Miranda July goes to church

-by Abe
Yesterday I joined the thronging masses in the First Congregational Church to catch some of that distinctive Miranda-ness. She read a few stories from her new book No One Belongs Here More Than You, including “It Was Romance,”a great story that she read on this American Life a while back*, and before that, her friend Becky, from the band Lavender Diamond**, played some songs, her voice was beautiful and amazingly clear over her acoustic guitar. After all that, Miranda took questions, awkwardly taking pleasure in humiliating several audience members by either refusing to answer their questions about where she drew inspiration, or in one case, chiding a woman that “gyp” is a racial slur. It is, btw. Oh, and she doesn’t miss Portland.
My favorite moment in the whole show though, came at the very beginning, when Miranda told an anecdote about losing her luggage at PDX, and how she didn’t like the shoes she was forced to wear by default. She said she was thinking maybe she would just come out on stage barefoot, and ask if she could borrow a pair of size 9′s from somebody, and maybe do something with that. For me that pretty much answers where she gets her inspiration, and why we like her so damn much.
-hollaback?
* I tried searching their site and couldn’t locate the episode-not to gripe, but their old site would’ve found it.
**playing the Doug Fir on May 21st

TBA 07 Artists Announced! Get Stoked!

Today the TBA artists were officially announced, and it looks like it’s going to be a great festival this year. Mark Russell said that he wanted the theme of this year to be “suprise,” and promised that, in addition to all the featured artists in set spaces, that we would find lots of magic hiding and creeping about the city itself. I do loves me some public art.
I’m not going to get to everything here, and I’ll list everything I know about at the bottom, but these are things that I’m excited about: Andrew Dickson, the eBay powerseller himself will explore the relationship (bling) between artists and corporations in “Sellout.” Anna Oxygen’s group Cloud-Eye Coordination (I think) will be doing a music/video project at this years Works (which will be held at the Wonder. Oooh, ooh, also at The Works will be CARTUNE XPREZ, an animation/jamz group organized by Hooliganship, BARR,
YACHT (maybe you heard of him?), and others.
Returning from last year will be Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, which is so not to be missed it’s rediculous.
Also of note is Haircuts by Children, which is exactly what it sounds like, Hand 2 Mouth’s “Repeat after Me,” a karaoke/dance/nightmare, and Elevator Repair Service, who will be performing “Gatz,” a 7 hour word for word reading of the Great Gatsby (is it me or did Andy Kaufman do this). PICA promises comfy chairs and a dinner break.
I think that’s all the blogging I have in me right now, but there’s tons more! Swear it!
-Abe hollaback?

Piss, Jelly, Protest art.

Yngstrom and Hjalmarsson: PSU MONDAY NIGHT LECTURE SERIES
Piss, Jelly, Protest art.
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Insane names take over the marquee…
Frida Yngstrom’s “Piss Sculpture” was pretty amazing–a cast of the
bottom half of a woman wearing jeans, set high up on a pedestal,
perpetually darkening her jeans with the spreading stain that only
comes from a spilled drink or an incontinent bladder…
I appreciated Staffan Hjalmarsson’s project “Geggan,” for which he
produced 50,000 lbs of gelatin and transformed a traditional gallery
by giving the audience the power to do what they want in the
space–the “art” becomes whatever the audience does with the gelatin.
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Another project by the duo encouraged children to make sculptures with food.
Yngstrom’s “Party Piece” illicited some gutteral sounds of approval
from the audience. “Party Piece” was essentially a performative room
drawing. Yngstrom covered the whole room in white paper and then drew
different scenes from parties on every surface-including people, who
were also wearing all white. The viewer could step into the drawing,
staging scenes drawn on the floors, tables, walls.
The work that dominated the talk, however, was the duo’s involvement
in the political fight to grant asylum to the (approximately) 30,000
refugees hidden throughout Sweden who are unable to gain residence
permits because of “insufficient” documentation. Obtaining
“sufficient” documentation would involve returning to the countries
from which the refugees have fled and asking for it from the
government. Not exactly the most palatable of options.
Yngstrom and Hjalmarsson’s involvement consisted mainly of
facilitating the production of visual protest material by teaching
protestors how to use the printmaking facilities at the University of
Goteberg, and doing much of the printing themselves.
But I found myself wondering where the line is between art practice
and political protest. Obviously it’s important to take part in one’s
social and political context, but when it comes to presenting one’s
involvement in political protest in the context of an art lecture, I
just want to know where the “art part” is. I thought the most
compelling work they did for the asylum protests was their
“performative sculpture”–the words “Don’t Be Afraid,” each letter
made of a frame with white fabric stretched over, lit from the inside,
each letter carried by a person.
I’m certainly not questioning Yngstrom and Hjalmarsson’s moral,
political, social center. They’ve obviously got their heads in the
right places.
I am saying that I think their beliefs resonate more clearly when
there is a personable visual aesthetic rather than a mass produced and
impersonal barrage of signage.
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Posted by Alex Sauser-Monnig

Meow Meow and Lauderdale, Part Deux!

Meow Meow, dahling, where have you been? It’s been ages.
When the red-lipped and scantily clad Meow Meow performed at The Works for TBA 05 she stripped, she sang, and she had audience members hoist her clumsily onto a trapeze. She was at her best and her worst, the perfect disaster.
With a half drunk slur and frequent asides, she is as busy putting on a show as she is interrupting it. As the night goes on, she seems to get progressively more tipsy, eventually a full three sheets to the wind and stripped down to pasties. The blood alcohol levels go up, and the clothes go down, at least to undies. But she’s also an intelligent, insightful character, aware of her stumbling and fully accepting—and exaggerating for the audience–her lows and highs. You love her for the sequined mess she is. Oh, Meow.
After Meow Meow stole the show at The Works, she relocated it to Mary’s with Thomas Lauderdale accompanying on piano. This was hands down one of my greatest experiences of TBA 05. When the Broadway duo Kiki and Herb performed at TBA 06, I thought immediately of Meow Meow and Lauderdale. And finally, lo, here they are again!
What a treat to see them both perform, and at Darcelle’s! If only we could have encores of other TBA highlights throughout the year! This is a rare opportunity, and since the early show is sold out, get your late night tickets asap!
MEOW MEOW WITH THOMAS LAUDERDALE
BEYOND GLAMOUR: THE ABSINTHE TOUR
Thursday February 1 2007
8pm and 10:30pm
Darcelle XV Showplace 208 NW Third Ave
TICKETS: $10 advance / $12 at the door.
In Person: Darcelle XV (no service charge)
By Phone: at 1-800-838-3006
Online: BrownPaperTickets.com
Carissa Wodehouse
Freelance writer, enthusiast

31 Knots @ The Works, 9.13.06

The Works is always filled with TBA regulars, but on the night of local band 31 Knots the hipsters came out of the dingy woodwork in force. For once the crowd was full of the 20 somethings I usually see while locking bikes up outside of bars, at house parties with homemade beer, or out dancing in speakeasies. But at a Time Based Arts show? I was thrilled.
Joe Haege, lead singer for 31 Knots, tends bar at hipster haven Tube Unbreakable in Chinatown. He’s a snappy dresser at work, sometimes sporting entirely purple outfits and frequently wearing a bowtie, so it was no surprise that his main stage outfit consisted of a beige military uniform complete with service hat and meticulously shined shoes. His face was painted a bright white, but once he saluted the crowd and began jumping, slithering, and singing hard, the paint began to melt off in glops. Later he changed on stage (a Works theme) into a tailored dinner jacket and red bowtie. Ah, the bowtie!
As Joe sang, white hand marks of face paint got everywhere. The guitarist played with gusto, flailing his arm out in guitar serifs. The drummer produced crisp, hard beats, and the crowd moved along with them. Someone from the audience, composed of fans and some miffed looking older TBAers, asked, “where is the bass guitar?” Joe, who had been interacting with the crowd with “shut-up!” and, “thank you very fucking much,” responded, “I don’t know, not here.” At one point Joe, dripping face paint, peeled himself off a pole and descended into the crowd. Climbing onto a chair in a spotlight he teetered wildly, dry heaving. I was on the tips of my toes. Would he hurl on the crowd? I half expected it, except it might ruin the bowtie, and 31 Knots is way too cerebral for such slatternly theatrics. Instead Joe wobbled forward, back, and forward, making the immediate onlookers uncomfortable, then sprung backward to the floor in a burst of rainbow confetti.
The band’s tagline from their website (www.31knots.com) is “All know-not let-goes upfront embraced in time.” What that means, I have no idea. More telling is this, #8 from the site’s “The intentions of us”: “To attempt to blur the line between theater, sincerity, politics and art. Yep, still pretentious assholes.”
Four songs into the performance, Joe cited technical difficulties and ended it. The crowd, moaning, was told to shut the fuck up. And as far as I can tell, they loved it.
There are many, many opportunities for us youngsters to volunteer and get involved in TBA, but year after year I have trouble convincing friends that TBA is worth the cost and time of attending. Once I manage to drag friends to Works shows like Neal Medlyn, Universes, and 10 Tiny Dances, they want to come to everything and volunteer next year. It’s getting people in the TBA door that poses a challenge. Including 31 Knots this year was a savvy move on PICAs part, and introduced me to a local band that I can continue to see throughout the year.
–Carissa Wodehouse
Freelance writer, enthusiast
See & hear at http://www.31knots.com

Hiedi Cody on Art and the Law this Thursday

Cody on Culture Jamming.
Thursday, Oct. 5th at 12:30-1:30
FREE
Feldman Gallery , PNCA
1241 NW Johnson
in conjunction with the exhibition Illegal Art on view until Oct 21.
Laws that were originally designed to protect creative types –
people like you – are now threatening cultural development.
Visiting artist Heidi Cody will discuss intellectual property and
the cultural commons, and how these ideas affect one another. Learn
about copyrights, trademarks and patents through examples and legal
case histories of artists who have tangled with the law. Understand
why artists are more likely to get sued for bashing Barbie than for
subvertising Starbucks. See how your Freedom of Expression®1 is
being curtailed by the corporate agenda. Learn about the
philosophical double-binds of “appropriation,” and how you can get
stolen from, too.
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Eskimo Hiedi Cody 2006

Matthew Day Jackson’s Roadside Attractions

“In the shadow of a big tree, another tree cannot grow.” — Constantin Brancusi’s reply to his mentor, Rodin, when Rodin suggested that Brancusi become his assistant

Throughout Paradise NOW! Matthew Day Jackson begs, borrows and steals from a variety of sources, among them Dorothy Iannone, Constantin Brancusi, Iron Eyes Cody, the Black Power movement, his mother, the Jackson family homestead in Malmo, Nebraska and, if my suspicions are founded, the Rebuilding Center right here in Portland. These disparate sources coalesce into an exhibition that unfolds like the whirlwind trips through history offered by “credible” institutions and tourist traps alike.
Jackson’s press release indicates that he “expunges the sins of the past while wrestling history’s demons to the ground.” Apparently, making his mom look silly is integral to this process. I made the decision to begin my tour of Paradise NOW! in the small annex off the main space which forms a sort of video art cave. I consider the bulk of video art to be an esoteric form of torture, so I ensconced myself in the video annex with a certain gritting of the teeth, determined to watch each video all the way through, regardless of length, editing or lack thereof, quality of image etc. It took 13 minutes for Jackson’s mother to sufficiently beseech some nebulous “powers” of the four cardinal directions to bless her son’s art, while outfitted in a purple batik wrap over classic mom wear–a pink t-shirt, sweatpants and sneakers. Jackson’s mom is perhaps the most archetypal American mother imaginable. She appears to be middle-class, middle-aged, middlebrow, of average length and width for a woman of her 50-odd years. She recites the lines of her incantation with a seriousness that makes you believe she means it, but with a lightness that suggests that her performance was motivated more by an accepting, slightly indulgent love for her artist son than personal compulsion. She brings to mind the phenomenon of empty-nest homemakers taking up New Age spirituality and the awkward way white Americans of Christianity-influenced cultural backgrounds interpret some of the more intuitive religions of foreign cultures, arranging an office cubicle according to the principles of Feng Shui and such. I had to assume that any artist who possesses the sophistication necessary to land a slot in the Whitney Biennial also has a finely tuned sense of irony in his conceptual toolbox, whether or not he chooses to create art using it, and is thus aware that his mother, an endearing but supremely unromantic figure, looks a little absurd self-consciously performing a sacred ritual in sneakers. Her role, however, is complicated and deepened by the video’s relationship to the rest of the female figures in the show.
Jackson begins the exhibition with his first art purchase, a print entitled Statue of Liberty, by renowned German artist Dorothy Ianonne, showing the titular sculpture reinterpreted as a naked goddess figure with undescended testicles and a rather phallic torch along with the words to the well-known, unrealistically idealistic poem engraved in the statue’s base–”give me your tired, your poor, etc…” Jackson has photocopied a fax from Iannone giving him her blessing to include the print in the show and praising his work in a upbeat maternal tone broken only by her admission of having recently caught a “dreadful flu.” Jackson also shows a large-scale photograph of a female figure in a wooded area clearly inspired by Ianonne’s print. This woman holds a crystal-topped staff in place of a torch and she has her eyes closed with open eyes painted on her eyelids. This metaphorical mask and magic wand indicate that the dumpy figure is a source of mysterious spiritual power, while her trendy blond twig keeps consumer culture in the picture.
The other video, also clocking in at 13 minutes, stars a man whom I assume to be Jackson himself. He plays both the careless litterer (read: colonialist) and the soulful Native litter victim in a surreal retelling of the classic public service announcement Keep America Beautiful, in which litter provokes a single tear from an otherwise stoic Native American. Or does it? My research revealed that this PSA stars the ironically named Iron Eyes Cody, a man who passed as Native American and acted in scores of Hollywood films before an investigative report by the New Orleans Times-Picayune revealed that his real name was Espera DeCorti, that he was the son of Sicilian immigrants, and that the background he’d invented for himself was a myth. Jackson manages to present a multilayered critique of the way both Native American people and Native American identity have been used by the white man for a wide range of purposes from the horrific to the banal. Throughout the installation, Jackson makes a point of implicating himself in the racial crimes of the past. He points a wooden cannon at a figure identified as a Native American Chief; the barrel is a rotting pillar from his family’s Nebraska homestead. I was inspired to consider the storied history of the name Jackson in America–Andrew Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, Michael Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson…..oh wait, those are slave names. Suddenly the Black Power fists scattered throughout the installation made a little more sense. Jackson is trying to cleanse his karma. He sees the angry ghosts of racial injustice murmuring just below the surface of our increasingly Rome-like empire. A photograph of a black fist attached to a multicolored wooden arm emerging from a pile of charred wood while a mushroom cloud explodes in the background illustrates this idea with a clarity that’s a little heavy-handed.
The whole installation is a little bit Kountry Kosy. There’s a lot of unstained wood–a wooden boardwalk, vaguely native woodcrafts, huge pieces of driftwood, a framed picture of a log-cabin fort in the woods. If you ignore the electric ghosts writhing in the foreground of that image, along with a few other sour notes, the installation feels like the kind of place you pull up to after hours on the freeway to stretch and pick up a cup of weak coffee. But what’s Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse doing here? With a spike through its head? Or his Bird in Space cleverly camouflaged as a multicolored piece of wood? To tell you the truth, I don’t know. It probably has something to do with appropriation. Here, as always, Brancusi’s forms look great and Jackson employs them to striking visual effect.
The PSA video ends with a scene in which Jackson lights some torches in an empty warehouse. As the space darkens, we watch them slowly flare and burn out into pairs of white dots…we are in a sweatlodge, we are being watched by the eyes of our ancestors and the ancestors of those whom our ancestors fought. It sets a meditative mood, and, had I entered the video room last, I would have spent it meditating on the way the different groups that comprise my genetic stock exploited and were exploited by one another. But, since I entered the video room first, I spent it wondering about Matthew Day Jackson’s relationship with his mother.
Paradise NOW! is open Wed. – Sat. 12-6 through October 7, along with The American War, several works of video art and a mysterious cross-cultural homage to the aesthetic of the shut-in that delivers yet another rebuttal to Clement Greenberg’s lofty ideals. All at the fabulous Corberry Press art compound at 18th and Northrup.

Jessica Bromer

Metamix for Red76

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photo credit: Serena Davidson
The other day at Corberry Press, I picked up a pamphlet promoting and explaining Red76’s Travelers and Record Sound System: A Meditation & Sound Collection Center. By reading it, I discovered the following: To fully participate in this project, I should bring a CD of songs that I’ve internalized in some manner to the former site of Peacock Dry Cleaners. These songs will be played for other visitors as well as those within range of a small frequency transmitter. The project is democratic in nature and is intended to provoke conversations about democracy. It was inspired by Sam Gould’s experience of having the Leonard Cohen song Famous Blue Raincoat stuck in his head. Refreshments would be provided on-site. This all sounded good, but what to bring?
I had gone through a bit of a Leonard Cohen phase myself. On the eve of my 2001 move to Philadelphia, my friend John had presented me with a burned CD of songs he’d recently written, including a small gem consisting mainly of the repeated lyrics: When Jessie goes away/who is going to play/Leonard Cohen all day/…and like it? I could bring this.
Or, perhaps I could honor John’s artless style while providing something with a little more popular appeal, maybe Daniel Johnston or The Mountain Goats. And why not include something with personal significance from the other end of the musical spectrum, like Salt’N’Pepa’s Push It? The list grew and grew. Realizing that I would want to discuss whatever I eventually chose on the PICA blog, I narrowed my list down to two songs, each of which had resonated with me during a period in my life–middle school and high school–when my worldview was very much in flux.
1990–The cultural landscape was dominated by pegged pants, sculptural bangs, Milli Vanilli and Color Me Badd. I was in hell (7th grade in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian small town community in semi-rural Pennsylvania). One day my friend Mario invited a few of us down into the blacklit basement of his mother’s house on Main Street to share a discovery that would change the way I viewed the world above: The Dead Milkmen’s Metaphysical Graffiti. My favorite song on this album starts with the band members pretending to try to catch an airplane that’s flying by, being informed by a sound engineer that they’re being recorded, then deciding to keep the bit of audio in the song. It’s called Methodist Coloring Book and it goes like this:
You’ve got a Methodist Coloring Book/and you color really well/but don’t color outside the lines/or God will send you to hell/ cause God hates war/and God hates crime/but what he really hates is people/who color outside the lines.

I come from an agnostic, scientific family, but I grew up with a lot of kids who felt comfortable announcing that I would be spending eternity in a lake of fire for no greater crime than believing in the Paleolithic Era. To their credit, they frequently coupled this revelation with an attempt to steer me toward Jesus, usually through awkward, slightly unnerving youth group activities. The Dead Milkmen articulated my nascent awareness of the hypocrisy that fundamentalism of any kind breeds as they suggested a relatively peaceful way to combat the things we disagree with in this world: satire. I remember that immediately after listening to this album, we went back outside just as a parade was marching down Main Street. There were Shriners wearing fezzes riding around in miniature cars. The Shriners are an organization that helps disabled children, but we didn’t know that. Other than their predilection for clownish antics, they were indistinguishable from the Rotary Club, the Elks, the American Legion, The Mount Joy Town Council, in other words, the patriarchy. They symbolized the old-fashioned values that The Dead Milkmen were holding up for scrutiny through their lighthearted reference to the mortality of an American icon of neighborly, wholesome commerce. Inspired, we attacked the Shriners with the weapon that 12-year olds wield most ably; we made fun of their outfits.
1994–My friend Shaun and I logged a lot of miles that year driving around in his family’s pick-up truck listening to the Dead Kennedys’ first single California Über Alles. First released a year after we were born, California Über Alles, which simultaneously skewers the political far right and far left using an irreverent mixture of symbolism drawn from the Holocaust and Orwell’s dystopic masterpiece 1984, still felt fresh to a pair of 16-year olds whose views of the horizon were checkered with cornfields. In fact, the subject of the song, ultraliberal Jerry Brown’s presidential aspirations, was never out of date for long. The man just kept on running, most recently in ‘92. The Dead Kennedys employed the same verbal weaponry as the Dead Milkmen, but cut deeper. DK singer Jello Biafra once commented that the band’s name wasn’t intended to belittle America’s de facto royal family. Rather, it was a bittersweet commentary on the death of the American Dream. The fact that this subtlety was lost on both the majority of the band’s critics and the majority of their fans wasn’t that important to Jello. He put artistic expression first and didn’t care that much what people thought of him; in other words, he was a perfect role model for teenagers. And the song’s giddy, aggressive tempo fit perfectly into the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence. There was something deeply satisfying about speeding along back country roads chanting Mellow out or you will pay! along with Jello impersonating Jerry in the nightmares of conservatives. And deeply disturbing, too. Shaun and I had a ritual wherein he would drive extremely fast until I would ask him to slow down, not because driving 80 miles an hour on winding roads full of blind turns and small mammals was just plain stupid, but because I was “nervous.” He would comply and we would thus acknowledge that our temperamental differences didn’t preclude mutual respect. After we graduated, I fled to college and discovered feminism, among other things, while Shaun became more deeply entrenched in small town life. The next time we saw each other, I pointedly ignored his macho driving, instead taking issue with his confederate flag bumper sticker. By the end of the evening, we had both realized that the conflicted relationship we were bound to have as 18-year olds would pollute our memories of the symbiotic relationship we’d shared as 16-year olds, and made a tacit agreement to let the friendship slip away.
I have a picture of Shaun, taken on my 17th birthday, in which he is proudly tugging at the bottom corners of his t-shirt to create a legible, emphatic square which reads “Dead Kennedys: Too Drunk to Fuck.” This picture makes me more nostalgic than any other in my photo album, to feel the loss of adolescence most acutely and I’ve just now figured out why that is. It highlights the thin, vulnerable thread that connected me to another person at a time when new forms of connection felt revelatory. Shaun and I shared almost nothing except a political belief, a sort of anti-religion–not Satanism but, rather, a radical rejection of the notion that anything was sacred. According to our ad hoc religion, everything was fair game, open to interpretation, and ready to be used as raw material. And California Über Alles was its 23rd Psalm.
Thanks for helping me suss that out, Red76! I’ll stop by when Travelers and Record reopens (Wed-Sat 12-6 through October 7 at 403 SW 10th Ave) and write about that experience too.
Jessica Bromer
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photo credit: Serena Davidson

click here for more photography by Serena Davidson

Brad Adkins Final Product: Photography by Serena Davidson

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Photography by Serena Davidson
A completely spontaneous photo shoot in collaboration with Brad Adkins. I brought my camera along to photograph what I thought might be another walk in the park. Instead he asked me to collaborate in a photoshoot with him. I wasn’t anticipating a portraiture session, and didn’t have along my usual tools for that kind of shoot – but I said yes in the spirit of artistic creation and community. Very different from my usual portrait sessions! He acted as director coaching the person in front of the camera. We chose a blank background together and there was no need for additional positioning or further beautification. While people usually hire me for the talent of portraying them in the most genuine and complimentary image – this shoot was all about capturing something non spectacular and very very simplified.

leftovers, interrupted

posted by laurabecker
it’s been really hard for me to post about my final tba experiences, perceptions, and reactions. it’s my own fault i guess – by not keeping up i allowed everything i went to (crispin spaeth, trevor paglen, speculative archive, spalding gray, johanna billing, corberry press, and more) connect to everything else in my head, and now there’s just too many connections and interrelated thoughts for me to unravel my lasting and possibly interesting impressions. in the meantime i’ve had to face up to my denial that the festival is actually over and that my everyday life no longer includes the concentrated inspiration and artistic analysis and philosophizing of those recent days and nights. i’ve also returned to keeping up on the less inspiring news of the world (the legalization of torture, the global religious infighting, the crapfest of campaign season…)
sigh.
but before i forget my tba memories completely, though i have no conclusion and feel no sense of resolution, i will note the following -
after the slideshow and lecture by trevor paglen, i started thinking about the notion of reconnaissance, a main topic of his research. trevor is interested in the secret reconnaissance missions as part of the larger military programs – satellites, stealth planes and weapons, secret prisons and bases – that are completely hidden from the public (and supposedly costing us $30 billion dollars). surveillance and spying resonated with me on the national and political level, but also just served as a really interesting final choice for my last day of TBA. i started this festival trying to be really open-minded, and quickly closed in on my feelings and rumblings of protest and political/national/global awareness as i reacted to so many of the various works. but at the same time, as the days wore on and i started picking up on the more intimate and personal signals, i was drawn in and welcomed and touched by the more quiet moments.
so when thursday night came and brought with it night vision goggles to watch the hot and steamy “dark room”, a pretty empty auditorium to seemingly spy on the non-characters in johanna billing’s remote yet tenderly spare films, and then a theater full of fans aching for one last glimpse straight into the secret thoughts and fears of spalding gray…well, it left me pretty vulnerable. something about seeing these completely different pieces, all of which focused on human relationships while depicting feelings of being utterly alone, pulled and pushed on my heartstrings and truly opened me up to what is in some sense the ultimate experience of the festival – hearing the very same thing in comletely different languages (dance, film, theater) all at once. it truly felt like secrets had been shared, dark depths revealed, mysteries divulged. if someone had spied on me that night they would have witnessed someone worn raw in a good way by the emotional impact.

Harrell Fletcher Appropriates a Museum: The American War

In Baghdad, it’s Shock and Awe, but in New York City, it’s Terror. “What’s in a name?” asked Juliet, fatally underesimating the power of labels, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In 1956, Chairman Mao proclaimed, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let one hundred schools of thought contend,” inviting the Chinese intelligentsia to offer some constructive criticism of his communist policies. Naive intellectuals answered in droves, allowing Mao to pick them off like flies; those who got off lucky were sent into exile.
When Harrell Fletcher re-photographed every picture and every piece of wall text in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, brought the results to America, and recreated his view of the museum in art venues across the country, he invited the American art-viewing public through the looking glass. He invited us to see how we, through our representatives, Our Boys circa 1970, looked to the Vietnamese, as we were making the world safe for democracy, wreaking havoc, and inciting terror.
Harrell Fletcher’s The American War is about words as much as it is about images. It’s about the subtle, sometimes invisible linguistic choices that can determine the way horrifying images are understood. The American War is about more ideas than could possibly fit into one review, defying review as it compels review. Looked at straight on, it’s barely art at all, but it crowds the viewer’s peripheral vision, meaning vision in the imaginative sense, with more ideas, images and feelings than any one person can truly process alone. It’s a conversation piece.
The last thing I wanted to do this afternoon, after a long day of work, was walk to 18th and Northrup to look at images of horribly disfigured children. I was motivated to go by the friction of contrasting opinions, discovered through reading and conversation. Whose side was I on? I needed to find out.
I work in an environment strewn with newspapers; everyday, I’m surrounded by images of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle, but on my lunch break, I usually opt to just escape into the world of the Living Section, evaluating the advice of the newest crop of Dear Abby’s, rearranging things I already know in the crossword puzzle, checking out celebrities’ musings on their own sex appeal or the sex appeal of other celebrities. But on Friday, I read the A&E, which is a little meatier. I work with a friend who does volunteer work with refugees and keeps a close eye on global human rights violations. Always looking for areas in which our interests converge, I pointed out DK Row’s positive review of The American War to her and said, “You should go to that.”
She was unconvinced and counter-pointed out a short Willamette Week review comprised mainly of probing questions about the ethics of the show. I didn’t know how to respond, so I started talking about Sherry Levine. I explained that Sherry Levine had appropriated other people’s artworks, re-photographing famous photographers’ works and exhibiting them as her own, most notably Walker Evans’ images of poor sharecroppers. This is art nerd / Walter Benjamin / Marcel Duchamp / postmodern / poststructuralist brain candy, I acknowledged, but it brings up some humanistic questions too. Levine’s gesture highlights the way in which Evans has used the less fortunate to further his career, casting them as actors in a drama that he directed and that largely took place in an entirely different milieu than the one in which his subjects lived. He was working for the Farm Security Administration documenting the Great Depression. By 1981, when Levine was entering her appropriative phase, his work had become famous, and a part of art history. A few cultures equate photography with soul-stealing and this belief never seems less silly than when a photographer is actually garnering money or acclaim from exposing another’s careworn face, and, by extenstion, his or her soul .
When I arrived at Harrell Fletcher’s The American War, the curator of the visual arts component of TBA, PICA’s own Kristan Kennedy, was gallery sitting. We started chatting about the show and some visitors who were milling around seized this conversational opening to initiate an exhaustive dialogue about the ethical implications of Harrell Fletcher’s The American War. I listened to opinions on the work, theirs and Kristan’s, for what felt like an hour before making it in to check it out myself. The conversation was pretty interesting, and it seems only right to share some of the visitors’ views, particularly since they (a hard to date, but probably 50-ish couple, a woman and a man) seemed so disturbed that the issues they saw as being essential to debate about the show weren’t being discussed in the press. I pointed out that someone had raised the question of exploitation, but the woman thought that the real issue was colonialism. Fletcher had gone to another country, taken what he wanted, returned to the security of home and repositioned it according to his Western paradigm, an art paradigm no less. The man found Fletcher’s decision to present the War Remnants Museum as “his” art to be selfish and unnecessary. He questioned why Fletcher hadn’t simply arranged to have the War Remnants Museum tour the United States on its own, why he had taken a more personal, possibly sneakier tack. They pointed out that if he had done something like this within the United States, with say, a Native American history museum, he would have wound up in court.
One thing that became apparent during this conversation was the way a viewer’s age influences this exhibition’s impact. Kristan and I couldn’t remember the war in question; the frustrated visitors could. The man said that he couldn’t see the exhibition as commentary on the situation in Iraq because he didn’t see the war in Vietnam as history, as something that was truly in the past or in any way resolved. I suggested that perhaps Fletcher didn’t see the work as art, but was using his position as a famous artist with access to museum-like spaces to draw the public’s attention to something he considered worthy of consideration. Kristan stressed the validity of the piece as an artwork against both my sympathetic interpretation and the visitors’ hostility. Thus debriefed, I entered The American War.
It’s what you’d expect, just totally horrifying pictures of people being victimized by American GI’s and deformed children of Agent Orange. There’s one particular picture of a soldier holding up the remains of another human being that can only be described as a pelt. The soldiers mouth is open making an expression. I’m not sure if its laughter but the caption indicates that it is, then adds, “In my feelings I wonder whether he could have been a monster or a human being?.” I don’t want this picture in my head–I’m still trying to forget it. I’m not surprised at this level of cruelty anymore, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it pictured so vividly. The captions are the reason to look at these pictures. The Vietnamese label loss and horror differently than Americans. A chart of statistics reads:
3 million killed
4 million injured
2 million affected by chemicals
500 infants malformed
170,000 old people get lonesome as their children or relatives were killed during the war
The captions are photographed separately, with the bottom edges of the photographs they belong with often visible in the top of the frame. Fletcher highlights his subjective viewpoint, his presence as observer, by recreating pictorially his act of seeing, looking at the photo and then the caption. He highlights the caption, giving equal weight to language and image, because, it seems, language is the key to this exhibition’s status as art. Fletcher created The American War with different intentions than the architects of the War Remnants Museum. He didn’t want to only show what happened in Vietnam from a Vietnamese perspective; he wanted to show himself in the process of trying to understanding what the Vietnam War meant to the Vietnamese. There’s a humility in that gesture that’s inextricably mixed up with the inherent selfishness of claiming anything, popular assumptions that an exhibition space for art is a rarified realm and the American cultural tradition of white male entitlement.
I left the show feeling that Fletcher’s intentions are honorable. He’s bitten off more than he can chew, but that’s what good artists do sometimes. Consider Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial. Many veterans hated this idea at first–a big black slab. They wanted something literal, accessible, figurative. But, slowly, the wall’s power became obvious. People could find the name of their lost loved one. They could make a rubbing of the name and take it home. They could see themselves reflected in the wall, in the act of honoring the dead. Fletcher’s Memorial also draws on the power of words and reflections.
History is written by the victors, but no one won the Vietnam War just as no one won the American War. Fletcher has wedged himself in the crack between these wars, made a human-sized hole, and invited us in.
Thank you for bearing with me through my very long review,
Jessica Bromer

Save The Last Dance For Me: Ten-ish Tiny-ish Dances

(aside: well better late than not, eh? As Mr. Berra said, “it ain’t over till it’s over.” 360 more days til TBA 07! Forthwith, a re-view of TTD at The Works last week.)
The lineup of Ten Tiny Dances for TBA’s Works that Mike Barber put together this year exemplified what makes the format–work made in the round on a 4ft. by 4ft. stage–so perfect for this kind of cabaret setting. Spatial tininess challenges choreographers who are up to the task while temporal tinyness keeps things swinging right along, upping the entertainment value. And entertainment value is what I sometimes forget when thinking about TTD. I have seen some extraordinary work built for this circumscribed space, work that truly addresses the confines of the space while transcending them.
And so when work that is light entertainment, like Gaelen Hanson’s one-liner jig with a whiskey bottle (x4) singing “our love is fair to middlin’” and Julie Atlas Muz’s ebony-and-ivory piece involving body paint, black light, and a gentleman dancer inserting a flag in her upended I-don’t-know-what, I might enjoy, but am underwhelmed.
Bebe Miller addressed the space with a piece that was as low-key and contained as something one might perform in an elevator between floors, a thoughtful, hopeful little sketch. Concentric Tango addressed emotional containment with a meditative piece in which the dancers deliberately looked away from each other and down, their bodies in conversation, the female dancer’s mile-long leg intertwining with his and unfurling again.
Dim Sum Puppet Opera offered the tiniest dance of all, a ceramic hand puppet performing a restrained fan dance around the the pagoda-hidden head of the puppeteer, nothing more. As a curatorial decision, the inclusion of Dim Sum was brilliant.
In contrast were expressive or intense releases of energy (almost expressionist…can I use that word to describe dance? oh, I just did) in pieces including the comic theatricality of Juliet Waller Pruzan and Stephen Hando whose piece found them stranded on a raft as part of a corporate training session, Angelle Hebert’s piece danced (amazingly) by Karla Mann wherein the manic Mann (outfitted in a corset and cap that somehow managed to scream straighjacket anyway) intensely and repetitively flapped and flopped, grinning and eventually oblivious of Phillip Kraft who hacks away at her stage with an axe until it is only a foot square (making it the second tiniest dance ever).
The experiment most likely to succeed, that I wanted to see executed more faithfully and at length was instigated by Emily Stone who had her dancers and musicians improvise on a score called solo replay. With interesting movers like herself and Kathleen Keogh, and intensely listening musicians like Jonathan Sielaff and Luke Wyland, there was plenty of heavy improvising talent here. Dancers and musicians entered and left the 4×4 arena, at times riffing off movements that came before, but the piece needed much more time to develop, the throughline became murky, and I wanted the musicians to more directly engage the movement (either through movement of their own or through sound) throughout. Can’t wait to see it happen again.
The perfect marriage of addressing spatial constraint and entertaining the masses was danced by three members of the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Each comic character had his (or her) awkward dance routine performed solo and with great bravado (a fuck-yeah!-tittude) to the brilliant accompaniment of one company member on an enhanced washboard. The incredible thing about the piece, though, was when the same dances were layered in pairs and finally a trio, with surprising overlaps and intersections in the movements that made them 35% funnier and more interesting than when performed solo. Huzzah.
–Lisa Radon

A Puppet’s History of The United States

by Anna Simon
Perhaps the most pertinent things have already been said about Blinglab’s The Untold Misadventures of Lewis and Clark, and my own thoughts will seem like a refrain to the chorus of groans heard around town. But understanding why things don’t work is often better than knowing why they do, so here’s my take.
Presented as a traditional puppet show, Misadventures sought to show us the seedier side of the two explorer’s journey, I suspect to deconstruct the revered American legend that has been force-fed to us Northwesterners for the past couple years. I have great respect for Marne Lucas and Bruce Conkle’s other projects, and I love puppets in all their stiff, animatronic splendor. But I’m also something of a Lewis and Clark buff, having retraced the trail and written the ol’ undergraduate thesis on the subject. There’s much to capture the popular imagination in their story—some sexual, mostly non. Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis to explore uncharted territory recently attained from the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson wanted to find a river route to the Pacific enabling inter-continental trade. It was also a scientific journey and an ambassadorial trip—time to meet the neighbors! Clark was chosen as co-commander by Lewis and often gets more publicity, but Lewis’s sensitive, mysterious personality combined with his wildlife drawings and poetic descriptions of the land make him ready dramatic material.
Blinglab centered their show around the idea that Lewis was gay and lusted after Clark. I’m not from the northwest, but I’d never heard this before, nor even contemplated it. (Scholars agree that Lewis was depressed and maybe a bit manic. He was a loner, and after the expedition ended, he fell into a deep depression.) Homoeroticzing the pair is the silly glue that’s supposed to hold the performance together amid quirky vignettes. These expedition funny facts are crudely, painfully translated into puppet sketch comedy but do not add up to a show. I, as others before me, did not make it past intermission.
Misadventures used historical information without regard to context and threw it into a sex-drugs-racism-imperialism-etc. soupy mush. Yes, it’s true that Clark had a black slave whom the Native women slept with for “black magic.” It’s also true that York was treated as a free man on the expedition and voted with the other guys on group decisions. Clark did unknowingly prescribe poisonous Thunderclappers to relieve constipation, but that was the state of medicine at the time. Charbonneau, Sacagawea’s French fur-trapping husband, was a dim bulb and disliked among the men—he also won Sacagawea (who was already a prisoner of a tribe) in a gambling match when she was fourteen, before they ever came across the expedition. Taken out of context and blown-up these tidbits unfairly ridicule the past for its cultural shortcomings. It felt too easy and glib. Re-examining history from different perspectives is essential, but Blinglab’s only point seemed to be, “Isn’t the past just ridiculous?” without further insight.

Totally Nude

Neal Medlyn, Totally Nude
There was a rumor going around that Neal Medlyn might take his clothes of, so of course everyone was there.
do do do do do do do
Neal delivered not one, but two inspired performances at the WORKS, first- standing alone on stage, bright light streaming from behind him cutting a glaring line around his fleshtoned uni-tard in his one man show NEAL MEDLYN WILL DRINK POISON UNTIL HE DIES and the next as belting out R.Kelly hits with cohort Kenny Mellman. What Neal does – is hard to describe, not quite stand up – his all out assault on the buffoonery of pop music and pop culture kept the audience on their tippy toes, their eyes alight – their jaws unhinged with laughter. He pushed his body through too tight clothes, making awkward and tiny movements while turning gags and tricks and ticks into grand illustrations of our sad but heroic bodies.
i an't got no privates

Last of it

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photo credit: Serena Davidson
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After a long TBA coma I have begun to feel the nascent threads of inspiration wending their way through my daily life. As I remove coats from my closet and catch up on laundry, I pull vagabond programs from pockets and smile as the image of a body in movement or a face lit in stage lights flashes in my memory. Snatches of song and bits of dialogue continue to resonate in my mind, long after the performers have made their way home.
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And home is a strange and delicate thing. I am thinking of Bebe Miller’s “Landing Place,” and the small house that was constantly in danger of the activity that surrounded it. How fragile it seemed, set beneath the stomping feet and rolling bodies. It was as if the tumult and turmoil of our daily lives could crush the tiny thing. I feel like one of those dancers, holding myself out, teetering forward again and again until a shoulder or hand is placed beneath me- supporting me and carrying me. I’m home now, more often than I am out among you and I am wondering where my home will shift. Where, in the rolling tide of this world, I will find a safe harbor to place it.
I have taken away this sense of humanity from the festival. More so than I have from any other. Whether it is Nature Theatre, explaining the grace of our daily actions or Stan’s Cafe, piling us one by one into mounds of association and identity or Jerry Quickly, seeing the deep and undeniable humanity in his Iraqi minders, I wonder why the best of the festival this year (in my opinion) was steeped in this need to remind us of our human core.
Jerry Quickly- God, I wanted more than anything to embrace that man as I watched him tell it. Because, his show wasn’t necessarily couched in politics, though there was that; rather, it was couched in what it means to be a person in hell making connections with other people. There is a place in war and death and destruction when suddenly we are all raw. We are all made up of the same finite and destructible stuff. That is when we are equal and war and hatred make less sense than they ever did. Jerry Quickly walked on the moon. Thank god we have poets to come back and tell us that it doesn’t just look like a bright blue marble from up there, but that it looks like peace and loneliness and we better start doing something about it.
Strange how the festival was book ended in such a lovely way. It starts with a woman who looks up at the moon, dreaming and thinking of home and ends with a man who has been there and thought he’d never make it back.
“Hello. Excuse me. Can you tell me where I am?”
Posted by P.A. Coleman
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“Me”
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“I Still Ask Because It’s Interesting”: Deborah Hay Chat

“What if every cell in our bodies (100 trillion) at once has the potential to invite being seen choosing to surrender the pattern of facing a single direction while perceiving all of the space in which I am performing (and time is my music…all of my movement is music).”
What could entrance a writer more than a dancer for whom writing forms the basis of every dance? Above is the basic “what if” on which “Room” is based. “Room” is the piece Deborah Hay choreographed for her most recent Solo Performance Commissioning Project, performed during PICA’s TBA Festival by PDX dancer/choreographers Linda Austin and Tahni Holt. (To back up a step, read these statements (down the page under Deborah Hay’s Concept) that each participant in the SPCP had to consider before applying.) Hay initiates a body performance with a query, a word/head launch point like the one above, starting with a “what if” that is usually, as she puts it, “preposterous.” She said yes it is “preposterous” that she would say “every cell” when there are 100 trillion, “but the fact that it is preposterous makes it a delight. I still ask because it’s interesting.”
And her asking is what makes her and the work she does so interesting. She asks questions that she knows cannot be answered. “My body is bored by answers,” she said. “I want to keep the dancer in a place of curiosity and engagement.” For example, “When I go into a studio, I notice I have a front. I point it toward some point in the room that I determine is the front. Why is that?” This makes work that is so different from so much more immediate than the, as Hay puts it, “look at me and do what I do” school of choreography. She credits John Cage for allowing her to ask questions larger than those coming from her own experience. I have a “lack of interest in self-expression.”
Hay has been focusing on solo dance. She believes that the art of solo dance is relationship which she describes with her Whole Egg Theory. The egg is cracked into a bowl. The performer is the yolk. The egg white is the space between the performer and the audience (the edge of the bowl). If you shake the bowl, the yolk moves around and energizes the egg white. She’s interested in that space between.
She shared that the highest compliment she’d ever received about a performance was when William Forsythe said to her, “You brought me to a level of attention in myself that I love, and kept me there.”
The Deborah Hay chat was a highlight of TBA because it did what a good chat should, provide the fantastic opportunity it provided to pull back the curtain and get a look at process through which and the armature on which these performances of “Room” were built. That Hay has traversed miles of conceptual territory beginning in her Judson days, is made evident through her work, yes, but what a treat to also be privy to the thinking and the work behind the dance that has developed through her years of experiment and deep attention. It’s this kind of chat (workshops too) from which PDX artists working in all disciplines can take something away to inform their practices. Thanks PICA.
–Lisa Radon
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photo credit: Serena Davidson

Flight of Mind: Natural Patterns of Destruction

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Posted by Scott McEachern
This is a wonderful piece that explores the effects of humans on the natural world. From the moment one sees the stage, an opening surrounded by local plants bucketed in dirt forming an artificial wetland, there is no question about the beauty of the production. The four dancers arrive on stage, one at a time, and dance to minimal music that is designed to be background, to mimic the sounds of nature (and later, the urban environment). The first third of the play is devoted to evoking the patterns of various animals: fish, birds, without the interference with humans. The dancers move in formation, touch each other lovingly, and settle into a rhythm of continuity. It is beautiful and lovely and leaves one aching for a better natural world. Because one knows that the second half of the play is a long meditation upon the destructiveness of humans. There is the interference with natural migratory patterns by the urban environment—the birds are forced to forage for food in the midst of a construction site, their formations are interrupted and often destroyed, they become scavengers and their community breaks down into squabbling and individualism. The dancers masterfully create (or un-create) the environment around them, as they move the natural landscape around them, signaling an interaction with nature that humans have long since given up in favor of an antagonistic relationship with birds, plants, the environment. The production highlights how far humans have gone to wreck havoc on the natural patterns.
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photo credit: Serena Davidson
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Nature Theater of Oklahoma: Chat and Dance

Posted by Scott McEachern
In the chat on Thursday, September 14, 2006, with The Nature Theater of Oklahoma, the most compelling thing that Pavel the director said was that he had conceived of the dance as an anti-narrative, and to that end he decided to use dice to determine the form of the dance. The dice, for him, introduced a level of chance that took him away from received notions of theater and dance—he decided upon the form of the production rather than the narrative. Once the form had been determined through the roll of the dice (and the rolls decided everything: from the number of scenes to the number of actors in each scene, to the number of movements each actor performed), the troupe went about constructing the dance within that chance-derived structure. It highlights the role of luck in our lives, how seemingly connected events are actually circumstantially related, and spotlights the drama inherent in the movements of our everyday existence—what Pavel called the “spectacle of the everyday.”
In the production of Ballet Brut, the audience sits in very close quarters and when the production begins, a curtain is drawn about six feet away from the people in the front row. So everybody is very close and then the actors come out, one by one, in front of the curtain. We can hear their breathing, we can see their every detail. And this, for me, resonated with something that came up in their chat: that is, the production is an examination of the spectacle of the everyday. The production was built on small gestures: a hand behind the head, a smirk, a sway of the hips, a flutter of the hands. While there wasn’t a traditional narrative, the gestures built up tension, the glances between actors helped create a sense of expectation for an end, which comes in spectacular fashion. So it is a spectacle, I realized, when the stage is filled with local dancers who mimic the pattern of dance-gestures that the actors have developed over the course of the dance. A disco ball descends, a ballerina pirouettes in the seats opposite and behind the stage dancers who move with frantic grace and energy. It is a climax without much of a message, and that is quite all right, and much of the point.

Chat: Julie Atlas Muz, Tigger!, Taylor Mac, Zebra, Wau Wau Sisters: Loving Outrage

It’s really hard for me to imagine any more sublime calling than one to become a hot humorous trapeze artist. The Wau Wau Sisters’ last act, in which they swung from trapezes to in leopard-print, really blew my mind. That evening with them, James Tigger! Ferguson, Julie Atlas Muz, and Taylor Mac was, for me, hands down the most exciting event at this year’s TBA, in terms of the crazy things our bodies and our imaginations can manage.
That said, the chat with the five of them plus Zebra from Portland’s Sissyboy may well have come in second. It involved far fewer props, more clothes, and was generally more sedate, but it was a great pleasure to hear these six people talk about their art. For those of you who missed it, here’s a pretty extensive summary.
The moderator began the chat with a question about the concept of “New Burlesque,” a term to which the performers responded with mild antipathy. They each expressed a degree of discomfort with overtheorizing their craft, but spoke with a great deal of intelligence and insight about it. Julie was particularly uninterested in titles; she said, “Say whatever you want about me, but I can’t let it define my work”. Tigger explained that his art drew its energy from the spontaneity of acts that just happened in the back of a bar with real people, and that deconstruction was absurd because it was precisely this looseness, lack of codification and definition which made the art vital. There appeared to be a general discomfort with and dislocation from the term, and several of the performers admitted that they had researched it before coming so they would have some idea what it meant. Adrian Wau pointed out that it was generally externally applied and that while they had the critical background to understand the relationship of the term to the postmodern era, it wasn’t particularly helpful to them. They did indeed have the critical background to discuss these issues and to theorize extensively in this brief conversation.
Despite the discomfort with the concept of a clear movement, they were all aware of a something special going on on the streets of New York, of which they were a part. Julie said that for her what New Burlesque meant was having an international family with a shared aesthetic, which she said, was comprised of a love of glitter. The Burlesque has traditionally been a low art form, and she insisted that such terms are inherently restrictive. “Hallelujah,” she said. “Put me in the gutter.” Julie also pointed out that it’s a little fallacial to call burlesque new, since it’s always been a presence in some form. Tigger added, “It’s all so ridiculous and absurd that you want to dress it up and fuck with it.”
The moderator asked about what he saw as an underlying sweetness in these performers’ intentions. He said that they seemed less aggressive and ironic than their predecessors. Julie replied that in a press release she had written of her colleagues as the “most outrageously loving artists in NYC.” Tigger added that, “Outrage without love is just not interesting.” He spoke of his love of his audience, as well, which he explained as a basic form of respect. “I never want to be above entertaining,” he said.
Adrian spoke of the cultural need to make a burlesque of all sorts of things in the world, to go to ridiculous extremes to unravel what we think we know. She called this aesthetic “deep and broad,” extending into a variety of arts. Zebra said that he felt that people no longer trust the mainstream media and are looking for some kind of happening that will get them out of their homes and speaking on the streets. There was a sense that this particular incarnation of the burlesque grows, to some degree, out of a sense of political outrage.
Zebra pointed out that this form of burlesque, unlike those of past eras, is not exploitive, but is really about empowerment. Taylor Mac compared it to the Playhouse of the Ridiculous but sweet, “not ‘fuck you we’re gonna celebrate,’ just “we’re gonna celebrate!’” Tanya said that they were all familiar with the era of anger, but found themselves in an era where it was more fun to be sly and sneakily witty.
She also said that in a time when there are images of the body everywhere, it’s curious that the actual body is so much more shocking. While kids might see Victoria’s Secret ads on TV everyday, the actual female body in underwear seems to have a subversive power that can escape objectification by exposing its own clumsiness along with its beauty, its awkwardness and humor.
Tigger replied, “It’s about putting the human being back inside the genitals.” But Tanya clarified her position further, saying , “It’s more about the fun we have inhabiting our bodies with their sweat and smells and muscle.” Zebra added that for him it was about “epiphany” which, he explained, means it is about high art. “We’re bringing the collective consciousness back up,” he said.
In response to a question about the serious political material that entered their acts, Taylor Mac said that he believed it was braver and more personal to approach the political through the personal, because in this way both the self and the political situation our exposed. Zebra said that when performance becomes preachy it is no longer art but “really good graphic design.” However, he said that he has a strong social conscience and feels it is more important than ever to get like minds together in a room. He said that he considers himself an entertainer before an artist, but that he’s angry about the state of the world and believes that people need a visceral experience and are ready to “expand beyond Fox News.”
The moderator asked the Wau Wau sisters specifically about the feminist bent to their work. Adrian replied that while she applauds feminists who bring their politics explicitly into their work but that for her feminism simply pervaded what she did, and that while she wouldn’t ever call it feminist she also wouldn’t say it wasn’t feminist. The moderator commented that “it’s possible to be inherently political without being explicitly so.”
Tigger said “We’re putting the femme back in feminism,” pointing out that it’s a traditionally female art form, but that it had become mixed and quirky. Taylor Mac described a party he’d been to where he saw a crowd of gay men watching straight girls take off their clothes and cheering them on. He’d appreciated the moment, and felt it expressed an important focus of the movement, which was more on theatricality and expression than sexuality. The performers all agreed that the movement, as they had experienced it, was deeply inclusive and celebratory of difference.
The general philosophy that these performers communicated was one of joy and tenderness toward their art, their audiences, and their bodies. They are performing because it’s what they love to do and what they are good at, but in order to be honest to themselves and their audiences, their politics show up on stage. Julie insisted that they are deeply pro-American. After all, she said, “I put a flag in my ass and didn’t get arrested!”
Zebra, who was particularly articulate about his take on the art form, summed up the discussion with this memorable sound bite: “It’s not about showing your tits, it’s about unveiling your humanity.”
All of the performers were deeply articulate and insightful people. When I walked into the Q Center and saw them at the front of the room, I was struck by how ordinary they all looked in broad day light and dressed somewhat more conservatively. Rather than decreasing my awe, this fed it. What extraordinary talent these people have! It appeared to me that each of them had found a vocation in what they do, that their personalities, their passions, their imaginations, and their communities had all come into perfect balance to feed these art forms of theirs.
I left a little achy-envious, wishing my vocation had something to do with drag or trapezes. I would like to live as large and as honestly as these six people seem to do. In the mean time, however, their integrity and imagination and intelligence were almost as deeply inspiring to me as the fucking incredible things they can do with their bodies.
Posted by: Taya Noland

Is the Uninformed Perspective on Contemporary Dance Worth Giving?

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photo credit: Serena Davidson
These days, there are as many definitions of postmodernism as there are well, I was going to say Eskimo words for snow, but a little research revealed that 1. Inuit don’t like being called Eskimos and 2. They don’t have very many words for snow. It’s a myth.
Postmodern can mean “self-referential,” “appropriative,” “critical of the mythologizing of the role of the artist,” “from the era after which the succession of ‘modern’ movements in any particular creative field are commonly seen to have ‘ended’” etc. Sometimes, it’s just convenient shorthand for “weird and abstruse.” Instead of saying, “I just finished watching a performance in which a dancer wearing orthopedic shoes twitchily shook a tambourine and occasionally yelled out, ‘Next! Pony!’ or ‘Nest!Pony!’ I’m not sure which,” I simply told a friend who called me immediately after a performance of Deborah Hay’s Mountain, “I’ve been watching postmodern dance.” Which is not to say that I didn’t like this piece; I did. After responding negatively to Jennifer Monson/iLand as well as the more accomplished BeBe Miller Company, I wondered if I could actually like contemporary dance stripped of the eyecandy and high energy antics that helped me access Nature Theater of Oklahoma and Yubiwa Hotel.
When the woman next to me in the theater asked if I’d seen anything else I liked, I immediately replied, “Nature Theater of Oklahoma.” Asked to elaborate, I commented that NTO toyed with conventions in dance and theater by building a performance around props and movements from everyday life. “Like a spoof?” Kind of, but more complex, because it was also using dance to spoof everyday life. “That sounds delightful.”
Then the houselights dimmed, and a woman wearing what looked like a scrunchy made of cotton balls appeared before us, shaking maracas. I immediately noted the spare, beautiful stage lighting, which was employed successfully throughout the performance, the effective costuming choices, the skilled, likable dancers, the way that having the dancers make music to their dancing with maracas, tambourine and chimes was a clever reversal of the usual order of things, but more than anything else, I noticed myself noticing these things and waiting to see if I could become truly absorbed. Eventually, it happened. The turning point was an interlude in which one of the dancers changed into a grimacing troll-like embodiment of the human impulse to torture and kill others of our kind. It was grotesquely comedic, nauseating, but also provocatively pushing whatever buttons packed Romans into the amphitheater to watch people be devoured by lions. At that point, I started to sense the dancers sensing our reactions to them, to feel like they were dancing to me, not at me. It was a conversation, no less interesting because it was without words, except, occasionally “Nest!Pony!” or something equally bizarre. Eventually I became so absorbed in the performance that I didn’t need narrative aides; the dancers’ simple movements commanded my attention like twitching strings before a cat.
This post is getting long, so please bear with me. Or don’t–the review is over, but I wanted to comment on a comment on a post that was written awhile ago, but which I just got around to reading, about Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Self-indulgent? Probably. But isn’t self-indulgence at the heart of blogging? Reclaiming cultural discourse from the squares with word counts, editors, journalism degrees, advertisers, fact-checkers and critical templates? Not according to Bryan Markovitz, who would like us to “describe the methodology and formal techniques that [writers and choreographers] present within the historical context from which they draw inspiration.” Markovitz expressed this idea in response to Kirsten Collins’ post on NTO, critiquing her approach to writing about NTO (which surprised me because I’ve found her posts to be among the most consistently eloquent and insightful on the blog. Singling out her thoughtful piece on NTO over say, my own contribution–comprised largely of musings on such important topics as beards and making out–may have been a compliment of sorts) He acknowledges that what he’s truly critical of is the popular misconception that NTO is cutting-edge theater, adding intriguingly that “Pavol [ Poetics:a ballet brut’s director] is a very perverse fellow.”
It made me think back to the beginning of TBA and James Yarker of Stan’s Cafe saying in his lecture, Why be a professional artist? that his theater group was ignored early on because they didn’t have the right haircuts, the right trainers. Meaning British sneakers. That he learned that artists without a lot of depth can get far with the right look and a knack for hitting the zeitgeist. Nature Theater? has excellent trainers. And as I’ve noted earlier on the blog, powerful, zeitgeist-hitting hair. And yes, the theatrical techniques they employ are likely played out as impetuses for provoking sweeping paradigm shifts about the role of art and artists, at least for those familiar with the history of postmodern theatrical experimentation. And they seem to know that and not care. The fact that this territory is already mapped makes it easier to goof around in. But, I still think NTO is doing something valuable by making theater fun and insinuating the uniquely life-affirming qualities of live performance into the realm of viable entertainment. And their performance inspired me to become more interested in performances of all kinds, including more challenging work.
Markovitz sees it differently, commenting, “My concern … is how it stalls the real progress toward a new kind of performance experience that might truly change the way we understand live art. This kind of work, which demands highly specialized sites and modes of viewing, has not yet found a way to coexist with the survival interests of the contemporary arts performing circuit, which must sell a very limited kind of culture if it is to survive.” I’m not quite informed enough to venture a rebuttal to that.
Jessica Bromer
IMG_9792SerenaDavidsonMountain
photo credit: Serena Davidson

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Ten Tiny Dances–Name a Dance Company!

Portland loves Ten Tiny Dances. And now we, the audience, have the opportunity to contribute. The last piece, Splinter, was created by Angelle Herbert and Phillip Kraft. They’re looking for a name for their company, and would like submissions. Joy! Director Mike Barber clarified that Angelle and Phillip aren’t looking for a title for the piece–they’re looking for a name for their company.
You can email your smashingly brilliant ideas to Phillip at:
ME_A_TUS_ at COMCAST.NET
(Note: At is spelled out above instead of @ to save Phillip from being buried by an auto-spam blizzard)
Also:
Visit www.tentinydances.org, and see you at the next tiny event!
–Carissa Wodehouse
Freelance writer, enthusiast

10 days on the Adkins Diet

Sept. 7
Brad Adkins pens letter to Mr. T. A. Witcher of Brownwood, Texas:
“Dear sir,
I am a farmer. On a good farm, and am 69 years old. Never held a Civil office, and told the President two years ago, wanted Elective or appointed: and have been for many years dissatisfied with both the centralizing tendencies of the Republicans, and the demagogary [sic] and insincerity of the Democrats, who seem to have no great underlying principles. Hence I am allied with the Populist and am a member of both the National and State Committees. Feel little interest any way.”
Sept. 8
Adkins sent in a beautiful shot and scored number three in a match between Astwood Bank and Alvechurch Wanderers played in almost tropical heat. The scores at the finish were Astwood Bank 3, Alvechurch Wanderers 2.
Sept. 9
Adkins went to a “speaking” at Sycamore. It rained.
Sept. 10
Brad Adkins, as Professor Megaphone Cook, made an appearance on a white horse which wore a coquettish blue ribbon in its tail. Then he raised his hat, with all the dignity of a real commencer of events, unfurled a white flag and waved it violently. It was the signal.
Sept. 11
Adkins founds Satyagraha movement with Gandhi at a rally that attracted three thousand Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, ‘free’ and indentured, at the Empire.
Sept. 12
Brad Adkins makes a circular, tethered hop of some 140 feet (42 meters) on the island of Lindholm in Denmark.
Sept. 13
Adkins plowed in the morning. Fruit tree agent was there.
Sept. 14
Adkins discovers an unconscious man, suffering from malarial poison and in serious condition floating in a boat two miles above Des Arc on the White River. The man is believed to be Eugene Morgan and may have been on a pearl fishing expedition.
Sept. 15
Adkins penned “The Voyage of the Blue Vega: A story of Arctic adventure” for The Boy’s Own Paper, issue #1443, volume 28.
Sept. 16
Under an assumed name—Roald Amundsen—discovers Magnetic South Pole; wins Finnish marathon (under the nom-de-sport Kaarlo Nieminen)
Sept. 17
Adkins cut some corn and helped Owen Bailey thresh. Plowed some.
On Kawara

Jennifer Monson: Dancing with Leaves

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photo credit: Serena Davidson
The smell of mint pervades the room as the dancers swing buckets of wild grasses and play with large rectangles of ultra-light wood that whisper and swish to the floor. This is lovely, and I wish I could say as much about the performance as a whole, but the truth is it lacks cohesion and focus. I’m no dancer, but even I could tell that the dancers were unprepared and under-rehearsed. Someone else on the blog compared them to Tahni Holt’s Monster Squad, which is interesting; I was also comparing them, but noting that while Monster Squad dancers have a rough and hard-hitting movement style, they also have great skill and control over their bodies. In contrast, the performance I saw came across as clumsy and unpracticed. The dancers had no control over the evocative objects they were wielding, which could have been a choice– but expressing a lack of control is very different from actually having no control. In one case, a dancer sent a rolling square of grass across the floor, then ran to try and catch it before it rolled into the legs of audience members (she didn’t reach it in time). In another sequence, all five dancers kicked the aforementioned light-wood flats in the air while laying on their backs, except half of the time the flats fell awkwardly to the floor, and one flat finally broke in half. I am baffled as to why you would incorporate an element into your piece that you do not know how to work with, in the same way I’m baffled as to why you’d attempt to lift another dancer when you are not confident you can pull it off. There were several points where it was clear to me that a dancer had made a mistake and then morphed into another move to cover it up. Was this piece really trying to mimic the flight patterns of birds in non-native environments? What I saw was five people kind of moving like birds and rolling around on the floor a lot. And in one sequence donning tutus and sort of invoking Swan Lake. For no reason that I can fathom, except that swans are birds.
In its defense I will say that a good friend of mine loved it (and perhaps she will comment here as to what she liked). I remain baffled. It reminded me of high school students messing around in someone’s living room, pulling cool looking objects out of the basement and tossing them around, raiding their mom’s closet for costumes. I’m all for bringing work that experiments and doesn’t succeed, that attempts more than it can pull off, or that is working hard to appear unpolished and tossed off, but I couldn’t tell what this piece was going for. And honestly, I’m not sure what PICA was thinking when they added it to the TBA lineup.
But, again, the smell of mint in the room was nice, and the grasses in buckets set a nice tone. And Disjecta is looking good.
- Faith Helma
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photo credit: Serena Davidson
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photo credit: Serena Davidson

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80′s Night at The Works (with corrections)

Or: Considered Soberly, With Help From Leif, Laptop is Kinda Great

“Agck! Q-bert!” I exclaimed delightedly, waving my Cuba Libre at the wallpaper in THE UNIT and instantly dating myself. “What is Q-bert?” my 24-year old friend replied. “You know, he hops down blocks that look like [again gesturing to the wallpaper] but I forget what he’s trying to do, eat things or kill things or get somewhere…?” She didn’t know. Four years were enough to separate our technological cultural memories. When she was old enough to play video games, Q-bert’s moment had passed. I remembered before Atari came home, the Arcade Era, the Coney Island, Wild West halcyon days of Galaga, of DigDug. This must be what Katherine Bovee and Philippe Blanc mean by “micro-nostalgia.”
serenadavidson PICA TBA THE WORKS laptop marc aceto_6468
photo credit: Serena Davidson
The Q-bert wallpaper was inspired (and trippy–a reference to psychedelia and op art?), but nothing else in THE UNIT was exciting. An ornately framed oil painting of an obsolete laptop (correction: Macintosh Hard Disk Icon) was a bit too obvious to be engaging (correction: Now that Leif has kindly informed me that I was, in fact, looking at an obsolete Macintosh Hard Disk Icon, I actually do feel engaged by the way the concepts of mobility and iconography were being explored through a traditional art-making technique, which some might consider to be dead. A parallel between Macintosh graphics and the transitions that swept painterly thinking at the close of the Byzantine era can be inferred. I’m a big fan of comment-accepting forums for this very reason. When dealing with art that works through implication, sometimes it takes a village. Additionally, the trash can was a witty touch. I see now that I was, in fact, in the belly of a laptop. I was in the computer, living Tron. The Q-bert wallpaper was the desktop and may not have been intended to inspire thoughts of Q-bert at all. But I hope it was.) There were some cupboards that everyone who came into THE UNIT immediately opened. Were the spare lightbulbs part of the installation? Was the wool blanket? If not, I don’t recommend leaving them in the enticing cupboards; confusion arose. I liked THE UNIT. It was a comfortable, trippy little sanctuary from the crowded Works, like a tent in the backyard. My friend was unimpressed but didn’t condemn Laptop in THE UNIT entirely, commenting “maybe this makes more sense in Beaverton.”
Back inside the Works, Copy was rocking out on his key-tar. “Who is this?” said Mark Wooley, who had suddenly appeared beside us, handing out flyers for a Joan Crawford look-alike contest at the Wonder Ballroom. “This is Copy” said my friend pointing to a monitor where Copy’s name kept appearing along with patterns evocative of primitive video game technology. “Q-bert!” I yelled, pointing at the sign like it was another piece of the puzzle. “Copy?” said Mark Wooley. “It’s his name,” explained my friend, pointing at Copy. Then we all danced.
Jessica Bromer
IMG_0093SerenaDavidsonCopy
photo credit: Serena Davidson
IMG_0287SerenaDavidsonCopy
photo credit: Serena Davidson

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Lucas and Conkle: The Lewis and Clark of Puppetry

I’m a big fan of my adoptive home in the Pacific Northwest and a big fan of local artists who use their work to refract the way the synthesis of culture and landscape in this region forms a palpable energy, a mood. I love Matt McCormick’s films, Daniel Peterson’s photoblog, M. Ward’s music and Bruce Conkle’s funny, surprising sculptural installations, his “Sasquatch Feng Shui.” I love the way Marne Lucas advertises her bartending gigs with the same casual enthusiasm with which she advertises her photography exhibitions. It’s so Portland, where the term busser/rockstar can be used with only slight irony and self-made men are everywhere, racing to build the most spectacular temple for contemporary art or wandering around dreaming up new ways to convince us that every bloody thing we do is art. The spirit of expansion, initiated with the “God-given”mandate of Manifest Destiny (Mission Accomplished), is alive here with all its invigorating sense of promise and inevitable, messy mistakes.
Lucas and Conkle went out on a limb with this puppet show.
I give it a great big E. In the area where BlingLab’s principals are experienced, visual art, the show was awesome. What was lacking was clear, expertly paced storytelling to give the humor a little more structural support. I hope they try puppet theater again with a bigger team including members with backgrounds in storytelling and stage direction. I’d also like to see them create an expansive installation using some of the elements from this show–the humanoid props, the slight, awkward movements and the prerecorded audio–to form a quasi-historical display. If it weren’t on the other side of the country, I would encourage Lucas and Conkle to visit one of the artistic highlights of my birth home: the Discover Lancaster County History Wax Museum. Here, a waxen Lincoln endlessly repeats one of his eloquent speeches, his literally shifting eyes exponentially compounding the creepiness somehow inherent in all representations of our 16th president. Here, Tony Ourstler’s technique of projecting blown-up, talking faces onto stuffed life-sized rag dolls is put to good use clearing up some of the public’s misperceptions about the Amish. History truly comes alive, or at the very least, comes undead.
BlingLab is halfway to making something revelatory. It’s a good time for cracked out, irreverent reinterpretations of western imperialism and macho entitlement. It’s a good time for puppetry to “grow up,.” to become a vital cultural force. Change is already stirring in the many excellent puppeteers who’ve cropped up recently and in puppetry’s role in protests against the War in Iraq. Pass the peacepipe, BlingLab, and take up your puppets anew.
Jessica Bromer

Two More Cents in on Poetics: A Ballet Brut

Nature Theater of Oklahoma has indeed charmed Portland. They’ve charmed the hip t-shirts right off of us. We’ve been battling to get in the doors for days now. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Somehow the Nature Theater has developed a movement vocabulary that is made from the awkward slouchiness of the born-in-the-seventies generation. They have exposed our casual code system of flirtation and rejection. The subtle cues of sidewalk stances and accidental sleep-overs are revealed and choreographed with enthusiastic fervor. Is it a betrayal? No, it’s a thrill.
posted by amber bell

She Walked Into The Room — Deborah Hay’s “Room”

At the end of the show, two lush red ribbons demarcated the circular performance space or “Room” of the Deborah Hay piece performed here by Tahni Holt (Monster Squad) and Linda Austin (Performanceworks Northwest). One rested on the laps of the front row audience members, drawn up from the floor in one movement at the direction of Tahni Holt at the opening of her solo. One was knotted and twisted at their feet (with a little red sports car at one end) dropped there by Linda Austin as she unraveled it from a giant ball of ribbon that she towed around with her like a little dog.
Room is a solo choreographed by Deborah Hay. This evening featured two “adaptations” (Hay’s words) of the solo performed here one after the other by two of Portland’s most interesting choreographers/movers. It became a game for me to imagine the movement instructions that made up the score of the piece…instructions that led the dancers to fake tap dancing, little hopeful singing, snapping, and at one point, collapse. Seeing it the second time through (Austin’s piece), watching the pieces intersect, overlap, and diverge became as important as the performance (but I guess this makes me an inattentive audience member). At the base of it, Holt’s performance was more muscular and intense, requiring attention from the audience, while Austin’s performance was sly, subtle, drawing attention from the audience.
One interesting takeaway was thinking about ways of evaluating non-narrative dance that is not meant to make beautiful forms to please the audience, not meant to tell a story. One question I asked is, what makes movement compelling? In a series of movements performed by a dancer, what is it that draws us in, allows us to make a connection with the mover, or simply makes us sit up and take notice? What can the dancer do that will engrave itself on me and stay with me after I leave the theater?
Admittedly it’s a question too large to answer fully, but here are some thoughts based on these movements and these dancers. On a tactical level, repetition (building and breaking familiarity), instances of sound in a largely silent performance, direct contact with the audience, contrast in speed and intensity of movements were elements that, in some kind of chart of the energy of the performance, dancerly movement played off non-dancerly would show up as spikes.
At the level of the performer, here, the two dancers’ personal styles were compelling for very different reasons, Holt because of the intensity of her gaze, this direct contact with the audience daring them to watch–as well as the intensity of her movement. Even when her movements were more relaxed, you could always feel the coiled nature of her spine that supported even the lazily moving arm. In contrast, Austin is all quiet center, but not in any kind of priestess-like way, more that she makes you trust her movement. She can then play that trust off of the precariousness she likes to explore in her work. Her gaze says, “Well, here goes,” or “Let’s see,” or to the audience, “Well, what do you think?” This makes us collaborators in her performance.
With regard to the piece, the work in the round, the title of “Room,” the line both women sang, “You are the only one,” the repeated marking of the space, were among the elements that drew the work toward cohesion, giving the audience plenty of material with which to weave multiple interpretations. On the contrary, there were certain odd notes that like the faux French or cabaret singing that didn’t want to hang together.
So this is how I evaluate this kind of work, did it hang together? Besides my immediate experience that can be (if the performance is compelling) exciting, disturbing, even fun, did it give me enough to work with for later when I go away and think about it? Is there more there than movement? By this definition, for example, Vivarium Studios piece is brilliant, the multiple elements (video, performance, narrative and non-) hang together perfectly, while ultimately giving the audience plenty of room to do part of the heavy lifting of building their own takeaway. The same can be done on a more abstract level with a body on an empty stage. For me, Room, as a piece, became much more rich when I learned of the primary instruction she gave the dancers for the piece…but that’s the story of the Chat.

Laurie and Kiki age with grace, Mountain joins

Early on in the festival…seems like weeks ago, there were two acts that took the audience into the palm of their hand and held us there like babes in a cornfield. Last night another legend of the cutting edge, Deborah Hay, brought a powerful, sublime dancework that draws energy from her young Seattle choreographic collaborators. Going to prove that those who have been working the longest in pushing boundaries, remain the most progressive and truly daring.
To help kick off T:BA, Laurie Anderson brought a solo show into the home of all things tradtiional and boring…the Newmark theatre. She has been making poetics, sound art, film and a deep trances on stage for nearly 3 decades, and this mastery was clear from the moment her gentle voice took time to slowly fill the echoes of music that hung over her star-like floating set. She had no doubts or worries in addressing head on the terrors and sadness of living in an America led by the current semi-fascist regime, in fact you got the feeling she’d lived through it before…because she had, with Reagan, and that made her more succinct and more outraged, and more empathetic in her critique and commentary. Laurie was able to pull feeling from her violin, from her stories and out of the audience in an authentic, unforced way that has missing among some of the more aggressive T:BA acts, or those that might feel that genuine, deep feeling is something not hip or contemporary.
Kiki and Herb also have been working the stage for decades, not quite as long, though they do claim to have been around since the day they sipped milk from a cow that ate Christ’s afterbirth. The two performers walk a fine line between bitter satire and truly heartbreaking depth of emotion…and blend their political commentary and rage at the current social order into a complicated character work that has people laughing in a conflicted, sexy, outrageous way. The urge to wish the worst upon our current leader is deep in them, the wisdom to do so in so unexpected and sideways a manner is a sign of their genius and lack of need to prove themselves as a young, hip performance team. Kiki held us, held the audience, made us cheer and cheer as false rhinestones beneath her eyes twinkled fake tears and she sang with breathtaking beauty a ridiculous song about reuniting with her daughter in a grocery store. Cutting edge? Absolutely.
Last night was Deborah Hay’s premiere of Mountain, a new work based on her growing fascination with taking the power and unique spirit of dancer/choreographers and adapting their work through her filter. The elegance and spareness of her work was stunning. Earlier in the week we’d seen migrating birds portrayed in a blunt, and obvious manner, with a clumsy desperation. Deborah took for granted that audiences are profoundly able to focus and quite themselves to look quietly and deeply at work that is worth this attention. In one disturbingly funny moment a bullish woman pummels another dancer, a cartoonish dance that was in no way over the top, but still odd to find ourselves enjoying the slaughter. In another moment, a woman dances with a quiet desperation, signaling to us as a song, delicate and fraying is pulled from her on a bare stage, time unrushed.
Is there something to be said for an artform, a genre (contemporary performance) that allows its masters to grow old gracefully? Hell yes, but also, let’s offer a wonderful shout of joy for those artists who keep pushing, keep moving forward, and relax into total trust for their powers to hold ideas and visions up to the light, and expect the most from the audience, and allow ourselves to stretch and pull, and laugh and cry, with genuine new passion.
by Jonathan Walters

T:BA:09

Today was a light T:BA day.
But, even though I only went to see one show; it was well worth it.
Bling Lab did a wonderful puppet theatre at the yet incomplete Someday Lounge.
The sound / voices were fully recorded, which was a bit odd; and sometimes led to a seemingly odd kung-fu theatre dubbed sensibility, but the ingenuity and creativity in this aspiring work, was delightful. It is straight-forward and honest about its intentions, and the humor / narrative are strong through-out.
Warning though… you might leave humming the psychedelic hymnal of the Lewis + Clark peace pipe velvet buffalo mating call…
Fredrick Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
http://www.fhzal.com

Dull Bling

I like dick jokes as much as the next guy. I also enjoy Ceech and Chong when the mood strikes me. Puppets? Count me in. All of this considered, my enjoyment of Blinglab faded easily ten minutes into the first act. I loved the low tech “puppets” and the whole backwoods aesthetic. I loved the irony of Lewis and Clark being portrayed as gay, drug addled idiots. In spite if these small creative victories and a few random chuckles, Blinglab was ultimately flaccid and unpolished.
The Misadventures of Lewis and Clark sounded promising. I was really looking forward to discovering how this corps of puppeteers planned to skewer topics like American imperialist expansion and sexual identity in the visceral and masculine unexplored west. I was ready to follow the trail of the two storied explorers into Blinglab’s “sasquatch infested” world. Unfortunately, that story had barely entered the plains before my eyes glazed over with acute disinterest.
Writing is the key. Spectacle means nothing when coupled with a bad script. Sure, Hollywood hasn’t figured this out, but you’d think that Blinglab, transgressive creatives that they are, would have. When you are clocking five dick jokes a minute, you may want to take a second look at your writing process or seek an editor.
There is potential in Blinglab. They obviously have a sense of ingenuity and a passion to create. They have a good visual eye. I even suspect that beneath all of the drug references, racist jokes and frat-boy humor, there is some god-honest social satire waiting to be unleashed across the puppet stage. However, it will likely take a director with a strong hand and an editor with a big red pen to help it emerge. The thing is, I’m not sure that I’ll ever find out- It will take awhile before I decide to take another chance on the troop.
I don’t want to make excuses for them, but there is a small chance that I just wasn’t in the mood. Still, I doubt I could have ever consumed enough marijuana and PBR to find The Misadventures of Lewis and Clark amusing.
Try it if you like. Maybe it will work out for you.
Posted by P.A. Coleman

Nature Theater of Oklahoma Finds a Passionate Audience

My desire to see Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s performance has been slowly building throughout the festival as I’ve repeatedly paged through my TBA guide. First, I noticed that the company’s name, cribbed from Kafka, is a small piece of linguistic perfection; it started running through my head every once in while, on repeat, like a lyric from a song. Then the beautiful man staring out provocatively from page 32 managed to single-handedly destroy the last shred of my once-powerful resistance to the virulent indie beard craze. Eventually, I began to hear rumors that Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Poetics: a ballet brut was really, really good. And it was.
Broadly funny, but also highly nuanced, Poetics was really refreshing in a way that’s hard to pin down. It was like a celebration of the obsolescence of standard theatrical conventions. There was nothing ponderous or self-congratulatory about the performers as they broke the fourth and possibly even some sort of fifth wall, incorporating what sounded like genuine laughter into the performance, seating the audience on the stage, staging social tension around paper coffee to-go cups, smoking, making out. Oh, speaking of making out, please don’t TBA audience members! It’s very distracting. My TBA buddy was trapped behind a team of art enthusiasts we’ve spotted making out at previous TBA events and expect to see making out at future TBA events as well unless people start throwing things at them, light, blunt objects, nothing that would cause any real harm, as she was very tempted to before ultimately choosing restraint.
Back to Nature Theater: this is a hard performance to get into, but well worth the effort. Thanks to a tip from a kind PICA blogger, I arrived 45 minutes early, pass in hand, and was still one of the last people seated.
Jessica Bromer

Flight of Mind: Needs Improvement

The ten-year-old girl on my right spent this performance fidgeting and checking the time on her cell phone. I felt sorry for her as I occupied myself by re-imagining every aspect of Flight of Mind.
First, the set: I loved that Flight of Mind was staged in front of a wall of windows at dusk, incorporating natural light and causing the dancers’ movements to be partially dictated by the earth’s rotation, like the flight schedules of the migratory birds that inspired the piece. Wispy non-native plants in white gallon-sized buckets all but disappeared against the green wall beneath the windows. I would have painted the wall behind the plants a contrasting color so that the plants had as much presence as the hideous buckets. The buckets seemed to illustrate the idea that nature is at the mercy of a species that sees the future in plastics, but this could have been communicated with more visual impact. The beauty of Disjecta is that artists are allowed, even encouraged to experiment with the space, leaving marks and erasing the distinction between art and venue. I could imagine a messier, more natural set with human intervention represented through more interesting, well, disjecta (Latin for scattered fragments). The dancers would then have to rethink the part of the show where they each pick up two buckets and swing them around in unison, but they should rethink that anyway.
Then, costumes: At one point the dancers did make visually successful use of human castoffs, donning skirts made of knotted plastic bags, holding hands and breaking into a Swan Lake-y little dance. Though made of a different kind of plastic, the skirts were reminiscent of the plastic six pack rings that are well known as a bird strangulation threat. This playful, complexly referential moment was a welcome break after an hour or so of painfully serious dancing. The top halves of the outfits–camouflage duck hunting shirts and falling apart-chic knit sweaters in variegated browns worked as an interesting use of street clothes as costume. Less successful was the decision to wear matching brown and green plaid capri pants that, despite the color scheme, had a very man-made aesthetic and were distractingly trendy. Sometimes the dancers looked more like collective farm workers who had eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms and decided to reenact an Old Navy commercial together than professional dancers. In fact, an experimental workshop vibe permeated the whole endeavor. At the pre-show downstairs the crowd mixed with dancers who operated in loose groups, pairs or alone, going through motions that I knew were related to the migratory patterns of birds and whales. In Disjecta’s cavernous wood-floored warehouse, amid the crowd but seeming oblivious to it, they were more evocative of ghosts than birds, but that worked well too. Except for their costumes–jeans and plain colored t-shirts. To have them mix with the crowd in their own random clothes would have been interesting, further collapsing the distinction between audience space and dance space and creating an element of surprise when someone started rolling or convulsing. To have them in costumes that reinforced the intended tone of the piece would have created a striking contrast between audience and performer. The middle ground approach was just boring.
Finally, the dancing: should have been weirder, more animalistic and more awkward. Or more like patterns themselves–graceful, mathematical. Again, the movements fell in-between and the work felt unfinished.
Jessica Bromer

Playing (Illegal) Games with Art

Michael Hernandez de Luna prints his own stamps and sends them to himself. Packard Jennings makes his own products and sneaks them onto the racks at WalMart. Of all the art shown at the Illegal Art exhibit, these pieces were the most thought provoking. Why? Because they interact with systems. The artists include and engage the institutions they are critiquing. Hernandez de Luna’s stamps portray events and items not usually publicly celebrated by government agencies . One sheet of stamps bears an image of “baby doll bomb,” an American Girl doll cutely superimposed on a scene of fiery destruction. He toys with the gap between our national philatelic persona (love, jazz singers, and the muppets) and our darker cultural icons (viagra, playboy, and prozac) using the postal system as his playground.
Packard Jennings sets his stage at WalMart, the largest retail operation in the world. Some of us choose to boycott. Packard Jennings takes it a few steps farther. He plants action figures of Mussolini, then videotapes himself succeeding in buying one. His statements about consumerism and corporate rule work because they are lighthearted and interactive. A cardboard boycott sign stating “WalMart is fascist,” no matter how well painted, would never have the same effect. Jennings captures attention by tweaking the institution from within.
posted by amber bell

T:BA:08

Yesterday was an amazing T:BA day!
By 8pm, I was glowing. By 10pm I was oozing delight!
It was just a wonderful day, of performance and life.
Well, this is a bLog; so perhaps I should wax bloggerific for a bit…
It was such a wonderful day, of getting compliments from a client on a project well done, and then to hear similar praise from the contractor, which is more unheard of in architectural work; I had two delightful and heart-felt conversations with people that I profoundly care about in my life, oh and I switched over to honey-nut crunch Total cereal, just for fun.
But, the most important part, or atleast the part that you probably would care more about as a T:BA blog reader, is what happened in the festival yesterday… and luckily for you continues on today / tomorrow so you can see it too!
The evening started by witnessing Deborah Hay’s “Mountain”.
Deborah, in my opinion, has always worked with her dancers to create wonderful expressions of the human form and subtle interpretive stories…

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Jennifer Monson-Flight of Mind

Posted by Gavin Shettler
This dance experience has sat with me for several days. There was a point when I felt that I didn’t like it. But I keep thinking about it. It made, and keeps making, my brain tingle. And things that make your brain tingle, are things to pay attention to.
So we entered the first floor of Disjecta into a dance installation. The dancers were organic, animal like. I interpreted them as forest spirits. One spirit was slowly moving through a pile of dirt. Children spirits were buzzing through the space, running through the audience in a line, like insect creatures, dancing over a lake.

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Distance and drawings

I’ll admit, I was intimidated by the idea of having my portrait done by someone 500 miles away – intimidated and, at the same time, kind of hoping that I’d muster the courage to participate. Now, I am by no means some Neo-Luddite. I have a cell phone, an ipod, and a digital camera and, though I hate to admit it, I do love my little gadgets.
I am, however, fairly skeptical of things like chat rooms and online dating and other digital intrusions into personal interactions.
Going to pick up a TBA t-shirt early on in the festival, I saw Edie Tsong, there in the corner of TBA Central, playing the accordian. Only, I didn’t see her. I only saw her image on a computer screen, passing her time in her Oakland, CA apartment, looking up in anticipation of someone coming to join her.
She saw me. I panicked and left.
I don’t know what it was about the brief interaction that startled me so much. Something about it seemed more like artificial intelligence, like a sassy computer side-kick in the movies, like Knight Rider, like HAL 9000, than an actual person. Maybe my problem wasn’t so much the distance of the human interaction as it was the whole artificial feeling of the project. It seemed more like talking to a machine than to a person. When I stopped to think about it, though, this was exactly what I did everytime I used a telephone; it was a digitized, simulated experience. I was talking to an object portraying some friend or family member.
I had to stop myself before I wound myself up tightly in this paranoid digression. Luckily, I returned to TBA central to pick up tickets for a friend, only to see a little boy sitting in front of the computer and giggling. He appeared to be having an interaction – an emotional and genuine one, at that. Perhaps this wasn’t so artificial after all.
It was with this in mind that I took a deep breath and went back to take part in Tsong’s project. While it was incredibly disorienting to get started (it felt like a combination of computer illiteracy and blind-date nervousness), one of her first comments after we began made me realize that she her feelings about this digitized interaction were similar to mine. She told me that on the previous day I had come in, a school group had come by and, because of the direction of the camera, she could only make out a swarm of bodies and arms. “I felt like I was in a crowd being crushed to death,” she said, ” I felt like I was watching an aquarium, but like I was the one in the aquarium.” That one experience, for her, seemed to encapsulate the surreality of the project – because of how close she had come to the computer through having so many social interactions through it, the experience of the crowd had felt so palpable as to become a physical sensation. Still, that sense of distance and voyeurism remained.
We talked about other shows I’d seen, things I’d written on the blog, where I’d gone to college and I found Edie to be a very smart and kind conversationalist. Quickly, the computer seemed to disappear and we were just two people talking about art. She told me how, when she had done this project in San Francisco, she actually ran into someone she had drawn. “It’s a real relief to meet the person and find that they are real and three dimensional,” she said. Despite how many times she’s done this project, her need for the physical reassurance remained. Over the course of the project, the distance of the video conferencing gave way to the intimacy of having your portrait done and I was reminded of another experience I’d had when a little boy named Herman had drawn my picture outside of Frock clothing on Alberta street on Last Thursday. Closely observing another, or being closely observed yourself, feels incredibly personal and my techno-phobia was replaced by intense focus on capturing Tsong’s likeness.
I was feeling glad that I’d helped Edie in her Telecommunity Portrait and relieved that it all had felt so comfortable to take part in. We finished and showed each other our drawings and I realized that the computer had been facing the other direction when I came in. I had turned it to take a seat at the desk.
“Shall I turn you back around?” I asked, “I mean, should I turn the computer around?”
And in that moment I remembered that I was talking to someone in California and not in the room with me. I had substituted her for the computer and I had addressed the machine as “you” or maybe I had just addressed her as the computer? It was surreal, but she obliged and I rotated the screen back towards the door as she said hello to someone else and asked if they’d like their portrait done.
Go say hello to Edie Tsong at TBA central from 12-6 today and tommorrow before the festival is over!
posted by patrick leonard

human weeds

Weird lumps of plant are jumping out of the windows at Disjecta. A white car peels out of the parking lot by the ground floor entrance, it’s tail sliding sideways as the tires scream and smoke.
Inside people are standing and looking in different directions. Little plastic ball radios murmur half tuned sounds. Their perky antennas show love for the people by piping up louder and truer with human contact.
A few dancers are dancing with the wall, standing in a pile of pebbles, dancing to the paint splashes and the hole in the floor. People are milling around talking about other things. The loud sound of many people running up the stairs. Then, after some time, an official beginning on a smooth dance floor.
Jennifer Monson’s performance both imposed itself on the space and collaborated with what was already there, building, passing sounds and light.
At one point rays from the setting sun snuck in from behind the audience, laying glowing strips across the dance floor. Each dancer partnered with a full sheet of plywood, their bodies sliding against the boards filled the space with the rhythmic rasp of deep sleep breath.
It seemed at times to try to ‘become nature’ but was most natural and moving when it engaged human junk.
posted by publicwondering

THE PATH TO SERENDIPITY

From the Desk of the Chair
We’re well-along into T:BA:06 and I felt an inner urging last night around midnight to send something along to be part of the ongoing conversation that is the T:BA blog, not simply to be part of, but also to participate, and yes, keep myself moving on the path of serendipity.
I would have to say that I was struck last night, both during and after the performance of the Spalding Gray Project: Leftover Stories to Tell, that the evolving feeling coming out of the entirety of this year’s T:BA is “poignant”. Things have been deeply touching and poignant to me.
From John King in the square, to the Full Moon Rising of David’s attempts to get closer to the bridge, to the chance encounters under the Hawthorne Bridge, the serendipitous shared burger and discussion of 9/11 at The Works, to Laurie Anderson’s mystical, hypnotic, transcendant and contemplative Moon, to the pouting 8-yearold at the Sunday A-Go-Go, the Fletcher photos, Mathhew’s wood, the Abromovich 4-video installation (which silenced my 4-year-old), running into friends running to and from one-thing-to-another, thoughtful-manic noontime chats (manic to leave work, grab a bite, get there, sit down, listen, participate, grab coffee, head back to work), the wonderings of how six-months hence something will dawn on me (like why didn’t I ask Stan’s Cafe to put together a pallette of rice indicating the number of lawyers who had the soul of artists: 347), to …
The respect and awe I have for the folks at PICA and what incredible things a small group of dedicated people can do who work together as a team to create something larger and more important than themselves.
My hat’s off to Mark, Vic, Erin, Kristan, Jorg, Jessica, Kim, Cynthia, Luisa, Brian, Malina, Shonna, David, Jamie Lee, the host of 300 perservering volunteers, the dedicated Board and the visionary founders. It’s amazing and inspiring to be involved with all of you.
A poignant thank you from all of us who will sit down on September 18 and just say, “Wow.”
Jack Walsh

I AM SERIOUSLY LOSING IT

I have been having a hard time focusing.
I don’t think I have slept in days and surviving off sessions lager as my only nourishment
is starting to make me a feel unhinged.
Reality and fantasy are becoming fuzzy and I am having a hard time finding my place in the middle. My friends and family are starting to leave concerned messages on my voicemail. It is becoming more common for me to reply to direct questions with aN idiotic song and dance. I think I am beginning to alienate myself from people and the important things in my life…for two more nights.
-EI

Jolly Ship the Whiz Bang? Thumbs up! Blinglab? Big thumbs down.

Jolly Ship the Whiz Bang: Episode 5
Blinglab: Misadventures of Lewis and Clark, act I
As the audience poured into Someday Lounge, filling in the aisles around the perimeter, blocking exits, and packing the standing room at the back around the bar, my friend turned and said gruffly, “It’s a death trap in here.” I agreed. The fresh-cut wood smell of the barely completed venue, the electric twinkle lights twirled up with a paper swag strung above us, the construction paper and popsicle stick art project of a set, the crowd getting louder and tipsier as they sip on their cocktails, and the expectation that with pirates and/or rock stars there comes the threat that everything will eventually burst into flames.
Our story begins in 1763 (we know because it is projected in big, scripted numbers on the back wall of the stage), as Tom, a surly puppet with furrowed brow and little anchor graphic on his little puppet outfit, is left with the task of entertaining a little baby puppet, so cute wrapped in a little puppet blanket and inching above his puppet crib to get a better view. Tom begins recounting a tale of his youth, and thus, through song and dance we are whisked back in time (to 1712 or thereabouts). The lead singer asks us to imagine, that for tonight we forget our usual lives. “You high-paid lawyers, you administrative assistants (that’s me!), you art collectors. Forget yourselves. Tonight, we are all: Spanish princesses.” And with that we all hopped aboard Jolly Ship the Whiz Bang.
Tom is a fourteen-year-old captive, becoming sexually and politically aware, enraged at the way animals are treated on board (coaxed on board a ‘cruise ship,’ thinking they are off to a rousing game of ‘snooker’ when really they are on their way to be slaughtered). The sensitive Captain tries to reach out to the boy in his “transitional phase,” kicking off the icky sexual tension that will only amplify throughout the show.
The best scene takes place underwater (Tom kicking his little puppet legs to stay afloat). Tom is forced to walk the plank, but instead of meeting his doom, he joins up with his new underwater mollusk “friend.” You know, that “friend” that inspired him to turn all bad boy in the previous scene. As Tom proclaimed, “He’s not a mollusk. He’s an artist and he understands me.” Tom unfortunately discovers that his “friend” has sold him into sexual slavery. He was coaxed underwater to be the newest star of a series of underwater sea creature porn. (Is there a specific term for bestiality with marine mammals? Or crustaceans?)
And so on, and so forth. A clever musical number here, some death by scoundrel there, some nasty adult humor dressed in children’s clothing throughout. All in all, a fun time. The Jolly Ship crew succeeds in creating a spontaneous, slapped together, anything can happen aesthetic. Yet, I imagine the show is pieced together scrupulously.
Going into the show, I wondered how (if at all) Jolly Ship would breath life into the tired pirate nonsense that has been so thoroughly played out. It seems everyone I know has come and gone through a pirate fascination phase. I can’t count the number of pirate parties I’ve been to in the last few years. The Portland Pirate Festival is next weekend, even. Though Jolly Ship included a few groaner moments, and the dialogue and comic timing lagged a bit, I think the fact that they didn’t take the piracy angle too seriously was a saving grace. The ship and casual references to raping and pillaging provided a context, but the story was so absurd it could have worked with any premise.
They performed Episode 9 (a battle of the shanty bands) the next night at the WORKS. It worked well, if not better, in this environment. I think I appreciated the ability to be distracted by conversation, step out for a drink, and come back to the show.
I went to Blinglab’s Misadventures of Lewis & Clark last night, curious to see how these puppet shows would compare. While I was impressed with the set construction, sound design, and puppets themselves I did not hesitate to bolt at intermission. The production was completely lewd, unsophisticated, and with minimal comedic sensibility. While both Blinglab and Jolly Ship the Whiz Bang featured inter-species puppet sex, homoerotic seduction, and otherwise enjoyed living up to their “mature audiences” warning, Jolly Ship at least retained some endearing qualities in its characters. Maybe the second half of Misadventures was a strong comeback (I’ll never know), but Blinglab failed to offer anything more than a fucked-up retelling of our fucked-up national history. The personalities of Lewis and Clark are not really part of our cultural awareness. So, it’s difficult to find the humor in a dicey characterization of these figures. Southpark can put Saddam Hussein in bed with the devil and it’s hilarious, because we already have a cemented idea of his character. When Lewis is dressed up as a sultan and attempts to bone Clark it’s just stupid. We don’t have any preconceived understanding of them as individuals. Opportunity to make a clean break? I’m out.
posted by Kirsten Collins

Sobbing in the Church Pews

I listen to the news on the radio every day. I listen to Amy Goodman, and I try to understand what’s going on with all these wars, all these endless wars. It’s hard to get it, it’s hard to feel it, it’s hard to know what to do. It’s so much simpler to do some fun thing, and not think about how much bad stuff is happening. I thought that if I went to Quickley’s performance, I might be able to feel something. I might know what I’m supposed to do.
Jerry Quickley told his stories. He described being in Baghdad when the bombs began to drop in 2003, and he described the harrowing story of his journey back to Jordan. As bombs fell like toothpicks out of the sky, Quickley attempted to identify his feeling as a first-worlder in a place where he was in no way safe. Not excited really-but like he was in a game of Donkey Kong. His stories shift from a level of disconnection to the raw opposite-of-courage preparedness for death at any instant. It was horrible, and graphic, and personal. His tales built up into a gruesome crescendo. But in those moments of the telling, I could feel a tiny seed of the brutal misery, the indescribable destruction. Only a tiny seed. Mostly what I felt was the shame of being an American.
And when it was over, we all filed out of the theater, turning on cell phones. I looked into windows of a wedding reception on the way to my car. It seemed so ridiculously easy. As I got in my car, I knew no bombs would drop on me as I drove home. On Monday, I’ll listen to the news on the radio, and I still won’t know what to do. But at least I felt something.
posted by amber bell

Afternoons with Brad

9/11/06
Dear Diary,
Today I met the coolest guy. His name is Brad and he’s really neat. I was just kind of walking around downtown at 2PM, skipping school cause it’s, like, such a hassle and Suzy Lindover is being such a bitch to me in home room. Anyway I went into the building and Brad was in the lobby. He was talking to this group of people and he had one person lying on the floor like they were dead and then had two people walking in front of the dead person and then someone else was saying, “This is my creation.” It was kinda weird so I was watching. But then Brad asked me if I knew any jazz music and I was soooo embarrassed, but I whistled something from the 1964 recording of John Coltrain’s amazing “A Love Supreme.” Brad said it worked and I know I was blushing sooo bad. Anyway, after a bit we switched roles and then Brad was like, “yeah okay,” and then we all left. I hope he’s there tomorrow too.
9/12/06
Dear Diary,
I hung out with Brad again today. He was in the lobby of that Wilder and Kenny building or whatever it’s called. I was early and so Brad asked me if I had any ideas and so I told him about this creepy guy that was muttering behind me by the Library today. He said it was cool. Brad is so awesome. He’s so funny too. When the other people showed up he had us go down to this intersection and mutter like crazy people when other people crossed the street. I was like, so freaked out and I don’t really get what were doing but Brad is cool so I’m having sooo much fun. I really like this conceptual, anti-convention, neo-performance thingamajig he does. I’m going back tomorrow too.
9/13/06
Dear Diary,
I went to the park with Brad today. It was so nice outside and we had a lot of fun. Okay, so there were like a bunch of other people too- Like this guy with long hair and a sports coat named Mark or something who was somebody important I guess. But I didn’t care, because I was there for Brad. Anyway, I made the best car noises I could for Brad but making bicycle noises was kinda hard. I hope he liked them.
Oh yeah, and there was this crazy dancer girl who ran through the park and then we made funny noises for the way she moved too. It was soooo funny and cool. But not as funny or cool as Brad. I wonder if he thinks I’m cool?
9/14/06
Dear Diary,
Some people just don’t understand Brad like I do. I mean, don’t you get it? He’s like, Brad Adkins. Duh! Anyway, he got rained on today and he was so sad and grumpy. He was sooo sad that he didn’t have any ideas. So when people showed up he just told them how he was feeling and they were like, “Let’s do something,” and he was like, “What do you want to do?” and they were like, “I don’t know, you should get naked,” and he was like, “I don’t want to get naked.” It went on for a long time. Some people were kind of intense because they don’t get Brad like I do. So then we went for a nice walk and later a couple of us had a cool conversation about art and intensions. Brad is sooo smart. He shook my hand today when we said goodbye and I was like Oh My God!
9/15/06
Dear Diary,
Today was the best day with Brad, ever! We went outside after the lady on the computer played the accordion and made a scene from stuff we did the whole week. Brad was walking around like he was a big director and talking about takes and stuff and saying stuff like, “We’ll fix it in post.” He’d be such a good movie director. I played the saw for him but I couldn’t tell if he liked it or not. I think I’m starting to get what he’s trying to do. I think he’s trying to change the nature of a space by appropriating actions and dislocating them in order to transcend temporal barriers but with an improvisational aesthetic that places an emphasis on the temporary nature of existence. He’s sooo cool.
I hope a lot more people come and see him tomorrow because he’s sooo creative and funny and interesting. I know I’ll be there.
That’s all for now diary,
Love P.A.

Ten Tiny Dances: Photography by Serena Davidson

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This is the third time I’ve had the pleasure to see Ten Tiny Dances. Each time I’ve been delighted and surprised. I’ve recommended it to anyone who was wondering what to check out during TBA this year and I’ll continue to recommend it to anyone wherever they may perform. It’s the kind of entertaining performance that pushes boundaries and gets you excited to create something wonderful and new in any art form.
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The tiniest dancer of the ten tiny dances.
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The audience was delighted.
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Floyd, hadn’t you just said “I’d like to see what they would do with an even smaller stage”? I’m even more excited to see where they go from here.

Click here to view more Time Based Art photos by Serena Davidson

Brad Adkins: Photography by Serena Davidson

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I caught up with Brad Adkins and his entourage at Jamison Square Park. They crossed the park and sat at a bench all crowded in together. If I understood correctly they were all trying to achieve the same view of the park. I couldn’t hear everything Brad was saying, but they all started recreating noises that were related to what they were looking at across the square. Not completely sure what they were trying to achieve or what else this excursion might bring them to I simply snapped a handful of photos before I had to head out to my previous engagement. I plan on catching up with Brad over the weekend to experience his art myself.
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Jangling keys
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Mimicing footsteps with flip flops alternately hitting the bench armrest
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When I left this is how they looked. Perhaps Scott Smith, Mark Russell, Brad Adkins, or Kristan Kennedy will run into me and I’ll have a chance to ask what it is they were doing and how they liked it.
Click here to view more Time Based Art photos by Serena Davidson

Leftover Stories to Tell: better than Michael Bolton, Inside Herman’s Head

Leftover Stories to Tell was simultaneously moving and hilarious, a pretty amazing feat for any performance and an especially impressive accomplishment for a live set of “covers” of an iconic storyteller’s works. Initially suspicious (especially when the performers began uncovering the set to the tune of a blaring Spice Girls song), I was quickly won over by the five different speakers channeling the late great monologuist. An endearing photo of Gray mid-rant included in the the accompanying literature provided a visual reference for his appearance. I found myself imagining this Gray living out the stories that the Gray surrogates on stage were telling without any sense of disorientation. As four men and one woman took turns reciting from both his published and unpublished works, each took on an aspect of Gray’s personality in a conceit that, though oddly similar to short-lived early 90′s sitcom, Inside Herman’s Head, was enacted with far greater nuance here. While Herman’s personality was neatly divided into Lust, Sensitivity, Anxiety and Intellect, Gray’s was divvied up into less definable but still discernible categories. Calvin Johnson was the embodiment of Gray’s youthful lust and restlessness, fidgeting, gesticulating and putting his feet on the furniture. One man was a sort of everyman Gray fading into the background physically and allowing the story to come forward without leaving a much of a visual impression. A darkly handsome, vaguely European man covered Gray’s more somber and eventually suicidal thoughts. Visually, gesturally and vocally, Hazelle Goodman was emphatically herself–an elegant, commanding, black woman–while still believably conjuring up Gray’s ghost. When Kenny Mellman stepped in briefly to discuss Gray’s adventures in show business, he reminded me the self-conscious charm of David Sedaris, one of the few memoirists who comes close to Gray’s skillful blend of humor and profundity. He also reminded of a less than satisfactory “cover” of Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries I’d seen performed last Christmas, which left me wishing i’d just stayed home and listened to Sedaris himself on tape. While that performance was like Michael Bolton’s cover of the Beatles song “Yesterday,” revealing both the flawed writing and skilled delivery of the song’s authors, Leftover Stories to Tell was more like Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” adding new dimensions while honoring the song’s original creator.
Jessica Bromer

Enlisting in Nature Theatre!

Sign Up Today!
Posted by Anna Simon
I’ve been hearing a lot of musings on Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, which is terrific because I can keep thinking about their Wednesday performance and ruminating on what it’s about. I was walking down the street the other day and passed a bearded young man not unlike one of the performers, his arms akimbo, standing and waiting at the bus stop. It looked exactly like part of the performance I’d seen. In fact, his stance and casual attitude exactly matched that performer when he first walked before the audience. It was not a stage entrance, it was completely normal. “He’s not acting,” I thought. “Or is he acting at not acting? No, he’s definitely being normal.” My point is that the man at the bus stop and the performer were indistinguishable.
It seems Nature Theatre is all around us, as the name suggests. Their “dance” is derived from the vocabulary of everyday gesture, both facial and gestural—smirking, disappointment, discomfort, desire. This is the stuff of everyday. NT both elevates these movements and emotions by focusing them into a performance but also deconstructs the theatrical experience by placing the audience on stage, directly engaging them through eye contact and gesture and losing the theatrical attitude. If the audience is on stage, NT seems to be asking, then who is performing for who? This life stuff, this is and isn’t a performance.
There is no narrative in the show beyond momentary beats of interaction between the four performers. Their intentions and postures continually change like someone flipping rapidly through 200 channels of cable. All our attention is focused on these strange interactions which become increasingly complex. There is no movement too small, no eye roll too trivial—all is part of the performance. This results in deceptively simple choreography that blossoms into full-fledged bogie dancing, still from this everyday vocabulary. At times the stage resembled an amateur floor show or a work-out video whose dancers are all-inclusive for varying levels. I’ve participated in both. I think I want to join their troupe. Or at least go dancing more.

Simpatica Catering: Photography by Serena Davidson

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Anonymous blogger looking cute while mid cob
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This berry lemonade is so good I’ve been drinking it each night I am at The Works. (very good at counteracting the fog machine)
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A humble cafeteria style presentation
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Highly recommended: Main Entree – cheese ravioli with a delectable fennel sausage. (I’m going back for more)

Click here to view more Time Based Art photos by Serena Davidson

COME TOGETHER: Looking at War Up Close

Ever since I saw “The Itching of the Wings” and its reference to the story of Icarus, I’ve had in mind the W.H. Auden poem which features the story of Icarus falling from the sky (About suffering they were never wrong/The Old Masters; how well, they understood /Its human position; how it takes place /While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…). The poem describes Icarus’ disastrous fall from the sky while meanwhile life goes on, a ship sails calmly by, the farmer in the field keeps farming, etc. I make a cheese sandwich while outside a pedestrian is struck and killed by a car, and so on.
I thought of this on Sunday after I visited The American War, Harrell Fletcher’s exhibit at Corberry Press, and then went to a series of talks by people whose lives have been directly impacted by the Vietnam war. It was a gorgeous, sunny, day and while I listened to veterans and nurses and family members of vets talk about the war, I could see people in the distance gliding by on roller blades. Cars drove by with the windows down, people in tank tops drinking iced coffees. A man in the parking lot did figure 8s and slow graceful circles on a segue scooter. Meanwhile the speakers stood one after another and testified to the violence and terribleness they’d witnessed in Vietnam, or the damage they’d seen family and friends sustain from being there. Robert Goss served from 1967-1970, and he talked about seeing heads blown off (both friends and enemies) and how he’s never had a “straight job” since. Dan Shea suffered from exposure to Agent Orange, and his firstborn son had a series of birth defects that eventually led to his death at age 3. Other speakers had equally heavy stories. Harrell Fletcher says that even though he’d been very antiwar to begin with, visiting the museum in Vietnam helped clarify the details of that war, and compelled him to somehow share what he’d learned with others. As I listened to the speakers describe their experiences, and how their lives had been impacted, I couldn’t help but think about the current war in Iraq, and how there will be a whole new generation of physically and psychologically damaged veterans to take the place of Vietnam vets. It’s harder than ever to get real information about what’s going on with the current war, (hidden civilian death counts, for instance, plus the moratorium on media showing caskets of U.S. soldiers, etc.) and even harder to really register the fact that our country is at war. So it occurs to me that when we are afforded a look at war up close, it’s an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up. The photos in Fletcher’s are raw and gruesome to look at, but they’re there. Go have a look if you can.
The American War exhibit: Corberry Press, Building A.
September 7-17, daily: 12-6 p.m.
September 20-October 7, Wed-Sat. 12-6 p.m.

Ten Tiny Dances… (with photos)

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photo credit: Serena Davidson Photography
… and ten tiny reasons to not go to sleep. Not to mention ten tiny cups of coffee superglued to my chin.
I think this was my favorite night at the Works so far, despite (or perhaps because of) cold rain that forced the audience to snuggle up inside. This is the first time I have ever seen Ten Tiny Dances, and this is probably common knowledge to everyone who’s seen it before, but it is a brilliant concept. The constraints of the tiny stage force everyone to take it up a notch— a performance that might otherwise be mediocre becomes intriguing, and what is already masterful becomes a taut burst of wonder. The best dances last night used the tiny stage to its fullest, in turns sly, provocative, thoughtful and ridiculous. The worst I can say about any of the performances is that they did not take full advantage of the stage, or were simply static dances—but you can’t complain about a concept that means even something boring only lasts a few minutes. The best, in my opinion: Juliet Waller Prusan and Wade Mansen as corporate castaways on a life raft; Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s sublime sex-robot dance-off; Julie Atlas Muz & James Tigger Ferguson in sparkles and body paint, toying with patriotic symbols (literally); and my favorite: Angelle Hebert & Philip Kraft’s as-yet-untitled piece, which culminated in an ax man chopping the tiny stage to bits, forcing Carla Mann’s strange twittering sex-crazed character into an ever-smaller space to perform a truly tiny dance. It was grotesque, gleeful, brutal and clever, and I’m glad I stayed until the very end to see it, even though I was (and am) utterly exhausted. Damn you, TBA! Why can’t you let me sleep?!
- Faith Helma
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photo credit: Serena Davidson Photography
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photo credit: Serena Davidson Photography
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photo credit: Serena Davidson Photography
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photo credit: Serena Davidson Photography
click here to view more TBA photography by Serena Davidson

Nature Theater of Oklahoma

Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Poetics: a ballet brut
“Everything is divisible by six,” Pavol Liska explained today in the noontime chat: Spectacle of the Everyday. And with that, I immediately understood why I couldn’t quite get my mind around what was so damn delightful about Wednesday night’s performance of Poetics: a ballet brut by the Nature Theater of Oklahoma.
I was delighted by so many moments, connected to it on many levels, and went to bed last night struggling with it—trying to put my ideas into nice little boxes. This box is how the use of space helps communicate something about the role of the audience. This box is for how their vocabulary of gestures points to the absurdity of our social conventions. A box for their spatial relationships, communicating how individuals desire both collective and isolated experiences. A pop culture commentary box to put their music, t-shirts, sneakers, Gatorade, and rolling office chairs. Visually sparse, with repetitive action and no traditional story line to follow it was easy to take note of these details and choices.
The more I thought about these boxes, though, the further away from the piece I felt. In the end, what really gripped me as I watched was a heightened awareness of being in a theater, in the presence of other people, while also being less aware that I was watching a performance. That sensation didn’t fit in any of my boxes. But, I still couldn’t pinpoint their agenda. For such an uncomplicated piece, this bothered me.
At the chat, Liska explained their early development process. He rolled dice to determine the length of scenes. He broke the stage into a grid. He used dice to determine how many times each performer would move during each scene. Since there would be 4 performers, he used a dreidel to determine which performers would appear in each scene. This initial script, pages and pages of numbers based in chance operations, provided an unemotional base on which to build the piece. Dice! A dreidel! Duh!
There I was, looking too hard for the philosophy. I was determined to find a political message, a worldview, something, anything, for the piece to be about. After hearing Liska and his company talk, I realized that this piece is ultimately about the process of creating this piece. It is about performance, both intentional performance on a stage and the performance inherent in our everyday activities. It is about this specific group of people reassessing their own poetics. The audience is not manipulated. There are no illusions or realism to believe. Poetics is more concerned with real life. The act of sitting in a theater is real life. The act of dancing in front of others is real life.
Kelly Cooper, Liska’s partner and co-director spoke to this, describing Nature Theater’s mission to get away from the psychological character. No matter how skilled an actor or how convincing a performance, you’re always aware of the actor playing the character. “It always seems so fake,” Cooper said.
“Ahhh,” said the audience.
Cooper continued, “We found ourselves enjoying being in the same room with them (the performers), enjoying them as human beings. We wanted to see their faces, wanted them to look at us.”
Building from their responses to numbers and chance sequences, the company successfully constructed an elaborate dance out of ordinary experiences. Standing. Waiting. Sleeping. Watching. Being watched. Michael Jackson. Poetics is not about the refined technique, convincing acting, or complicated story that drives our more familiar theatrical experiences. Poetics is about rediscovering why theater is of any interest at all: people in front of other people using what is familiar around us to communicate a message, to amuse. It is not so much what is being communicated that matters. Rather, what matters is presenting the desire and urgency of communicating.
The audience, seated on stage facing an empty house, is given an unfamiliar perspective of the theater space, and the performance extends into unexpected corners. The audience is forced to notice rather than escape the confines of the building. It is as if Nature Theater of Oklahoma treats the theater as an alternative performance space. Poetics asks the audience to notice and redefine their relationship to the action. In developing this piece, Liska and Cooper challenge the definition and role of the director, the actor, and the audience as well.
The result is a performance of honest, compelling, shared humanity. It is silly, and it is fun. Though humor is at the heart of every scene, Poetics never defaults to easy laughs or pure spectacle. Each element—from the gesture, to the use of space, to the methodology—is unexpected yet in careful service to the piece as a whole. Poetics is not made compelling by dramatic structure or emotionally manipulative elements. Poetics is compelling because it finds the spectacle, the juice in our everyday life—moving through space, looking at each other, being looked at, and noticing how multiple bodies in a room effect each other.
posted by Kirsten Collins

T:BA:07

Today was a great day for T:BA!
Thank you PICA!!!
Jennifer Monson / iLand at Disjecta was wonderful. Their sense of space, improvisation, use of non-traditional materials was of the milieu that I have come to expect and greatly appreciate in contemporary dance. If you have seen some of Monster Squad / Marty Schnapf’s work, and enjoy their visceral and technical form of dance, they you will certainly love Monson. I am thrilled to see another excellent dance troupe coming from Barbara Bryan, I am ecstatic to see Disjecta becoming a mature venue, and I would recommend checking it out!
The funny thing was, that as I watched these four talented and trained dancers, I was reflecting back to Oklahoma that other night.
It cannot escape me.
Everyone keeps coming up to me and saying how much they loved it, and what are my thoughts… OK, so I can now say that I “appreciate” Oklahoma, only in that they did inspire humor and the audience seems to love them. I, on the other hand, find their acting to be a mockery of the very essence of T:BA. Perhaps this is the very reason they were commissioned to be part of the line-up? A sense of humor? A sense that there is art in the everyday and in each of us. Sorry, but I just do not agree. I would gladly get a beer with the four of them, but I would not toss any ticket dollars at them in this type of venue.
Next was on to the Newmark to see Spalding Gray, or should I say a homage to the talented narrative of a past writer. To hear his words on the radio is/was amazing. But, to see a few folks reading his words from loose-leaf binders again made me wonder about the dedication of intent that continues to manifest in this year’s T:BA.
Luckily, the night was revived by Ten Tiny Dances [12] at the Works.
A few of Marty Schnapf’s crew were in excellent form, as was Angelle Hebert + Phillip Kraft. Oh, and I only wish to someday see their Tango on a larger stage then 4×4… Roarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Thank you Argentina!
Luckily for us Portlanders, Angelle and Phillip have landed here [for now] and have been creating amazing works ever since. If you did not go to see beNUMBed last April, then I would keep you ear out for their next performance!
Fredrick Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
http://www.fhzal.com
beNUMBed

Brad Adkins Shows Up

Posted by Anna Simon
Today the rain threw everything a little off. Brad got wet on his way to the daily 2pm oh yeah ok (which is what he says all the time) and asked his audience of eight to think of activities. Which some of them did and most of us didn’t, resulting in an uncomfortable blank-slate workshop feeling. Brad can pull off an awkward situation; he’s been doing it for years. I write this affectionately. It’s a skill, and he gets paid a lot. It only looks easy.
My almanac says today’s bad ideas will be tomorrow’s art. Show up and see.

Johanna Billing: I Don’t Love You Yet

Posted by Anna Simon
I kept waiting for something to happen while watching Johanna Billing’s four short films, which are brief in real time but tedious in theater time. How many of us have hung on a little longer to see if something’s worthwhile, to have their patience rewarded with a pay-off? Billing offers no such relief because the significance of her work is derived from repetition. Her silent characters move (or don’t) closely to each other without any connection but with mildly bored poker faces. They are waiting in a room for something to happen or are meticulously packing up a Swedish apartment. They’re young, expectant and isolated. They have beautiful hair and bone structure.
Yes, there is a melancholy that pervades these films, a modern, sparse quality that is not particularly hopeful. How sad to silently and efficiently pack up boxes with others, putting away sheets and rolling up glasses in paper but never acknowledging the person beside you. Is this a metaphor? Is Billing commenting on the break-down of communication within contemporary society? The first short conveys this the best, showing an increasingly larger group of twenty-somethings singing and playing instruments in a recording studio. The song is kind of awful (being Swedish pop) but the refrain is alright, you don’t love me yet. I imagine all these sad-looking young people must want to go out and love each other, take someone’s hand, make eye contact even. But in a recording studio all components must be separate to produce a harmonic whole. Even singers standing shoulder to shoulder have ear phones on. It’s lonely out there, good hair or not.
Seeing this movie alone further impressed the sentiment of isolation. Funny feeling for a festival that is constantly bringing people together in new combinations. When I left the theater a prelude of autumn rain was pouring. I walked to the bus stop and joined a few other people. We stood silently and no one looked at one another. A bit too Billing. Hadn’t I left the theater early because I knew there was no reward?
Films screened at the Whitsell Auditorium Sat, Sept. 9 and Thursday, Sept. 14. Magical World, a separate installation, is on view at Corberry Press. I have not seen it yet.

TBA Confidential Vol. 3 (shhhhhh…)

secrets collected from the works 9.13.06
I have a big ol crush on Jessica Burton.
I pluck out my boogers and eat them all the time while you’re around but not looking.
If I wasn’t such a passive fag, I’d smack Byron Beck.
I love eyeliner and mascara.
I plagiarized my high school term paper- the one that responsible for graduation.
I tell my parents I have a higher position at work.
EVEILEB ot EVAH uoY
My underwear is brown on the front and red on the back.
I just farted [ #2 ]
Never soar just rise above!
Had a three way in a pota-potty in Ireland with two 17 yr olds and didn’t tell my girlfriend. It was awesome by the way.
My first crush in Portland was Erin Boberg.
I [ had oral sex with ] my 6th grade locker partner. We were 12 and we were not gay. It was nice
I [ had oral sex with a man ]. I didn’t like it.
I like to masturbate while driving the company car.
I would like to watch. ^
Me too. ^
[ a drawing of an i-pod clicky control thing ]
[ a long story about going into a sex shop which I cannot post in it’s entirety. Suffice it to say, it is seedy, kinda gross and ends with samba music and a sunset.]
I chased someone away.
I love you.
posted and compiled by P.A. Coleman
a short note on the secrets posts: These are secrets given to me, willingly, by people at the works. They are written down in a notebook and are not reviewed or compiled until the morning after, at which point they are ordered for a dynamic read and posted.

The Works

Great job on this year’s Works PICA! It is a great improvement to last year’s space. The performance area is larger and more accommodating. The industrial location fits great with TBA aesthetic. It is also more accommodating to varying weather conditions that we all know can be tentative this time of year. Of coarse nothing beats Machine Works of before, but at least it doesn’t feel like we might get a noise complaint at any moment.
Posted by Gavin Shettler
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photo credit: Serena Davidson

Where the hell have you been all my life?

When the James Brown kicked in and the office chairs became part of the dance, I had a sensation of deja vu that I wasn’t able to shake until the curtain call. What was it about Nature Theatre of Oklahoma that resonated so much with me? Why can’t I get this dumb grin off my face?
Later, I came to a realization: I had just watched my private dance party daydreams made flesh before my very eyes. The performers of N.T.O. were doing exactly what the me inside my head does all the time- while I stand in line at the bank, sit in a coffee shop or write this very post. That crazy bastard is dancing his ass off with great abandon, spreading love and beauty among his fellows. But only in my head. The real me is just kind of hanging around, dumbly humming “Dancing Queen,” or as Young MC might say, “Standin on the wall like you was Poindexter.”
Every day I want to bust a move. Had I known that so many of the movements I make as I go through my daily habits (standing, sleeping, sitting) could be part of a ballet, Brut or no, I would have been busting that move way more often.
These are my people. I have developed an affinity for this group of performers. I have found in them something of myself. The connection has struck deep. They read my mind. I swear. I was almost creepy at times. I’d be thinking: “This is great- but it would be awesome if blah blah blah…” and, WHAMO, blah blah blah would happen.
I don’t want to say too much about the performance, Poetics: A Ballet Brut, because surprise is a very important aspect of the show. What I can say is that I have never seen a theatre used so completely, that I have never seen group of performers having a better time than Nature Theatre of Oklahoma and that I have never been flashed by so many people in my life. Wait… forget I said that last part.
Just go. Okay? I’ll be over here, busting a move.
posted by P.A. Coleman

Jollyship the Wizbang at Someday

The Jollyship puppet show set sail to a packed house at the new Someday Lounge Tuesday night. A fun, dark performance of pirate puppets at sea was the 5th in a sequence of a larger, on going epic. And it felt that way. It was like coming in on the tail end of a long joke. I was excited to see the group…a friend before the performance told me of seeing them before and how over the top raunchy their puppet shows were. I felt like this Jollyship was a bit on the tame side. I think my seat partner summed it up, “the more drinks in you, the better the performance was.” I missed their show at The Works, but I imagined that, with a more raucous crowd, the better the Jollyship sailed.
Posted by Gavin Shettler

ITS AGAINST THE LAW TO REQUEST THE ASSASSINATION OF THE PRESIDENT FROM THE STAGE.

I have to admit – I didnt know how the phenomenon that is Kiki and Herb could inspire me. It wasnt that I questioned whether there was talent to witness or good times to be had – but somehow, quietly – I had doubts that my heart could be rocked. Im such an asshole. Kiki and Herb reached so far into my heart and rattled the fuck out of it. . .every doubt vanished – replaced by amazement. And love. And huge laughter. Nothing taken for granted and nothing short of awe inspiring. It was transcendant in a very gorgeous yet very broken- Sally Bowles kind of way. The tipsy ballance between brilliance, disaster and delusionment has rarely been played with such seamless understanding of character. Its a surprise I wasnt in tears at the finale.
Writing from a coffee shop in Idaho.
Sincerely, Storm Tharp

But it would have been nice if someone had at least asked if I needed a hand …

I love it when an artist’s ideas stick with you long after you’ve seen a piece. Sometime later, whether a week or a year has passed, those ideas can flood back to you in a rush of connections that your brain suddenly completes. It is one of the exhilarating “Ah ha!” moments of enjoying contemporary art.
Last Saturday, I had attended the noontime-chat at PNCA on “The View from France” with Vivarium Studio and David Eckard. Both artists said some interesting things – Philippe Quesne about artistic funding in France, Eckard about the unique problems of Float- but, for the most part, I was feeling bitter that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to The Itching of Wings and wasn’t much in the mood for a chat.
So here I am a few days later, crossing downtown in my job as an art handler at a local gallery. In front of me, I am struggling to cart a gigantic crate – easily three times my size and weight – uphill on 11th. Despite my obvious effort, I can’t even solicit a knowing or sympathetic nod from a single passerby! As I am wheezing my way to the client, I am reminded of Eckard’s words, and of his TBA 04 performance, Podium
In the course of Saturday’s chat, the group got to discussing audience and venues. It was then that Eckard made a comment along the lines of (and bear with me as I paraphrase), “I always tell my students, ‘You could dismantle the city of Portland in the middle of the day as long as you had a uniform and a focused look.” Eckard’s point was that through his art practice, he has come to see that people will let you get away with all manners of bizarre behavior so long as you look confident. Even more important, it seems, than your demeanor, is if you have an object that corroborates your story. Eckard remembered rarely having been interrupted during Podium when he was wheeling his metal soapbox across town to his next locale. The contraption vaguely resembled a tool that someone could, conceivably, use for some sort of official business, thereby providing a front of credibility to Eckard’s action. In the eyes of bystanders, Eckard filled some purpose, even if they didn’t know what it was.
So too did I, laboring to deliver my cargo across town. I felt like I should have parked my hand-truck on a street corner, mounted my box, and delivered an oration, doing Eckard proud. Or, at the very least, I should have removed a part of the city as people went about their business.
posted by patrick leonard

Caught in Candy: Fatal Flaws, The Works, Sept 12th

During the interlude between Sissyboy and Caught in Candy, I tried to make new friends because few of my PICA friends were present, and this was a new crowd which I wanted to engage in. I asked the guy next to me, whose shirt read “putting the cunt back in country” what it meant, and we had a conversation about the cost of vaginoplasty. Then, I saw a guy with a hat and an index card stuck in it reading PRESS, so I asked, “Oh, are you press corp? Me too! I love the PRESS hat!” He chuckled at me and said something like, “um, yeah.” Then I saw him standing with two others in the same outfit. When Caught in Candy entered like rockstars, pushing us audience members to the side, I saw the faux-PRESS swarm the stage with flashes. I’d been duped.
Caught in Candy had a fun and campy storyline of the two stars history together. We saw the rise and fall of their careers through a series of 1930ish black and white videos. Most exciting were the trials of Cabiria, the large and buxom countess with killer outfits. She sported giant bejeweled buckles, winged tops, and dresses with feathers protruding from wires, and she strutted around stage belting out fantastic, dark burlesque tunes.
The drag queen next to me, all decked out in an Elizabethan gown and towering white wig–an ensemble I think I remember seeing in the audience at last year’s performance at Mary’s by Meow Meow and Thomas Lauderdale–was waving a Chinese fan which, in the congested air of The Works, was glorious. “That fan feels great” I quipped, “the air is coming over your shoulder and it’s saving me!” She managed a smile, but didn’t look like she wanted anything to do with me and walked away. Though I spent the night imagining how fun it would be to dress in drag, I just couldn’t manage to chat up anyone in the audience.
In that night of gender bending-to-the-breaking-point, I felt more like a gender boomerang—a girl who wants to be a boy just to be a girl. It looks like fun (champagne!), but I went home feeling left out. I’m a little bit of a princess, but in the end I’m just no queen.
–Carissa Wodehouse
Freelance writer, enthusiast

Sissyboy: Gender Terrorist Revolution, The Works Sept 12

Sissyboy at The Works let the crowd know that tonight would be a wild ride—this night, we were told, was “a gender terrorist revolution.” The opening video was a hilarious montage of five or so Sissyboys, dressed in wigs, miniskirts, and heels, bopping unsuspecting commuters on the head in trans-fairy godmother style, complete with comic book starbursts that read “Fab!” and “Loofah!” which changed the drab—poof!–into more fabulous counterparts. “Tranny pie!” read one graphic as they all piled on someone in front of Pioneer Place. This was a city wide attack, ending with the feather boa-ing of the umbrella man in Pioneer Square.
The girls had a hilarious mix of stage and video, including some hot stage fighting in only short shorts and heels that devolved into bitch slapping. One delivered their manifesto to the cheers of the crowd: “The gender revolution has begun, champagne!” she cried, garnering hoots and whoops from the gay, tranny, and straight (in those percentages, I think) crowd. “We’re here to bend gender roles until they break! It’s time to make way for whatever the fuck we want!”
Whatever the fuck they want turned out to be increasingly political, with the main premise being turning Laura Bush trans through “an acid gender re-programming trip.” There were funny moments and cringe moments. There was the dance number by two of the girls in burkas, singing a Jihad version of the song “We Like the Cars That Go Boom.” This song included the cheeky line “the streetcar is fucking stupid, it don’t get you too far, so plant 3 [bombs] in there.” This progressed into a rendition of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene acted out between a muslim Rashashan and her Cap-Jew-let love in camo and a soldier’s helmet. Later, a video played reenacting the Sept 11th attacks with a model United Airlines plane hitting Jenka-made towers. During this Laura and a Saudi princess began singing “It’s Raining Men” while body parts rained onto the stage. They stripped down, rolled in the carnage, and played air guitar on leg. Cringe.
Political satire and drag do seem to go well together, and bending gender and mocking cultural icons makes sense if the goal of the humorous deconstruction is to understand why icons, events, and terminology hold such power over us. Well aimed humor (in videos, lounge acts, etc.) undermines the authority and weight of these things, and lets us examine them anew. Kiki and Herb likewise made jabs at Catholics, the President, and other social institutions, but with Sissyboy, I didn’t feel the constructive wit in the criticism. If the performers’ message is fuck it, then what does the audience gain? They did put on an amped performance, and when the girls took a bow and asked, “are you a fucking sissy?!” the crowd whooped and hooted and in response.
–Carissa Wodehouse
Freelance writer, enthusiast