more cheesy jokey stuff, or whatever, and then we’ll make everyone leave the theater for intermission*. They won’t know what the fuck is going on. We’ll get a standing O for sure. Should there be more smoke?
*some of us didn’t come back.
John Jasperse Company, Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, & Flat Out Lies
Posted by: Forrest Martin
The total virtue and variable of art is that it doesn’t have to make sense, and that’s why it clears a special place for freedom. Not shit patriotic freedom, but the abstract, untethered practices of reframing and reorganizing culture and medically cleansing your eyes. So why am I so irritated when something doesn’t make any sense? I enjoy abstraction, and leaving things unexplained; but inside of anything I’ve ever enjoyed that had a dense or random exterior, a chord of excitement – that certain conventions were being freshly distorted or even ignored – was touched, which makes it’s own kind of sense. And the problem with aiming to do something fresh and unexpected is that it actually needs to be unexpected, and a lot of crap happens all the time, so newness fatigue, or over-it-ness, or, you know, Haters, come in and feed on the injured deer. That’s a different kind of shame, because while in nature that deer just needs to die, in art it may just need better funding, a good director, or more practice. Still, I’m playing the role of the lion tonight.
No offense to T:BA, but this is the show I was expecting to find myself at at some point this week. And being that I’m dumb when it comes to dance, it makes sense that this would be the genre. Still, you can’t have an arts festival without experimentation and risks, and experimental risks often turn out flat, or terrible. The title (Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, & Flat Out Lies) is pretty indistinct, and well suited for the piece, as both represent a three or four pronged road that could still use heavy construction in order to lead to any destination I’d be interested in visiting.
If you like children’s parties, and clowns, and the whole concept of “clowning” (like Clown School), you should see this show this weekend. It will warm your feelings to see four – sometimes five – people self-consciously reveal their humanity and lack of intimidating technique. You will also be exposed to a grab bag of idea fragments as well as fun, silly dancing and free-form experimentation sort of like the first and last ten minutes of most improv dance classes. But if you’d rather watch that then do that, you can. Here. For $25.
On the other hand, no one in their right mind could contest the fact that the opening number dresses were mesmerizing. Especially during the spot-lit butt dance, when they cast a subtle disco-ball effect on the whole auditorium. If you have to, go for the dresses, and the riveting slow-motion fight scene (which is after the intermission, unfortunately – otherwise you could leave early and still make it to the Fox Tower or the Broadway Metroplex right down the street). That was the single stretch where I wasn’t aware of my body in it’s seat, or the time, or my dismay. Also, the lighting and minimal set design were great (that huge, white, back wall with a full thirty-foot bar of light slowly scanning down, then up, just like a Xerox machine – with the same dry/white/bleak quality to the light).
I’m not really sure where this show fits; if it thinks of itself as experimentally trodding new territory, or as a simple exaltation of somber-faced insincerity, punctuated by furtive stabs at actual sincerity. It’s wacky and zany, and the players clearly relish taking liberties with dance and doing it imperfectly. This is spelled out for us – still, I craved seeing more synchronization, because there were times when it was intended, just not delivered. They also enjoy physical comedy, and I don’t. But a lot of people do, and 70% of those people are between 4 and 13, and I think they would really get a kick out of this show. Even though there was partial nudity and full jock-strap thrusting, it was pretty medical…I think that scene could be passed off as an anatomy lesson. But 8:30-10:30 is way too late for that demographic.
HARD EDGE/ HARD WORK Short films by Kate Gilmore and Maya Deren
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes PROLOGUE:It’s 12:07am on Friday, September 17th. Tall Matt Haynes doesn’t think he has any use for the short films of Kate Gilmore and Maya Deren (screened muuuuuuuch earlier between 6:30 and 7:30pm). Nonetheless, Tall Matt Haynes knows that he’s responsible for reporting on these films. After 10 false starts,Tall Matt Haynes finally comes up with a strategy: Just report the content of the films and use poetic forms to have some fun with it. Here we go: Kate Gilmore: “Walk This Way”
A wall is confining Miss Kate,
Unaware of its now-certain fate.
She bashes right through
With her gloves and her shoes:
Such is modern womanhood’s state? Maya Deren: “Witches Cradle”
Strings slither and wind.
A doe-eyed witch looks stressed out.
The strings bind Duchamp.
Kate Gilmore: “Standing Here”
Kate’s climbing up the walls, quite literally.
She pounds out holes to give her grips and steps.
The goal is not to bash full-though as in
The last short film, but to climb up and out. Maya Deren: Ritual In Transfigured Time
This is a story of a nervous young sweet
Who at a socialite dance party meets
A lean muscled man who follows her, leaping
As the nervous young sweet takes flight, nearly weeping.
She throws here self into a lake, she’s so frightened.
She floats down and opens her eyes (now enlightened?)
Kate Gilmore: Between A Hard Place
(Six Word Story)
She finally breaks through to yellow.
Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre: In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
Posted by: Robert Tyree
A few days ago, I saw this video of a Jay-Z concert with crazy amazing effects and it’s been in the back of my mind throughout the festival; like where are those overwhelming intensities?
I’ve been doing at least four hours of performance every day for a week now, so… you know, my art callus is beginning to grow a bit as I come across novelties that aren’t so novel the second piece around. Can’t help but marvel at how trends/streams-in-the-zeitgeist manifest themselves across continents of contemporary artists (last year it was overhead projectors). My patience for mediocrity is exhausted. Each piece is bound to have a few magnificent moments. At this point, I’m honing in on how skillfully (or not) time is being orchestrated to carry the length of the piece.
Dog-gawn, you’d think I was a’livin’ in one of them grand, honkin’ CI-TAY-S.
Yeah, I imagine many of us are starting to raise our bars a bit and calibrate the criteria for what qualifies a work’s success. Often we see time-based pieces where slow, soft, meditative content massages our sensitivities open, like art oral sex, building up an elasticity so that a truly moving POP might emerge in sharp distinction.
We get the opposite with Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre. THIS IS LOUD AND INTENSE MOST OF THE TIME AND WE GET THE pop in a few, mercifully soft moments bEfOrE WE’RE BACK IN THE BARRAGE! As an audience member I found this refreshing and whole-bodied. The piece plowed down my distracting, egotistical, intellectual tendencies and washed me in some carnal pleasures: screams, syncopated movements, and locked-down techno jams.
Shirin Neshat Women Without Men
Stephanie Snyder Hard Edge/Hard Work: Women and Abstraction
Films at the NW Film Center
Posted by: Ariana Jacob
I’ve found that it is generally a bad idea to bring up feminism in public because most people just instinctively stop listening and mentally or physically walk away. I can feel that impulse in myself at times, but something about how potentially annoying and difficult it is to think about gender makes me want to do it more.
During this TBA season the NW Film Festival’s Whitsell Auditorium has hosted several films made by women about the condition of being women. Shirin Neshat’s
Women Without Men is a visually gorgeous, deeply saturated film about women in Iran during the 1950′s. Stephanie Snyder’s curated series, Hard Edge/Hard Work: Women and Abstraction, is a satisfyingly tight collection of historic films by Maya Deren brought into direct contact with video work by Kate Gilmore made in the last couple of years – one of which was shown at this year’s Whitney Biennial.
I appreciate these films as experiential tools for thinking about the legacy of feminism and what it means that we are gendered people in gendered cultures. Both viewings present women wrestling for and holding power and agency, yet they represent that strength as existing within unresolved, confining and confusing horizons.
Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre: IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
PROLOGUE: It’s 10:10 on the Wednesday night, September 15th. For the fifth and final time, Tall Matt Haynes frantically turns the key in his battery-dead car before yielding to the given circumstances. After he makes the embarrassed phone call and before the roadside repair does in 30 seconds what he probably couldn’t have figured out in 30 hours, Tall Matt Haynes sits back and reflects: Perhaps this car trouble was really divine post-show intervention? Did Tall Matt Haynes need a cold splash of domestic slog to put his system back into neutral? ‘Cause moments after experiencing IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS at the Winningstad,Tall Matt Haynes had indeed floated back to his car in a state that may have made him dangerous behind the wheel…