T:BA:07 Day Eleven – Sunday, 16 September 2007

T:BA:07 Day Eleven – Sunday, 16 September 2007
This just might be the last of the bLogs. It has been fun attending yet another year’s T:BA Festival, jotting down some thoughts, and hearing responses both in person and via this site. I must say though, it has been interesting on a sociological level that most of the bLog comments are quite negative, even though the in-person communication has been quite positive, intelligent and thought provoking.
I also find it interesting that people seem to mostly react with passion when I ‘dare’ to say something negative about an artist or performance. Fascinating! Even when I try to paint a context, to frame a negative criticism within the comfy nest of the many other wonderful aspects of the rest of the show, or the rest of the artist’s intentions, people seem to just latch onto that one bad / juicy morsel, and freak out.
C’est la vie.
I have no intention of starting to lie or pander. If you hate my work, please tell me, but also please tell me why, so that I may then improve what I am doing, and take your intelligent thoughts into consideration for my next endeavor.
Right, onto covering the last day of PICA’s T:BA Festival…
9:30a Zoe Scofield Workshop, Conduit
11:00a Cartune Xprez, Living Room Theater
12:30p Moving Images, PNCA
1:30p Affair, Jupiter Hotel
3:00p Elevator Repair Service, Imago
8:30p Claude Wampler, Gerding Armory
10:30p Some Cats from Japan, Wonder
1:00a John Carpenter Band [secret performance]
The day started with a dance workshop, which has become a really fun way to begin. I might start going through withdrawal now that T:BA is over and need to start taking classes with someone. Anyone have any suggestions?
Zoe, Christiana Axelsen and Allison van Dyck were at Conduit to convey some of the methodology that they use to inspire and inform their dance troupe. Zoe took the lead, and Christiana and Allison just faded back into the horde of participants. Basically what we did was to think not about flowing full-body movement, but to allow a finger, wrist, elbow, or shoulder to inform out movement and dictate it. Keeping yourself still, relax your body and mind,… Now, bend a finger, not the entire hand, just the finger. Feel the relationship between that finger and the rest of your hand, the rest of your body. Now, move from your wrist. Not the entire arm, don’t bend your elbow, just your wrist. But, keep that finger, which you moved earlier in the same relative position to the rest of your hand. Try it again. Move your wrist in a different direction, keeping that finger / hand relationship pure and undisturbed. Now try moving your elbow, not the wrist, finger or hand. They are to stay in place, relatively. If it helps, start thinking of your body as a series of servo’s like C3PO in Star Wars, you are only moving on set at a time, and all of the other bodily relationships are staying fixed. Keep going, try some more movement, now don’t let the limitations of ‘range of movement’ impeded you. Move your finger, move it so that it guides your entire body. Imagine a cable attached to your finger. As you move it, it stretches forward, first pulling your hand, then your wrist, arm, perhaps your entire body. Like a marionette, that pulling upon your finger could lift you through space like the marionettes in the film “Being John Malkovich”. As your finger is pulled, as the motion is translated through the other joints of your body, which are affected, which are not and therefore stay the same. If one of the area does not change, then the ghost imprint of the earlier movement stays strong. It is this play between ghosts and impetus that informs their work.
We then worked as partners, moving each other, one part at a time, like one of those little wooden figures you can buy at Utrecht with ball joints to allow articulation.
It is a simple idea, but a beautiful one.
Often it is the must subtle of things that is most powerful.
Thank you Zoe, Christiana and Allison.
The dance workshop finished up just after 11am, so I could have rushed over to the Livingroom Theater for Cartune Xprez, but I was more motivated by the prospect of yummy food, as I had not yet eaten. So, to Blossoming Lotus I went. YUM!
Today’s PNCA Noon:30 was with Aki Onda and Fuyuki Yamakawa. Pablo de Ocampo moderated, which was wonderful, but also sad as a reminder that he no longer lives in Portland; as he is not the artistic director of the Images Festival in Toronto. I do miss having Pablo’s vision and quiet wisdom in town. Aki showed some of the ‘memory stills’ and ‘memory sounds’ that he samples to fill the void in his life. Having re-emerged from depression, he is greatly interested in that which might otherwise become forgotten, and using these ‘memories’ as a basis for his work. [More later at the Works.]
Fuyuki Yamakawa discussed the technical and biofeedback meditations he does with his heart music. The discussion group was concerned about the gimmicky nature of their work, and wanted to know about the potential for either type-casting, or just having a cool toy that people want to see. This is something that “That One Guy, musical alchemist” and the more famous “Blue Man Group” often have to struggle with. Do you want to get famous and ‘sell-out’ for your gimmick, or do you want to become respected for your creative process and exploratory vision? No one, well mostly no one, wants to be a one hit wonder; but just getting that first hit, let alone being able to sustain it for a life-time artistic career, is very difficult. Many ‘famous’ artists died penniless in gutters, and were not ‘discovered’ until later. Dickson’s path aside, I still think we should focus upon process and artistic journeys that span a lifetime. [Please note, I only know about what they discussed here, and the pieces they presented at the Works. I’m mostly writing about the conversation that group had during the Noon:30 chat, and not making a critique of the artists themselves.]
Have a little time before Gatz was to begin, I headed over to the Jupiter Hotel to see the Affair. This is a wonderful annual event that was started by envisioned by Stuart Horodner, formerly with PICA, now with the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. This was not a T:BA event, but out of respect PICA was kind enough to list it. I was impressed with some of the work from Quality Pictures [www.qpca.com], which is a gallery at 916 NW Hoyt right here in Portland. Funny, that with galleries from all around the country, that I was drawn to the work from one here in town. Quite unexpected.
The lovely bonus was that I had a chance to sit down with Gary Wiseman and chat for a bit. I had missed his three T:BA tea parties, and was thrilled to find him at the end of the walkway with a few cups of tea and sesame treats. He is a really nice guy, and I am looking forward to having many more conversations with him. He simply wants to help people start having genuine and sincere relationships, and it all begins with the first conversation.
We also were able to speak about the temporality of the universe, specifically in relation to some of the pieces that he is currently creating. I told him a bit about a project out Japan called “Shinkenchiku” and some of the ideas that I mused upon for an earlier response to the project, but I will just let the reader do some follow-up if they are interested, and not lengthen this posting unnecessarily.
Look, I’m trying to be a ‘better’ bLogger…
;P
3pm, time to get a drink, eat a snack, pee, or whatever else you need to do before sitting down for a seven-hour performances. OK, so going in, I knew that I was not going to be able to stay for the full thing, as I had a reservation for Claude Wampler, so I knew I had a ‘way out’ if it got too bad. But it wasn’t. This is another one of those pleasant T:BA surprises.
Mark Russell has been raving about Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz” all week. My expectations were low, as I tend to not connect much the theater pieces, but in I went.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of those books that I read when I was a kid, and I remember enjoying it. Elevator Repair Service did a wonderful rendition of the work, being quite inventive, interpretive and intelligent about how to translate the work into a contemporary setting. I did enjoy their show, or at least the four hours worth that I witnessed, but I had to make a choice, and even though I saw the play starting to evolve into something with a great energy and personality, I did not feel that I was going to “WOW” me, so I decided to keep to my original plan, and head over to Claude’s piece.
Claude Wampler’s work is something that I have heard rumors about, and was quite interested in. Plus, as I was having a bit of dinner before heading over to the show, a number of things crystallized in my mind…
1) Claude spoke about her work being contrived, and full of rigged drama in the Noon:30 chat;
2) Linda Austin had posted a request for performers back in July, and when I had cross-referenced the rehearsal schedule, I realized that it had to be for Claude’s piece;
3) PICA, I had thought, was only taking thirty reservations for each show….
Now, before I got to the Gerding Theater, I thought that the show was going to be upstairs where we had just seen Marc Bamuthi Joseph. That’s a 300 person theater. If PICA only took thirty reservations, then there were going to be 270 plants. THAT’S INSANE!!! Ok, so that cannot be the case. To give T:BA passes to 270 performers would be an in-kind cost of thousands, and certainly out of the budget for the performance.
What else?
What if a fire alarm goes off during the show?
Should I get up and exit the building in an orderly manner, or would it be part of the show?
I do not know, but I do know that I did enter the space in the heightened paranoia that Claude was speaking about the other day in the Noon:30 chat.
I got there a bit early.
When I arrived at the Gerding, I looked around, and remembered that it was a brand new space, and that the management would probably not allow anything really crazy to happen. No infernos were going to consume us, no bulldozers were going to come crashing through the wall… what then was the twist going to be?
Much like Liz Haley’s piece, the audience became the show. We were not watching the work enfold, Liz and Claude were watching us. We were their entertainment, their rats running the maze to an end we did not know.
They held off for a bit in letting us inside, suggesting that we go elsewhere for a snack or drink, which is strange since they have a coffee bar right there in the space. But, when I got downstairs, I started to understand why. While I was waiting, once they opened up the rope, I saw about a half dozen folks head downstairs, but when I got down there, there were a good two dozen folks. The paranoia was kicking in.
I saw a new friend of mine from the dance workshops, and I went to chat with her. She was wearing a brace on her leg, which certainly was not there earlier in the day, so I asked, as I was concerned, “What happened?” She told me about a rehearsal she has after our workshop with Zoe, and that she had rolled her ankle. It was going to be at least a month before she could get back to the rehearsals and can continue dancing. We spoke for a while, and I related stories about other dancer friends whom had rushed their recovery, and then had recurring injuries. “It is best to baby yourself a bit, and not rush things”, I said. The ushers opened the doors, and let us in with the caveat that it was a one-way door, and once exiting, you would not be re-admitted.
OK, let the games begin.
I went in, and promptly headed straight for the back row. I wanted to watch the audience, as I knew they were going to be part of the show, or the full show, depending upon how you look at it. Perfect, back row, center, full view of it all!
Crowd comes in, I start counting heads.
There are some ninety people there.
WOW, sixty plants, that’s quite a commitment for PICA!
A really tall guy sits down next to me, and starts chatting right away.
He just won’t stop, chatting with me, chatting with the fellow on the other side of him, he just keeps going. But, I want to stay focused, I want to figure this thing out. Where are the smoke and mirrors, what is the secret code behind all of the magic.
They guy next to me keeps going, so I start thinking, “ok, so this guy is a ‘talker’ plant”… what are the other roles that are being played out there.
A projector comes one, and a polar bear costumed person saunters across the stage. Kinda cute, in a kitschy way.
Then three more bodies appear, light and smoke merge to create holographic personas that we can watch working out a new music piece. It is entertaining, but just takes a long time.
Well, as their momentum starts to build, this guy flicks on his lighter. Oh, he has got to be a plant!
Then more people with lighters. Some people get up and leave, the crowd hisses at them, more band practice, more chit chat in the audience, it is getting very informal in the space, I’m watching a social transformation. People laugh at things that are kinda funny, but not really. People start talking with each other, the guy next to me is trying to strike-up a music history dialogue with the other fellow on his other side, as he has realized that I just refuse to give-in to his role. A lady in the front is swaying her arm, like a good Portland hippy chick [just a descriptor, not a slam] ready to dance with the least of a bass line, the intensity grows.
The ‘real’ band emerges. It is Johnny Carpenter, straight from NYC! Cool!
Johnny is wearing silver undies, and looking quite cute.
The crowd erupts. People are singing along, dancing in the aisles, it is all just too much.
I catch a glimpse of Claude standing in the back corner, puffed up and with a head mic like a roadie or bouncer. I keep one eye on her.
The ‘show’ ends. And people leave, but some stay behind.
I want to stay, I am waiting for that fifteen minute solo that she spoke about with the dogs in the back of another show.
There are some minimal things.
A lady picks up the polar bear head that is sitting upon the floor, places in over her head, and does a few dance steps.
Someone goes to head back stage, to talk with their friends in the band, and Claude grabs her and tosses her back as any good bouncer would do.
Then, that seems to be it.
Some people come in and start breaking down the set.
Some others are cleaning up the seats.
But, Claude is still down there.
I’m watching her, it is over, is she just watching the end of the piece with a sense of satisfaction.
I figure I’ll just go talk to her.
“Thank you, I enjoyed the show”… “Those cigarette lighter people had to be plants”
“No, it was a genuine response by the audience”, Claude says.
Hummm…
Tonight was the last night of the show.
I had reserved my ticket just so that I could be there at the end.
If it was really to be the end of her artistic career, I wanted to see the last hurrah.
As I exited, still watching the people around me with inquiry, as was the show really over?
I checked my watch, and it was 9:30. The show was scheduled to be an hour, so it might have really been done. But, I just want not sure.
When I got up to the ground level, I saw some friends whom are Gerding staff getting ready to leave, so I figured that it was really over, that I could relax and just start chatting with folks. And lucky me, the group of ladies I met up with were discussing the predicament and beauty of menopause. Ah, yep, back in reality.
Well, the ‘plants’ were getting together, as it was the last show, and they were going to go celebrate. I did not know whom they all were, but I knew that Linda was the conductor, so I followed her to the group. My friend in the brace was not wearing it any longer… She was a plant too?!?!?! What the #$^&*(!
The lady in front of me with the great swaying pants, she too was one of the plants.
And the lady with the el-wire headband, I thought she was just a burner still glowing from the playa.
Yeah, the guy next to me was one of the plants, that I expected, but the guy he was annoying on the other side of him, whom I thought was as genuine as myself, he was a plant too!
Oh, and the guy that started the lighter thing, whom I assumed was a plant from the get-go, he wasn’t. He was just a drunk guy that was hitting on a lady whom actually was a plant. How’s that for irony!
Oh my goodness, it was brilliant!
Claude, you might be right, to create something ‘real’ it might need to be completely contrived!
It would be amazing to get inside of Claude’s head, because she seems to keep her cards close; but that is the nature of her creative vision. She has to keep other in the dark.
Thank you Claude.
One last night at the Works to see some cats from Japan. Aki Onda and Fuyuki Yamakawa I had heard speak about their work earlier in the day. But, Atsuhiro Ito and Kanta Horio were still unknowns.
Fuyuki Yamakawa I really liked. He was the one that earlier spoke about amping his heart sounds with a midi connection of light strobes. It was very cool, intense, and visceral.
I was not so into the other three performers. Kanto Horio’s electromagnetic work was interesting for a few moments, but no more impressive to me then when I started playing with that stuff as a kid. Mind you, the sounds for a disc of metal tossed upon a resonant surface and spinning to flat is one of my favorite sounds, right up there where the drawing a sword out of a scabbard, but the duration lost my attention. Atsuhiro’s piece with the light tube was interesting, and I really enjoyed it on one level, but as it seemed that the light was midi’d to the bass, and not the other way around, I lost interest on a higher level. I thought he was going to ‘play’ the light, but it was just schtick. Good music though. Aki’s work was fun, and with his images could have been much more theatrical, but he chose to stand quietly upon the stage while his mix pummeled.
I enjoyed the intensity of the three ‘loud’ piece, but having one of those ear plug vending machines that they have over at Mt.Tabor might have been nice.
Is the night over, is there more?
Yes, there is.
But, much in Claude Wampler’s vein, after much of the crowd left, Mark Russell got on stage, did a few thank you’s and then introduced the John Carpenter Band. It was great. Like when you purchase a CD and there is a secret track at the end of the play, which you were not expecting.
A bunch of us cleared ways all of the chairs and a little dance floor was filled up with people. Mostly the plants from Claude’s show, and a few PICA staffers, we had a great time! Even ended the night with a little pillow fight before they toss all of us out.
- – - THE END – - -
[time to get some sleep, and clean the house…]
Ciao,
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
Atelier Z
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts
http://www.fhzal.com


Prior ‘Day in the Life’ Posts:
Navigating T:BA;
Day 01 – Opening Night;
Day 02;
Day 03;
Day 04;
Day 05;
Day 06;
Day 07;
Day 08;
Day 09;
Day 10.


Fredrick’s Best to Worst:
BEST:
TEEth
Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Donna Uchizono
Marc Bamuthi Joseph Workshop
Reggie Watts
Randee Paufve Workshop
Excellent:
Taylor Mac
Mirah & Spetratone International
Lifesavas
Regina Silveira
Good:
The Suicide Kings
Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey
Ten Tiny Dances
Young Jean Lee’s Theatre Co.
Mammalian Diving Reflex Haircut
Guido va der Werve
Cloud Eye Control / Anna Oxygen
Claude Wampler
Andrew Dickson
John Carpenter Band
Sara Greenberger Rafferty Workshop
Hip Hop 101 Workshop
OK:
Liz Haley
Rinde Eckert
Zoe Scofield Workshop
Donna Uchizono Workshop
Elevator Repair Service
Vanden Eynde & Vendendriessche
Portland Cello Project
Holcombe Waller
Some Cats from Japan
William Kentridge
Could have missed it and not cried too much:
Awesome
Urban Honking Workshop
Arnold Kemp
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Kassys
Hand2Mouth Theatre
Fred Frith / Zeena Parkins / Ikue Mori
Cartune Xprez
Really sucked [for me, remember you might think something completely otherwise…]:
Jeffrey Mitchell
Larry Krone
Las Chicas del 3.5 Floppies

Kassys Kommer

I’m tired of sad. The ten years I’ve spent collecting degrees related to the making and study of literature have convinced me that it’s much more difficult to create a beautiful, meaningful, and solid piece of art that celebrates humanity than one that mourns for it.
Kassys looks straight into the face of that mournfulness, both in the form of a grieving group of characters and in acknowledgment of the tragic little human condition. It attempts to reveal the happy absurdities of life, and throughout much of the performance, most of the audience was in stitches. A scene in which six grieving characters absentmindedly revel in and destroy planters full of shriveled plants was deeply memorable, absurd and profound at once. The first half of the performance is a stage play, and then, as that play ends, the actors essentially step off the stage and onto the screen, where they become characters whose post-performance solitude in separate vignettes becomes the focus for the next half. It is an ingenuous mode of enlivening the old play within a play, and the implications of the film as “real” life are thought-provoking (maybe only if you’re a scholarly type). The show, as you watch it, makes you laugh. You are engaged by the absurdity first and foremost.
Yet when I left, I, for one, felt like I do when I leave a Bergman film. What I left the theater with was the deep sadness, the isolation, that lay beneath the humor. Perhaps I have no right to feel peevish that a performance entitled “Sorrow” made me feel sad, but for me the performance lost something in that the humor didn’t stick, in that I was left with that Bergman devastation I know so well.
Of course comparing the performance to Bergman is a compliment as well, and a deserved one. Technically speaking, the performance was brilliant, and the performers knew what Bergman knew about the quiet and the unquiet gesture, about the world in the space that lies between people, and the broad spectrum of the human condition that can be expressed in a perfectly blank face. Yet joy, too, and quiet happiness, have their deep part in the human condition, and its honest expression seems to me to be a struggle that is worth having, and one which lies beneath many of the performances at this year’s T:BA.
Posted by: Taya Noland

All the stage is a lie – Young Jean Lee’s “Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven”

Convergences are what make TBA. Perhaps it is just the result of seeing this concentration of stellar avant-garde performances in such a short window of time, but I always have this sense of déjà vécu that unifies the entire week of experiences. The eleven days blend into this sublimely exhausting web of conversations and concepts and visual stimuli that beg to be examined. It could just be that a lack of sleep puts me in the mindset to read too much into the similarities, but I love feeling like I’ve discovered these hidden intentions behind PICA’s festival curation. Quickly thinking back over what I have seen, a handful of such confluences easily come to mind. Going from Sell Out to Disinformation, I looked at Watts’ commercial breaks and sponsor acknowledgments a little differently than I otherwise would have. In reading about Eckert’s past work, I learned he had helped create a piece based on the lost yachtsman David Crowhurst. Days later, I saw that name appear again in Ryan Wilson Paulsen’s installation on exploration and searching. And hearing the mechanical/factory score of Donna Uchizono’s State of Heads put me in the right mood to appreciate Amy O’Neal’s beat-box narrated dance with Reggie Watts.
But out of all the myriad themes I found running through the performances, there is one that I just keep returning to – the transparency of the stage. It is easy to get lost in the dream-state of the festival, but I feel like this year, the PICA staff selected shows that would never let the audience forget that it is all an illusion. I think back to Kassys or the Nature Theatre, both of which bombarded the viewers with self-referential asides, only to trick the audience into believing the entire charade. From what I have heard of Wampler, she has accomplished much the same thing in her latest work. So with this, I was thrilled to find that Young Jean Lee, a remarkably sharp and hard-to-characterize writer, continued apace with Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven.
The piece opens by plunging the audience into unexpected darkness. As your eyes adjust, there are no visuals, only a recording in which you hear Lee and two men making a video. They discuss the action that they are about to film – it seems to involve a slap across Lee’s face – debating the intensity with which they should perform the hit. Then you hear it. It makes you cringe, but you haven’t seen a thing. The voices dissect it and they try again. The audience flinches just as strongly. The slapping continues, interrupted only occasionally by stage directions to Lee (“Chin up. Debutante.”), for an uncomfortably long time. I kept reminding myself that it is a play and that Lee is the one in charge and that I still haven’t even seen the violence. For all I knew, they could be mimicking the sound like a foley artist, laughing that the audience imagined each crack as a real slap. But just when I felt assured that this was the joke, the video comes on and Lee stares directly at the audience, tears running down her face, sniffling. She is slapped again and every frame that would have shown the hand is cut out. There are tears and a struggle for composure, the sound of the slap, and then Lee’s face rebounding from the impact. Every time that you feel like you’ve caught on to the gimmick of the performance, Lee changes the rules. She reminds you that this is just a play and then she slips in a question mark. This video sets the tenor for the entire performance.
Featuring a young woman named Korean American who delivers all of her caustic lines with a wide-eyed wonderment, Songs of the Dragon is wildly offensive in the vein of a race-baiting stand-up comic. But Lee is not that facile of a writer to merely write the kind of play you would expect with characters named Koreans 1, 2, and 3. Just like Lee kept restating the terms of her introductory video piece, every line of dialogue is contradicted or revised until you can’t keep up with what her intention is. Every laugh comes at a price. From the opening monologue in which Korean American delivers a knowing lampoon of Asian stereotypes to her later interactions with the Koreans, each sequence of jokes ends with a reminder that the audience isn’t in on the joke. At first you think the joke is the one-liner. Gradually, you realize that Lee is highlighting your ignorance every time you laugh and that this is the joke. But wait, she reminds you, “You have no idea what the fuck we’re up to.” Through the whole show, Lee deliberately frustrates understanding by juxtaposing squeaky clean pop songs with sadistic pantomime or by leaving large passages of dialogue in Korean.
To complete this exclusion of the audience, Lee intersperses the action between Korean American and the three Koreans with a straight-faced relationship drama between White Person 1 and White Person 2. They are the stand-ins for the audience and they are every bit removed from the action as you are. While Korean American battles with white culture and her Asian heritage, all that the White People can muster is a shallow and incredibly self-indulgent examination of their sex-life, their appearances, and their roller-ball pens. At most points, they only enter the scene once the Korean characters have left. When their time on stage does overlap, everything is lost in translation – the Koreans sing and dance in their own vernacular, while the White People try to follow along in the spirit of cultural sensitivity, but ignorant of the meaning of what they are doing. They are as lost in this culture as the audience was when waiting in line, surrounded by caricatured “Asian” art, paper lanterns and a stone pathway upon which we hesitantly walked, only after being instructed to do so.
You think you get it, the whole point of the play. The audience reveals their racism by whole-heartedly laughing along with the absurdly bigoted jokes. White Person 1 and White Person 2 are clearly racist because of their self-absorbed obliviousness. Even Korean American is just as racist towards the Koreans as she believes that the audience is towards her. Yet Lee isn’t writing a morality play about the universality of bigotry. In the midst of another trivial scene between White Persons 1 and 2, Lee deploys her four Asian women to speak on her behalf. Delivering their lines in unison, Lee directly rips apart everything she has done the entire show and how clever and edgy she believed herself to be. Sounding like a “Pledge of Allegiance to My White Cultural Patrons,” the four women explain that Lee is no racial provocateur. Rather, she is just reinforcing stereotypes and mollifying your guilt. And if these last few minutes have been too political, they reassure, Lee will just cut them because your comfort is all that matters. So with that, let’s just return to the relationship problems of a white couple, shall we?
Lee wrote a comedy, changed it to an admonishing sermon, rewrote parts to make it a confessional piece, went back to the comedy, deconstructed it down to a political statement, then decided to scrap the whole thing and write a straight romance. Each time you think you’ve pinned it down and know what you’re watching, Lee changes genres. I’m still not sure if I got Lee’s joke or if I was just the butt of it.
posted by patrick l.

Reading Between the Lines – A Conversation About GATZ

The following is a near-total summary of Saturday morning’s conversation between John Collins, artistic director for Elevator Repair Service, the theatre company staging Gatz, and Mark Russell, artistic director for this year’s T:BA festival.
Elevator Repair Service began with John Collins and his friend James Hannaham in 1991, when the two were rehashing an old joke after moving to New York City after college. When Collins was nine, he took a career placement test which listed repairing elevators as one of his top job opportunities based on his personality and interests. Their joke was that he would use this name for any theatre company he founded in NYC, and it became the name associated with the group after their first performances.
Influenced by the Wooster Group, the famous experimental theatre company, ERS builds plays from scratch and utilizes multimedia in ensemble pieces. Initially, Collins worked with friends to do little shows, using an aesthetic based on what was at hand: here are the people and material we have in the space we can get. Earlier works were based on research, beginning with dramaturgy and ending in a play. Starting with material in which they were interested, they asked how can it become appealing on stage? Their 1993 piece about Andy Kaufman, “Language Instruction: Love Family vs. Andy Kaufman”, began this way.
Usually it takes the company 18 months to prepare a show, not 8 years, as it did Gatz. They stage performances through the process of creating plays, using them as drafts for further revision based on audience feedback. Otherwise, they can run into the problem of internalizing the show too much and including too many in-jokes that are funny for actors but not audiences, Collins said. ERS is an informal, porous theatre company. Gatz includes about 4-5 people who’ve worked with ERS for over a decade, several people who’ve been in ERS shows before, and some people who are new.
In 1999, ERS began discussing how to stage F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a book Collins never read in high school. We are not playwrights, Collins said, so we did not want to distill dialogue or insert stage directions. They were intrigued by the question, how do you put a novel on stage, the novel as a whole into a theatrical experience? Initially, they were going to say their production was “inspired by” The Great Gatsby, but as they read it over again, they wanted to preserve the novel itself as a form. Collins was taken with the contemporary language, the streamlined, efficient yet poetic writing, and he couldn’t find a single word that felt unnecessary. An editing venture felt like asserting an authority we didn’t have, he said. Besides, the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, is a convenient solution to the problem of how to read the novel. Interested in upsetting expectations of what theatre and adaptation are, they set to work.
Plans to begin production in earnest were soon derailed, however, by the 2000 TV movie version, starring Mira Sorvino. The Fitzgerald estate would not re-license the text for four years. In 2003, ERS began work anew, and began practicing regardless of the estate’s permission. Collins, actor Scott Shepherd (who plays the narrator), and actor James Urbaniak (who is not in the production) began rehearsals in the intern office at the Wooster Group’s theatre. This helped the creators decide to set the play in an office, with a man who begins reading the book, which is about a man overcoming class and re-imagining himself, moving from rural poverty to urban wealth. This mundane, white-collar office is a good background for the novel, Collins said. Other productions, such as the 1974 Robert Redford movie, are all about the glitz and period costumes, which make them less interesting. Once that falls away, you see the core of the novel. Similarly, ERS presents an ambiguous office space so that the novel’s center, a young man running away from his situation in life and reinventing himself, is emphasized.
The play is titled Gatz because that is Jay Gatsby’s real last name: James Gatz. It is, therefore, the core of the character. Also, ERS did not want to call it The Great Gatsby because it is not by Fitzgerald; rather, it is a theatrical production that includes the novel but that is really a work by Elevator Repair Service. It is also partly inspired by their play about Andy Kaufman, who read The Great Gatsby in a smoking jacket with an upper class accent in comedy clubs. Often he would be booed off stage or the club would empty out. Kaufman asked himself, what’s the most ridiculous thing you could do in that setting? ERS wanted to do something similarly crazy but make it work as theatre, to create gratification for audiences.
The Portland run is the 13th venue in which ERS has performed Gatz. [They have not been able to produce it legally in New York, their home city, due to licensing restrictions by the Fitzgerald estate, which hopes a more traditional adaptation, already written and performed elsewhere, will open on Broadway]. They’ve been performing about three shows in a row, but Collins says they could do four [the play lasts 6.5 hours, including two 15 minute breaks, plus a 1.5 hour intermission (enough time for a sit-down dinner)—8 hours total]. It’s hard on Shepherd, who is on stage performing the entire time (while other actors can rest for hours during the production). However, Collins notes that the actors are wired after the show, and that audiences experience time in a new way, having entered the novel’s internal clock.
Unlike “duration theatre,” where viewers are expected to come and go as the play rolls on for many hours (such as in theatre group Forced Entertainment’s productions), ERS wanted a coherent narrative, where the piece works because it is as long as it takes to read the novel. Gatz is not designed to punish audiences, Collins said. Besides, audiences feel a sense of accomplishment when the play concludes. We asked ourselves, Collins said, what’s too long or indulgent when creating this show? By being committed to the novel, ERS could bypass this question and use a different set of tools to keep audiences entertained.
The final chapter of the book, chapter nine, was the most difficult to stage. It’s why it’s a novel, not a play, Collins said. By then, the pace is already established and the audience is there to get the entire novel. Chapter nine is the most beautiful language in the book, he said, so they staged it mostly with one actor facing the audience intimately, no longer reading the book but reciting from memory. [Shepherd has memorized the novel and also knows all of Hamlet by heart. At ERS, they lovingly call him “the freak.”] Shepherd begins like us, reading the book rather dryly, though by the end of the play, the audience is most identified with him. What began as a reading becomes an orchestrated duet between the office world and the world of the novel. The production shows that ERS is aware of the audience and their energy level, and so audiences usually stay until the end.
Currently, ERS is working on staging Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. What’s more audacious after Gatz than doing another novel, Collins asked. A novel guarantees new ideas and a breathtaking scope, although there are already several staging difficulties (such a narrator, Benjy, who never talks) alongside the compelling text. We want to go where it’s most fearful, Collins said, adding that this is what keeps you honest. They already have the rights to the book, and the length will be more traditional; rather than read the whole work, they want to give an impression of the novel through performance. ERS also wants to work on Faulkner because they are intrigued by the challenge of translation, and because many ERS members are Southerners.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

Holcombe Waller, Into The Dark Unknown: The Hope Chest

With silky voice and well arranged folk-orchestral back-up Holcombe Waller lulls his audience into the kind of quiet complacency necessary for the absorption of such sweet singing. While his lyrics successfully stir self-reflective images of morning light on lovers’ shoulders, the actual images from his video projections fall short of purpose. They are simply too literal and force an ill-conceived redundancy that almost breaks the spell of his songs.
Equally, it is hard to say whether the set, a dining table, several “Light Moves” moving boxes and a couple of liquor bottles each mouthing a single feather, is under or over-used. To be sure it invites the audience into the artist’s country kitchen. However, as a mover, his single outstretched gesture, atop the table, to a bright light in a song about running into Jesus was quite disappointing after being led to believe (by the TBA catalogue) that, ”Hope Chest is a vocal performance that imagines movement, video, costume and character to be instruments as inextricable from the process of musical arrangement as piano…”
I understand that projects often shift significantly between proposal and production and certainly Waller’s music is well worth hearing so I am not at all complaining about having seen him, but admittedly I wonder at his inclusion in this festival. The only weak aspects of his show were precisely those gestures to performance art that might have made it seem more fitting to the festival program: movement, video, costume and character. While I don’t believe artists should only stick to what they’re good at, I would say that Holcombe faces a particular challenge if he wishes to imbue the non-vocal elements of his show with as much heart and honesty as he puts into his singing.
posted by Marty Schnapf

Larry Krone + Holcombe Waller

Dressed in red, white, and blue prison stripes, a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots, Larry Krone looked like circus cowboy escapee. And he sang such sweet, heartbreaking ditties, but for the laughs of his stage banter and woefully hyper-depressing lyrics. Krone is the big-eyed puppy in the window, with tattoos.
Breaking out of his prison outfit, Krone changed costume several times, singing in a hand-sewn multihued coat (for a song about a coat of many colors sewn of multiple fabrics due to poverty), a little girl’s dress with blonde wig (for a song about a little girl who just wants to dance with her absent/dead father again), his underwear (“I just feel like dying… I’m gonna have fun tonight even if it kills me”), and finally in a gold suit. Twice ably accompanied by Kenny Mellman on the organ, Krone played ukulele with tenderness and simplicity in front of glittering, colorful mylar streamers in the shape of a heart.
Krone’s folk-country music includes the saddest songs you can imagine (“Don’t stop crying, please don’t get better… Take me back, take me back”), and they are so sweetly affecting that they take you by surprise. I get the feeling that sitting around the campfire with Krone could be the gloomiest camping trip ever, but also an unforgettable one.
Holcome Waller’s “Into the Dark Unknown: The Hope Chest” was a subtle shift from Krone’s melancholy music. Waller’s concert featured the “introspective, depressing songs I specialize in,” as he noted. He referred to his music as “kitchen songs,” due to the kitchen’s centrality for hospitality and family/housemate poignant moments (the people you live with and the people you love, he says). Indeed, the set looked like a kitchen/dining room, with Waller sitting on a kitchen table for much of the performance, and some set pieces or equipment looking like old ice chests. He sat in a white button down shirt and slacks cut off at the knees, showing his bare legs and bare feet, a modern Huck Finn with a guitar instead of a fishing pole.
Waller sings with a soulful, soft, sweet voice, his folky music a catharsis. Accompanied by four musicians playing French horn, cello, viola, keyboard, banjo, and guitar (most notable among them the talented Ben Landsverk), the compositions took on a grander life, a gorgeous, lush vivacity. At times projections displayed videos of actors or Waller himself looking like photographs, or blurred images of leaves swaying in the wind, for example. These ethereal images reflected the delicacy of the music and the performance.
One highlight, and a shift from the tone of the other songs, was a song spoken/sung in French, a little like a lecture with a drumstick as a baton or pointer. English subtitles were projected above images that sometimes coincided with the theme of the song. The energy heightened, and people laughed at the absurdist imagery of the lyrics.
Another highlight, this time softly and carefully sung, featured the last line, “One way or another, we are going to need each other”—a bittersweet refrain for a bittersweet, bravura performance.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

Chat: Moving Images: An exploration of Music and Film

with Aki Onda, Fuyuki Yamakawa and Pablo de Ocampo.
This noontime chat offered insight into the artistic processes of two experimental practitioners from Japan. Both perform tonight at the works, and after hearing them talk about their work, I eagerly await seeing it in action. The discussion gave both artists a chance to talk about how they made their work and answer questions. Aki Onda spoke of making field recordings – he doesn’t seek them out so much as just kind of always has his walkman cassette recorder with him, and records frequently. Fuyuki Yamakawa explained how his performance stems from his body – the various noises and visuals are an emanation from the inside of his body: “I think I am a physical artist” he proclaimed. He picks up his heartbeat with astethoscope and proceeds play it. As his heartbeat changes around, his body becomes his instrument so to speak, and he can control this. Having not seen this or heard it I can only imagine, but I’m not so sure seeing it tonight will exactly complete my understanding, it seems so abstract, and having heard the chat beforehand, my interest is a bit academic at this point.
There was more talk about how the work was made, about the relationship between an image and sound. It was pointed out that the role of everyday life was dominant in both artist’s work. ToAki , the field recordings and pictures he uses are all taken from everyday life, they are documents of his everyday life, attached with his memories which are invoked in his performances. Fuyuki is certainly using the fabric of the everyday in his work, a form of documentation as well. Putting the inside of the body on display in a aural manner (he also doesTuvan throat singing in his performances). He said it was difficult to explain what he does, but it should be a pretty big extravaganza.
At any rate, it should be a good close to the festival, performers that are certainly good representations of tba artists as a whole, pushing the boundaries of artistic practice, in a way that’s bound to be enjoyable in that tba way. So all should attend!
Posted by: Benjamin Adrian

Claude Wampler: PERFORMANCE (career ender)

You may have played with the idea (as in a dream) that the entire world is a production of your imagination. It might seem spooky or lonely or egocentric, but never real. Wampler’s piece takes that mental exercise and turns it into an experience. I would be curious to know of the many people who didn’t get it, how many remember their dreams or believe that their dreams hold significance beyond the random cleaning of a tired subconscious mind. Wampler’s piece was like walking into David Lynch’s Red Room. On the surface its language seems babbled and insignificant but when reversed a slightly more cipherable world emerges and you are left in suspense- with suspicion of everyone around you.
posted by: Marty Schnapf

SNDY MRNING XPREZ DERAILED

Posted by Chloe
Despite everyone’s best efforts, the show was canceled about an hour after it was to begin. I wasn’t terribly bothered; it got me out of bed and dressed at a respectable hour, I finally saw the inside of Living Room Theaters, I got to chat with friends, and it occurred to me that a Sunday morning cartoon pajama brunch could really catch on in this town. You can learn more about the Xprez and the folks that put it together, here.

Claude Wampler: I loved it. The performance is not the performance.

The last Claude Wampler run is tonight, and I’m thinking about going for a second time. It’s a tricky one not to spoil, so I’ll try not to by saying that this was the most personal show I’ve seen yet. I’m not entirely sure, but of the 8 people I talked to while waiting or seated, I think only two were not involved in the show. I felt at times like I was the only audience member, and that’s something that no piece has done for me before. I got kissed on the forehead during last year’s Nature Theater piece, but that was the closest I’ve come to the eerie feeling that I am a part of the show.
Or maybe I am the show. Remember that Jim Carey movie The Truman Show? Where he’s the only real person in a world of actors? I couldn’t shake that feeling at Claude Wampler’s show, and I didn’t want to. It’s an amazing way to see the world.
I’d been tipped with roughly that much information beforehand, and I think that’s all you need to be in the right mindset. For the 15 minutes I waited in line I kept thinking, “has it started yet? Is this person in on it? Has it started now?” Then the same thing for another 15 minutes after the show–”has it ended yet? Is it really over? Are they all still here watching me?” Has it? Is it? Are they?
–Carissa Wodehouse
Blogger, member, enthusiast

Get thee to Gatz / Elevator Repair Service

I’m a slow reader, so I’m actually surprised that Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz – which everybody knows by now includes a complete reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – is only about 7 hours long, not counting a dinner break. I now wish that ERS would illuminate every great piece of American literature for me.
Yes, I was tired by the end. I can only imagine how tired Scott Shephard (Nick) was, or Ben Williams, who was also onstage almost the entire duration of the show. Unlike Shepard though, Williams had to sit in one spot most of the time (like us), run the excellently designed sound and, I believe, lighting cues, and play a variety of roles one doesn’t recall from the book but contribute enormously to the production’s sense of humor. What’s more, Williams seems to have been assigned the job of carrying characters offstage one by one towards the end of the play. Oh but it didn’t seem laborious at all!
On the contrary, I got the distinct impression that everyone in this production was having the time of their lives – and just living their lives, in a very extraordinary and inspiring way. Setting the action in a Dilbert-esque office was brilliant. Not only did the set contrast the main character’s simple existence with that of Gatsby, but also underlined how drab our own day-to-day lives can be…without art, without Fitzgerald, without ERS, without TBA.
Yeah, I’m already mourning the end of the festival and the return to a far less extraordinary life. But I’m inspired. As several fellow TBA-goers commiserated with me, it’s good to be left wanting more. I couldn’t take any more at 11:10pm last night when Gatz was finished, and I missed Ten Tiny Dances. What did I miss? Tell me what you thought.
My head is still spinning from Gatz. I want to read the book again, but I don’t want to see the movie again. I couldn’t help but have flashes of Robert Redford in the movie we watched in my high school English class. I remembered a quiz question – we were tested on reading the book before we got to see the film, don’t worry. It was “which famous movie actress took her first name from the pages of The Great Gatsby?” Should I tell you? Or should we form a book club of our own? I don’t think even the greatest high school English teacher, the sexiest movie star or the hippest book club could do what ERS has done to shed a brilliant light on an American “classic”.
I will never read a book in the same way again.
Hand2Mouth forever changed the way I hear American music. ERS made me REALLY hear Fitzgerald’s words. And I want more!! I want to listen to more music, read more books, see more art – brings to mind the resolutions the young Gatsby inscribed inside the back cover of his own paperback book.
I will rally today for The Affair at the Jupiter, make my way to Reed College and Corberry Press in the coming days, and keep checking back here to read your thoughts and ideas about time-based art. I’m grateful to PICA for letting us come down easy, so that I don’t have to go cold turkey. But I am a little upset too. If I had just stayed home, I might not have been reminded of how bland life can be without time-based art. Thanks a lot.
Posted by Nancy Elli

T:BA:07 Day Ten – Saturday, 15 September 2007

T:BA:07 Day Ten – Saturday, 15 September 2007
9:30a Young Jean Lee Workshop, PNCA
12:30p Reading Between the Lines, PNCA
3:00p Gary Wiseman, Rimsky-Korsakoffe House
4:00p Simple Actions, PAM: Whitsell
6:30p Young Jean Lee’s Theater Co., PCPA: Winningstad
10:30p Ten Tiny Dances, Wonder
I reached a happy saturation point yesterday. Yes, I was looking forward to Young Jean Lee’s workshop, the “Reading Between the Lines” Noon:30 with Elevator Repair Service’s John Collins, especially Gary Wiseman’s tea party [and I even had red | black | white clothing with me, but I was not sure where/what to do about the bees], and the Simple Actions film at the Portland Art Museum; but I was chatting with a friend about an artistic collaboration, and it just felt more right then running around from venue to venue for a short bit of time. I look forward to reading about the events from other bLoggers and experiencing them in a more limited capacity in PICA’s resource room once Jörg Jakoby is able to wade through the hundreds of hours worth of video and do his magic.
Young Jean Lee’s Theatre piece was excellent, which much like Andrew Dickson, greatly surprised me. I heard great things about the work, but it was going to be theater, which usually has such a hard time of drawing me in. But, Young Jean Lee was able to make it feel personal, even if they way to create something sincere is to present something completely and utterly contrived as Claude Wampler stated the other day at the Noon:30. She just might be right. Young Jean Lee did what Nature Theater of Oklahoma has been trying to do for years, but was never effective with me, Lee’s piece drew me in, it formed a bridge, just like Taylor Mac and Marc Bamuthi Joseph were able to do. Lee spoke about mocking one’s own self to then allow others to feel superior and in such more relaxed and accepting of you, as wrong as this may be, I understand the perspective. It is not so much that she was being critical of her own nationality, but she was showing ‘others’ how very wrong they are if they possess bigotry, preconceived stereotypes, etc. When I was studying in Japan, my Sensei had this amazing way of talking with me about my design work in the context of all that was beautiful and right in the world, which left me with no choice but to become self-critical and apologize for how badly my design process was going, and how I would correct my ways and make stronger artistic works. I feel that Lee did the same thing.
As some further study on the subject, I would recommend taking a seminar with the Untraining folks down in the Bay Area www.untraining.org, or atleast reading this article by Peggy McIntosh entitled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.
It was so nice to not have to rush off to another performance.
I was able to just sit about with a friend and talk with them about the show we just saw, and how it related to the litany of other works I and they had experienced in T:BA this year.
We were both quite impressed with the thread that is working it’s way through the festival this year. Mark Russell, and the rest of the PICA staff, did an excellent curatorial job this year! There is a sense of flow and beauty running through like the line that Randee Paufve spoke about with her choreography the other morning, a flow between vignettes that smoothes over junctures, but still allowing each movement to express its full beauty.
Speaking of Randee…
Ten Tiny Dances 14 took over the Wonder Ballroom, and I mean took it over!
The place was PACKED!
Ten Tiny has become a phenomena, and the word is out.
I have to just air a bit of my disgust about Mike Barber’s ego-maniacal choice to have nine pieces that were all about him. I know this is his baby, and I greatly respect the idea that he conceived, but just as some people have commented upon my bLog being wordy masturbation, at least I have the kindness to give people the option of it being in a medium that they can easily click away and not have to read it if they do not want, plus, the underwear… really Mike… have you not heard about Tim Wagner’s Under U4 Men shop on Broadway. Oh, wait I think that I did see those on the rack the other day, but by goodness, I did not purchase them. [Yeah, yeah, irony, schmirony,… I just did not want to have to watch you up there even when you were fully clothed.]

BTW, Cydney Wilkes, I greatly appreciated your comic and gestural work. Do not be offended by my remarks about your collaborator. I was especially touched by the simple piece when you placed the goggles upon your eyes.
There were some really thought provoking pieces, but there was also a lot of blatant self-promotion that was going on. Ten Tiny Dances is now seen as an audition space for potential future T:BA head liners, and a way for current T:BA head-liners to let their hair [or wig] down for a bit and by entertaining. Did I mention that I’m not a big fan of ‘entertaining’? Even Moon Patrol was just entertaining. The Kobe b-boys from Ashes to Ashes would so stomp you’re a$$!
But, I would like to thank Zoe Scofield, Christiana Axelsen, and Kate Monthy for a beautiful piece. The use of lighting that Juniper Shuey conceived for the piece, how it focused in and flowed through the pouring sands of time, how their movement enlivened the little stage, and how the subtle unfurling of one of the dancers as she receded into the crowd provided a path for their future actions. Some people are critical of Zoe, as I was just of Mike, but she has a technical prowess that is worthy of the stage.
Randee Paufve was another dancer whom fully enraptured the stage with beauty, thought and passion. I was not clear about the staccato nature of the piece, as the connective thread she spoke about in her choreography the other day was much more aware in the workshop then what I witnessed in her Ten Tiny piece; but I’ll forgive her that, as her range of movement and expressive narrative was sumptuous, beautiful and engaging.
I have one closing curatorial idea of next year.
The technical crew had to work overtime to make each of the pieces work, with clean-up, installing multiple custom stages [which was just glutinous], etc. Next year, spend the money to have two of three people from Stomp to do tech, and get rid of Mike Barber. Mike, you created something beautiful, now just sit back and enjoy watching your baby grow. It has its own life now, and it is not always about you.
Ten Tiny Dance’s Archive: http://www.tentinydances.org/archive/archive.html
Ciao,
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
Atelier Z
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts
http://www.fhzal.com


Prior ‘Day in the Life’ Posts:
Navigating T:BA;
Day 01 – Opening Night;
Day 02;
Day 03;
Day 04;
Day 05;
Day 06;
Day 07;
Day 08;
Day 09.


Fredrick’s Best to Worst:
BEST:
TEEth
Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Donna Uchizono
Marc Bamuthi Joseph Workshop
Reggie Watts
Randee Paufve Workshop
Excellent:
Taylor Mac
Mirah & Spetratone International
Lifesavas
Regina Silveira
Good:
The Suicide Kings
Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey
Ten Tiny Dances
Young Jean Lee’s Theatre Co.
Mammalian Diving Reflex Haircut
Guido va der Werve
Cloud Eye Control / Anna Oxygen
Andrew Dickson
Sara Greenberger Rafferty Workshop
Hip Hop 101 Workshop
OK:
Liz Haley
Rinde Eckert
Donna Uchizono Workshop
Vanden Eynde & Vendendriessche
Portland Cello Project
Holcombe Waller
William Kentridge
Could have missed it and not cried too much:
Awesome
Urban Honking Workshop
Arnold Kemp
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Kassys
Hand2Mouth Theatre
Fred Frith / Zeena Parkins / Ikue Mori
Cartune Xprez
Really sucked [for me, remember you might think something completely otherwise…]:
Jeffrey Mitchell
Larry Krone
Las Chicas del 3.5 Floppies

Liz Haley

Polygraph
Detector of Connection
The face of the polygraph claims that it is the Detector of Deception. But you soon realize the show isn’t about truth; it is about interaction and emotion. Liz has created a structure to have interactions with random people. This highlights the physical and emotional sensations that are part of social interaction. The performance reveals how we affect each other.
The people coming to see this performance find themselves in an unfamiliar form of social interaction. They come into a glass room and sit down at a table across from Liz. They don’t really know what to say to her and she doesn’t really have anything in particular to say to them. The rules and purposes of the exchange have to get made up on the spot. The polygraph meter serves as a stand in reason for interaction – you want to get that bar to move. The ‘audience’ is on the line. They find themselves having to bring something to offer the performance. People want to succeed in this strange social setting and the way to determine your success is measured by how far the meter moves. Liz said a lot of people are really uncomfortable when they first enter the room.
When it was my turn to go into the glass room and sit across from Liz I asked her how it felt for her to be a performer performing just herself. While she was thinking, before she responded, the meter of the polygraph lifted partway up the dial. Then she said that being herself is what the project was about. This performance is a way for her to emphasize being real and present with people – to practice it. And we get to practice it with her, if we choose.
Ariana

Claude Wampler

Having no preconceived notions about Claude Wampler as an artist, there was many assumptions that I took liberties to make based upon her interview with Mark Russell during the noontime CHAT at PNCA. Going into the show yesterday evening I felt informed, prepared and excited to for whatever was or was not going to happen. Then I went to the show and tried my hardest to keep my mind open and my patience firm, eagerly searching until the end for something to take away from this experience… alas, I came out with not much, but a half-hearted explanation that I made to myself about how this it was a valuable artistic experience. Although, I was not too convincing.
Claude Wampler is an exceptional individual whose brilliance is apparent in the subtlest of facial expressions. During the CHAT, she told the tales of her beginning days and earlier works, explaining intention and execution with confidence and insight into the theater going experience. (By the way, if you can listen to the TBA podcast of this chat then I cannot be more enthusiastic that you jump on that opportunity immediately. It was insightful, interesting and inspiring.) She discussed her influences and her inspirations in creating new works. She discussed her appreciation for the manufacturing of spontaneity (she called attention to the inherent paradox) and how this ties into the specific theater goers experience of feeling “special.” She discussed past works in which the original perception of what the piece was to be was flipped in order to challenge the audience. She also discussed her past use of “plants” in the audience to create small localized performances within the whole show.

So the show
: it started right on time, which challenged my preconceived notions of “the waiting” being part of the show based on what I had already heard. The show kept going and there was no annoying people in my vicinity to speak of, even in my “heightened state of paranoia.” Then the show kept going and people started to leave halfway through. By the end, which was not clear, people seemed hesitant to leave as if waiting for the something that they came to see. It did not seem to show up and after looking around at their neighbors uncomfortably for many minutes, most people finally made their exit. The final encore of the show is to take place tomorrow night at the Works, so maybe I should reserve my final judgments until that time.
posted by Noelle

I Like American Music: Part II

Krone and Waller, Authentic American Beauties.
-posted by Patrick Alan Coleman
Whereas Hand2Mouth’s Repeat After Me, tears American music down to its emotional foundations, Larry Krone and Holcombe Waller build upon those foundations to create work that is honest, riveting and unique. Drawing upon folk and country traditions, both musicians use their voices to light the dim corners our society might otherwise ignore.
Larry Krone rests confidently in the dichotomy of sad songs and gaudy costumes. Like the country music mavens of the 70’s, he uses this dichotomy to put an audience into a pleasant vulnerable confusion. His deeply honest lyrics cut to the core of human experience. At one moment in his short set, he is dressed as a little girl, complete with crinoline and bow. One might think that his gaudy get-up would be a distraction, but it actually works to illuminate a song about a father’s death and the wishes for just one more dance with him. It is a wonderfully moving moment. Krone’s set is full of these bittersweet moments. Sure, he says he is a drunk, that he is in pain, that he has loved and lost… But he has such humor and charm, that all we can do is love him.
I want to take this moment to apologize to Mark Russell. Last year I was collecting secrets at the Works and I intercepted him during Holcombe Waller’s set. He was a bit perturbed that I’d interrupted his listening, but told me his secret was that he was falling in love with the quiet young man on stage. I remembered that moment as I listened to Waller’s entrancing songs at the Someday lounge and felt a ping of guilt for having taken Mr. Russell out of the spell that is cast by Waller’s sweet folk melodies. I too found myself falling in love.
With an ensemble of fine musicians, Holcombe Waller allows his world to spill from the stage, unfettered. Yes, his music is somber and introspective, but it is also colored by a sense of hope and beauty. There was certainly no need for the video that accompanied some of his work. He could have easily carried the audience away with a bare stage and his guitar. At the end of his performance, my companions and I spun lazily into the night, high on Waller’s remarkable voice. Not wanting the spell to ever end.

I Like American Music

Repeat After Me, “Hand2Mouth Rocks”
-posted by Patrick Alan Coleman
“In 86 minutes, I will know exactly how I feel about being an American.”
Well, maybe not exactly, but as I left the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center after Hand2Mouth’s crazed, karaoke reflection on our country, I did feel a bit more hopeful about the good ol’ US of A. Though, I’m not quite sure why. It might have been the music- seemingly plucked from the radio during a random spin of the dial. It could have been the energy of the cast- who, at times, emoted a genuine air of patriotism. Whatever it was, it felt good.
The only real reference I have to describe this show is the ubiquitous Broadway jukebox musical. Think of the staged Billy Joel box set: Movin’ Out (or whatever it’s called), or Mamma Mia, based on the music of ABBA… etc. etc. Except, Hand2Mouth takes the genre, doses it with some clandestine psychotropics and sends it into a high school talent contest to see what happens.
The main thesis of Repeat After Me appears to be that, as Americans, we tend to define ourselves, identify ourselves and allow ourselves to be moved by our indigenous music. Hand2Mouth’s chaotic and sometimes messy program is a meditation on what happens when we give ourselves up completely to the catharsis of our national soundtrack.
The songs belted out (crushed, deconstructed, reassembled) by the wide-eyed cast are less performances of old favorites than frightening exorcisms of the pop daemons of American radio. These are the songs that infect you, whose choruses crawl deep into your brain where they spin lazily. These songs are the guilty pleasures. The country tune that you love, without irony. The summer jam that provides the thrumming backdrop a day at the beach. But these songs do not just inhabit us, we also inhabit them. We hear our own voices and guilty consciences and wistful memories in the lyrics. We see ourselves, “In the sweet, sweet summertime… with autumn closin’ in.”
These songs create tableaus in our mind, and the cast of Repeat After Me brings these to life, before tearing holes in the picture to show us the kind of desperation, anxiety and hope that lay beneath the surface. This seems to be a common concern in the program- stripping away the façade to see what’s beneath. At one point the actors, promenading to the front of the stage of the tune Johnny Cash’s “Las Vegas,” tear off their various wigs to reveal themselves. It’s an astute of allegory of Las Vegas itself- really just a desert full of plain boxes with extraordinary facades.
It must have been difficult for this young company to not fill the show with cynicism and irony. There are certainly some ironic moments, but there are moments that are incredibly touching and honest. In one such instance, a cast member inhabits a good ‘ol boy who is worried about his son. He vacillates between being a hard workingman for his wife and child and a hard partying cowboy. He is pulled between the two poles, torn between what we want men in America to be and what we expect of them. The scene is played with incredible care- both funny and heartbreaking.
All of this is helped, of course, by the skills of DJ Brokenwindow, who mixes the music live on stage. There are times that he is sloppy but he is more often dead on with his mixing, creating a fairly smooth ribbon of sound for the cast to follow.
All this plus balloons, beer, confetti, a gorgeous cast and some wonderful musical moments.
Hand2Mouth uses their 86 minutes to rip American music out of context and tell a story about being proud, loud, drunk and tender. That is… to be an American at the beginning of this millennium.

Nature Theater–the 2nd act is worth staying for. Plus some thoughts on Liz Haley.

The first thing to know about Nature Theater’s No Dice is this: you don’t have to get your ham sandwich (or PB&J) at the beginning. You can wait until the intermission. Few of us understood this and we stood in line for sandwiches we weren’t ready for then let them get stale during the first act.
So, I’ll admit, it was tricky to stay awake for the first act–2 hours long–directly after dinner and a drink. The show was engaging–they’re back and still totally fun–it’s just hard to close a busy day with 4 total hours of theater and not get a little groggy. But Nature Theater says at the beginning that they saved the best for last, and it’s true. The first act does the building up, and the second half does the unraveling and explaining. About 1/5 of our audience bailed at intermission, leaving the back row almost empty, so I thought a blog was in order to say “stay! It’s worth it!”
It’s good to see Nature Theater returning with a long and kind of trying show. They were such darlings of last year’s TBA that they could have stormed in and done just about anything and been adored. (Their show last year was charm enough, but then they closed out the last night of TBA by setting up an impromptu stage in the parking lot of Audio Cinema, thumping out a song, and shaving their heads and armpits with an electric razor. For the lingering TBAers, sad to see the community dissipating again until next year, this was an ideal closing to an excellent festival.) But this time No Dice is a tougher one to get through, even with their trademark hand motions, clunky dancing and cozying up to audience members. They also face the audience the entire time, making eye contact, so it’s impossible to zone out for even a minute.
The premise is that the dialog is pulled from real conversations and then chopped up and looped and repeated. It doesn’t always make sense, there’s lots of ums and stumbles, and each main character repeats almost every group of conversation, so you hear it two to three times complete with awkward pauses. I can’t think of another show I’ve seen where characters frequently stop and let out long “ums” between lines, and it is disarming to the viewer. If you left at intermission you would miss how this connects to us, to the world, and would leave with an idea of the characters but not the impact of the show.
The second half explains almost everything from the first half, and explicitly looks at the quality of conversation in our daily lives and in society. (I still don’t get the beat boxing freaked out bat guy, but he’s also my favorite character.) Last year I spent a good portion of the show trying to crack the code of their hand moves, and this year is no different. At intermission I started chatting with a stranger and she began making the hand moves as our conversation got trite–brilliant. I’ll be making hand motions during small talk all year.
But then talk is what No Dice is about. As the show starts to wind down, a character faces the audience and asks, “what do we require if we want to enjoy ourselves in social situations?” Another says, “one might describe a civilization in terms of conversation” then they duck into the crowd, find an audience member, and repeat one of the most heartfelt–and heavily used–lines of the show.
This is what convinced me to go see Liz Haley. I’d been avoiding her lie detector set up at the Armory because I didn’t have any questions for her. In the noontime chat she said that the lie detector situation lets people feel close, like old friends, and they skip the small talk and jump right into heavy questions that you would only ask someone you knew well. The lie detector and the visible needle creates the kind of trust and intimacy that usually take a long time to develop. But I didn’t have any questions and so haven’t been, until last night when Nature Theater got me thinking. Here’s my new hypothesis: it doesn’t matter what the question is, and I may not have any questions at all. What Liz Haley’s lie detector sets up is a feeling of access to her raw emotion–and it is based on a feeling of power, but it’s access to her all the same. A lie detector helps you skip past the low level conversations. I still don’t have any questions for Liz, but what I want to experience is that feeling of instantaneous intimacy with someone, that potential for meaningful conversation with a stranger. And nothing deep or even interesting has to come out of it–maybe we’ll say nothing–but I want to feel what that accessibility is like and trap it for use in future conversations with strangers.
Listen to Liz Haley’s noontime chat here.
Nature Theater in chat with Kassys is here.
–Carissa Wodehouse
Blogger, member, enthusiast

Don’t miss this, old sport. Gatz is a treat.

Just go. Stop making excuses, and go. You’ll like it. It’s good for you. You won’t get bored. You’ll appreciate spending the seven plus hours not succumbing to your busy life. You’ll fall in love with the book, you’ll fall in love with the performers. You’ll be energized.
Gatz is a rare opportunity to sit in an audience, and know that you are a part of something very, very special.
I approached seeing Gatz as I would prepare for a long flight. I wore non-constricting clothes. I packed some socks and a sweatshirt in case it got cold. I stopped at the coffeeshop on my way to make sure I’d stay alert. I aimed to get there early to get a seat with legroom. I brought an apple and a crossword, just in case. I was skeptical going in, certain I’d lose interest at some point. Seven hours is a loooong time. But, I figured I’d at least get to check “read The Great Gatsby for real” off my list, without having to actually read it. It wasn’t like I was going into seven hours of challenging abstract performance art.
Like seeing Shakespeare, it took a few pages to warm up to the style of language. But once the plot kicked off and a few characters were introduced, I was sold. I was in for the long haul, almost immediately. In the beginning, relationships on stage between the office employees are pretty casual. There are no friendships, rivalries, or alliances, and they don’t seem to particularly care about each other’s business. This allows the relationships inside the book to be the focus. The actors and the audience could then become attached, involved, and committed to the story at the same rate.
The play takes place in a dingy, anonymous office, and the musty Imago Theater worked perfectly as a venue. Shelves of cardboard boxes, yellowing posters, outdated technology, greenish metal tables, and torn vinyl swivel chairs provide a bland backdrop for the action. The passing of days are marked through the sounds of a bustling city outside.
For such a mammoth accomplishment, Gatz operates on a pretty simple conceit. A man goes to work. His computer is broken, so he has nothing to do. He discovers a worn copy of The Great Gatsby in his desk and begins to read aloud. He continues to read until the end of the book.
As he is reading, the novel begins to come to life in his surroundings. It begins as happy coincidences (a phone rings right before he reads, “the phone rang.”). Then, his coworkers begin to take on characters until the office becomes completely absorbed in the novel. The actors seem confused as to what is going on. Does the novel overcome them? Or, are they driving the plot themselves? Possession of the story is made unclear (and F. Scott Fitzgerald is barely referenced in the program notes). I found this blurred possession a key component to keeping the performance alive for such a long time.
Gatz strikes a perfect balance between the simplicity of reading a novel aloud, and the theatrics of staging a play. It turns the private, solitary experience of reading into something public and shared. It respects the language of the book, but avoids obnoxious reverence. The actors approach both their employee roles and the roles of the novel with an understated psychology that allows the language of the book to maintain the momentum of the show. Gatz mines the simple pleasure of reading, and adds just the right amount of texture through beautiful lighting, 20s music, and incredible acting. It is like a library Story Hour for adults—capturing the childish joy of witnessing a beloved book come to life, but with the sophistication and tenderness of a forward-thinking theater company.
In the end, I felt, well, as if I’d been on an airplane. But instead of feeling woozy from half-napping for seven hours, I felt as though I’d engaged in conversation the whole time with an incredible new friend I’d never see again. I was a little out of it, but felt a little bigger in the heart. I can’t think of a lovelier way to spend an afternoon/evening.
posted by Kirsten Collins

Fred Frith/Zeena Parkins/Ikue Mori

Posted by Cody Hoesly
Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, and Ikue Mori packed the Wonder Ballroom Friday night. I haven’t been to the Works every night of TBA, but I’ve been there most nights, and no other night was as full as this night. A testament to the legendary status these artists have achieved, at least in their respective spheres. Sure, the usual TBA hipsters were there, but the crowd was decidedly more diverse, and, I’m assuming, not just because it was Friday night. As a friend of mine commented: “There’re a lot of gray-hairs here tonight.” Which I took as a sign that we were in for a solid show from a proven artist.
The trio did not disappoint. Their eclectic instrumentation and playing brought forth all manner of strange noises and imaginative soundscapes. The first sounds to come from the stage reminded me of the Starship Enterprise going through a wormhole — or at least reminded me of the sound effects used at such times in such movies. Soon a pod of whales was following the Enterprise. From there, I lost clear imagery. Jimi Hendrix floated in, but receded just as quickly.
Later, the music became more melodic. That is not necessarily to say pretty. It seemed like everytime the improvised sound was cruising toward one mood, Frith or Parkins or Mori would add a new dimension, destroying the temporary peace their sounds had found. One time, the music was almost lilting in its quiet peace, and I saw Frith stand there with hand to chin, thinking — the next minute he was hitting his guitar and razor-edged thunder was pealing forth, destroying the prior tranquility. Later, the vice versa occurred.
At all times, the music was morphing. Mori, motionless at her laptop (or so it seemed from the balcony), created pulsating beats that undergirded and inspired Parkins and Frith. Parkins was all over the place. One minute hugging plastic foil, the next spinning and whacking her electronic harp, the next bending down to adjust her pedals. Frith paced back and forth between his guitar and a table outfitted with chains and a variety of other “found” instruments. At one point, he raised and dropped a chain repeatedly to achieve his desired sound.
The one disappointment I felt in the show was the audience in the balcony, or, more specifically, those near the bar. They talked, and talked, ever more loudly to get over the music. I wondered to myself whether they were at the Works to be seen, or what, because they clearly weren’t there for Frith. Luckily, most of the audience was there for Frith, as the rapturous cheers following the show underscored. Let it not be said that hour-long improvisational soundscapes don’t have fervent fans.

T:BA:07 Day Nine – Friday, 14 September 2007

T:BA:07 Day Nine – Friday, 14 September 2007
9:30a Nature Theater of Oklahoma Workshop, PNCA
12:30p PERFORMANCE Now, PNCA
6:30p Andrew Dickson, W+K
8:30p Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey, PSU: Lincoln
10:30p Fred Frith / Zeena Parkins / Ikue Mori, Wonder
The day was to begin with a workshop with the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, but it was sold-out, and I could not get in. C’est la vie.
After cleaning up the house a bit, which has been getting messy in this T:BA frenzy, I headed down to the PNCA for today’s Noon:30 chat. [Stopping off at the daily café for a yummy amazon cupcake first though.] Visual and performance artist Claude Wampler was supported by Philip Bither [Senior Curator, Walker Art Center’s of Performing Arts] and Mark Russell in the discussion about the expectations of art, honesty and creativity.
Claude talked about trying to create a genuine experience, and that she felt it was only possible by first creating something completely controlled. A sentiment which was shared by the Nature Theater of Oklahoma yesterday.
She also spoke about the intent of creating art, and of staying true to that intent without selling-out just to make works that can bring in cash. She joked about often loosing money in the creation of her performances, but this is a sense that Mark had put forward a few days back that to have a show in NYC, “that you need to pay to play”.
It is a shame if that is the case.
Someday we really do need to look at the Netherlands model, and find a way to bring it into action in the United States. We need to be able to create works, and be patrons as is appropriate for serious inquiry, exploration and creation.
Andrew Dickson put forward his 29 steps towards getting paid as an artist, but in a path of ‘selling out’. I must say, I was not a fan of his past work. But, today’s powerpoint really did hit home. Except for the part about wearing John Deere hats, I felt like he was divulging much of my life story. [OK, so I do wear a bit to Mountain Hardware and such gear, which has brand names on it…] Oh, and he also talked about Monsieur Quentin T’s fashion line, and how he trades clothing for marketing them. www.monsieurt.net
Yes, much of what he said did hit home, but I hope that even though I still make some choices [note the rationalization there] to take some commissions that will help get food in the refrigerator, that I am still on a path towards the truth in art that I desire. It is a difficult things sometimes, but I have been doing my art without any ‘day job’ for seven and a half years now, and it is going GREAT! Sure, I never really know if I will be able to eat next month, but that’s just part of the fun.
;)
Claude spoke earlier about some of her work being ‘difficult’ versus other pieces that her gallery agent likes more because they are easy to sell. But, she cautioned against creating work simply for the sake of what would sell, and even went so far as to state that she has no idea what it is that would sell, or how one would go about creating it.
Andrew’s 29 steps had one Deux et Machina to it…
Wieden + Kennedy came to him, and asked him to ‘sell out’.
This means that he was ‘discovered’.
Andrew did not actually sell out, that’s his schtick, that’s his theater. W+K just pays him to do what he loves. It is a Medici, not a sell-out. Don’t be fooled by his snake oil, don’t go and sell your soul for a simple path.
Claude did not. She pushed herself forward, not taking no for an answer, and assuming that any silence was an implied ‘yes’ and propelled her artistry further along.
Andrew did point out some nice things about selling out, namely that you would then have the fluidity to assist other artists by patroning their work, which is what this is all really about.
Btw, you might enjoy this Map of Online Communities [image] that Andrew had pirated from some other artist.
After a nice little stroll to Pizza Schmitza, and over to Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall; I settled into my seat with some new T:BA friends, and some long standing friends. Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey were dancing this evening. It was a lovely performance, even though it could use a bit more rehearsal. Zoe Scofield brings a lot of strength to her work, and you can feel her formal ballet training in play. There was a solidity to the dancers from their lower ribs through this upper hips that read in the way of a ballerina staying on point while their arms gracefully captured space. But, it was Zoe that ran the show. It was not clear why she started the piece solo before the curtain, and the sudden costume change that shielded her breast about a bold beginning, but you could feel that the other dancers were following about 5% behind her in passion, energy and feeling. I enjoyed watching her dance, with or without the rest of her flock. But, there was one portion of the evening when another duet flowed forth, and their bodies broke from the formalism of the rest of the choreography. During this moment, the two of them moved with fluidity from head to toe, which was purposefully restrained in all other portions of the dance. Also, if you do not mind my testosterone showing for a bit, Zoe looked quite ravishing, and I believe this is something that would be agreed upon by most women, men and children, but your opinion might differ. Her prominence in the pace and blocking of the dance put her forward as a bit of a diva, but as I do not know her personally, I am not sure if this is portrayed character on stage, or her in real life. Perhaps I will learn more on Sunday at her Conduit workshop?
Also, Zoe, if you do not mind, your swan dress was an inspiration for a bellydance collaboration I have in October at Imbibe, so I might need to follow-up on those ideas…
The night at the Works ended with a dissonant performance by Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, and Ikue Mori. I think that Fred could have stepped down, and things might have been better, but that is just my opinion. If you enjoyed this, at all, then I would highly recommend you experience the music of Synchronicity Frequency www.synchronicityfrequency.comor Soriah www.soriah.net here in Portland.
I felt like today was a day that I over hyped in my own mind.
Claude became the highlight, Zoe was about 80% and the Works fell well below my expectations.
But, Andrew was quite a surprise, as I went expecting it to suck, and I really enjoyed it much to my shock.
Ciao,
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
Atelier Z
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts
http://www.fhzal.com


Prior ‘Day in the Life’ Posts:
Navigating T:BA;
Day 01 – Opening Night;
Day 02;
Day 03;
Day 04;
Day 05;
Day 06;
Day 07;
Day 08;.


Fredrick’s Best to Worst:
BEST:
TEEth
Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Donna Uchizono
Marc Bamuthi Joseph Workshop
Reggie Watts
Randee Paufve Workshop
Excellent:
Taylor Mac
Mirah & Spetratone International
Lifesavas
Regina Silveira
Good:
The Suicide Kings
Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey
Mammalian Diving Reflex Haircut
Guido va der Werve
Cloud Eye Control / Anna Oxygen
Andrew Dickson
Sara Greenberger Rafferty Workshop
Hip Hop 101 Workshop
OK:
Liz Haley
Rinde Eckert
Donna Uchizono Workshop
Vanden Eynde & Vendendriessche
Portland Cello Project
Holcombe Waller
William Kentridge
Could have missed it and not cried too much:
Awesome
Urban Honking Workshop
Arnold Kemp
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Kassys
Hand2Mouth Theatre
Fred Frith / Zeena Parkins / Ikue Mori
Cartune Xprez
Really sucked [for me, remember you might think something completely otherwise…]:
Jeffrey Mitchell
Larry Krone
Las Chicas del 3.5 Floppies

Andrew Dickson

Posted by: James Maxwell
As a twenty-four year old recent college graduate, watching Andrew Dickson’s show “Sell Out” could not have come at a more opportune time. I am a journalism major in a new city looking for a way to pay off student loans and wondering if I should try and use my journalistic integrity to make a difference or start the grueling 9 to 5. Thanks to Dickson’s witty performance I am ready to take the first step and conform to a corporation with pride.
Throughout Andrew Dickson’s hour long show the comedian took the audience through his 27 step plan on how to “Sell Out” successfully, whether you are an artist or not a person has to start paying the bills so get ready to swallow your pride and put your creativity on the back burner in order to achieve the cliché American Dream. Some of the most hilarious ideas or “steps” during the show included: Growing up Middle Class, attending a liberal college, and tasting the bitter sting of disappointment. By following these steps and numerous others, according to Dickson, a person by the age of thirty will have no problem selling out and could even encourage others to do so.
The entire performance was unique, interactive, and perfectly fast paced that kept the audience entertained the entire time. I walked out of the performance proud of my recent lack of creative writing, and excited for the numerous cutthroat PR firms I have lined up interviews with. So thank you Andrew Dickson for making this young professional’s first priority be a hefty paycheck.

PERFORMANCE Now Lunchtime Chat

with Mark Russell, Philip Bither and Claude Wampler
Two heavyweight American curators interviewing one of the most inspiring contemporary performance artists alive, it couldn’t go wrong, and a blast it was indeed! It was one of the first noontime chats that really went somewhere relevant. Instead of discussing and explaining her piece (for a change, that was the only topic that was NOT under discussion), we got a great insight in Wampler’s very specific way of working and her look at the arts world today (and how this affects her work).
She started off explaining how she got into the field and how her these first encounters with the theater and dance scene started to shape her ideas on the dynamics of the performative event. She talked about how she is losing her ambition to engage a visual arts crowd in performative events and vice versa as she feels the two audiences have a completely different understanding of the artistic object/subject. The visual arts crowd wanting a dead object they don’t have to respond to, the performing arts crowd wanting a living subject that asks for attention, emotion… This duality made her think about the objectification / distancing of the performative. A second path that seems very important in her work is the aspect of spontaneity. For Wampler it seems like spontaneous or unforeseen acts are the only aspects that make theater interesting and relevant these days. Yet she understands that its of course a little paradoxal to manufacture artificial spontaneity as she does in her pieces. This also brings her to her final piece, the one she presents at TBA right now, subtitled: ‘Career Ender’. Wampler explains this as her inability to keep surprise people, manufacture artifial spontaneity, as she is out of tools. She experiences this as very suffocating and limiting her in her artistic course, paralysing her own being as an artists. Still, she had to admit that it’s not the first time she announces the end of her career and that after a while, eventually she’ll come up with something… maybe something completely different, ready to surprise us all again!
by Wouter Bouchez

Space is a Place, Curated by Rob Halverson

This small room at Corberry Press held my attention for quite some time. My attitude towards the work swung between appreciation and wonderment. How is it that these many small art objects become legitimate when grouped together and placed into conjunction? The actual work being displayed looks as if the curator salvaged the garbage cans of a High School art class on the day after school ended. Most of the work has that over-earnest quality, those painfully careful but flat brushstrokes. The colors are either muddy or day-glo and rest on shoddy store-bought canvases. Here also is the dedication to a one-liner or stupid joke and the distortions of figure that usually result from ineptitude. But this work explores a trusting ineptitude – one that follows every gesture to its ultimate conclusion, a work ethic which would be missing in most High School art projects.
I really didn’t have any association with either “space” or an “office” (both of which are stated in the official description). The room is far too commonplace and ordinary to describe “Space” (unless we mean the space of a stoned mind) and far too cruddy and haphazard to be an office. More like a dorm room, really… So what held my attention for so long? For one, the quantity and variety of objects lead to extended exploration – just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s another little sculpture hidden in a corner or placed on the windowsill. And the list of works is no help. A map with numbers must be cross-referenced both with the room itself and a separate list of artists’ names. The work also continues to be fascinating – how is it that all of these artists have such a unified vision? Why, for goodness sake, is a weird day-glo painting of a gnome/sasquatch shown with a careful realist depiction of a pot pipe, a terribly ugly bust painted in faux-granite and a silly paperweight rock painted like a cellphone?
All of these elements combine to make the work of the curator much stronger than that of any individual artist. The room itself, and the mentality of the person who chose, organized and displayed this work becomes the overarching message. But what IS the message? Why should a “High School Aesthetic” be championed? Perhaps it is the earnestness that I mentioned before, an appreciation of the small gesture, a nostalgia for that moment of “pure creativity”. I can’t decide if this appreciation is ironic or genuine, wholehearted or sly. I chose to take the show at face value, and see this work as a kind of balm in the face of the overly sleek, impersonal and professional. It’s a sort of charmed space.
- posted by Seth Nehil

Hand2Mouth – Repeat After Me

Of course David is telling untruths when he promises at the start of Repeat After Me that we will know how we feel to be American in 89 minutes. The show is just too full of contradictions and complexities to leave the audience with a unified feeling or thought. Hand2Mouth have, over the years, formed a way of working which incorporates the input and improvisation of cast members on a specific topic. They have a sense of humor which is very much their own – the goofy, trite and kitsch hide an undertone of deadly serious political anger. Hand2Mouth have not been afraid to take on big topics of slavery, westward expansion, patriotism. The results are often big, messy and somewhat uneven. Depending on your perspective, this uneven quality can be either charming or frustrating. Perhaps it represents what Taylor Mac has called the “Hey kids, let’s put on a show aesthetic”. Repeat After Me is a great example, as it swings wildly between divergent moments. From what seems to be a group of 12 year-olds putting on a variety show in the basement rec room can emerge a deeply affecting and provocative scene.
Repeat After Me succeeds in giving the impression of aliens visiting America and trying to fit in based on clues gleaned from popular culture. The costumes look as if the cast jumped into the Goodwill bins and came up wearing whatever they found. The musical choices are similarly unselective – a broad cross section of Americana both obvious and obscure, like a cross section of everything on the radio at one moment in time. The performance itself feels like a mash-up of high-school talent show, church revival, aerobics class, karaoke bar, strip club, support group and music video, just to mention a few. These “genres” become mixed, fused and confused. But, gol durn it, the participants are nothing if not eager and enthusiastic. Big cheesy smiles and a “go get ‘em Tiger” attitude prevail as the characters encourage each other, hold each other up and restrain each other. Someone always seems to take things just a little (or a lot) too far, and by golly, the others are there to help him or her conform. But this pattern of freak-out and restraint becomes a bit formulaic as it repeats again and again during the production.
My opinion is altered somewhat by having seen the first version of Repeat After Me in the Goldsmith Performance Lab a year ago. The TBA version feels tame by comparison, though I’m having difficulty identifying why. Those dark moments feel less dark, the destruction of the stage feels less complete, the chaos feels more controlled. Even small choices such as the replacement of red Gatorade with water (vomited repeatedly by Erin) feel less strong. The bright red liquid and iconic brand reference add layers of meaning to an otherwise ridiculous moment. Other scenes are still brilliant, such as the “American Tableau” around a glowing campfire, in which characters sing through mouthfuls of marshmallow.
On the other hand, I think the meta-narrative of this version is stronger, the feeling of group identity and the sense that these people desperately want to fit in to a so-called American culture – in all of its absurdity, glitz, contradiction, humor, rage, ridiculousness, incoherence and beauty. Those mixed feelings continue long after the end of the show.
- posted by Seth Nehil

New Media CHAT

The panel consisted of Andrew Dickson of “Sell Out,” two guys from Hooliganship, artist Peter Burr and three of the peeps from Urbanhonking (minus Jonah.) I have been to all, but one and it was the most engaging and interesting thus far. It ran 30 minutes overtime and it could have very well gone on for much longer. The audience was engaged and a consistent and enlightening diologue was taking place directly between the speakers and the audience.
Entitled “New Media,” most of the Chat focused in on issues of Art in relation to the Internet and then just focused in on concerns related to the Internet in general. One interesting part of the panel was the obvious generation gap in relation to this issue. Andrew Dickson and Peter Burr seemed less reliant on the Internet for their art and the concerns of Internet seemed less of an urgency to them. This was in direct contrast to the rest of the younger panel members who seemed to use the Internet as the primary vehicle for their artistic, as well as their personal identities.
Among the major concerns brought up were the issues of ethical practices in relation to art and the Internet. The theft of intellectual property, the futility of copyright and the frustration with the anonymity fueled rudeness, that the Internet gives rise to, were all sources of frustration. The panel’s response to these concerns was a wise and accepting, “Get used to it, because it is all part of the game and it is only going to become more prevalent.” This seems like a highly accurate portrayal of the way things are going. This led into a discussion of collage based art forms such as the recent influx of mashups in which an artist will take parts of other people’s songs and rearrange them and then is given credit for the product.No conclusions were made as to the rightness or the wrongness of such acts, just a casual acceptance.
Everything ultimately related to back to the concerns of the artist working within society and at the end of the chat Stephanie Snyder (moderator) talked about a Freelancer’s Union that was started in New York City to provide benefits to those not involved in conventional job situations. She commented that this was just what Portland needed and I could not agree more. For more info.
posted by Noelle

T:BA:07 Day Eight – Thursday, 13 September 2007

T:BA:07 Day Eight – Thursday, 13 September 2007
I would like to start today’s entry with an apology to Anna Oxygen and her Cloud Eye Control posse. I was rather critical of her work, not in reference to the work itself, but to its perceived originality. I basically stated that I found it to not be particularly inventive, as I felt that ‘technically’ it was no more advanced then Miranda July’s Swan Tool from back in 2000. But, what I did not fully express was that I really did enjoy the performance. There were some awkward and clunky moments that could really be ironed out, but it was a good show. I expecially enjoyed the part when the video projection of her mouth opened up, followed by the physical screens parting and her walking back through them. This play with scale was great!
Plus, I also really did enjoy the surgeon scene when she was seemingly laying upon a table and the video characters were experimenting with her.
Thank you Anna.
I look forward to seeing your future work as it continues to mature.
The reason for my negativity, and it is a rather thin excuse, it because of tEEth.
tEEth was just too darn good!
The two performances that I saw afterwards just paled in comparison so much, that I felt they sucked at the time. Anna was not lame, I just did not fully appreciate her at the time. Kassys was not horrible, it was just not my thing. [Not everything at T:BA is going to resonate with all audience members, and thank goodness for that! There is a diversity in the audience, and there should also be a diversity in the performances.]
Sorry, Anna, but my review placed you as a friendly fire casualty in the insane frenzy of digesting the bombardment of many many performances every day. It is rather intense at times, and I did not mean to be hurtful to you. Please do accept my apology.
The day began at 7am with yoga, which was a really great class.
We spent a good chunk of the time doing head / hand stands and some other inversions, which I always enjoy.
9:30a Randee Paufve Workshop, Conduit
12:30p New Media and Performance, PNCA
3:00p Kristan Kennedy Salon, Corberry Press
[3:00p Hip Hop 101 Workshop re-Mix, Conduit]
7:00p William Kentridge, PAM: Whitsell
8:30p Larry Krone, Someday
8:30p Holcombe Waller, Someday
10:30p Cartune Xprez, Wonder
Then I headed over to Conduit for the first workshop of the day with Randee Paufve.
As I did not want to totally collapse, I first hopped over to Elephants for a “Superfood” drink, which felt good in my empty belly. On the way in, I bumped into my friend Robyn; so we wandered over to grab a cup of tea for her, as she was a bit sleepy still and we had some time.
The workshop was rather sparsely attended, which was a shame. There were nine of us, but in the future I do hope that more will attend Randee’s workshops. She is incredible, and I really enjoyed it.
Mind you, I am not a dancer, well not past the techno Bhangra variety of dance at least. So, many of the technical terms she used were lost on me, but what I did see was the way she guided these other eight talented dancers to move and flow about the room. She is interested in BIG and juicy movement, the kind that flows from the fingers like gossamer spider webs in an undulating breeze, filling every nook of space, enveloping you, entrancing you, making you fall in love. There is great strength in the work the individual moves, some that seem to be based in the martial arts, but that draw from all aspects of dance and movement.
Randee spoke about finding the ‘line’, the line that flows through a movement, that connects your entire body from your toes, through your spine, up into your skull, that flows through movements without pause at transitions in form. This reminds me of the panoramic photo montages, where one draws a red line overlay to connect the big thoughts in a zen-like simplicity. You could think of it as living within a work by Miró or perhaps if you have seen the sculpture on the roof of the Fundacio Antoni Tapies in Barcelona Spain created from meters of wire…
The most beautiful thing was watching the other dancers, as at some point I decided that it was best to watch and not get in the way of their beauty with my novice stumbling.
Robyn Conroy was amazing! The flow and grace that she brought to the work, such strength, such beauty. Robyn has a long and lovely form, and this coupled with her mastery of movement really brought the intentions of Randee Paufve’s choreography to light.
Thank you Randee, thank you Robyn, and thank you to the all of the other dancers whom shared the space with me at Conduit.
Luxurious as it was, I actually had an hour and a half before the next T:BA event.
So, I moved my truck from the SmartPark down to around the corner from Corberry Press.
Then over to a café for a breakfast burrito, which really hit the spot.
1.5 hours of yoga and then another 2 of dance makes this boy rather hungry.
Not to dawdle here, let’s get back to talking about T:BA…
The day’s Noon:30 chat was with Andrew Dickson, Steven Slappe and the folks from Urban Honking and Cartune Xprez. I am about to say something that might offend the panelist, but it is only intended to give the reader a visual sense… ok, take a deep breath… Looking at the group, and hearing them talk was a bit like watching “Revenge of the Nerds”. Now, if you are starting to get offended, remember that the Nerds kicked butt at the end of the movie, and Bill Gates has shown the raw beauty of being a geek! Heck, if you go on personals websites, there are slews of people saying that they just want to find someone as geeky as they are. I’m my own kind of geek. OK, enough pandering, I just wanted to paint the picture aesthetically, without being offensive. I would also like the reader[s] to understand that I respect the people on the panel, and that is at the core of my comments.
But, the panel did not seem to really get anywhere.
I was also interesting that the panel refused to take my questions. As a matter of fact, Stephanie Snyder, the moderator for the talk, actually said that she had heard enough from me on other days and did not want to hear from me that day under the guise of ‘letting other have the opportunity to speak’… Well, yes, I do put in questions every day, but that is because I am there every day. If others want to participate more, they are going to have to both attend more and speak up. Believe me, I only start talking when I am getting bored or I feel that the discussion is waning. Keep it lively, and I’ll just kick back and enjoy the show.
Sociologically, I found it interesting that I did not get called, because two days earlier I had turned one of Marko Lulic’s statements against himself, which in turn might have offended Stephanie Snyder. Urban Honking was rather pissed at me for posting some thoughts about where I felt they were heading, as I did not feel they were serious in their intentions. It would seem that I misunderstood UrHo’s intentions, as they have been responded to and corrected in the bLog comments from Day 05. The people next to me and I giggled about it a bit, which was fun.
One of the people in the audience asked how all of this was relevant to the T:BA Festival, and since I felt that question was never answered, and I was not allowed to participate against all Fourth Amendments rights and all… here I go…
We did not get to have the discussion then, so I had to engage it with other folks through-out the day, and toss it in here for added fun.
Dialogue is a very important component of any Web Log [bLog].
Especially in the context of a Time-Based Arts Festival, where performers and audience work together to create a whole.
Without an audience, could there be art?
If an incredible cast plays an amazing rendition of Beckett or Shakespeare in the Globe theatre, but without an audience, would it be art?
If a tree falls in the woods, and not one is there, does it make a sound?
These are some of the questions that I consider in this media…
If bLoggers just typed to no one, then it is just silly. Like an author writing a book, and never trying to get it published.
If no one sent Stephen Slappe images of their genitals, then he would have not had anything to base his work upon.
If no one started a bidding war on e-Bay then Andrew Dickson’s work would just be boring.
It is the interactivity, and in their realm specifically audience participation, which is key.
The added thing of interest to me with bLogging is that I, or another other bLogger can toss something out there, be it a word, sentence or tome, and then step back. Like a choreographer whom puts out an intention, and then the dancers get to play with it, which the choreographer may just sit back and enjoy the show. Sometimes, it is helpful to have some stage notes to give the dancers some more direction, or to guide them back to the larger vision; but it is beautiful when the choreographer vanishes and the strength and beauty of the dancers takes-over.
So, if you have thoughts about this, or any other bLog, don’t be shy.
Comment, flame, rant… this is what this media is intended for!
Without you, the reader and potential participant, I am just masturbating up here on the stage for no reason, as a commenter “Gene” was kind enough to point out.
But, I’m not doing this for myself.
I am doing this is share with you and my other friends whom might have missed an event or two, and might enjoy some of the connective threads.
This is Time-Based Art… PARTICIPATE!
Next on the docket was Kristan Kennedy salon style chat at the Corberry Press building. There was a healthy group of folks, and Kristan discussed the intentions, process, presentation, and archiving of the works in relation to the individual artists and historic artistic context. Stephanie Snyder [Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College] was in attendance, and had some excellent questions and points to consider.
Since this was in conflict with the Hip Hop 101 Workshop re-Mix at Conduit with the Lifesavas, I unfortunately had to miss it. Bummer, as they were going to have some b-boys to teach us some moves, and we were even going to get to break it down on the turntables.
I look forward to reading other’s posts.
Since I was not able to get my hair cut by children the other day, I scheduled a style with Morgan Shanafelt over at Gypsy Rose on E.Burnside. Home for dinner, walk the puppy over to the market to pick-up some milk, and then back downtown for a film at the Portland Art Museum.
Kristan Kennedy had stated that she was getting some heat due to a lack of video in the festival, which does seem strange, as there are quite a number of works in this media through-out the program.
William Kentridge was one of them, and people were lined up from the Whitsell Auditorium all the way to the street. I loved the soundtrack for the ‘nine drawings’ piece. The nine shorts themselves were rendered as if with stick charcoal, in this beautiful, vague, impressionistic manner. The hand was like the sky above Edvard Munch’s “Scream” painting.
I loved the artistry, but it did drone on a bit for me, and I could have used it being a touch more brief.
I have heard from a few folks about this desire for more editing, to make the duration of performances in the festival more terse.
I am not sure if that is a critique of our collective attention spans getting shorter, or if work is genuinely too long, but in this case, I feel that since the multi-year works were compiled, it might have been good to re-edit them before compilation.
Strolling though the misty rain, I arrived to a horde of folks outside of the Someday Lounge, with closed doors and a note saying “Sold Out”. It would seem that they had reached capacity at the venue. But, they pushed past fire code, and honored tickets that were pre-purchased.
Larry Krone and Holcombe Waller were playing.
Larry, with all due respect, was entertaining, but more akin to the gong show then T:BA; but that’s just my humble opinion. To each their own. Atleast a number of my friends from the tEEth cast were there and we got to chat a bit in the back of the club. [btw, friends or not, this is not why I have been raving about how good tEEth was. Ask my friends, when they suck, I tell them to their face, and if I am being commissioned to write critically about what I saw, I would not hold back.]
Holcombe Waller was next. There was one portion where he was speaking in French, I believe, and the projected film stills became text. I enjoyed this portion. Otherwise, the performance seemed like it should be in the North by Northwest Music Festival [NxNW], and not T:BA.
Moving right along in the mediocrity of the day… and the night…
Waller ran late, and I did consider leaving many a times, but I did not want to be rude.
[I considered leaving not because I wanted to get elsewhere rabbit, but because the music was just too light for my serious mood.]
“Cartune Xprez” was going on at the Wonder Ballroom, and I think that I might have missed the best part, the animation films. I got there in time for a ‘science’ powerpoint show by a lady wearing everyday street clothes, just talking straight-forward about facts. The crowd kept laughing and cheering, but I think it would be one of those cases for the audience just wanting to be entertained, and making what they saw into entertainment. The lady on the stage even thanked them for laughing, as she was not aware that what she was doing was funny.
There then was this bizzaro video-game-esque Merlin thing, that just creeped me out, and I just had to leave when they were done out of fear of other horrible ‘performances’.
Who let the kids out of the playground and asked them to do Show ‘n’ Tell?
Ciao,
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
Atelier Z
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts
http://www.fhzal.com


Prior ‘Day in the Life’ Posts:
Navigating T:BA;
Day 01 – Opening Night;
Day 02;
Day 03;
Day 04;
Day 05;
Day 06;
Day 07.


Fredrick’s Best to Worst:
BEST:
TEEth
Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Donna Uchizono
Marc Bamuthi Joseph Workshop
Reggie Watts
Randee Paufve Workshop
Excellent:
Taylor Mac
Mirah & Spetratone International
Lifesavas
Regina Silveira
Good:
The Suicide Kings
Mammalian Diving Reflex Haircut
Guido va der Werve
Cloud Eye Control / Anna Oxygen
Sara Greenberger Rafferty Workshop
Hip Hop 101 Workshop
OK:
Liz Haley
Rinde Eckert
Donna Uchizono Workshop
Vanden Eynde & Vendendriessche
Portland Cello Project
Holcombe Waller
William Kentridge
Could have missed it and not cried too much:
Awesome
Urban Honking Workshop
Arnold Kemp
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Kassys
Hand2Mouth Theatre
Cartune Xprez
Really sucked [for me, remember you might think something completely otherwise…]:
Jeffrey Mitchell
Larry Krone
Las Chicas del 3.5 Floppies

Sarah Shapiro, Gay Deceivers, Pash(ly), BARR (Brendan Fowler)

Wednesday night’s show at the Wonder Ballroom featured eclectic indie music + film from Sarah Shapiro, the Gay Deceivers, Pash(ly), and BARR (Brendan Fowler).
Sarah Shapiro’s two music videos, for her original music, are exhibits in low-fi filmmaking, elementary art, and wry humor. The first video, featuring cutouts of animals and trees, follows an animal love story, including a bear or raccoon drinking at a bar. The second video, which looks like it was filmed in a primary school cafeteria, includes BARR (Brendan Fowler) as an earth mother figure who befriends Shapiro. Both are whimsical movies that compliment Shapiro’s quiet indie folkpop.
The Gay Deceivers, two ladies who play raucous bass and guitar, with a guest drummer, ramped up the evening with heavy rock and punk music. I got the sense from the picture in the TBA guide that this was dance music; few people danced and the music was more abrasive than rhythmic. Of course you can dance to anything, and they were jumping on stage a bit, enthusiastic but mostly stationary. Low tech video footage of girls smoking, people dancing in streets, and space recordings projected on the screen behind them. One of the final songs, called “Metal,” involved screaming and thunderous guitar. The audience seemed happy.
Pash(ly) began with a sultry number, with Pash(ly)’s sensuous nonchalant movement. Behind her, a projection of live video of her dancing magnified the sensuality of the performance. Subsequent songs similarly featured video and music and dancing, and included rope rigging from a ship, among other props. The music was more danceable and yet forgettable than The Gay Deceivers, and the changes between songs took attention away from the performance.
BARR, aka Brendan Fowler, began by telling us the long story of how he came to TBA without a band (except for a bassist) and without a flawless recording of his new record. He was going to come and play the new record, song for song, with his band. But then they broke up. So he was going to bring the master recording of his new disc and just play that (for piano and percussion, etc.), but the digital copy had computer difficulties resulting in audible glitches. So he decided to just go with it and use the broken recording. BARR pressed play on the stereo and began talk-singing over his bassist’s live accompaniment. He sang indistinctly mostly, so it was hard to make out the lyrics for his songs of love, loss, and Gen X musings. The audience had dwindled quiet a bit, and the Wonder Ballroom was nowhere near the near-capacity crowd I saw the previous night.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

Chat: New Media and Performance

New Media and Performance – Lunchtime Chat Thursday, Sep 13th.
The New Media and Performance chat revolved heavily around technology, Internet and video, and understandings of them held by artists and audiences. It also meandered into other pastures pertinent to the panelist’s respective areas of work. The discussion went from posing scenarios about the future of the internet and how we would use it (“social network analysis” of our “persistent digital identities” will be big), to thinking aloud about PICA’s funding coming from Wieden + Kennedy, present employer of the sell-out formerly known as AC Dickson. There was also some interesting points raised about how new forms of media, often present in tba performances, are influencing works of art themselves; if our hyper-sensitivity to being connected via technology and the “art” of documentation is distracting audiences from the fundamental work at hand.
The panelists included more tech oriented types from Urbanhonking.com, to people less addicted to the web, like Peter Burr and Andrew Dickson. Urbanhonkings Mike Merrill went so far as to say “I don’t like being where there isn’t wifi.” However, he clearly seemed to like to be in contact, and viewed wifi as a means to another end. This was a guiding metaphor for the Chat, that the internet and use of technology in general was kept in perspective, such that it wasn’t the end all goal of these artists, or people just out in society. Mention was made of artists to whom the internet itself is the medium and endpoint, but not these panelists. It seemed the degree to which each participant used the internet correlated with the content of their responses to this question concerning technology. Everyone in the room seemed primarily a supporter of new media in performance art, and panelists didn’t swing too anti-tech or questioning of new media. Points of contention that did come up: fear of the digital permanence of performance, loss of ethical standards in digital arenas, and a general sense that there is a limiting of “real” life by constant digital mediation.
Stephanie Snyder moderated the conversation with insightful comments and questions, also nicely locating the discussion in Portland by referencing present social and political issues. A good conversation overall, especially for someone who is comfortable with using the web. How it pertains to works of art and artist practices on display at tba needs to be talked about more, and lucky for us this festival has plenty of opportunities.
Posted by: Benjamin Adrian

GATZ!

I am crazy excited to see Gatz on Saturday!
I love the The Great Gatsby and taught it to high school juniors two years ago. Since we read most of the book in class aloud, they got to hear it and sometimes even read specific characters. Kids who do not normally read books assigned in school found themselves digging the mysteriously romantic Jay Gatsby, questioning the narrator Nick Carraway, and wondering what the hell is up with crazy Daisy Buchanan.
This book has everything: love, drama, money, comedy, excitement, action, gambling, money, mobsters, shootings, wastelands, money, jazz, mansions, feasts, marital infidelity, and implied sex.
Catch a bit of the action with this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmE8t6rD77I
Think of this as a kick ass audiobook, with real actors and staging. Plus, the narrator has memorized the whole book! [Talk about an easy connection to Fahrenheit 451, where books are banned so people memorize books and become human libraries.] The time will fly by since the book is so good.
I’ll see you there!
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

Larry Bamburg

You have three days to get your ass over to the Corberry Press to see Larry Bamburg’s installation. I’m not going to attempt to describe it, anything I write would fall short or sound pretentious. Besides, I’m sure you’ve already noticed that my writing isn’t up to the task of describing even the mundane (actually everything I’ve written so far is already getting on my nerves). But I do want to say that it is worth experiencing in person. This is not something you can get a feel for through photos or other documentation. The sensation of being within the installation is unique and indescribable, and after the 16th it will be torn down. Honestly I’m shocked that you’re still reading this absurd post, I’m not funny, there is no useful information contained within. Get your ass up and go down to the Corberry Press. NW 17th and Northrup.
Matthew C.

Claude Wampler

WARNING: This review contains secrets about the show and gives away the ending. Do not read this if you want to experience this performance like a virgin.
Claude Wampler’s “PERFORMANCE (career ender),” a performance art piece at the Gerding Theatre (the old armory), is tricky to write about. Complicating its analysis as “challenging” or “difficult” art, there are surprises that I probably should not describe without “ruining” the show for future possible guests. Under normal circumstances—I was asked by PICA to keep the secret—I would not disclose everything. However, I don’t feel I can fairly review this show as art without talking about it in its entirety. This review will take the form of a narrative.
I arrived 15 minutes early to the 6:30pm first showing. Overhearing that there was a delay due to technical difficulties, I ordered some ravioli at the Armory Café and sat at a table rereading the program notes from the TBA guide. After a hip blather of “isms,” the festival guide informs readers that this piece will play on audiences and audiences’ expectations using visual media and performance. It certainly did that.
The technical difficulties stretched into a 30 minute delay, but the show’s organizers assured us that we’d still be able to make it to Hand2Mouth Theatre’s “Repeat After Me” at 8:30pm, which would also be postponed. At my table, I talked with a woman who said she was from New York and making a documentary about five women choreographers, including Wampler. At 7pm, the organizers told us they’d begin seating at 7:20pm, and that we could not, in fact, see both shows: choose now between Wampler and Hand2Mouth. Having waited that long, I was not about to leave.
At 7:20pm they let us file down the stairs to the Gerding Theatre, where we waited outside the closed doors as a volunteer passed out programs for the show. Instead of a description of the piece or the artist, the program included a transcript of a TV news report about polar bears on melting ice caps and another about a seven-year-old boy who swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco. The titles of the two transcripts were crossed out and written over with pen: “sinking” and “swimming.” [Wampler had asked that this change be made earlier that day.]
We waited outside the closed doors until 7:50pm, a whole 80 minutes after the show was supposed to start. As I sat downstairs on a cushion, outside the closed door, I had the feeling Wampler was toying with us, purposefully delaying the production to test our patience. In any case, I read my book. Most people stood waiting, or talked quietly to neighbors in the line. A few others had demanded their money back.
When we filed into the small black box theatre, we saw a simple set design: a drum kit, a keyboard, microphones, and a white screen standing from the floor (about the size of two tall people standing together). When the lights dimmed we saw a video projection of a person in a polar bear suit walk around the stage. Following that, the projections of a drummer, keyboardist, and bassist/singer walked on the set and began practicing a new song, “Wildlife come for the fun and games,” an early-sixties-sounding tune with pop harmonies. They played the song again and again, getting in key, refining elements, and writing a conclusion, in addition to the banter between takes. Smoke occasionally billowed from near the drum kit, helping the projection look like a keyboardist was standing at the keyboard, an ethereal holograph. This effect was not successful, however, because the smoke did not blow often enough to maintain the holographic appearance and the projections often fell onto the black floor. The only character that we could see well was the bassist, who was projected onto the standing screen.
So we sat there watching no one, an empty set peopled with illusions, with digital projections. We sat there for maybe 45 minutes watching and listening to the same song repeatedly. The song, although initially catchy, became a bit grating after hearing it so much. And the fly-on-the-wall feeling of watching a band practice a new song soon faded into the ennui of repetition and overuse. The dark theatre beckoned sleep. This is art designed to test endurance.
A girl sitting next to me sucked loudly on a BlowPop throughout the performance. The man in front of her turned to watch her, perhaps signaling that she was disturbing his experience of the show. She rocked in her seat, making deliberately obnoxious sounds with her body and mouth. I thought it was funny, and I thought she must be a part of the show. I wanted a lollipop too. When she began blowing bubbles with the gum, it confirmed my suspicion that she was a plant for the performance. People in Portland don’t do that sort of thing, and Oregonians are usually too non-confrontational to tell someone like her to stop, I thought.
After about 45 minutes of the projections of a band rehearsing, the same actors walked on stage and played a live version of the song, in person. The plants in the audience rocked out, stood, sang along, clapped. Most people just sat and watched. When the three-minute song finished, the lights came up. The show was over. One man said, “Is that it?” I thought, “Do you want more?” I asked the girl next to me for a lollipop and she was nice enough to give me one. On the way out the door, organizers handed out a paper listing an encore performance of the song Sunday night at midnight at the Wonder Ballroom. At the bottom of the paper were the words: “There is more.”
So, is this art? Sure. Is it worth seeing? Probably not. I’ve experienced art before that test audiences’ reactions, where artists want viewers to be aware of their role as viewers, to make choices and think about the limits of propriety. Mostly we reaffirmed that Portlanders are patient, non-confrontational, and eager to see experimental art. This “career ender” may work as a conversation piece, but I think you can get the same idea/analysis from hearing about this show as you can from experiencing it. If you are keen to see Claude Wampler, look for her in the aisles. If you want to see this performance, bring a book or a friend.
If this review feels like I gave away the store, I would direct readers to the initial disclaimer. If it saves you from “ruining” a night waiting in line and missing other shows, then enjoy the other shows. If it excites you to experience “PERFORMANCE (career ender)” for yourself, then great; I’d like to read what you think about the piece on the comments section of this post.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

Claude Wampler

Amazing. The Claude Wampler performance I saw yesterday was amazing. It’s now 5pm the following day and I still can’t stop thinking about it. And that tune, that oh so catchy tune is now dancing around in my head. I’ve spent the day alternately humming the music and reliving the performance with my co-worker who was there with me. This piece above any other I’ve seen this year at TBA caused me to react in a visceral way. My body was left shaking and sweaty. It inspired me to swim in the Pacific, or trek to the top of the world. I wanted to go out, buy a pair of silver lamé underwear and dance in a fog filled landscape. I was also impressed with the strong connection forged between performer and audience, some of whom were so moved they jumped up from their seats to dance along with the music (admittedly some audience members seemed more inspired than others). After the performance I overheard another audience member say to his friend, “That was sooo TBA”. I couldn’t agree more with whatever that means. Go to this performance immediately. Amazing.
Matthew C.

Guido Van der Werve, The Clouds Are More Beautiful From Above

(Most of) The films by Guido van der Werve rock. I went to the Living Room Theater to watch them the other day. They have each of the six different films in one of their six different theaters.* Due to circumstances outside of my control I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see one of the six films, so I can’t say with certainty that ‘all’ of his films rock, but the five I saw certainly did. Each film was filled with bizarre juxtapositions of beauty and the unexpected, or the ordinary, or sometimes just more beauty. The humor throughout the films is often times dry and subtle, though occasionally more brash or tongue and cheek. Either way it created these wonderful bridges between the sorrow and beauty on display in the films. The films are all wonderfully shot and scored and are an absolute pleasure to watch. If you have the chance to catch them at the Living Room Theater, I’d strongly suggest it. The longest film is perhaps 15 minutes most are around 5, you can easily see all 6 in an hour. The films are showing from 11-2 daily, an ideal time to grab lunch and head to the theater. For anyone who’s interested, here is the artist’s website roofvogel.org.
Matthew C.
*Actually I’m assuming that’s the setup. Unfortunately when I went, the theater management decided to shut down one of the films for over an hour in order to have a meeting within that theater… a meeting between 3 people in a theater that seats like 30-40 people. Now I’m not a scientist, but there has to be another space in the complex that could accommodate 3 people. Perhaps the empty-at-11.30-in-the-morning restaurant/bar could work, or maybe the spacious lobby would fit the bill… fuck, you could even squeeze into the bathroom, I’m pretty sure there are 3 stalls.

tEEth: Normal and Happy

Everybody show your tEEEEEEth!
Strangely beautiful and surprisingly amusing, tEEth’s Normal and Happy presents a world that could be at its very beginning (think primordial ooze) and/or reemerging post-apocalypse. Survival in this world depends on human contact and strength in numbers. Crude gestures and vocalizations evoke the beginnings of an evolutionary process, while hairless bodies in latex costumes, live video feed, and electronic music provide a more futuristic sensibility.
Normal and Happy incorporates many of the characteristics that pop culture uses to parody contemporary dance. A woman dances inside a latex sheet (think the “performance art” scene in She’s All That). Crude grunting and stomping are a leading component to the choreography. Swimming cap style costumes bring out the obnoxious little boy in me (“teehee…penis!”). At first glance, I want to roll my eyes and scream “stop trying so hard!” at the stage. tEEth, however, manages to quickly use these characteristics with enough purpose and complexity that it works. The entire dance is driven by an honest exploration of basic human needs—touch, friendship, help, affection, struggle, voice, movement. They are thus able to skillfully avoid pretension, both in the choreography and the dancing itself, by maintaining a true commitment to something simple and universal.
The dancers constantly interact, and touch most of the time. It as if the audience is on a journey through another world, periodically encountering a different species, and spending time observing what makes each new creature tick. Several different “species” emerge: the couple in white who touch heads, fit in each others’ curves, and struggle between the impulse to clutch and the impulse to break away; two sisters, kept in a mirrored kaleidoscope, wearing once-pretty dresses constantly discovering each other; a flock of dancers encased completely in white, traveling in unison with slight assertions of individuality; four women (pictured in the catalog) adorned in bubbling rubber foliage, providing some humor with a silly secret handshake routine, inspecting each other, puling their cheeks, always moving in pairs; an older gentleman in an odd white tuxedo; a ghostly young girl tiptoeing around the stage and then dropping into convulsions. All are connected through movements of grasping, breaking free, and squishing up against each other. They assume angular, splayed postures, spread their legs to the audience, and crinkle their toes.
The show is technically complex as well, and tEEth does a great job of using technology in an interesting way without showing off. They’ve set up a mirrored box in the middle of the stage, and it looks like an Exploratorium exhibit. Two girls dance inside it, interacting with each other and their reflections. The mirrors turn simple video projections into a crazy giant kaleidoscope.
At several moments, the audience is made intentionally uncomfortable through loud screeching music, light flashing in their eyes, and zoomed-in projections of yucky, pulsating body creases and skin textures. This helps maintain a tension throughout the piece between complete collapse and remaining on edge. Is this tension similar to the tension between feeling genuinely “normal and happy” and the stress of striving for a normal, happy life? I’m still trying to figure out what to make of the title.
The show does take an ounce of initial audience buy-in, but once I was able to get past pointing out obvious opportunities for dirty jokes I was completely enthralled with its peculiar characters and strange sequences.
Way to represent.
posted Kirsten Collins

Kassys, Kommer

Kommer is not a theater piece followed by a video piece. Kommer is a single work about artists whose lives on stage may be more real than their lives off. That their post-show habitations and rituals are not unlike our own only adds to the impact that their everyday remains a shallow reflection of the world they create in performance.
In performance they play family members brought together by the mysterious death of “Holden”. The play begins with casual conversation but one by one the characters drop out, their stomachs no longer support them. They bow. They walk slowly to a plant box, lean all their weight into one hand and proceed to the back curtain. They reach out to nothing, move to the side curtain and then return to the stage.
Like the actors post-performance, I know the despair of a night drinking without friends, working an unrewarding day-job, visiting sick family, eating compulsively, exercising in an attempt to burn anxiety, and driving just to get out of the house. And yet these scenes in Kommer never became my own the way that first promenade became my own.
It is all too possible to become the stereotype of our selves. In so doing, we like the actors portrayed in Kommer become flat. However on stage their characters stretch catharsis to the point of absurdity. They acknowledge a reality that really is ridiculous. And through their portrayal, they experience the naked dualism of sorrow in a way that is far more real than the self-indulgent sorrows of their daily lives. There is a point on stage when one character (to great laughter) blurts out in all sincerity, “We are empathizing.” Indeed who, who hasn’t laughed, can really know heartache?
posted by: Marty Schnapf

And we will all go down together

HAND2MOUTH THEATRE
Repeat After Me
posted by laura becker
Last night Billy Joel made me weep. His song interrupted the light-hearted musical meditations on America and hit me like a sucker punch. The chopper sounds and the lyrics of numbered body bags yanked me away from the streamer-filled parade feel of it all, and before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face and all I could think was “How is this happening again? How stupid could we be? How could they do this to us?”
Up until that moment, I don’t think I had really comprehended how much I hate this war. Something about hearing the song out of nowhere got to me, and all of a sudden I remembered being a kid and taking for granted that assumption of peace for the rest of my life. Naïve and obviously wrong, I thought of songs like that as proof that everyone agreed starting a war was a bad idea. Songs like that were promises from our parents that we were the children that would grow up never having to fear the draft, never having to sacrifice our innocence, never knowing of (hidden) body bags. Oh well. Live and Learn.
But those angry tearful moments didn’t make me enjoy the show any less. I loved it. I thought the actors, especially the women, were amazing. I thought the energy was unbelievable. I thought it was the most creative, impactful, and impressive piece of TBA so far. And it made very proud that it’s a product of our state.
H2M: If you didn’t know already, you’re succeeding.

Despair never had it so good

Dear Kassys,
(ahem). I love you! I adore you! You’re the best thing I’ve seen yet, and during this festival, that is saying a lot. So I’m going to gush a bit. You’re adorable, hilarious, smart! You’re like the thinking person’s survivor, only more real. Why? It is Kommer! It cuts to core of modern life’s cold, absurd, pathetic half attempts at communication, and never stops slicing. And there is a shark. Oh god, I love that shark.
And if I thought the misery was for the stage? Oh Kassys, that is when you twisted the knife even deeper, and I love you for it. Kassys, I love you truly! Do you love me? Kassys? Kassys? Are you Ok? How are you?
“yes.”
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By abe
Hollaback?

Transaction fees

I hate to admit it, but Sell Out has thus far been the most controversial, provocative show I’ve seen. I hate to admit it because the show itself doesn’t have all that much to it, it’s pretty much micro waved Power Seller, which isn’t bad in and of itself, it’s simple, humorous, light hearted fare, but with subject matter this serious, the evangelical, all-positive approach leaves out what I consider to be the most important aspect of selling out: that you lose something.
Now, this shouldn’t be a critique of the author (right?). I should stick to reviewing just the work (right??). I dunno. I guess I have to preface this a bit: I come from the peace punk mentality. I have a prison style Crass* tattoo on my arm (and I still love it). My definition involves the golden rule and not hurting people for a living, and the epitome of that is major advertising. Especially for Nike. (I am aware that the tattoo is a form of advertising – of beliefs – see, I’m making it all complex and stuff).
It bothers me to hear people, and artists especially, say “Thanks Nike, thanks W+K,” without any acknowledgement that their also saying “thanks for making people without pretty things feel like shit, thanks for making pre-pubescent girls hate their bodies, thanks for sweat shops.” It’s real. It’s really shitty, and it’s really real. And we go watch Las Chicas del 3.5 floppies and say “!Que terrible!” and then thank W+K again. You feel me? At all?
I swear I’m not trying to be holier than though. I’m really trying not to be. I’m not trying to personally attack people, including AC. AC, I’ll buy you a drink. No wait, you’re the sell out, you buy me a drink. Anyway, this is my personal definition, and I’m not about to put it on anybody. This is what it would mean for me to sell out, not anyone else. This is my line, your line is yours, and Andrew’s is Andrew’s. So what’s the point you ask?
Because as much as I don’t know Andrew, I don’t think we’re that different. And if I’m wrong, let me know, I take it all back. But I think AC does care about sweatshops, and girls hating their bodies, and being low and coercive. And that’s what I found lacking in “sell out” and that’s what I want to hear about. Great, you’ve got cash and healthcare, so do a lot of people. Miserable people. Does AC worry about that? Does AC worry about what he’ll tell his future children about conviction, what does he think about going from a reader of Adbusters to a target? I want to know what his wife thinks about it. And I’m not judging here, I swear, I really want to know. I think this is an important aspect of selling out, and I want to hear it from AC, because I hope I never find out for myself.
*One word, “Thatchergate” – google it, love it, and go buy “Best Before”
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By abe
Hollaback?

Mirah / Spectratone International

Upstaged by bugs! Credit where credit’s due, Mirah, along with backing from the lute, percussion, accordion, and cellist super-combo that is Spectratone International, performed on par, consistently delivering professional numbers blending a quasi-klesmer vibe with a folky, sometimes lullabyish demure softness. Still, the accompanying circular projection screen showing stop-motion films about insects seemed to take center stage (even though it was kinda off to the left a bit)…
The animated stop motion movies by Britta Johnson seemed to transfix the audience, all the more understandable by the fact lead singer Mirah stands behind a music stand as if she’s reading a speech. So if she won’t reach out to the crowd, perhaps a dung beetle will. Although somewhat looping in their action, the insects (created by yarn, buttons, tin cans, etc) garner the majority of attention, and while the music doesn’t necessarily sync up with any of the film’s corresponding action, it’s certainly interesting even if you’re not into entomology.
posted by sean mcgrath

T:BA:07 Day Seven – Wednesday, 12 September 2007

T:BA:07 Day Seven – Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Today was pretty chill.
Which was nice.
12:30p Freestyle, PNCA
3:00p Hip Hop 101 Workshop, Conduit
6:30p [?] Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Art Institute
6:30p tEEth, PCPA: Winningstad
10:30p the Gay Deceivers & the Pash(ly), Wonder
11:00p BARR aka Brendan Fowler, Wonder
There was no workshop in the morning, so I got to sleep in until 9:30, heavenly!
Woke-up, typed up a little blog, it was great!
Then went down to the PNCA for the Noon:30 “Freestyle” chat with Kassys and Nature Theater of Oklahoma. As you might remember, I hated Oklahoma last year, and if it was not for one of my friend imploring with me that they were mighty captivating, I would have not even given them another thought. But, she did convince me, so I am trying to be pretty open minded about them. Kassys I saw the other night, and was greatly unimpressed, even though I felt they were quite professional and I know that others have appreciated them.
But, what I did get out of the Noon:30 chat is their sensibilities about theatre. They both agreed that theatre is about lies. Any script, any narrative, is false, and is simply portrayed for entertainment value. It is all a lie. This was rather enlightening, and explains a bit about why I do not enjoy theatre so very much, or at least very few works. If I get the hint, scent or even an aftertaste of a sham, then it completely turns my stomach. I do not like lies, I do not tolerate them, nor superficiality, nor b.s., nor games. I just don’t care to have them in my life, and I do not want to waste my time.
But these two companies have been exploring the gradation of lies. Kassys has been trying to dilute the lie to a minimalist expression, so that we believe it is fully real and about life as we know it. Oklahoma has gone the other extreme. They feel that if you are going to lie, that you should do it big time. Push it, make it as outrageous and incredible as possible.
OK, I’ll appreciate the theory, but I still do not have the interest to see their shows.
I had a little time to spare, so I wandered over to the Daily Café and had what has become my regular during the festival, their vegetarian sandwich and a side salad. Quite tasty.
Next I strolled on by Buffalo Exchange and Red Light to see if they had any leather pants in my size. Red Light had one pair, but they got stuck on my calf, and I had to pry them back off.
I also stopped by the Living Room Theater to see what the deal is with Guido’s films, as they had been closed over the weekend. I am not sure if the films there are the same as the ones at the Works in the Woolley Gallery, but they seem that they are open daily until 1:30pm. I, of course, was there around about 2pm.
Continuing on, I went by the FogHat studio to chat with Nat. He was feeling pretty good about the project, and has had some wonderful recording sessions. He is trying to convince one of my friends to do some R-rated groupie photographs for the project, but I do not think that she is going for it.
Getting close to 3pm, I headed over to Conduit for what I thought was going to be a dance workshop in the realm of Hip Hop. But, instead it was an introductory tutorial on the basic of and language and culture. It would seem that tomorrow will be the dance and jam session, but I will be at Kristan Kennedy’s gallery talk, so I will miss it. They did let us know that the Someday Lounge has regular Hip Hop nights, and that you can find out what’s going down on this website: www.superhappywax.com
I would really recommend going tomorrow, as I is going to be totally cool.
They just got things started, and I feel they have a lot to offer.
They really want to share and open things up for dialogue and education, so please do attend.
Plus, they have this kickin’ packet of information with a Hip Hop time line, History of DJ / MC / B-Boy|Girl / Graffiti / Beatboxing, and best of all: Vursatyl’s Top Fifty MC’s and Hip Hop groups of all time!
[I was going to try and be open minded and go see the Nature Theater of Oklahoma at the Art Institute; but tickets were sold-out, which was really just fine by me.]
Having a little time to kill, I went over to the florist to pick-up the two dozen roses that I ordered for tEEth, and got a table in the backroom at Dragonfish for some friends and I to dine before the show. Their grasshopper roll was tasty, but I could have used a bit more to eat.
tEEth, oh what to say…
I really love the show!
The other night I saw it for the first time. It was amazing. At the end of the show, I was euphoric. [Please see earlier post.]
I did in fact feel “Normal and Happy”, as in the ah other people see the world in a way similar to me ‘normal’ and happy as in I just ate a delicious meal and my body is peacefully content.
The other night, I then went to a couple of other shows afterwards, and it killed my buzz.
I did not want to make that mistake twice, so I agreed to help them strike the set after the show, and forego any other things that night. It only took us a short while to break apart the set, vacuum up the goo and have it all loaded into the elevator.
What I did not talk about in my bLog the other day, since I did not want to give anything away, is the amazing costuming by Paloma Soledad. The performance was broken down into one, one / two / two / four / five. 1a was a cracked out ballerina with a sexy bodice with classical lines and a strung-out tutu. 1b was a white vinyl speak-easy tuxedo with an odd provocative flair for the elder that wore it. 2a was a pair of slit skin suits, worn by Jim McGinn and Alenka Loesh. 2b was my favorite, the chicken hawk twins had these subtle yet sexy kitchen sun dresses, that were fused with leather gowns. It reminded me of the siamese twins in the City of Lost Children, except these two were young and sexy. 4 was the group that I lovelying refer to as the toxic avenger umpa lumpas. Their heat-treated foam and rubber costumes really transformed the dancers to another place, as even looking at Gina and Laura in the eyes, I could hardly recognize them. Lastly were the 5 that I just cannot think of what to call them. I have toyed with the Fluffernutter Quintet, or perhaps a pack of rabid skydivers that crashed onto the Island of Misfit Toys, I just do not know. But, what I do know, is that Paloma does excellent work, keeps to established budgets, has an incredible vision, and is wonderful to collaborate with. I just might need to come up with a project and commission her sometime in the future.
The Gay Deceivers & the Pash(ly) and BARR aka Brendan Fowler were both playing at the Wonder Ballroom tonight, but I did not see them. I look forward to hearing some else’s thoughts.
Ciao,
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
Atelier Z
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts
http://www.fhzal.com

Portland Cello Group @ Works

Once again we are inundated with cello groups overpopulating the local music scene! Madness, I say! Alright just kidding. Not being a particularly pious symphony goer, it’s nice to be privy to the cello, especially when there’s twelve of them. Alternating between the gold standard of cello music, Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor Op. 85, Adagio Moderato, and more contemporary hits like the theme to The Legend of Zelda, the Portland Cello Group seems to have fun in the variance of their works.
While one may presume that purely cellos would become tiresome after some time, the PCG found ways to instill modulation in their repertoire. Bringing up local musicians to play lead, with backing cello accompaniment, is a unique way for the audience to witness the versatility of classical music (it’s not just for the 18th century anymore). Supporting by the ensemble, guitarists, keyboardists, and singers alike were bolstered by the PCG both musically, and mentally. How can you not feel confident when you’ve got 12 accomplished string players at your back?
Sean McGrath

Portland Cello Project

Posted by: James Maxwell
I want to begin by giving credit to the entire Portland Cello Project for having such a unique platform and strategy to bring their music to more diverse crowds and smaller venues. I think it is an awesome idea to give artists a chance to collaborate with the ensemble that normally would not have the means to do so. With that being said, in regards to the Project’s Tuesday Night Performance at the Works, I personally have some mixed opinions.
I found the ensemble to be much more powerful and moving without the selected and apparently struggling singer/songwriters. The best moments of the show came from the pieces that involved purely instrumental work. The Pianist piece at the beginning of the show was genius and could have been a soundtrack to my life, no joke, I was taken to a good place. The lead cellists were terrific and were truly a master at their skills. I loved the intimate setting the Project provided at the beginning.
My problem with the show did not begin until a number of singer/songwriters jumped on stage ready to “wow” the audience with their personal strife and insight. I mean it just got a little much with the melodramatic lyrics and cliché sorrow looks on stage. I will give the Seth Rogen look alike props for his semi-witty cocaine joke but the lovers staying in bed lyrics lacked originality. And to the brilliant cellist who decided to venture to the front of the stage and sing about the hurtful American hands and guns destroying our world, we all know our country blows right now the lyrics are by no means a revelation.
I do not mean to be a hater and again I am certainly not trained in instrumental performance, I was just a guy trying to enjoy my $3 PBR and was disappointed with the collaborations. I respect the Portland Cello Project for their original ideas and talent but was more entertained with the conversation in the beer garden then the night’s performance.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph- This White Boy Felt the Flow

Posted By: James Maxwell
I will be the first to admit I do not have the most experience or credentials in regards to critiquing contemporary art. So when I received the opportunity to take part in the TBA Festival this year as part of the press core I not only wanted to use my journalistic background to review the exhibits and performances but also the people and their attitudes at the events. Which brings me to my first performance I viewed this year, the smooth talking, talented, creative god of hip hop soul that is Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
Never before have I personally witnessed a man that could make a group of awkward white folk bounce their heads in such unison to his unique words and beats. I could see that every one in the audience became completely entranced with the flavor The Living Word Project provided. Through out the entire sixty-minute one-man show Joseph moved and spoke so effortlessly while touching base on numerous relatable life lessons and journeys. From trying to defeat the dark “All Nigger Mentality,” learning to tap, the joy of fatherhood, and his funny and touching time in Africa the show brought it all. I was taken on a one of a kind journey with the performer’s beautiful words and movements.
The Living Word Project was so powerful everyone from retirees in Krocs and hipsters in too skinny jeans were screaming “word, word” for Joseph with as much soul we had in us. When I thought the show was coming to an end and could not have been better, Joseph, of course breaks out into a fresh story on the artist once again known as Prince. Completely nailing the beauty and mystery surrounding the legendary musician with his genius and original poetic piece, making us the audience members both laugh and squirm in our seats. So Bravo Marc Bamuti Joseph for such a beautifully orchestrated and original performance that gave us an inside to a piece of hip hop culture. You are truly one of a kind and please keep making us awkward white people bounce are heads!

Portland Cello Project

Tuesday night’s performance by the Portland Cello Project demonstrated the group’s commitment to blending the classical with the contemporary, pop music with the avant garde, and world influences as well as local artists. The 12 members packed the Wonder Ballroom as they worked their way through an eclectic mix of music with grace and power. One chair in the center allowed each performer to lead a song.
Several guest artists played, including Adam Shearer (John Weinland), Nick Jaina, Laura Gibson, and Musee Mecanique, among others, adapting their own music in collaboration with the cellists. Often these simple orchestrations added weight to or deepened the emotional intensity of the original songs. Their performance of “Take Five” was a stellar foray into jazz, as was their performance of “CelloBop” music in collaboration with Gideon Freudmann.
After the intermission, four members played a solid rendition of Barber’s Adagio for Strings in honor of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I always associate this song with the movie Platoon, which features it several times, and I remember reading once that it is the most performed piece of music in American repertories (a claim which I cannot verify, though it was rated as the saddest piece of classical music by listeners of the BBC’s “Today” program).
It was a treat to see the Portland Cello Project on such a large scale, and in such a large venue with a crowded house. Their music is well-suited to the space and I look forward to seeing and hearing them again. Plus, they played the themes from The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers between sets! On cellos!
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

tEEth’s Normal and Happy – I am that it’s not

Without reading any of the press for tEEth’s normal and happy – hell, we didn’t even get programs tonight – I can blissfully blog based entirely on my experience and what I saw over the heads of the people sitting in front of me (note to self, Winningstad Theater is not ideal for viewing contemporary dance).
I have read several of the blog posts about Andrew Dickson’s Sell Out, which I didn’t get to see, and I kind of have to laugh when I wonder to myself “how could dance artists sell out?” Seriously. There is no money to be made in dance. No fame and fortune. I suppose you could be a back-up dancer for Beyonce and/or strip, but isn’t selling out what you do to make fat bank, make your parents proud, and become a family guy, all rolled into one? In dance, it seems to me that “selling out” is more often “transitioning into other career paths”. When you do stumble upon the rare dance artist who people are willing to throw money at, like the famous and fortunate Barishnikov, he goes and does something incredibly philanthropic like build an arts center in post-9/11 Manhattan. Damned dance artists.
Why do they do it? Someone blogged about Misha’s humility as a dancer. All dancers are humble. They are someone else’s paint, for god’s sake. And again – no fame, no fortune, even if you do dance until you die. I don’t know why I’m going on and on. I was about to go off on a tangent about Homer Avila, who had cancer and finally got health insurance when he started dancing for an opera company. He died in 2004, at age 49, after having his leg amputated in 2001. He performed on a Friday and died on a Sunday.
Forgive my gravity here.
Writing about dance is ridiculous. I’m not going to give you a book report about “what happened”. You have to experience it for yourself. And thankfully, people turned out in droves to see (and hear and experience) teeth for themselves. Whether they liked it or not, it happened. I doubt that there was anyone who did not feel strongly one way or another about the work – which, in my book, is a signal of success. (For validation by the rich and famous, by the way, Misha said at the lecture that he wants to be moved by a work of art, whether positively or negatively.)
I don’t know what motivates Angelle and Phillip and their nameless (remember, no programs) performers and collaborators to soldier on, but I’m grateful that they do. For the record, I loved it. Thank you tEEth.
Posted by Nancy Ellis

Kassys

Kassys tackles theatre, film, television, genre, and grief in Kommer, a multimedia performance that is as humorous as it is heartbreaking.
Kommer begins with six actors milling about on a spare stage, talking quietly and drinking Perrier from tall glasses. Behind them sit six plant boxes with dour green plants, forming three “walls” of the stage, on a white rectangular floor. Six stacked chairs, two small tables, a tray of sandwiches, and a stereo complete the set. A simple scheme of white lights filters down on the actors, who stand in mostly dark-toned office clothes. A picture of Dutch minimalism.
Quickly the talk turns into distress, as each actor stoops over, in turn, looking sick and somber, before exiting the stage and making an agonized loop back onto the stage. Meanwhile a brass band plays a mournful, inspiring tune akin to “Danny Boy.” They arrange the chairs into a semi-circle around a stereo on a table; this process is hilarious, as some butt in and others are left out. An absurd scenario follows as they turn off the music (the play’s first line is: “I like this music very much but I don’t think it’s appropriate”), then play a compilation CD, listening to some of each song before one of them skips it (“The Rose,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Imagine”). They glance at each other awkwardly, before turning off the music, then dancing muted, uncoordinated dances.
Their somber faces, hesitancy, and courtesy show the primacy of personal space and a preference for following rather than leading. These traits inhibit each character from expressing deeper emotions, submitting all reactions to propriety, and ultimately leading them to perform drastic feats for attention: eating plants, humping plant boxes, destroying plants. These destructive attempts at grief are a result of sublimating emotions, of contemporary banality, and perhaps of depression. In Dutch, “kommer” means sorrow.
The play’s dialogue is lifted straight from a soap opera, and delivered in deadpan, static voices: “I can’t believe he’s dead,” “How can I move on with my life,” “It’s too late now,” “He knows how much you love him.” One character, Ton, says that “everybody is empathizing,” but this is apparent only through the dialogue (which is mediated through media representations of grief) because the characters’ recital is so indifferent. Even Esther’s epiphany, “Live each day with intensity,” is said apathetically.
Momentarily, things pick up when one character, Mischa, begins sobbing and is consoled by the others. One character invites them to “walk around the block,” which eventually leads them all to walk off the stage and out the exit, leaving the “reality” of the drama behind, and breaching the fourth wall between audience and actor. Soon they return, however, to eat sandwiches, and as they do so they turn from laughing to melancholy. Esther, to relieve their sorrow, offers each character a choice of two actions, which they begin, an effort at breaking down so they can build up something new.
Soon they are standing and the screen lowers, the pre-recorded film mirroring the actions of the actors on stage, and introducing a new element into the play and into theatre itself. Kassys has broken down the old traditions and built up a new framework for theatre, combining humor with sadness, the immediacy of theatre with the artifice of film. The film follows the actors backstage as they self-referentially discuss the audience’s reactions, leaving the audience to laugh at how they are being perceived by the actors.
While the film portion likewise has little dialogue, it seems more genuine than the cut-and-paste dialogue of the stage play, and the performances are more affecting. We see each actor living a lonely life, however, stranded, suicidal, endangered, unhealthy, solitaire. Not that the film is without humor; one especially funny bit follows Esther as she destroys an airplane lavatory, and another captures Ton alone eating a mass of disgusting foods with his fingers. I am not sure what to make of the presentation of sorrow in Kommer. Even if the narrative is not complete, even if these are small images of loneliness let to stand alone, I wonder what Kassys wants us to think about sorrow and our own lives today. Perhaps we are merely left to reflect that even within melancholy there a lot of funny moments, and that even in an age where we reproduce what we see in the media as our own true feelings, there are opportunities to break out of the monotonous and build something new.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly

Too. Much. Art. Must. Sleep. Now.

Posted by Chloe
Sun. Sep 9th: Mirah & Spectratone International: Share This Place
I had seen an earlier version of this twelve song cycle about the secret lives of insects inspired in part by French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre, but it’s now fully realized and accompanied by enchanting (even if sometimes gross — liquefied slugs, eww!) animation by Britta Johson. Projected full-bleed onto a circular screen, it gave the effect of a moving vignette on stage. I loved this convergence of musicians, singer, animator, subject and inspiration and was thrilled to see it again in all its glory. You can buy the record here.

Mon. Sep 10th:
Kassys: Kommer
Running late for the play, I skipped the restroom and the water fountain and ducked into the theater just moments before the lights went down. It was hot up in there, I needed to pee, wanted a drink, and to complete my sensory onslaught a woman behind me had made herself at home by taking her shoes off and putting her feet up, lending a putrid odor to the scene. Not the greatest scenario to sit back and enjoy some absurdist Dutch theater. While most of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves, I was squirming in my seat. I actually did enjoy the second half when the actors left the stage and *came back* on screen, where we got to see them return to their *real lives* after the play, and shortly thereafter I made my own swift departure. People! Keep your shoes ON and your feet OFF the seats!

Mon. Sept 10th:
Cloud Eye Control/Anna Oxygen: An Evening at Ape Canyon
I hadn’t even planned on staying for this performance — just meeting up with a friend — but I came in midway through the first piece and was transfixed. I thought of audiences over a hundred years ago, marveling at the spectacle created by one Loie Fuller, an early mistress of modern dance and special effects, and marveled at the fact that there is still room for innovation with electricity and light. Digital animation projected from four different directions onto a scrim with real live humans interacting with it, becoming characters in high tech cartoons. Despite some technical difficulties, which when you have charming companions just gives you a chance to chat more, I was beguiled and can’t wait to see more from this crew.
See you at The Works after my disco nap!

Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s No Dice

Depending on your perspective, this could contain spoilers for the performance, but then again, you probably will have forgotten them by the time you reach that part of the evening.
Perhaps because it was dinner theatre, over the course of those four hours last night, I just kept thinking of that classic review that people will give of a poor restaurant: “The food was terrible, and the portions were so small!” It’s such a summarily absurd statement, but I think it perfectly captures the gluttony that people often display for disappointment. This is not to say anything of the sort about the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s latest outing, which was both wonderful and challenging and in just the right amounts. Four hours certainly tested the furthest limits of my stamina. Yet, for something as sprawling and ambitious as No Dice, the company wrapped it all up remarkably neatly. And that is no small feat for addressing the multiple levels of everyday disappointments that the piece encompasses.
For those who remember last year’s Poetics or the troupe’s cameo at Ten Tiny Dances, the style is familiar. The Nature Theater compiles a basic vocabulary of “found” motions – waving, pantomime, dated pop dance moves – and strings them together by random selection into a arguably rhythmic dance. Their use of chance to determine sequence feels like the movement counterpart to Jean Arp and Sophie Tauber-Arp’s automatic collages. As the actors distance their prosaic motions from their expected experiences and emotions, the choreography becomes abstracted and juxtaposed anew. In No Dice they largely depart from dance, to the stiffly blocked-out staging of community theater. The spastic, incongruous dance moves make brief appearances (most notably as a mime for form-filing administrative work), but most of the choreography riffs on a kind of “red-light-green-light” amateur style.
Deliver line. Cross stage left. Deliver line. Stride downstage. Deliver line. Cross stage right.
By so humorously stripping down the movements, the dialogue is isolated as the focus of No Dice. Extending their “found” performance concept to sound, the dialogue was extracted from hours of phone conversations that the cast recorded. The lines they selected cover the personal and potentially awkward territory of private calls, complete with all of their nervous laughter, trivial asides, and poorly considered comments. Each actor’s lines are fed to them through individual iPods, so that they speak their parts as soon as they hear them. As a phrase in one conversation will lead a new character to begin the lines of a separate dialogue, the three leads are in constant rotation in and out of paired conversations. The result of this individually-prompted script is that the leads step in and out of their roles without ever clarifying who the speaking characters are. Luckily the subjects they discuss overlap between the many conversation snippets. Frustrating day-jobs, addiction and weight gain, future ambitions, amateur theater. Regardless of the topic, the speakers struggle to sound meaningful and in control while bemoaning their lack of direction or discipline.
But all of this begins with poor stage accents. The actors muddle together Caribbean, Cockney, Scottish, German, Russian, and French accents while delivering their lines staring full-face at the audience, their faces contorting out-of-sequence with the words. At first, the effect is slap-stick funny. Discussing your business’ complimentary soda policy with a heavy brogue guarantees laughter. But gradually, the exaggerated dialogue begins to act like a chalkboard-exercise in sentence diagramming. I found myself focusing more and more on how poorly people communicate and articulate their ideas. The improper emphasis and emotionless delivery make our conversational word choice seem laughably illiterate. It begins to seem like the goal might be the deconstruction of the English language.
As the piece progresses, whether from exhaustion or intent, the actors begin to slough off their accents as their acting moves into full-on melodrama. Every line seems like it will be the last before the inevitable rush of tears. The speakers’ personal failures and disappointments become fodder for soap-opera dramatics and as new conversations are introduced, parts of the original dialogue returns. The second time around these familiar conversations involve the actors in different roles and, absent of accents, the audience pays more attention to their content. Progressively, as the lines that the actors are being given move out of sync with each other, the emotions appear to match up more closely with the repeated conversational fragments. Stripping off their extraneous costume pieces, the actors deliver their lines so genuinely that they sound laughable compared to their earlier hammy appearances. It becomes true parody – repetition with difference – and with this move, the mechanics of the script and its sources are laid bare.
No longer was I noticing the structure of colloquial speech, I felt like I was witnessing a playwright developing a script. As a result, the piece gains the eerie quality of self-reflexive metadramas like 8 1/2 or Adaptation. Whether or not the dialogue actually involved the company members in real life, they cleverly make you believe that you are witnessing a part of their lives. Conversations about bad audition experiences and the terrible day-jobs they hold down suddenly seem more personal. As they discuss the earnestness of dinner theater or tragically funny stage performances (Moscow Cats Theatre?), you notice the elements of their conversations in the show you are watching. The actors reference the sandwiches the audience received and a segment on an idea to market products through avant-garde theatre parlays into the intermission complete with concessions. The audience is unable to ignore the artifice of the performance. Even the excerpts they chose from the phone conversations consistently reveal the distance of the two speakers, highlighting the intermediary of the telephone.
In one conversation, a man opines, “We don’t hear ourselves, you and I. We just talk. Things go unrecorded.” The play recorded everything. Listening to those records, you are listening to the creation of the play. And once the Nature Theatre gets you to realize that, they never let you forget that you are spending four hours watching people re-enact calls.
“These days, who knows what you need in terms of storytelling.”
posted by patrick l.

Kassys – Kommer

Kommer is divided into two parts – 1/2 live theater and 1/2 film, which together form a multilayered narrative, complicating layers of “reality” and “acting”. Of course, it’s all acting, but are the filmed, documentary-style characters somehow more authentic? Kommer explores ways that emotions are obstructed, processed and ignored through physical activity. Characters lose track of their bodies, wandering in a daze. Driven to distraction, they mindlessly change cd tracks, tear apart plants, kick over tables or grasp each other. Unsure of how to help, what to do or where to be, they hesitate, stall, give voice to hollow clichés. The “play” concerns the awkwardness of group mourning, and a desperation for some kind of ritual in the midst of overwhelming emotion – just tell us what to do, how to act…
This absurd theater is somehow completely unconvincing and yet totally familiar. Lines are delivered in a stilted, unsure manner. Or is this the deeper “acting” of delivering expected lines of comfort? “We are all empathizing here.” Authentically inauthentic?
When alone, the characters seem taken by some deeper, unidentified malaise, which they act out through violence, alcohol, driving, exercise and eating. What utter loneliness characterizes this half, as solitary figures seem unsure of what to do with themselves, how to spend their time, how to be productive, how to connect with others. Whereas the object of grief was clear and identifiable in the first half, here it is pervasive, internalized and insidious.
Kassys are skilled in finding the telling moment, the revealing gesture, the inner vulnerability, the dead giveaway. Perhaps Kommer is a comedy, but only in the sense that we “laugh to keep from crying”. Identification creates a spark of energy, which must be expelled through a convulsion. And yet it’s also authentically funny – or funnily inauthentic.
- posted by Seth Nehil

William Kentridge, 9 Drawings for Projection

William Kentridge’s animations rise like ghosts from the screen- the ghost Africa, the ghost Art, the ghost Abandon. He employs charcoal as though it were collected from the cheeks of miners and spread against paper to tell it’s own story. Every image is haunted by traces of the images that came before. Memories hang like shadows unloosed from form. The past remains always present.
Oppression is written in the geography. It seeps up from the soil- endless lines of starving men. One isolated from the hoards lays beaten and bleeding, swallowed by his own shirt, his skull, shoulders, hips and knees become boulders. Posts rise from blood puddles and support yet another blank billboard. An artist floats naked (always naked) in his room flooded by anxiety. A land eating, tycoon sits in his pin striped business suit (always in his pin striped business suit) eating breakfast in bed. He pushes down his French Press. Filter becomes tunnel digger and we return to the mines.
posted by: Marty Schnapf

The pica.radio site! Podcasts galore! Chat w/Nature Theater and Kassys, etc.

Here is the stylized version of the PICA radio site, with instructions for downloading the audio to your itunes or whatever else (I posted the raw version before, if you need to download listening software or want something prettier to look at all the same information is here). I’ve been catching up on the noontimes chats I missed. The site:

http://pica.radio.tablesturned.com/archive.html?pname=podcast.xml

Great! Thanks to Portland Radio Authority (www.praradio.org) for recording all this. The silent tea party is sweet–I hope someone remixes it. I also highly recommend the noontime freestyle chat where Kassys and Nature Theater of Oklahoma interview each other.
It’s really a treat to have access to this audio so quickly after the show happens and to catch up on things I missed, particularly the chats.
–Carissa Wodehouse
Blogger, member, enthusiast

Are you really okay, kind of?

Kassys
KOMMER
posted by laura becker
I really felt like I was missing something as I was sitting quietly, paying close attention to the characters on stage, who were seemingly brought together into a story of grief, when all of a sudden people around me were laughing. The less it seemed the actors were doing on stage, the more laughter there was spreading around me. Giggling, guffawing, out of control glee. Eventually I caught the contagious effect, giggling at the actors and their tics, their somewhat stumbling sensibilities, their ease into the awkward. It was slapstick for sure, but even as I chuckled, I thought: geez, Dutch comedy is depressing.
The moment that finally shook the giggles out of me was when Esther’s character forced Mischa’s to cry. “It’s okay,” she said, “you need to get it out”. And it actually started off as amusing – let me help you be sad, let me sooth the grief out of you with my clownish assistance – but quickly it seemed to me to be her own grief that she was forcing through him, her own need to lose it, to go crazy, that she brutishly took out on him. A second later she was shrugging it off with a funny kick and two-step. The moment was quick enough to miss, but so raw with emotion that it lingered in slow motion for me, long after the rest of the audience was giggling again.
But the more I think about the piece, the more sense I make out of it, the more completely absurd and hysterical it seems. In the live performance, the “characters” did everything they could to avoid truly sharing in any emotion in their shared grief, and it was funny. In the video, the “actors” practically leaped into their lonely despair, and it was still funny. So now I’m thinking: Dutch tragedy – hilarious.

The Gnashing of tEEth

Human Rorchach or Psychotic breakdown?
-Posted by P.A. Coleman
I was wholly unprepared for the visceral brain warp of tEEth’s, Normal and Happy. Over the course of the 70-minute performance, my mental state progressed from calm complacency to wide-eyed distress. In short, I found the program visually masterful, brilliantly danced and absolutely disturbing.
Performed around a brilliantly conceived set piece, the company worked through highly physical choreography that seemed locked in trauma and catharsis. It was as if the program had been pried from a wounded subconscious. The inhabitants of the stage seemed not to be human but rather the human-esque specters of memory and distance.
Normal and Happy begins with the Rorschach silhouettes of two dancers, balled up like seeds and doubled in reflection. Their shadows seem to sprout as they reach out with searching limbs. Like a Rorschach test (an archaic series of inkblots used by psychologists to gauge mental stability in their patients, if you are unfamiliar) the audience it left to make its own interpretations on the dark, mutating shapes, moving at center stage. I think this is idea is at the center of Normal and Happy. In its constantly shifting pattern of movement, we may find familiar gestures or expressions that wake memories we have long since buried deep. To this end, many of the dancers are concealed or mutated in costumes that blur the edges of their humanity, turning them into something more like the archetypical psychological hobgoblins that creep through the mind at the edge of sleep. Still, we are aware that they are somehow extensions of us, of our world.
The creatures of Normal and Happy pant, screams, struggle to speak and gag. They paw desperately at one another or promenade in groups with a type of militaristic haughty concern. They express the childish urge to tease and hurt, as well as the adult urge to cling to another person at all costs- no matter how uncomfortable or how much effort it might take.
Normal and Happy is set to sound design that, at times, is traumatically loud and grating. At one point, as a repetitive electronic static, blasted in tandem with a strobe of chaotic video, I felt my pulse rise along with overwhelming urge to find the nearest exit. Luckily these moments are tempered with far more lyrical passages of song. But there is always a tone of warped intensity, as the program digs deep into a kind of psychosis. There is the wet sound of viscera below the momentary squeak of rats, a vision of a woman, face and hair matted with what might be blood gleefully splashing a puddle of gore.
In the end, the dancers appear to return to a kind of gestational goo, singing- “where do we go from here…”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to respond to that question myself. As I hurried to leave the theater, my first impulse, upon reaching the night air, was to scream, “Holy Fuck!” However, I kept in and scurried, with furrowed brow, to the next performance.
I am completely willing to accept that six days of performance art, sleep deprivation, too many cigarettes and not enough nutrition may have put created a fragile psychic space not conducive to this performance. Never the less, I expect to be haunted by the images of Normal and Happy for a long, long time.

Andrew Dickson: Killer of Hope for a Better Tomorrow….

… yet so freakin’ funny.
“Sell Out,” Andrew Dickson’s comedic and personal justification for being a sell out in a world in which artists cannot get paid, albeit self-aware and self deprecating, all in all was lacking in depth of understanding. It left no room for hope of an even slightly different future than that in which all things in the universe are given merit based on Capitalist values. This is not to suggest that it was not highly entertaining. It was.
The presentation was located in the belly of the Weiden + Kennedy beast, hip, modern and spacious, the dark pulsing heart of evil itself. As a workplace, Weiden + Kennedy brings with it all the yoga classes, on site basketball courts, an everflowing keg of beet and all other perks necessary for the critical thinking individual to consider when deciding whether or not to sell their soul.
Andrew lays out the 27 distinct steps that he took in order to sell out, and within these there a brilliant understanding of how stereotypical the Portland artist mentality is. Poor and bitter without a hope of attaining the “trilogy” ( i.e. house, kids, health care,) what was a guy to do who could not beat the system? So he joined. And that is the message kids, if you cannot beat them, join them. Because no one buys art anymore, so there is no way to make a living without using your talent and creativity to sell things… so just do that. And get paid well for it, because there is no hope for any sort of positive change anyway and it’s pretty cool because you get to meet famous athletes through your Nike connections and that is enough. Also, you will have more money, which makes you less bitter and then you will be invited to more dinner parties. Okay, cool.
As inspiring as all this sounds, you know a world in which working for an ad agency can be justified by a lack of other viable options and a wit for crowd-pleasing purposes, there is still a bottom line. This line exists below the Andrew Dickson line of financial-security+free yoga & beer=smiley-face line. This line is where such words as integrity or humanity or intelligence or artistic value or pure or healthy could be used in order to explain why it is a deal-breaker, but I think that no one said it better than Bill Hicks
reposted by Noelle

Map Me: Charlotte Vanden Eynde & Kurt Vandendriessche

It’s too late to write this, but you really should see Map Me. The performance could be stated as two acts filled with individual scenes. The first act is a variety of movie projections incorporating the two performers as screens. The second act is a series of performances of what I would define as dances.
The former started with the two figures stacking themselves so that their backs were to the audience. A white beam shifting to color bars accentuated the lush tones projection light takes when reflected off Caucasian flesh. The initial images are wonderful, languorous soft focus shifts of what appeared to be skin blemishes. The effect was not unlike the revelation of a dark room’s interior as ones eyes adjust. These images changed and accentuated their effect as new blemishes took their place, much as one might pour over a lover’s body, relishing in his or her intimate differences.
The effect was unfortunately lost as the images became more apparent. Viewing became less of an experience and more of a guessing game: “oh, that is a palm, oh that is a nipple, a mouth, an anus?” Here the pacing became labored and a particular scene of a board demolition in reverse revealing the figure/screen was belabored.
The second act was essentially flawless. What was presented appeared to be intimate explorations of couples. The choreography was gentle—each scene had a set of simple props, some of which had tension of potential violence (at the appearance of small shears I prayed there would be no blood letting, there wasn’t any, but each piece seemed to have a shocker) as if to punctuate the prosaic movements.
The premise could be generalized as a series of scenes influenced by a feminine Fluxus—something of Yoko Ono’s instructional art. The statements, if there were any, seemed straight forward enough, what seemed important to the works was the beauty of two individuals interacting in intimate games(well, as intimate as playing naked in front of a 50+ audience can be).
Posted by: Levi Hanes

The BE(A)ST of Taylor Mac

There is a dilemma at the core of The BE(A)ST of Taylor Mac that any self-aware snob has had to contend with before: what to do when the subculture moves to the mainstream, or rather, when an act from the subculture strives for the mainstream? The later seems the more damning of the two as one may forgive an artist for the mythical ‘accidental discovery’ but to set out with the intention of appealing to a mass audience? How dare he?
The set-up for the Mac show was a potential for compromise. The spectacle of the late-night cabaret held at 6:30pm (a point Mac addresses and reassures with a “I’ve done it earlier”), in a converted church, seating the painfully sober attendants amongst other patrons politely chatting as a general mélange of glam rock blasted over the p.a. The production itself felt odd. Taylor Mac was spectacular in a ragtag ensemble and ornate blue face-paint. Mac’s stage presence was confident and singing beautiful, in ‘traditional’ form and the croaky septuagenarian evocations of drag. The performance was lead as a tutorial in Drag acts with Mac explaining terminology and walking the audience through politics. The rambunctiousness of the cabaret was substituted by the sobriety (I seem to harp on the booze-less) of an audience physically and psychically by the pews and stage. (Only occasionally would there be a hoot or affirmative remark yelped by a lone observer. Mac mercifully breaks the wall with a dreaded and anticipated selection from the audience for participation. This moment feels the most refreshing, perhaps as we get to see Mac work with improv.)
Mostly the audience kept to the traditional breaks in performance to politely applaud. Not that this was done out of charity. I really felt that everyone was enjoying himself or herself and the comments made when we exited enforced that. What I was witness to was a shift, a coming out if you will, of the drag performance.
Drag is nothing new to performance by any means. Renaissance theater is a note worthy period, but the gender politics of drag has largely been segregated to the musings of late night entertainment and liberal college seminars. What Mac’s show is presenting is drag finally and rightfully taking (forgive me) the Main Stage. Mac should be congratulated for this effort. And the development is fascinating.
The BE(A)ST of Taylor Mac is the next development, inevitable probably, hopeful definitely, of socio-political and gender issues/entertainment.
Posted by: Levi Hanes

Andrew Dickson: Feel The Warm Light of Commerce on Your Face

Andrew Dickson

Do you want to make more money?
Sure, we all do, right? Would you be willing to cross-dress as an English grandmother to shill coffee for Starbucks to do it? Andrew Dickson did. And he wants to show you how — in just 27 easy steps.
Sell Out is Dickson’s latest semi-autobiographical work of performance art cum motivational seminar; he previously chronicled his journey from underemployed artist / punk-rocker to personal financial solvency through eBay sales in AC Dickson: eBay Powerseller. Having since abandoned the limited earning power of online auctioneering in favor of writing and staring in ads for for Portland-based advertising powerhouse Wieden + Kennedy, Dickson is back and ready to help his fellow creatives sell out to the man, just like he did.
One of the more interesting aspects of Powerseller is that, amidst the parody and sly cultural commentary, it actually functioned as a legit workshop for people interested in making a living off of eBay. Sell Out drops the facade of legitimacy in favor of a classic observational comedy routine — in this case aimed squarely at the 20-something creative class hipster zeitgeist. Dickson’s steps-to-success are a hilariously accurate anthropological guide to modern American creative young people: their socio-economic status (Step #1: Grow up middle class), psychological hang-ups (Step #3: Taste bitter disappointment), education (Step #7: Go to a liberal arts college), living choices (Step #8: Move somewhere cool), and consumptive patterns (Step #14: Ironically flirt with corporate culture). Dickson plays it straight throughout, still employing his gaudy PowerPoint slides and over-the-top pitchman persona; some of the funniest, sharpest observations in the piece are hidden in his quick asides, buried in bullet point lists, or tacked on as footnotes.

Andrew Dickson

Dickson thankfully doesn’t spend too much time probing what “selling out” actually means. He acknowledges in the program notes that he started down this path and quickly backed off, realizing that “everyone’s idea of what constitutes selling out is different.” One man’s violation of personal integrity is another man’s commission of a lifetime, after all.
That said, Dickson can’t entirely hold himself back from critical analysis and things start to fall apart in the closing act of the show. (Step #26: Have your justifications ready) The sweet sheen of parody wears thin as he delves into a less-than-nuanced social and economic commentary about arts funding and the role of technology in devaluing creative works. It abruptly puts the audience in the position of taking the whole performance seriously, thrusting Dickson’s false dichotomy into the harsh light of day. Is creating a work of authenticity and integrity inherently at odds with personal economic prosperity? Is it really more authentic to resell things on eBay than to create ads for Planned Parenthood? It requires a discussion that’s not suited for an hour-long comedy act. The show operates brilliantly as a simplified, farcical commentary on the absurdity of the subcultural forces that shape the question. A half-hearted attempt at providing an answer doesn’t do it any justice.
Ryan Lucas

On the Read

It was time for me to move on. My brain wonders how it can cram more art into just one sultry Sunday and I want to run from talking and dancing and acting and writing. And I, damn fool that I am, fell desperately in need with that special kind of escape that only a world of books can give, when there, amid shelf and stack, he was, novel in hand, walking a long hard line from the pink room to the orange. On the Road, crossing my path. Chatter chatter blah-blah. I stand in the back, thinking “God! Yes!” clasping my hands in prayer and sweat, “That is the American Voice.”
Reading Aloud. Spotted.
Liz

TBA Podcast link! Listen to shows all over again!

You probably know that TBA is being podcast (if you read page 144 of the booklet) but you may not know where to find the goods. Well, here is your link:

http://radio.tablesturned.com/rss-raw/P/PI/PICA/46.xml

I’m listening to the Portland Cello Project performance from last night and it’s gorgeous.
Thanks to Portland Radio Authority (www.praradio.org) and Matt Kirkpatrick, who has been faithfully recording all over town. Even at the silent tea party!
Other awesome recordings you’ll find there:
TBA chat: TBA07 In a Nutshell
TBA07 Artistic director Mark Russell, Performing Arts Program Director Erin Boberg Doughton, and Visual Arts Program Director Kristan Kennedy talk about this year’s program of artists and events, and answer questions from the audience.
TBA: Rinde Eckert – On the Great Migration of Excellent Birds
Using hundreds of Portland Voices raised in song, Composer Rinde Eckert kicks off TBA:07 with a joyful noise in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
TBA chat: On the Road
TBA:07 Artists Scott Porter, Nat Andreini (sincerely, John Head), Liz Haley, Gary Weiseman, and Darren O’Donnell (Mammalian Diving Reflex) discuss their projects which place art in the social environment, moderated by Mark Russell.
TBA: Lifesavas at the Works
TBA chat: Pop! Crash! Boom
Artists whose work is inspired by both minimalist conceptual strategies and popular movies and songs. Arnold J. Kemp, Larry Krone, and Jonathan Walters, with Erin Boberg Doughton and Kristan Kennedy.
Awesome
TBA chat: Can’t, Won’t Stop
Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Phil Busse, Harrell Fletcher, Beth Burns, and Linda Kliewer discuss art as a tool for education, activism, and social transformation.
Recess Tea Party: Gary Wiseman, Dress: Grey Bring: Recess snacks to share
TBA chat: Illusion & Anti-Illusion
TBA:07 Artists Melia Donovan and Larry Bamburg with Kristan Kennedy
TBA: Anna Oxygen – Cloud Eye Control
TBA: Cloud Eye Control set 2
TBA: Anna Oxygen – Final Space
TBA: Anna Oxygen – Aerobic Dancing
chat – Shaking the Columns
Marko Lulic, Peter Kreider, and Guido van der Werve with curators Kristan Kennedy, and Stephanie Snyder.
Silent Tea Party
Portland Cello Project – Set 1
Portland Cello Project – Set 2
–Carissa Wodehouse
Blogger, member, enthusiast

T:BA:07 Day Six – Tuesday, 11 September 2007

T:BA:07 Day Six – Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Tuesday was a pretty mellow day.
This is good, my mind and body needed some rest and relaxation.
11:30a Kassys Workshop, PNCA
12:30p Shaking the Columns, PNCA
6:00p Roberta Uno Lecture, W+K
8:30p Hand2Mouth Theatre, IFCC
10:30p Portland Cello Project, Wonder
The day was to begin with the Kassys workshop, but I did not finish showering and bLogging in time. C’est la vie. I was not too very struck by their performance, so it was really just fine for me to miss it. I did feel bad though, as part of my desire to see all of T:BA is to see things that I do not like, and possibly learn more about them, get inside their heads, find the kernel of beauty that I missed during the performance.
So, going to participate in the Noon:30 chat “Shaking the Columns” with artists Marko Lulic, Peter Kreider, Guido van der Werve, and curators Kristan Kennedy [PICA], and Stephanie Snyder [Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College] was good in that manner. Mind you, I have not yet gone to see the installation at Reed, but I intend to before it is striked. Guido’s films and music I greatly love. Marko presented a lecture a while back at Reed College, which I attended. So, these were the reference points that I had in my head entering the room.
Kristan and Stephanie were doing their best to strike up a conversation and draw out ideas from Guido and Peter, but they were rather quiet and answering in rather terse or glib manners. Marko, in character, is quite the opposite: bold, strong, perhaps even brazen. Normally, I try to wait until the conversation ends to start asking questions, but honestly, this conversation just was not getting off of the ground. So, first I started with a question about subverting institutional, or other method, funding to create your work. Guido had ‘purchased’ a $150,000 +/- Steinway piano for one of his pieces, had it delivered by crane into his studio apartment, and then it was taken back a month later because he could not make payments. Marko is rather notorious for challenging the galleries or government funding that he attains to a place of discomfort, until critical review, and then hopefully they love him again. It has been working out, as he may continue to produce work on commissions. But, the question did not go very far. I tried to tweak it a bit, and still nothing.
But, then Marko put forward the idea that he could train a monkey to paint, but that they are not an artist. It is the originating idea that makes one an artist. OH YEAH!!! When I went to see Marko speak at Reed, I came away thinking, sure, he is making stuff, but the idea is not his, he is just re-building it out of foam and house paint [or other media, depending upon the piece]. So, it was a question already in my mind, and I had to ask it…
“Marko, by what you just said… would that make you the Monkey?”
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…
Snears……
Two people jumped on me, saying that I was an idiot and that I apparently did not know anything about the history and theory of art, yadda yadda yadda…
:)
Oh, yeah, I finally got the people in the room talking!
Well, at least Kirsten, Stephanie, Marko and a dozen folks in the audience.
The beautiful thing about this was that 1) Guido challenged me to a thumb wrestle [he won], and 2) the lady that called me an idiot, I later spoke with at length at the IFCC while waiting to seeHand2Mouth, and she was quite surprised to know that I am intelligent and highly educated. Hum… perhaps one should ask a question or start a dialogue before casting stones…
Hepefully today’s Noon:30 will be lively!
A friend of mine was commissioned to photograph Arnold Kemp’s installation, so I hung-out with her for a bit while she did her work.
Then over to Wieden + Kennedy for Roberta Uno’s lecture. Roberta is a self-proclaimed non-hip-hopper; whom happens to be in charge of that aspect of the “Arts and Culture at the Ford Foundation, [which] launched an unprecedented line of inquiry and funding entitled, ‘Future Aesthetics: the Impact of Hip Hop on Contemporary Performance’, which has created profound reverberations in the arts field.” Roberta and Mark Russell spoke about trends, trendiness and the truth behind the impetus of Hip Hop. [Here’s a great reference, which is the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music: The Classic Graphic by Reebee Garofalo.] Hip Hop is American, it is learning from others and making something your own, speaking of your truth, speaking your language, referencing your experiences and desires. In the words of Marc Bamuti Joseph “Media – - > reMix – - > Community – - > reMix”
So, by that, Marko Lulic’s work is infact Hip Hop. He learns from the Masters, re-interprets, and puts it back out there.
There is a stereotype that Hip Hop is violent, misogynistic and full of ‘bad’ language. Mark Russell explained it quite simply “Scary movies sell”, but the truth is the currents that flow beneath it all. Hip Hip, even if it seems to be sold-out in American mass media culture, can never be dead. Fore, if it is dead, then we as a country are dead too.
But, that is actually a very interesting topic, that I would like to write a tome about some other time… Who are ‘we’ as Americans? Roberta talked about the majority minority. Yet, in the voting and cultural realms, we are a bit watered down. If the minority is the majority, why is it that we are still acting in the patterns of what the ‘majority’ tells us? Why are we voting to have the leaders of our country that we do [in Washington or elsewhere] if they are not representing us any longer? There have been rumor about a revolution, that will create Cascadia, a secession of Oregon, Washington and N.California from the rest of the Union. Baryshnikov is concerned about loosing our creative community to other countries if we cannot keep things vibrant and juicy.
This might just happen.
I know that I have been talking about moving to Catalonia for about four years.
Do we make a stand, and make this place the world we want to live in, or do we just sit around and watch it die, becoming a vague shadow of what was once beautiful about America.
Today, I am wearing my 9/11 tee from Cal Skate. The minority majority…
I had a few moments, so I dashed back home, took the pup for a quick walk, and had some dinner before heading over to the IFCC for Hand2Mouth.
While waiting in line, I had a great conversation about the origins of art, what is it that we reference, what is it that is original. I stumbled upon a question, and perhaps someone can answer it… Certain areas of art reference the idea of works by an artist are art inherently, and that is in fact the critique that makes it art. I did agree, but for the sake of discussion… So, there is often a reference to duChamp’s redi-Mades and then to Jeff Koons. duChamp I love! Koons, not so much. [It is even worse when someone is making work that is referencing Koons, which is referencing nothing, which in my mind is a silly feed-back loop to no where!] So, my question is, whom or what is the bridge from duChamp to Koons. There is a long period of time there of amazing artistic works… but what is that bridge?
Please comment to help educate me.
Thank you.
OK, so then we sat down to see Hand2Mouth. They are very entertaining. For many, that is great! I would highly recommend the show, as you could see the intention, love and passion that the cast poured into it. It is great, as entertainment. But, I keep phrasing it as such, because I [as strange as it might sound] do not like to be entertained. I like to be challenged. You have to understand, I do not read novels, I read textbooks for fun. I do not watch television.
What I do love, is that when I talked with people afterwards, they were so relieved when I told them that I did not love the show, or rather that the show was great, but that I myself did not find it appealing to my desires and sensibilities.
This is the beauty of T:BA.
This year there is quite a variety of works to go and see. Some things I love, some I tolerate, some are interesting and some are just banal. But, there is always potential.
Not everyone love everything. That is the beauty of our country, that it the beauty of the curation of this year’s T:BA. This is why I am quite happy this year. Thank you Mark Russell, you did a great job with the line-up. Thank you.
Lastly was the Portland Cello Project at the Wonder Ballroom.
If you do not know much about them, then I would recommend checking out their MySpace page, and attending some other performances. They are still rather new, and looking to expand, GREATLY! They want to have a hundred or more cellists at some point, so if you play, please contact them. If you are a composer, please contact them.
There was one piece they performed which was quite beautiful, it was operatic in nature, and I really loved it.
I would love to learn cello some day. I have played it once. I went to David Kerr and asked to play one, and they were kind enough to indulge me. The sound, the reverberation,… I LOVE CELLO! When Yo Yo Ma came to town, I camped out to get one of the scalped tickets. I go to see every Adam Hurst performance that I may. Long live cello!
OK, gotta get downtown for the Noon:30 chat…
Ciao,
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
Atelier Z
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts
http://www.fhzal.com

KASSYS / 2 views.

Posted by Meg Peterson
Perched in a nearly full house at Lincoln Hall for Kassys’ KOMMER, I was thinking of my mother.
She lives in Helena, Montana, where she works in State Government Social Services, tends to three schnauzers, organizes the occasional fundraiser to cure cancer, watches the sun set with my father, and generally misses out on international theater. Several weeks ago, amidst Internet wandering to pick which TBA events to attend, I realized that the Dutch theater company Kassys would be in Helena a few days before coming to Portland.
“So, Mom…. I don’t know if you’ll like this thing. You might hate this thing. It’s called KOMMER, that’s Dutch for “sorrow”. I’d like it if you saw it, and I saw it, and… you know. We can talk about it.”
My viewing of KOMMER was turbulent. The cast shuffles, paces, and settles into chairs while they exchange the well-rehearsed patter of condolences. Phrases that you speak after someone’s passed away that are completely unavoidable.
“Are you okay? Sort of okay? Okay, considering the circumstances?”
While they speak, the actors’ bodies almost imperceptibly begin to change. They teeter, they fiddle. It seems as if they might hurl themselves off the stage at any moment. The audience can’t help but laugh at the hilarity of the herd slowly roving over the set, destroying plants, picking at tape, and allowing their bodies to act as emotive valves. The energy changes when a character, Liesbeth, flips out and violently kicks over a table. A REAL TABLE, with REAL GLASS, that smashes and cascades across the stage toward me, a quiet observer in the third row. I could get hurt. This lady is angry. At any moment, she might pick up one of those chairs and smash my jaw with it. And a minute ago I could hardly contain my laughter as she shredded a dead fern.
The scene progresses, but I am still jilted by the reality of Liesbeth’s anger. There are many moments when I’m still able to laugh, but the physicality of the grief is present.
A screen lowers, and the cast is there, again. Projected on the screen exactly as they are on stage — and after they bow and leave, they are themselves. They are actors after a play, going their separate ways. Alone is the imperative word as the film unfolds. Sorrow is still present after the stage production, if not more real in it’s banality of rushing off to work alone, drinking alone, eating alone, exercising alone, sleeping alone.
KOMMER left me feeling a little less alone in grief, a perfect illustration of a want that I had felt when a friend died; to swim to the bottom of a river, to fall down stairs, to let my body feel. Perhaps I’m part of a bummer generation, but dissecting sorrow feels natural. Cathartic.
And my Mom?
I give high marks to the 50% theater 50% film. My brain was divided similarly 50/50 – assessing my emotional response and thinking simultaneously how Meg would feel about it… Friday night in Helena, the Myrna Loy Theater less than half-full, most folks in their 50′s and older. I was accompanied by my friend, a 60 year-old therapist. I’m 56 – why denote ages? We’ve experienced more deaths and losses than most younger people – the cliche phrases associated with death have come from our own mouths and have been received by our own ears – so while we’re watching the play our memories of grieving people we’ve loved and lost are triggered by the words and actions on stage. My therapist friend and I didn’t enjoy the performance as much as I think you will. She said, “I didn’t see anything hilarious about it.”
And I can understand that, too.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The morning after Kassys first night in Portland, they gave a workshop at PNCA. Present were four members of the cast: Mischa van Dullemen,Ton Heijligers, Ester Snelder, and Liesbeth Gritter — who is also the Director, and Mette van der Sijs, the coordinator and assistant director.
Kassys methods were discussed along with the develpment of KOMMER. The dialogue was quite casual, and I was very suprised to find that Kassys didn’t write the script with a narrative in mind. Gritter explained that the company begins with a state of being, or a idea, and then begins to study other people, as well as to improvise within the company. KOMMER began as a play intended to make the audience sad. It also sprung from watching soap operas, and lifting bits from reality TV.
This is the only show that Kassys has toured with in the US, but they’ve also played it in Holland and France — and find that audiences react in different ways, though they intend to play the piece the same no matter how the audience feels. The cast assured me that they’ve had even more conservative audiences than they did in Helena — and often the humor is culturally divided. Van Dullemen mused that an Australian friend of his had said that KOMMER wasn’t a play about sadness, but rather a play about people that don’t know how to express themselves. Kassys also agreed that the Portland audience was similar to a French audience in its readiness to laugh.
Translation also plays a tricky part in the production. The live performance was spoken in English, while the film portion was in Dutch with subtitles. Kassys performers are all native Dutch speakers that also speak French and English, but translating humor into smooth English sayings produces varied results. The cast agrees that the phrase, “Let’s take a walk around the block!” is hilarious. We English speakers find it common, but Dutch speakers find the near-rhyme silly, as well as the notion that one should take such a specific walk. Kassys was interested in the audience’s suggestions for taking a walk: an evening constitutional, a breath of fresh air, streching one’s legs…
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Kassys is that the actors that appear in the piece dictate the flow of the piece. KOMMER originally was written for four characters, but Gritter sook to create more age diversity, and added parts as new actors collaborated with the company. KOMMER has been performed for the past four years, as a new actor enters the piece, Kassys builds the character around themselves, in a way that echoes type-casting, but has more to do with each actors’ ideas in improve. The actors themselves molded the characters to fit within their own skin. I suppose that this practice is what moved me to fear Liesbeth, and to believe in the reality of each moment on stage, and even in the film.
In KOMMER everything feels real.
Even bingeing on green cotton candy whilst listening to an instrumental version of Danny Boy on your immaculate single bed. It’s sad, but how could I not laugh?
Ton Heijligers in still from KOMMER video. photo: Kassys

Ton Heijligers in still from KOMMER video. photo: Kassys

Tiny TBA

So I’m a preschool teacher, among other things, and I jumped right on this Tiny TBA thing. I don’t have any children of my own, and my kid date fell through, so I went it alone, without the benefit of child eyes, but I’m fairly accustomed to them after fifteen years in the profession, and I think I can safely give the whole event a thumbs up. The Wonder Ballroom was a good venue for this, spacious enough to allow for balloon batting and running wildly around the room, but cozy in its way, and the outdoor space was frankly more appealing as a face-painting kind of place than as a beer garden. Charmingly, you could buy (a rather expensive) peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and as a walked in, I heard the Greasy Kids Stuff woman onstage call out “Are you a happy noodle or a sad noodle?” I was hooked.
But okay, I’m also a grown up and cynical enough and often find kids’ shows, especially music, nauseating. Which is why I was so happy to discover Greasy Kids Stuff, a radio show on WFMU. They play rockin’ music that was made for adults but is “appropriate” for kids. I’m always trying to make CDs like this from my own collection, but then remember that Cecilia was making love in the afternoon and that the Ramones often need a bit of editing… But I discovered GKS a bit too late, as they’re ending in a few weeks. If I can find their CDs I’m definitely snapping them up.
And then there were the films, shown in about five minute blips, which were apparently made by children and for children. There was virtually no information about them, although I gleaned from credits in Dutch or something that one was made by a twelve year old. The first I saw was incredible, and I kept thinking that surely it was made by an adult. It’s color was supersaturated, a little bit Miss Spider, a little Lemony Snicket, a little Amelie. It was about a girl who was a little stretchy, was gorgeous and absurdist and poetic. I would certainly show it to my children, even repeatedly, on the premise that it is art, beautiful, even sublime, and totally unclear. It’s no passive TV. It must either inspire analytical thought—what does it all mean?—or creative dreaming—in my supersaturated imagination, a similar train runs through—and what more could I ask of art for kids or for anyone? The other films were similarly cool, though less astounding than the first, and included a head-banging squishy claymation head that was a big hit with the little ones, some good fairies (or elfin fireflies) that operatically inspire some piqued dragon gargoyles to come around to the light side (in an extremely Miltonic scene), and a cool line-drawn animated film in which a Pegasus became a sting ray, became stars… in which the ripples on the water were deeply eloquent and which was a great Jungian argument for archetypes.
And then the Sprockettes performed. They were very seventh grade dance troupe in all the best ways. Dancing with bicycles to “I never met a girl like you before,” they were cute, but not sweet, or sweet, but not annoying, tough but not rough, sexy, but not… Well, they were totally appealing, a little bit dorky and very cool with their hula hoops and bikes, and their low-end acrobatics. They were fun, were totally appealing with little makeup, armpit hair, tattoos, pink fishnets, and all.
Except for a bit of tricky balancing of bodies and bikes, this was all from young kids’ physical vocabs. There was nothing they couldn’t do or dream up. They were imperfect, silly, and the kids were completely engaged. I remember my Nia teacher saying of her Hoop Troupe (before she left Nia to pursue hula-hooping full time, that it troubled her that little girls looked at her in her hoping finery like she was a princess, and that she wanted to empower them now rather than just giving them a tougher version of Cinderella. I think the Sprockettes do this, and do it having a lot of fun.
I dug Tiny TBA, but somehow I got roped into to handing out a meager supply of balloons, and I think that whoever does this next year definitely needs to be able to make balloon animals. In general, I think there could have been a little more entertainment, but maybe that’s my adult sensibility speaking, wanting more. The kids seemed dazzled by what there was—happy noodles one and all.
Posted by: Taya Noland

Nature Theater of Oklahoma

Me%20doing%20NTO.jpg
It’s hard not to be won over by Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s peculiar brand of dance theater. Last year, Poetics: a Ballet Brut was the talk of the festival with its simple premise: the easiest everyday gestures, delivered off the cuff, were woven together, repeated and amplified beyond even the audience’s wildest possible expectations. A spell was cast in the theater. I remember walking out of Lincoln Hall and suddenly, everywhere I looked everyone around me was participating in a massive dance, sharing some secret choreography inside us all.
No Dice also tries to spin straw into gold, taking hours of the ensemble’s taped telephone conversations, the mish-mash of their ordinary chat, and elevating this regular material to epic. Each of the performers has an earbud, presumably feeding them the tape recordings. They perform these words for us as they get them, turning them into the lines of dialog from the strangest play you’ve ever heard. And this is dinner theater so they dance a choreography that borrows all of its moves from bombastic melodrama. The actors leer at the audience and give each other freaked-out glances. They wear fake mustaches, shift constantly between odd accents and, literally, chew the scenery.
But to describe the project and to convey the experience is two very different things—the charm of Nature Theater is not in the meticulous conceptual work but the spontaneous playfulness of the performance. The amazing cast members bend everything they have into an aggressively physical delivery, like theatrical rock stars. While they are translating for us what they hear over their headphones, they are simultaneously trying to make sense of it all through the fistful of gestures and conceits they are allowed. It becomes as much a marathon as a piece of theater or dance.
At one point in the performance, I found myself ruminating on the worst piece of theater I had ever seen (with a running time of four hours, No Dice allows for, even encourages this introspection). It was an original work by a local author, produced by an unknown company that was never heard from again. The show had the same trappings as No Dice: the limited staging positions occupied serially by performers, the self-conscious mugging, the harsh lighting, the wigs and prop business. The only difference was a particularly self-important script that was slowly slanting into perpetual collapse from all of the “meaning” it had to convey. The trick for NTO is that the show happens in between and in spite of the lines, a growing dance and a growing sense of music in everyday life. That and the fact that, even with the limited bag of tricks mock melodrama provides, the show never falters, always mesmerizing and surprising the audience.
And it has to, considering the length of the piece, even though the intense duration is arguably key to the transformative success of No Dice. The “everyday” is just that: long, continuous and repetitive. There are small increments of change and it is only with great accumulation of experiences that a pattern can be found. Over the course of the evening, I could feel my own distance from the words and the fierce style of expression wearing down, my laughter replaced with a flexible concentration taking in every element of the drama around me.
As with Ballet Brut, the most memorable moment in an exhilarating evening comes when the cast sheds most of their performance trappings and walks into the audience to engage individual members. They are speaking to us honestly, in unison but making a real individual connection to someone, repeating the words that two hours earlier had left us in a fit of mocking hysterics. Now, however, what they have to say, ever so much more simply, rings true. Abruptly, everything comes into focus and hours of banality delivered with fury gels into, dare I say it, transcendence. And I feel so privileged to have spent the evening growing older in this room with these people.
Posted by Kristan Seemel

William Kentridge 9 Drawings for projection

I discovered William Kentridge early last year, when I picked up a book in the art book sale bin at Powell’s. Since then, he’s influenced me to get back into making animation and inspired me to tell a fellow MFA student to see his work. I have to say the Whitsell Auditorium is one of my favorite venues to see films. I thought to myself it’s a beautiful Sunday evening and only a few people will be there––no way, it was just about a full house.
I like to sit close so I can fill my visual field to the extent that it feels as if I’m watching the film in my head, like it’s a dream. I got a nice seat in the second row and right before the films started, somebody sat down in front of me obstructing the bottom right corner of the screen. His drawings, which filled up the screen, felt like if you touched the screen you would smear his drawing materials. When I thought I should be able to smell his studio, and the art materials on the screen, all I could smell was the perfume from someone behind me. What a draftsman Kentridge is! Here is an artist who knows how to draw perspective, anatomy, and animate in lush black drawings with only the most minimal color. Adding, erasing and making marks from the pages of his drawings as the camera moves along pulling the audience along for the ride over the giant paper. Rarely, there was the addition of blue to emphasize water with its symbolic meaning from our dreams, filling up here, there, everywhere, everything drowning––sex, money, capitalism, and death all intertwined. Water. There is something intriguing about water as a chaotic element. His drawings remind me of other artists in their subject matter and visual graphic look––Kathe Kollwitz, Sue Coe, William Groper, and another current South African artist, Marlene Dumas who coincidently works with similar themes and palette. Although Kentridge’s films were very political and took root from growing up in an apartheid and post-apartheid country, for most of us sitting in the theater so many different metaphorical interpretations can be explored in present day life in the U.S. Kentridge has that rare gift to be able to create beautiful drawings and tell a story (I love how he has created the character of Soho Eckstein in all his films). With the nostalgic look of old black and white films styles of the 1920’s combined with the music––I never wanted the film to end. The overlooked art of drawing beautifully is something you don’t want to miss. The timing is right to show these films now, and if you missed out seeing them Sunday, catch them Thursday, September 13th. We’re lucky we get to see more of Kentridge when his traveling show comes soon to Lewis & Clark College this fall.
Posted by Ben Killen Rosenberg

The BE(A)ST of Taylor Mac

I love Taylor Mac. Portland loves Taylor Mac. Or at least the 200 people I saw him with did, and the hundreds more I saw him with last year. What is it we love so much? When I asked my dad, as delicately as possible, why Priscilla Queen of the Desert made him cry so much every time he watched it, he responded, “There’s just nothing that makes me feel so much as a tragically aging drag queen.” Taylor Mac isn’t tragic, nor aging, as far as I can see. No way—he’s bold and wonderful and vibrant and alive. And yet his songs are sad, a bit “slit my wrists” as an old dandy apparently told him. They are about missed connections, failures of love, of identity, and the funny, tragic little lives we all lead.
I think the thing that struck me most at this year’s show was the absolute outpouring of love toward Taylor at the end of the show. Is it because he’s such a good figure for us (whatever the collective us may mean)? A little beaten down, really sad about the stark isolation of this life, and yet bowled over also by the delicate beauty and the absurdity of it. Still trying, always trying, and furthermore, being fabulous while doing it. That, I think, is what I hear from Taylor Mac—be a little more gorgeous, a little more wild. “Nothing’s worth doing unless it makes you nervous,” that same dandy said, and Taylor Mac encourages taking risks. Until we dip a little into mylar (which some of the audience got to do), we’ll never be safe from “dwindling down into homogeneity,” he insisted.
Taylor Mac reminds me of something that’s bounced around in my head for a long time, from Nelson Mandela’s inaugural: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. . . . We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? . . . We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. . . And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” And Taylor Mac liberates us, little by little, with a bit of Mylar and an explosion of glittering synthetic fabrics.
But why, Taylor, why did you do the same show we got from you last year? With the addition of “find the mylar” I remember all this quite clearly from that show at The Works. It’s wonderful stuff—that’s why it stuck, but I wanted more, something new, a little further jaunt along your strange highway. That was my only complaint, except for the venue. Sure it’s ironic to have a drag show (or what have you) in a Christian Science Church, but I miss the nighttime world that Taylor Mac seems to belong to. Is he looking to be heard with more seriousness, as his remarks about “Catty Cathies” imply? Or is this just a scheduling issue? I have no qualms about calling Taylor Mac high art, but he’s the type of high art I like to experience in the dark with a drink in hand. Still, as he said, “We’re muddling through.”
The wise, above-mentioned dandy inspired Taylor Mac because he “believed wholeheartedly in beauty and not at all in perfection,” and that, I think, is the moral of this show. Taylor Mac shows us his own striking and curious beauty, which he maintains in the face of real and humorously imagined tragedy, and inspires in us our own. He affects us. After quipping that we were a diverse audience with “so many different kinds of white people,” he said “I’m not trying to bite the hand that feeds me, just wanting to get a little lipstick on it.” And so he did. From what I could see, we all left a little smeary, a little sad, a little less perfect, and a little brighter and more beautiful.
Posted by: Taya Noland

The BE(A)ST of Taylor Mac

There is a dilemma at the core of The BE(A)ST of Taylor Mac that any self-aware snob has had to contend with before: what to do when the subculture moves to the mainstream, or rather, when an act from the subculture strives for the mainstream? The later seems the more damning of the two as one may forgive an artist for the mythical ‘accidental discovery’ but to set out with the intention of appealing to a mass audience? How dare he?

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The Beauty of Collaboration-Anna Oxygen and Cloud Eye Control

posted by Amber Bell
Although I had to work early the next morning, I did not want to miss going to The Works Monday night. I was looking forward to Anna Oxygen’s latest all natural psychedelic concoction. Even more, I was enthusiastically anticipating work by Miwa Matreyek, who, I heard, used animation in an incredibly elaborate interactive way the likes of which has not been seen before.
Indeed, the collection of performances I watched last night were spectacular; comprised of not-necessarily-equal parts space-out, outer space, precision, incision, and jazzercize. Live people meet computer doubles meet shadow selves in various versions of a dream world.
Intriguing to me were the intersections of ideas, styles, and aesthetics. Having seen much of Anna Oxygen’s previous work, it was interesting to note familiar elements and themes. I also noticed new amped-up technologies and meticulous technicalities. In Matreyek’s solo performance, Anna Oxygen’s musical composition contributed a dynamic dimension, and although I have not seen Chi-wang Yang’s individual work, I can only imagine that his layers of visual and organizational care run deep. It seems clear to me that the Cloud Eye Control collaboration is a beneficial artistic booster all around.
Unfortunately, the technology ran aground prior to the final performance of the evening, and restlessly I waited as they toyed with computers, counting the minutes until I had to return the flexcar and get to sleep. I stayed until the last possible second. Onstage dreams were bottled, squads of advisors were multiplied and planets were overtaken with aerobic force. Heeding the wisdom of the performance, I went home to catch my dreams.

Special Delivery – Ryan Wilson Paulsen’s “I’m Searching Too”

I came home Saturday afternoon from the On Sight opening to find a postcard filed in between the bills and magazines in our mail slot. Thumbing through the stack, I almost passed it over as an ad for a dental office or realtor before recognizing the image. The I-405 overpasses looked familiar, but the yellow Penske trucks grounded the image immediately in the industrial edge of the Pearl. In the lower corner, a young man crosses into the frame – presumably Paulsen. To a Portlander, the image initiates a game, a photographic “Where’s Waldo?” of the local landscape. I turned the card over and confirmed my suspicions about its sender. And there, below his name and mailing address, I saw the quiet statement : “I’m Searching Too”.
Paulsen cards
It stands as such a simple, but enigmatic phrase. These words at once include the recipient in Paulsen’s search, acknowledge the commonality of searching and leave the search open for continuation. Apparently, the recipient isn’t who (or what) Paulsen is searching for, but by receiving his card, you are invited to be a companion-in-arms. My search was for the connections between this tiny bit of mail-art and his exhibit at PNCA, from which I had just gotten back.
Along with Anna Gray, Paulsen has created a room for the searcher, the sleuth, and the explorer. At the center of the room is a small toy boat, moored away from water in a mound of gravel. Just in front of it, a pencil-drawn map of the world spans two adjoining walls. The trade routes and ocean currents are replaced with scrolling script recounting failed explorations and early navigators. Up until this point, Gray and Paulsen’s work seemed to romanticize the adventure and allure of seafaring exploration, but upon turning around, I make the connection that I believe Paulsen intended for. Paulsen embraces all of the iterations of a search – the literal explorations, the euphemistic meanings, the puns. And there I am facing a wall-sized word-search.
crossword
I took a printed-out copy of the word-search from the exhibit and now at home with Paulsen’s card, I have begun to seek out the words and search for the relationships and histories behind them. The list of phrases range the entire spectrum of the searchable. Words include objects (comfortable shoes), the paranormal (UFOs, Atlantis, Loch Ness), qualities (satisfaction), jokes (Waldo), and lost adventurers (Earhart, Slocum). Amongst the names of those lost-at-sea, Paulsen makes the tellingly sly choice of including Bas Jan Ader, a Dutch conceptual artist who disappeared from his boat in the midst of a solo performance piece entitled, “In Search of the Miraculous.” A wry nod to history and influences sure, but also a slightly dark aside about the nature of performance.
Looking at Paulsen’s list of words, all of the varied meanings that we assign to the word “search” begin to overlap. Is it an internal search for a quality or is it a matter of finding a misplaced or hidden item? Can these two types of searches ever be fully separated? What happens to the explorer who devotes a lifetime to looking for that which can’t be found? What of those who are lost in their own searches, only to become themselves objects of a search? At the root of his project, it seems that Paulsen is searching for what it is that he should be searching for, compiling an encyclopedic array of searches. In the process, he makes it clear that we have a very hard time being content with what we know and have. Searching, whether for a place, an object, an individual, or a concept seems to be one of those elemental qualities of the human mentality.
I wonder if anyone who traveled from out of town for TBA will return home to a card, and if so, how they will read it? Perhaps it will seem like a postcard not from Portland, but from the festival – an elusive and temporary space, a Shangri-La. It will likely be a bit of a search just to remember where the card came from.
posted by patrick l.

Kommer by Kassys

Feeling sorry for who?

Note: If you haven’t seen the piece yet, you might wait reading this post until after you saw it as I reveal some parts of the piece that are essential to the experience this wonderful play might offer you…
I was looking forward to seeing Kommer by Kassys for a really long time. I had the world premiere in my hometown (Ghent, Belgium) more than four years ago. I missed it back then and eversince there must be a curse on me making it impossible for me to see that show. After having seen their latest piece ‘Liga’ which I totally adored, I just had to see Kommer too. A reason by its self to buy myself a roundtrip airfare to the US. Still, it almost went wrong again. This time in Portland it was Taylor Mac’s -too- long applause that gave me a really hard time getting at Lincoln Hall in time… Luckily -15 minutes late- they still let me it.
During the first fifty minutes of the piece we see a stripped down scene of mourning, sad people set in a minimal -equally sad- artificial stage design of brownish plantboxes full of dead plants. Nothing significant happens. They condole eachother, they try to comfort eachother, but all in the most unpersonal way you can imagine: “I can feel what you feel” or “I would love to help you but I think I can’t”… The whole scene breathes distance, indifference, discomfort, but pushes it into extremity, making these sad happenings highly amusing. After a while all empathy with the ‘mourning’ performers has made place for malicious pleasure in the misfortune of the people on stage. “Why feeling sorry? They’re just actors, making fun of themselves in a lovely show!”
This seems more than true when the performers leave the stage and a ‘live’ video starts on which we can see the performers backstage having fun and getting ready to go home again. But as fast as we thought Kassys confirmed our feelings about the ‘play’, the group smacks it right back in your face. The extreme sadness of the initial play -”Something horrible has happened!”- makes place for the more subtle, daily ‘tristesse’ of many people’s lives that turns out to be much harder to bear than many of the worst events that could happen to you. In reality TV style, this video follows the sad and lonely lives of the actors, their lives when not on stage. The theatre turns silent again. When the video ends, the performance is finished as well. People go home, looking around, seeing the homeless, the single mothers, the detached… of Portland, thinking about these people’s ‘horrible’ lives, feeling sad…
For a moment even I got caught in this misleading hyperemotional, empathic mood. But I know Kassys, and I know they are not at all emocore-theatre-makers. No, they are a witty bunch of conceptualists fooling you by toying around with the parameters of theatre and performance. There’s no doubt that the misery shown in that ‘reality movie’ about actors’ lives was just as fake as the misery in the funny, ironic theatre piece that preceded it. It’s all part of one big ‘show’. By juxtaposing two ways of presenting fake sadness, it shows us how theatre is able to fool with our feelings of empathy.
As in their latest piece ‘Liga’ (phonetically meaning ‘to lie’ in dutch), ‘Kommer’ is all about the theatrical lie and how we let ourselves fool not only by movies, theatre, but just as well by reality TV and even what we assume to be real such as spectacular newspaper pictures of the Iraq war that are in fact just locals organizing photoshoots for the international media… It’s true that -as Baudrillard puts it- that we can no longer distinct the real from the unreal. By making many people believe something is real, it maybe also becomes real… And this, my dear fellow readers, might be the magic of theater… and our disturbed minds…

by Wouter Bouchez