The Grass Is Always Greener On the Beckett Side

Gare St. Lazare Players: FIRST LOVE
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
PROLOGUE: Tall Matt Haynes sits in his study, fighting off sleepiness, pushing himself to finish this blog entry so he can take tomorrow completely off. He needs to write about a Beckett piece he just saw. He doesn’t like Beckett. He didn’t really have a good time. Yet he can’t in good conscience say that Beckett is baloney nor that this was an ineffective production. If he’s going to finish this blog at a reasonable hour, Tall Matt Haynes is going to need some help. He thus turns to a master for council on his experience watching FIRST LOVE by Samuel Beckett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett and starring Connor Lovett.


Don’t you know it’s gonna be/ All right?

Dayna Hanson/Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Jim Withington
The news section on Hanson’s website describes Gloria’s cause as “a dance-driven rock musical,” and I suppose it was that. It was also hilarious and spot-on at parts, utterly confusing at others, definitely more a “TBA thing” than a rock musical, and ultimately a work with a sometimes obscured message.


Cédric Andrieux: The Genius of Doing Nothing

Jerôme Bel’s Cédric Andrieux
Posted by: John Wilmot
It’s so much more difficult to discuss something good. Train wrecks are easy and fun to describe. But trying to effectively communicate what makes something great is fraught with pitfalls and frustration. Oh, the temptation to use lots of exclamation points!!!
That is precisely my dilemma after watching Cédric Andrieux. Nothing much happened. There was no set design to speak of. During most of the one-man show, the eponymous Cédric Andrieux stood stock still in one spot and did little more than speak quietly in a French-accented monotone. Yet I will certainly remember his performance as one of my very favorites.
But why?


Bring Us Beckett

Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland
First Love
Bodyvox Dance Center
Friday, September 10, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

A Beckett fan since Waiting For Godot popped my pre-adolescent brain into a different gear, I was eager to view Conor Lovett’s acclaimed interpretation of First Love, a heavy, heady piece indeed. Walking a quite treacherous line preposterously balanced over a river of dark humor, complete emotional emptiness, and the usual pain and suffering caused only by love (and/or the inability to love), Beckett’s story tugs and pulls in haunted directions. Given that hoping-to-forget set up, it’s actually quite remarkable how long this particular story lingers inside the head and the heart.
Lovett’s performance Friday night was remarkable, too. His facial expressions and postures perplexed our audience exactly as he was perplexed by what he was actually saying out loud, thoughts finally outside his brain, as he pieced together a few significant events of a perhaps insignificant life for both audience and orator to mull over. Lovett’s narrative was paced and profound, his delivery poised yet raw. The methodical way in which critical elements of his lonely tale unfolded before us was careful and intriguing. What fascinated me most is that Lovett appeared to be just as surprised about his declarations as he guessed we might be, as well.
Beckett considered his “important work” stories such as First Love, not the “trivial” plays like Godot. I left First Love feeling real despair about a life (the one just shared with us–mine’s not there quite yet)–but also primed to see more from Lovett and Beckett, both contagious forces compelled to serve up intense slices of humanity.

Three Rooms and A Surprise Ending

Ronnie Bass, Charles Atlas and the “Fabric Room”
Posted By: Tall Matt Haynes
lounge fringe
PROLOGUE: Tall Matt Haynes is back at The Works on Sunday, 9/12 10:20pm. The atmosphere is subdued; energy and attendance are down from Thursday night. Tall Matt Haynes is fairly certain that this will be a short night in which he’ll blog about a few more exhibits and go home bored but in bed and sleeping by midnight. He has no idea what revelations await him, especially (EXHIBIT) 3. He won’t end up going to bed until 2:00am and will spend most of the following morning talking any innocent bystander’s ears off about the night.
RONNIE BASS: “2012″ and “The Astronomer Part 1: Departure From Shed.”

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I settle into the room and enjoy the soothing music and steady editing of Ronnie Bass's two conceptual music videos (wait, is it redundant to call a music video "conceptual?"). Both videos juxtapose home science projects with Ronnie Bass chanting call-&-response lullabies about how it's okay to step into the new age of somethingorother.
Spectators drifted into the gallery room, many soon to start snickering and leave… I think it's something to do with the robotic rhythms and Bass's poker-faced delivery juxtaposed with the melodrama of his lyrics and chord progressions. Well, Funny, intentional or not, is better than Boring and that music is real purdy.
A restless thought is planted: This exhibit is another video loop but has no accompanying video loops nearby and no sculptures in the room or visible alterations to the space. What makes this any more of an exhibit than looking it up on youtube? I mean, yeah it's theoretically smaller on youtube but hang on there, nuh-uh, cause like, yeah, you never know, I could have a big ol' monitor projector at home, right, right? I mean I don't, and I don't know for sure this is on Youtube (next day note: most of it is) but stiiiiiiiiillll.
This restless thought will take happy root with EXHIBIT 2 and sprout into a whole new beast on (EXHIBIT) 3.
CHARLES ATLAS: “Tornado Warning”

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I like this one a lot. Two rooms… the back room has three walls: A wall/floor projection of a rotating black spiral on white, a wall/scrim projection of different household items spinning lazily in midair, and a wall projection of radiating ripples over images of pop-culture junk. Two or so maverick spirals dart around various points in the room. I'm not super crazy about the back room but it IS unpredictable, immersive and invites play.
The front room, though, ah man, what a beautiful piece of work. On a wall/floor projection we see a single white line cell-dividing into a rising panic of boxes, numbers, 2/D, 3/D, containment and chaos. My description probably makes this sound as about as exciting as… (Tall Matt Haynes pauses for 3 minutes trying think of something clever and fails) well, something not very exciting. But give this one a try, anyway: It's tense, easy to follow, hard to nail down and makes great use of space and time. This be the stuff, I thought. But the night wasn't over…
“The Fabric Room”

lounge fringe
Get this: One of the most celebrated installations at the Highschool isn’t even in the TBA catalog.
In the “Fabric Room,” there are four walls curtained by a color progression of long thin fabric strips. The floor is wall to wall cream colored fabric with foam rubber stuffed fabrics lined with shreds (basically mutant pillows). I’ve visited this room three times on two different nights now and each time there are people sculpting the pillows, hiding themselves in color-matching wall shreds, flopping and cuddling on floor, taking pictures and finally trying to find out what the hell this installation is officially called so they can get more info on it.
But as I said, it’s not in the catalog. There isn’t even a sign on the door (at least not that I’ve ever seen). After asking several people what this was (the answer was usually to the tune of “I don’t know, but it’s AWESOME”) I finally found a knowledgeable source who disclosed: It’s not an installation or an exhibit…
“It’s the Under-21 Lounge.” She tells me.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
You’re telling me that this isn’t an “explorationofcontradictoryetc” but just an idea for a nicely decorated room for the kids?
But it’s a hit! Everyone’s talking about it.
“Oh that’s so wonderful. The volunteers will be delighted to hear that.”
My mind races.
I immediately re-seek the room, dive into a cushy corner and blog.
Well, Tall Matt Haynes, what’s on your mind? This: In the world of Art, there are so many potential stalemates between the sophisticated insider and the bewildered outsider. I’ve read a few of the artist interviews in the catalogue and the interviewer always seems to ask questions about the artist’s relationship with his/her ideas rather than about the art’s relationship with its audiences.
I wish they’d start off with these questions: If I were an outsider to your work and to the genre, why should this still engage me? And why, once it engages, should it not be easily let go of or forgotten?
‘Cause, dig: With the simple but dynamic decoration combo that is the “Fabric Room” we have something that surprises, provokes play and offers new perspectives on color, texture, size and contrast. Most people (at least Portlanders from what I can tell) haven’t been to a room like this and are talking about it once they leave. My praise isn’t intended to discount the (presumably) deeper levels of thought, prep, work and experience that go into all the other exhibits. But, but…
Alright, your turn, readers. If you’ve visited the “Fabric Room”, tell me:
-Were you able to recognize, on your own, what made this separate from the Real Exhibits?
-What were the key differences to you?

From symphony to skate punk, T:BA:10 makes a grand entrance

Oregon Symphony + Rufus + Japanther + Shadow Puppets = My Kinda Night
Opening Night Antics
Schnitzer Auditorium and THE WORKS
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

The power and joy that is PICA’s T:BA festival partially rests in the range of its offerings-and opening night antics last Thursday proved no different. For this festival reveler, it doesn’t get much better than seeing Carlos Kalmar in action (from a prime vantage point at the Schnitz) leading the Oregon Symphony through a program of opera, Gershwin, and McGarrigle (courtesy of Rufus W, and with support from a few of our local celebrity darlings) and then hightailing it to THE WORKS for a pulsating/pounding Japanther show complete with shadow puppetry and a small mosh pit. A few of my favorite things indeed.
The Oregon Symphony presented excerpts from Rufus Wainwright’s first opera Prima Donna, an inspired love and loss drama featuring soprano Janis Kelly (though it was the unknown maid who sang Act II, Scene 1/ Dans mon pays de Picardie who really got me going). The opera rolled along pleasantly with emotional dips, spins, and turns. Rufus does it again, and with Kalmar and his crew, Prima Donna was indeed a delight.
The eclectic mix found in the second portion of this show offered up usual Rufus gems like my Judy G. fave Do It Again. (Please. Do.) and Cohen’s Hallelujah. Classical surprises included two Berlioz pieces. Including local luminaries Thomas Lauderdale and Storm Large for a couple of ending numbers forced the event to gala status, which felt a bit goofy for a moment, but proved to be exactly the right thing to do.
And, then, merely minutes later across the river at THE WORKS, the crowd queuing up to get into the free Japanther show created a totally different energy. This buzz, quite different from the downtown scene at the Schnitz, was revving up to a higher pitch. A packed house. Lots of teens. Many west side stragglers. An edgier vibe. All waiting for some action. On the stage. Now. When it finally began, people moved, jumped, wiggled. We just couldn’t help ourselves. This high-energy band offered its best-a best that included great beats, a special blend of humor/aggro, and whimsical shadow puppets traversing the paper ‘screen’ in front of the band. While we caught glimpses of the actual musicians, to me they felt removed from the performance in a strange way. I would have liked the screen and projections to happen behind the band so we could see them pounding away, too. I surely would have danced more with that kind of arrangement.
Oh, what a night! The diversity of performers and pieces set the tone, and certainly bodes well for the rest of the festival. T:BA:10, bring it.
Rufus Wainwright and Oregon Symphony

obsolete interactivity

posted by laura becker
A co-worker very recently asked me a question they admitted was potentially embarrassing: Is the Iraq War over? The purpose for the question was simply semantics; they wanted to know if it was now proper to say we were in two wars in the Middle East, or just one. We tried to parse out an all-encompassing wording, something like “security presence in the region” that was just vague enough for any reader, regardless of how up on their end-of-combat-operations news they were.
I find it tremendously fitting that it is at this moment in time, when Americans are officially allowed to turn the page on the war that we were already unofficially ignoring, that the Wooster Group and EMPAC bring us There Is Still Time…Brother, to shake our memories loose of earlier days of more passionate anti-war sentiment and frustrations.


Assuming Strangers

John Smith – The Girl Chewing Gum
Posted by: Seth Nehil
Like Michael Snow’s Wavelength or Hollis Frampton’s Nostalgia, this 1970′s structuralist film uses a simple framework to create humor, perceptual shifts, and a commentary on the filmic medium itself. We’re in a topsy-turvy world where everything is reversed, as seemingly casual movements of pedestrians are predicted or controlled by an off-screen director. This action creates an atmosphere of literalism – only actions can be named, not motivations.
As a gesture, this is already strange and funny. There’s something hilarious about the way a stranger follows instruction, turning to the right, putting on glasses, or hurrying across the street. Even though we know that Smith’s directorial power is a trick, due only to his review of the footage and previous preparation, we’re still somehow drawn into this demonstration of filmic illusion.
But then, in the midst of a seemingly straightforward system, Smith allows a small imaginative exuberance. The drift from simple directorial power to bizarre omnipotence shows that literalism isn’t always accurate. Buildings are commanded to “move to the right” while characters “stay in the center.” While this statement is obviously absurd, do we not refer to the sun as “rising” and “setting”?
As with Snow and Frampton, the drift is all the more noticeable because of strict parameters which have been previously established. In the midst of structuralist cinema, there is often a wink – a sneaky bit of drama such as Wavelength‘s “murder mystery” or Nostalgia‘s Lovecraftian ending. In The Girl Chewing Gum, we suddenly enter the internal world of an unassuming stranger, in a manner that both creates and solves a mystery.
How many stories surround us in the anonymous streets?

“There Are No Bad Directors”

Lecture, Elizabeth LeCompte of the Wooster Group
Posted By: Julie Hammond
So claimed The Wooster Group’s Liz LeCompte in her Sunday afternoon discussion with Geoff Abbas and Kathleen Forde. This was immediately clarified and limited to pertain to the role of the director/viewer in THERE IS STILL TIME…BROTHER, The Wooster Group’s 360 degree interactive war/anti-war film. I understood what she was saying: the company created the film, a 20 minute loop with a beginning, middle and ending of sorts, that can be watched over and over in a choose-your-own (or experience-someone-else’s) perspective adventure. There are no right or wrong answers, no better part to watch, no uninteresting moments; indeed the tiny connections and actions, setting trees and wind-up babies in place, were some of my favorite moments.


History Lesson Part 3

Dayna Hanson, Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Michael Evans

As Dayna Hanson’s presentation at TBA of her new dance theater piece “Gloria’s Cause” is billed as a “work in progress” it doesn’t seem fair to do a full-on critical review of what is essentially an um, glorified rehearsal.


Acts of Recognition

Jerome Bel – Cedric Andrieux
posted by: Seth Nehil
A man stands alone on a well-lit stage and talks quietly and slowly about his history with dance. In doing so, he gives us both his own story and a small history of modern dance ideas. This is a continuation of Bel’s conception of dance as a demonstration, a lecture, a story, and a bare act of communication. Humanness is primary in this work – a person before us, rather than a dancer. The microphone amplifies every breath, gasp and swallow, and does a lot to create a kind of intimacy with saliva. It stays on during the moments of dance, connecting us with the effort rather than hiding it behind music and elegance. Unhurriedly, Andrieux waits to regain his breath after dancing. Things take as long as they take.
Jerome Bel/ Cedric Andrieux


Daisy St. Gare

Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Washington High School
Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland: First Love
BodyVox Dance Center
posted by: dirtybombpdx
How to reconcile the divergent worlds of Steve Jobs and Samuel Beckett in a single night of theater? It sounded like a good idea when I set out to see Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs then raced across town for Conor Lovett’s performance of Beckett’s First Love. Though there were bits and pieces in both that fleetingly held my interest, in retrospect, sipping on a martini in my backyard would have been preferable to either experience.
First up was Daisey’s Steve Jobs obsession. I’ve seen Daisy a few times now, and although I always laugh out loud at his big rubbery facial expressions and booming voice, I also always find myself irritated by his faux-profundity and lack of editorial zeal. Two hours is too long for material that, if you have any interest in the news of the world, will be far too familiar. The story of Jobs and Apple is not obscure. Other than using my computer for its most basic functionality, I have little interest in the world of computing, yet I still know the story of Steve Jobs and the impact of technology on our society (as I’m sure most people in the audience Saturday night did too). And while I couldn’t have named the city in China, Shenzhen, that produces 50 percent of the electronics the world uses, I was familiar with the scale of production there and had read of the suicides associated with the prison-like conditions of its massive factories. Daisey wants us to be shocked at this information and scolds us for consuming the product yet ignoring the conditions. How is this any different from any sweat-shop produced product that we Americans have been for consuming for 50 odd years now? Daisey even travels to China to interview the workers, yet all we really get from it is that he’s a big fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt who sticks out in a crowd, oh and that some of the workers are as young as 10 years old. Really? Shocking. Isn’t this the same story we’ve heard about Walmart and Nike and on and on going all the way back to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle? So what’s new? What little insight Daisey does give us isn’t terribly original, but his stand-up schtick is funny in the typical stand-up way: most of the laughs are generated, not by wit, but by Chris Farley extremes or tired expletives. Were it an hour-long, I might say it was entertaining, but at 2 hours, it’s a trial.
Next up was Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, in a theatrical interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s short story, First Love. I couldn’t wait to see this production. I love Beckett, but was unfamiliar with this piece. Walking into the BodyVox space and seeing the elegant, haunting set (a large rectangle of blue light and two up-ended wood benches, like spectral witnesses to the proceedings), I felt sure I was in for an amazing night of theater. Lovett walks onstage with no fanfare and begins. His wee frame is accentuated by his Duckie Brown suit and large sturdy shoes that make him appear even more elfin. His bald head glows in the light and his eyes dart furtively around the space. I hold my breath. He speaks – it’s halting and labored. He looks at us and smiles. What do you think? I’m not sure what to think. I wait. He is masterfully controlled. He smiles again. Why is he smiling? Another long pause. More halting, labored explication. I start to lose track of the story. His delivery is so premeditated I can’t tell if it’s a choice or an affectation. The audience is restless, people keep shifting in their seats. The theater is too warm. The woman in front of me has fallen asleep. I try to focus. It’s a bleak story without light and little humanity – none, actually. Lovett pulls one of the benches down, sits on it for a few seconds then stands it back on end – the only time the benches are touched (I liked that). The story isn’t inherently theatrical and was unpublished until 1971. Since Beckett is one of our most gifted and celebrated playwrights, you’d think if he’d intended this as a theater piece, he’d have said as much. Actually, I loved the script, and would have loved much more to sit and read it than to suffer through the tedious hour and a half I spent watching Lovett’s self-love fest. He’s obviously a talented guy and I’m sure when he first started performing this piece it was wonderful. But his current performance is so mannered and knowing that I can imagine it not altering one iota with or without an audience. There is nothing spontaneous or “live” about it. In fact, it seemed as though he was even a little pissed that we, the audience, weren’t all that taken with his “celebrated” performance. I never saw a character on stage, just an actor quite full of himself and completely unwilling to invite us in.

Steve Jobs: The Man, The Mystery, The Legend

Mike Daisy: “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”
Posted By: Emily Stevens
In the “Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Mike Daisy recounts the myth of the most secretive and innovative tech company through the legend of its notorious creator. Don’t worry! Daisy isn’t there to condemn you for your iPhone obsession, he loves the sleek design and elegant functions of Apple products just as much as you do. His love so deep, in fact, that it sent him on a worldwide search for his iPad’s origins. This show made me laugh out loud and feel like throwing up from First World guilt, don’t miss it if you own any Apple products (which you do). Tonight’s your last chance!

“Your silence is your consent”

Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Posted by Ariel Frager
I didn’t initially want to see the latest Mike Daisey monologue after seeing him last year. I don’t really even remember what it was I objected to but somewhere between the interminable length, (I actually left the theatre before it was finished) and the seemingly circular rant, I wasn’t predisposed to be a fan.
I am, however, an unabashed fan of Apple Computers, just like none other than Mike Daisey who referred to himself as an Apple “fan boy.” I thought I owed it to myself to hear Daisey out. I love the sleek elegant casings, the supreme functionality and yes, even the hipness factor. I am from Silicon Valley and in fact attended the same high school as both Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in Cupertino, so perhaps being an Apple enthusiast is part of my DNA. For this reason alone, I questioned seeing a performance that might shatter my love for the laptop I am typing on at this very moment.



Jerome Bel, Cedric Andrieux
Posted by: Forrest Martin
Photo by: Rio
The lights dimmed, a man walked onstage to no fanfare, and I knew I would be at least decently satisfied because the stage direction was fantastic. Nothing but a fair, exceedingly handsome man with a soft, even voice and a faint French accent, in loose electric blue gym pants tucked in to brilliantly white socks, topped with a time-worn, loose-but-still-form-fitting vintage red t-shirt and a slouchy grey hoodie. I suddenly felt that comfortable in my own white t-shirt and hoodie, and was especially happy that I’d only just showered fifteen minutes before.
He introduced himself as Cedric Andrieux, 33 years old, born the same year as myself. “Am I perceived as this much of an adult man?” I wondered. If so, how strange. But I began to reorganize my self-image thusly.
He spoke to the audience with such measured consideration that you began to feel a very quick, very false intimacy quite effortlessly. Apparently, he was going to be still and sincere with us, which can be a disaster if there’s any indication of hesitation. Fortunately for our nervous, fidgety selves, he carried it off. We still coughed, and dropped heavy objects (twice?), and forgot to silence our cell phones before making musical spectacles out of turing them off (dee-dee-dee-dee, di-de-da-da, doo-doo-doo-dee-dum), but we learned to trust him and lean into the story he told of his life of awkward starts and desires; all the while very aware of how quiet it was between phrases. Until we weren’t.
As he told us about half-heartedly auditioning for dance school in France, and eventually making his way – almost effortlessly, as if a spectator to his own life – to becoming a dancer in Merce Cunningham’s legendary dance troupe, he would outline some of the complicated dance steps he had relationships with by demonstrating them to us, also without music. Sometimes these bouts were long. Just the sound of his breath in the mic, or, in the instance of demonstrating a tedious pose he struck for art students to supplement his income in NY, the involuntary closed-throat belches that would rise and normally be inaudible if there were not a microphone right there, strapped to the right side of his head. Andrieux confided that music was entirely inconsequential to him in Merce’s troupe, as it was secondary to the dance. They always practiced in silence, and only ever heard the piece they were to perform to on the day of the show. The longer and less narrated the example that he re-performed was, the more likely I was to forget where I was and what in god’s name he was doing.
Things were laid even more bare when he pulled out a sad, limp, pink and white tie-dyed unitard and told us, without irony, that this is what he was directed to wear. Following this presentation was that of the dancer’s belt; essentially a camel colored thonged jock strap with padding in the front. When Cedric announced that he would now change into these, I fully expected him to do this in front of us. The bar for self-revealingness had already been set, but instead he retired to the wings to change suit. I could not help but feel, now, that there was something neutering about being put into a unitard. As he observes, it hides absolutely nothing (not a problem here; see title), and it made me respond to him much differently than I had before the change. I suddenly felt that he must be very uncomfortable and/or self-conscious (he confirmed the latter), and I found myself sucking in my own stomach as I heard (again, uncomfortably) the sounds of his body thudding against the floor, and exertion escaping his mouth into the nearly soundless room we had learned to seat ourselves in.

The last outfit change was even stranger; the same red shirt as before, but now paired with dark jeans and nike high tops. Street clothes, representing the last chapter, now that he had left the Cunningham troupe and began experimenting with the styles of other choreographers. It opened up his world, he told us, to be much looser, and generally in less pain, and he recreated a performance choreographed by Jerome Bel that only required thirty dancers on stage to subtly emulate whatever pop song was playing with no special “dance” movements. The song he chose to re-perform for us was by the Police, “I’ll Be Watching You.” The song began – loudly, and in actuality, over the real house speakers – and after thirty seconds he walked out from the wings to the front of the stage and just looked at the audience (the theater was quite small and no one was very far from him, and we hadn’t heard any artificial sound the ENTIRE TIME. And it was Sting singing.). Next, a rack of overhead lights snapped on behind Andrieux and bathed us all in bright amber light. He continued to regard us innocently and intently, but now, for the first time, warmly as well. A smile would grow on his lips and he would not edit it, instead he let it grow all the way, and this seemed almost pornographic to me. Sometimes he would even laugh, still staring at whomever was inspiring the feeling, and I became jealous of that person (see title). Really, it was all too much. The song, the sincerity, the intimacy, the lights and fanfare and glory. My mind was turning inside out. He had introduced us to a certain world with certain rules and now, at the end, was telling us something entirely different. That it was okay to embellish for the sake of championing a feeling.
The finale, you could say, followed shortly thereafter as he describes later happening across Jerome Bel in person on a train (who is very curious about his experiences with Merce Cunningham), and, at Jerome’s behest, beginning an email correspondence with him as backstory for a piece that Bel would be directing. The piece, of course, is this piece, and my mind folded in half once again at the vulnerability of it all.

PICA TBA 10 Maria Hassabi-SoloShow @ Imago Theatre 09-12-10

I have heard stories that every so often Heaven sends angels to the earth in human form to help bring joy, healing, beauty, grace, etc. to humanity, well if I could ever imagine one of these angels in human form it would probably be something close to Maria Hassabi, because on seeing her dance SoloShow I felt like I was as close to seeing God in human form as possible, the first word that comes to mind on seeing Maria Hassabi dance is: divine. I’ve never seen so much grace and beauty emanate from a human being before, I’m not sure how she does it, must be some sort of magic powers she has, but all I can say is I’ll remember this dance for the rest of my life. Check out Maria Hassabi in SoloShow if you get a chance, its well worth your while, peace.
gordon wilson 09-12-10

The Eagle’s Progress

Dayna Hanson: Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Seth Needler
Exuberant, enigmatic, energetic, effervescent, enthralling, enticing, and at times eye-rollingly silly – all this and much, much more was Dayna Hanson’s “work-in-progress” Gloria’s Cause, a music/dance/theater performance piece nominally about the unique moment in history of the American Revolution, with thought-provoking references to the meaning of that historical moment in today’s violent, Puritanical, hypocritical, still-trying-to-define-itself America.
The superbly talented troupe effortlessly played instruments, danced, and acted out scenes, all of which were beautifully choreographed and timed, in a multi-faceted projection of the fervent foment with which the founding fathers and their wealthy colleagues may have collaborated to produce the founding documents of the union’s young democracy, tottering on the foundation of slavery while simultaneously declaring freedom for all its constituents.


Glorious Oz

Dayna Hanson: Goria’s Cause
Winningstad Theater

posted by: dirtybombpdx
I don’t know that the American Revolution is a subject I need to see explored…again, but with a break dancing animatronic George Washington, real cherry pie, smokin’ hot dancers, and a bald eagle with serious self-esteem issues, I’ll go along for the ride.
Billed as a preview performance (meaning they’re still working it all out), Dayna Hanson and her collaborators have fashioned our nation’s march toward independence into an art house explosion. It’s a bit like Oz: sort of recognizable, but then again… There’s a rockin’ onstage band, funky costumes, some terrific choreography, crazy sight gags, childhood remembrances, the aforementioned pie, and a loose, organic feeling to most everything that happens. The actor/singer/dancer/musicians – cause everyone on stage sings, dances, acts and plays – are miked and for much of the show they talk over or around each other, sub-title what’s happening, disagree, elaborate or just make crazy noise. It’s a great effect and keeps everything feeling very spontaneous (though, obviously a tremendous amount of work and rehearsal supports that spontaneity).
The piece is essentially danced based. There are several significant passages of pure dance and most, if not all, of the transitions are choreographed and danced in some fashion or other. About three-quarters of the way into the show, a gorgeous trio takes place: two soldiers harass a woman in a white bonnet and long blue dress. It’s unsettling, sometimes frightening, yet mesmerizing and conceptually, quite resonant. The show could use more moments of similar depth and coherence.
There are also several songs throughout the show (and nearly continuous underscoring by the terrific band), but one song in particular stands out. A rock and roll number about the significance of what’s going down Betsy, we need a new flag, that again, brings the show into focus.
The final tableau, sung a capella, is achingly beautiful.
As this show finds its deeper truths and hones its political perspective I can see it becoming a stunning piece of theater.
I think tomorrow, Monday the 13th at 6:30, may be its last showing. Don’t miss it. Go.

First Love/Last Love

posted by Mead Hunter
FIRST-LOVE.jpgIf you love Samuel Beckett — and what’s not to love, right? — TBA:10 gives you two opportunities to see some of his non-dramatic work performed by a company that really knows what it’s doing: the Gare St. Lazare Players, here from Ireland, a country that can truly say it understands its native (albeit expatriate) son.
Currently running is First Love, an 80-minute monologue performed by the masterful Conor Lovett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett. His rendition of one of Beckett’s most unwholesome creations is deftly drawn; he portrays his nameless antihero with a musculature so tense that you dare not relax in his presence.
Like many Beckett characters, this one is awash in contradiction — literally so, being a product of his polyglot creator: contra/diction. At times this character seems simple, yet at other times exhibits a linguistic formality that hints at autodidacticism (referring to a burial as an inhumation, for example). He starts out as a pathetic figure — a misanthropic one, to be sure, who believes that the living stink worse than the dead, but a pitiable guy nevertheless. Gradually, however, he becomes more and more monstrous until you’re glad to be shed of his company.
As such, the performance isn’t what you’d call fun. The profound sense of human suffering giving way to ennoblement that won Beckett the Nobel Prize (in 1969) takes a holiday here; the speaker himself seems to be worse of, at the end of his monologue, for sharing his story with us.
Still, Mr. Lovett’s performance is virtuosic, and you won’t see the like of it again soon. First Love continues through Monday evening, and on Tuesday, for that night only, Gare St. Lazare performs its famed Beckett Trilogy.

PICA TBA 10 Day 3- Ten Tiny Dances @ The Works Washington High School 09-11-10

I love a good deal and Ten Tiny Dances is a great deal, for the price of one you get to see ten, although tiny still interesting, dances. When I first saw the Ten Tiny Dances I got this feeling that I had a couple of times before; like when I was a young drifter and somehow ended up on this farm out in the country where all these poets and artists were having a big shindig, and as I was sitting on a bale of hay I had this feeling overcome me like, these are my people, this is where I belong and fit in, this is what I have been looking for. The incredible creativity, freedom, discipline and hard work of the poets and artists somehow transferred a liberating feeling into my soul, and I felt like I had friends in the world with similar interests and aspirations, and this is how I feel when I see the Ten Tiny Dances, and actually how PICA TBA makes me feel also, I love this stuff.
Anyhow Ten Tiny Dances 22 was as good as ever, I could go in and try to review and critique every tiny dance, but since I really don’t know anything about dance except that I like it, my critique would probably be pretty boring and tiresome, so all I have to say is that last night was pretty darn good, and if you haven’t seen the Ten Tiny Dances before, give it a try, it’s much better than TV and as I said it’s a great deal for your money, peace, see you at the show.
gordon wilson 09-12-10

To Dance or Not to Dance?

Cedric Andrieux, choreographed by Jerome Bel
Posted by Seth Needler
Andriex’s performance of this piece by Jerome Bel chronicled, through a combination of soft-spoken, deliberative narration and exhibitive dance movements, his career as a dancer, initially for Merce Cunningham, later for Bel and still later other choreographers.
There were some fascinating revelations: Andrieux’s chronicling of the way that Merce Cunningham broke movement into highly prescribed individual motions, almost like an engineer constructing a machine, for example, gave me an entirely new perspective on the training of a dancer. And his description of the emotional landscape that he walked in the process of developing as a dancer surprised me also, with his frank admission of shame about his body image. That these and other disarmingly honest reflections were revealed almost monotonically and in a completely silent, music-less atmosphere, only increased the intensity of their effect.


Often the thinking behind an artwork is more interesting than the work itself.

Jerome Bel
Cedric Andrieux
posted by: Ariana Jacob
Often, but in the case of this piece though, the work shows almost only that back story: the thinking, feeling and breathing that an artist puts into their work. For this dance Cedric Andrieux performs himself as a dancer in a work named after him created by choreographer Jerome Bel. (How strange to be performing yourself as conceived and directed by someone else.)
This art work is called a dance but it breaks all the expectations of what Dance performance means, and it breaks them in such satisfyingly plain ways. When this performance so sharply broke my expectations I noticed how strong dance’s conventions still seem compared with most other visual art mediums. Watching this medium implode itself skillfully felt both archaic and amazing. There has to be rules to break to feel any power in breaking them and at times contemporary art feels saggy from lack of structural tension. This work is taut with undoing the structure of dance.
This show won me over both because it emphasized the ideas and aspirations behind making dance; and because it honed in on a place in culture where we can still palpably feel the power of breaking conventions. This is a dance that is mostly a well told dead-pan life story with very little movement in it at all.
At one point in the performance Cedric describes what it was like for him to first watch a Merce Cunningham dance live. (Shortly after seeing that performance he was hired by the company and performed with them for years.) He told how at the beginning of the dance he looked at the dancers and then away at the branches on the trees around the outdoor stage where they were performing, and then after that at other people in the audience. He didn’t feel that by looking around he was missing anything, his whole experience felt included. In his very french version of english he said this show gave him a feeling of freedom that was “super-good.” I’d like to repeat that but this time taking it to be a self-reflective, self aware statement about performance and the experience of freedom: “super-good.”

The Wooster Group + the Delirium of Narration

posted by Mead Hunter
wooster group panel from There Is Still Time Brother.jpgRight up front, let me acknowledge that I believe The Wooster Group is one of the best things that ever happened to live performance. And not to be too phatic about it, let me add that while long-time followers of the Group’s work will recognize certain tropes and modalities in its new piece, in other ways it represents an explosion of previous concerns.
There Is Still Time…Brother is a wholly immersive experience. This afternoon we entered Brunish Hall in the dark, made our way carefully alongside a circular wall, and entered a round space studded with white swivel stools of different heights. Wherever we sat, we were in the center; the piece was already in progress on the seamless screen that ringed the space.
In this way, as in most Group pieces, the audience must relinquish narrative expectations and submit itself to a delirious cascading of various story fragments. At the same time, however, we entered this prepared space knowing that one member of the audience was somehow controlling how much of the presentation the rest of the spectators was seeing. I wish I knew more about this; I saw no one in the act of messing with the piece, nor do I know how s/he would have done it. In theory, though, as one controller replaces another, you would never see quite the same presentation twice.
What you do see are fleeting seconds from a series of different narratologies. The “character” who has the most authorial power devotes his time to explaining the technology behind the piece — so much so that, disappointingly, too much of the version I saw devolved around a fascination with its own process. While this is indeed absorbing (the “spherecam” that shot the various segments is pictured below), I hoped the technology would give way to finding its own content.
spherecam.jpgEventually it did, although (in vintage Wooster Group form) it was up to the audience to assemble meaning from the hurlyburly of visual and literary information coming literally from everywhere. There’s a war story represented by a model of a blasted terrain populated by toy soldiers; scenes from a (seemingly) vintage film showing desolate streets; a woman working on a video project who eventually moves into the movie along with the show’s narrative authority. There’s also reading in progress of a war story; I thought I recognized The Red Badge of Courage, but it turned out to be On the Beach!
The signal that we’d reached the end of our version of the piece was a scratchy, black and white still image that read “THEND” — a perfect glyph for the synaesthetic experience we’d just undergone. To me, this experience was a welcome relief from the traditional notion of “good” writing being that which controls the reader’s mind the most. In There Is Still Time…Brother, we have the illusion of artistic anarchy, at the very least, and at the most, we have the power to construe our own meaning.
This is a piece I plan to revisit as many times as I can while TBA:10 continues.

How YouTube Killed the Video Star

Charles Atlas / William Basinski
Extreme Animals: The Extreme Animals Sit Down
Posted by: John Wilmot
It was a pretty young crowd on Friday night at The Works, but then Portland is a pretty young town. So the evening’s performances, both of them visually arresting video projections set to live music, seemed especially suited to the festival and to the audience, as well as to the legendary short attention spans of “kids today.” That might suggest a predictable evening, however talented the artists may be. Luckily, the pairing of two very different performances drawing from widely divergent cultural influences made for a livelier time.


Rufus + Symphony = Hallelujah

Rufus Wainwright, Classical Rufus, in Concert with the Oregon Symphony Conducted by Carlos Kalmar
Posted By: Jimmy Radosta
Photo By: Leah Nash
“I’d love to write a really crazy opera that is performed for another 500 years,” Rufus Wainwright told me in a 2003 interview. “And I’m just saying that a lot because it’ll force me to do it.”
Seven years later, I finally experienced a sample of this long-awaited labor of love when Wainwright performed excerpts from Prima Donna with the Oregon Symphony. In the spirit of Portland composer Thomas Lauderdale, who was instrumental in plotting the collaboration, Wainwright excels at using his status as a mainstream musician to bridge modern and vintage works. In 2007 I attended his Hollywood Bowl tribute to Judy Garland’s iconic 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall, and in 2001 he released “Grey Gardens,” a haunting song inspired by the 1975 documentary about Jackie O’s wacky cousin and aunt.
So who better than to introduce a new generation to the intimidating world of opera? Prima Donna takes place on Bastille Day 1970 — the same day Lauderdale was born, coincidentally — as an aging diva considers whether to retire. Scottish soprano Janis Kelly blew the roof off Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with the opera’s climactic finale, after which Wainwright joined the symphony to perform selections from Garland, his aunt Anna McGarrigle (“Kitty Come Home,” dedicated to his late mother, Kate McGarrigle), fellow Canadian musician Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah,” with Kelly and local rocker Storm Large), French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz and his own pop catalog. Unfortunately, the latter repertoire was woefully underrepresented; his songs “Beautiful Child” and “Between My Legs” seem especially suited for stirring orchestral arrangements. But that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise magical evening that only could’ve happened in Portland.

A Dancer’s Story

Jérôme Bel, Céderic Andrieux
Posted by Ariel Frager
A simple concept, really; Jérôme Bel’s piece, Céderic Andrieux is a portrait of a dancer. The story told by the eponymous dancer through a soft-spoken monotone French accented narration, punctuated with movement. It was the dance equivalent to a graphic novel with more words than pictures and a strangely funny balance of straightforward story telling and self-aware insight.
Watching Céderic Andrieux telling his life in dance story felt like what it might be like to watch someone’s inner most thoughts, the story we tell ourselves about who we are and how we got here. That story that sometimes keeps us up at night when we are too anxious to fall asleep and we lay there, practicing, rehearsing our story again and again hoping the familiarity of the milestones of our lives will help us drift off to sleep. His revelations about the everydayness of being a dancer and funny asides were enough to keep those of us in the audience always feeling slightly uncomfortable.



Charles Atlas/William Basinski & Extreme Animals @ THE WORKS
Posted by: Forrest Martin
Strangely, we’re at a point in time where I can say that there is something old-fashioned about video art. I like that there is still a place, albeit a rare one, for low-fi, specially-effected, sometimes painful video collages viewed on a big screen, in front of an audience of more than one, without the ability to read user comments or skip through the slow parts. Or to navigate away entirely.
The Atlas/Basinski performance began with an advantage, namely Charles Atlas and the fact that his Tornado Warning installation was my favorite space in the entire school. It was simple (the main space housed just white geometric graphics, projected into a large, custom built housing, that for a time appears to recede into space before stopping and building it’s way out into the room, nearly enveloping the audience), and it had a certain abstract coherence. So, too, did tonight’s performance. I was concerned this might become an annoying ode to randomness, or a fucked up ambush, but at some point within the first ten minutes it registered that I could trust the experience and zone out to it – that they weren’t going to senselessly soothe and then batter me, like the most recent comparable experience I had earlier this year seeing Animal Collective’s “Oddsac” film, or years ago with Michael Snow’s “Wavelength” – and that the segues and concepts had some intuitive relationship to one another, however indescribable that may be.
Atlas retains a clear sense of balance amidst an erratic shower of looped movements and overlayed textures. There was nearly always, literally, a central focus to identify with. Black and white footage of a man’s head struggling to rise, a stand of fire, a flexing bodybuilder, an ecstatically mischievous Mariah Carey. The result was trancelike. Everything dissolved or cut into whatever severe, beautiful or bizarre thing was around it, and still he never left you entirely without a ledge. Basinski’s sound design went from Philip Glass to Pink Floyd to Something New Age in feel with a timing that was perfectly considered for the footage; the two played off one another in a manner of practiced familiarity.

It is through repetition that we absorb; is this is why I find it so satisfying? I’m often guaranteed to forget something minutes after seeing it if I don’t A) discuss the thing immediately or B) see it repeatedly. So these chapters of short consecutive cycles pleased me. This gradual spell was first broken twenty minutes into the program when some unspoken critical mass yawned across the auditorium and proceeded to intermittently eject people, in groups of two or five, for the remainder of the show – hastily heading for exits in a fashion that was deeply grating, and something of an auxiliary soundtrack. KLAKK-CKX. It seems to me that if it had been an obtuse dance performance – as I’m sure to see sometime this week? – the exodus would have been subtler and more polite, but somehow [KLAKK-CKX] people feel more betrayed [KLAKK-CKX] by something that should read as movie entertainment (it’s on a screen, in a theater) but isn’t. KLAKK-CKX.
My favorite part was towards the end, when we were tripping on two tabs of LSD and hurtling through space to the tinkling of a spartan electronic melody. Even though pins of psychedelic light streamed out to all sides, the center point was invitingly unwavering: the stillness of the future, and everything else.
The following Extreme Animals performance could have been the perfect antidote for the leavers, if they weren’t ruined on sit-down video art. It was explicitly MC-ed by the Dude (I’m not sure if it was Jacob or David), with a detailed synopsis of how many sets they were presenting, replete with run times. The take on video montaging was much more casual and sarcastic, pulling in pop culture (Miley Cyrus is saving the earth on YouTube, yo) and a thoroughly entertaining sardonic hyper-optimism. The audience was suddenly a barnyard of activity.

Call Apple, Inc., and Request the Truth. (TBA On Stage: Mike Daisey)

TBA On Stage: Mike Daisey
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (@ Washington High), TBA day 2 (runs thru day 5)
posted by: Sara Regan, TBA blogger
For about twenty years, I have known that Mike Daisey is a fantastic actor. For about ten years, I’ve known that he’s an absolutely brilliant writer and monologist. He’s hilarious, scathing when due, but sensitive as well. I have cried, and cried laughing during his former works, trying not to laugh out loud too long, so as not to miss a word. I knew I would both crack up and be moved by his show tonight about Apple, Inc. and its co-founder, Steve Jobs. I knew all these things. What I did not know is that it would be one of the most empowering and eye-opening pieces of theater I’ve ever seen.


Where’s Reverse in this Lunar Module? (TBA On Sight: Anissa Mack: My Heart Wants More)

TBA On Sight: Anissa Mack, visual artist
My Heart Wants More, TBA Day 2 (ongoing)
posted by: Sara Regan, TBA blogger
As was sung last night at the venerable Schnitz in three-part harmony, with the Symphony for a band: Hallelujah. Hallelujah for TBA and the joy it has commenced to bring us yet again! Now campers, if you’re ready to really dig into this festival, and you’re ready to get small (sort of like Alice, but more like Grover when he goes waaay across the room) flip to the “On Sight” portion of your TBA guidebooks and venture forth into Anissa Mack’s perspective. Today I returned from a transformative odyssey of the mind at The Lumber Room (415 NW 9th Ave), thanks to the exhibit curated and crafted by Mack, entitled, “My Heart Wants More.”


we are TBA:10

NOONTIME CHAT: TBA in a Nutshell
Friday, September 10, 2010 12:30 pm -1:30 pm
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photo by: Wayne Bund
You can feel it in the air; something is different. It’s in the way Washington High School wraps itself around you, smelling like junior year. It’s in the relaxed but sincere way Cathy Edwards gestures, hand over heart, talking about the artists who work to create the experiences we are about to have. This year, it’s about you, me, and we; join hands and feel the love.


surf punk vs. puppets

Japanther vs. Night Shade
Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:30 pm -11:30 pm
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photo by: Gordon Wilson
tba10_Japanther_9-10-2010 (36)
Hello, Japanther. You are a little gritty, but a little pretty too. You are psycho-surfer-post-punk, and that’s got to be hard. I mean, so many shoes to fill and all. I like your friend; puppets are hot. Still, my favorite part was when the screen was torn down. It was inevitable, but anticipation is really the best part of a thrill. Thanks for coming to party with us. Your friend, Portland

RUFUS SAYS HE LOVES PORTLAND (and we believe him)

posted by Mead Hunter
rufus_wainwright.jpgFrom what Rufus Wainwright told us at TBA:10′s opening event, we have Thomas Lauderdale to thank for conceiving of last night’s wutheringly popular festival kick-off event. Whatever its provenance, the evening was virtually a success before any spectators were even admitted to the cavernous Schnitzer Concert Hall. What’s not to like about an evening with charming pop icon Rufus hanging out with local performance royalty such as Storm Large, Carlos Kalamar and Mr. Lauderdale himself? The audience was happy just to be there. And I was doubly happy to be seated in the orchestra section for the first time (thank you, PICA), instead of bumping my head on the rafters.
When Rufus appeared in a velvet coat of many colors, the roar from the crowd made it evident that they’d come to have a good time. Nevertheless, things got off to an academic start, as the composer explained what we were about to hear for the evening’s first half: scenes from his opera Prima Donna, a work the Met commissioned but declined to produce. First we heard both overtures. The Act I overture began with limpid, muted strains that soon gave way to darker, Mahleresque tones, ultimately moving on to flights of lyricism. Act II’s overture was…..similar.
This was okay. The audience was polite, but you could feel it was biding its time. In due course we got to the vocal sections, including the closing scene performed impressively by Scottish diva Janis Kelly. Here the music became an internalized soliloquy (notwithstanding the implied presence of another character, referred to by Rufus as “the evil journalist”). It was a powerful, affecting moment, probably the point of the entire opera for the composer. That aria alone made me hope that Portland Opera will take a chance and produce the full work, building on the success of last season’s modernist hit, Philip Glass’s Orphée.
Returning to my seat after intermission, the woman next to me said: “Now comes the fun part.” Rufus seemed to agree; he returned to the stage fully prepared to take the house by storm, opening with “Oh, What a World” accompanied by the full Oregon Symphony Orchestra. “What a world my parents gave me,” Rufus crooned, the lyrics taking on a purple tinge in the wake of his well-publicized problems with his famous forebears (Loudon Wainwright III and the late great Kate McGarrigle). But the orchestra overpowered both his voice and his delivery, and it was a relief when he sat down at the piano for the next number.
There were times when his pairing with the Symphony made gorgeous sense — as when “Oh, What a World” weaved its way through Ravel’s Bolero – but let’s face it, the best parts of the evening where when we got Rufus himself, raw and emotional. My concerns going into Leonard Cohen’s shopworn “Hallelujah” was instantly dispelled by the depth of feeling provided first by Rufus and then, in turn, by Janis Kelly and Storm Large. Storm in particular provided a sumptuous counterweight to the song, singing in low, honeyed tones I hadn’t heard from her previously.
The program ended with a sweetly somber song written by Anna McCarrigle, originally intended her sister, entitled “Kitty, Come Home.” Tears streamed down her nephew’s face as sang — his mother died less than nine months ago. But of course following deafening applause and a standing ovation, Rufus returned to the stage with Storm to belt out a tasty mash-up of “Get Happy” and “Happy Days are Here Again.”
It was a fantastic start to TBA:10, looking backward and forward musically, combining the international with outstanding local talent — not a challenging evening, as much of the Festival will be (with any luck), but a fun crazy quilt of past, present, and what Thomas Lauderdale declared as “what I hope for opera.”

Tearing Down The Big Top

Tearing Down the Big Top
TBA Opening Night at The Works
Becca Biggs
There is always a going-to-the-circus quality to the opening night of TBA. This year once again the Big Top was the time-warp known as the old Washington High School, circa 1924. Inside the vast, sprawling building pulsed with energy as the decidedly young crowd out for the all age performance crowded into the Theatre. I did hear someone behind me say that “there are a lot of older people here complaining about not having dinner and being hungry.” I might have fit the profile, but I hit the taco truck later in the Beer Garden and didn’t utter a word about being hungry or how tired I would be the next day.
Inside the theatre a strange tension began with the opening beat of what had been billed a Japanther and Nightshade battle. The spare driving intensity of the art punk meets girl group harmonies band was intensified by the huge scrim that both shielded them from the audience and provided the screen for Nightshade’s puppet antics. The battle ensued with giant silhouettes of ice cream cones, snapping heads, girls licking lollipops flipping between silhouettes of the hard rocking gang. We stayed through the pop goth classic Surfin’ Coffins:
To all the corpses
in metal coffins
along the freeway
and in the office:
To all the corporate
spillin their coffee:
we do not copy
The human spirit’s still alive
Down by the ocean
It was so awesome
Out of the city
We all went surfin…
Later in the Beer Garden I noticed the projection on a large canvas screen. It looked like black and white footage from the toppling of some dictatorship–wild crowd surge ripping down the wall. That’s when I realized it was a live feed and the audience inside was, in mass, pulling down the scrim–tearing down the Big Top.

Here We Go

Noontime Chat: TBA in a Nutshell
posted by Kirsten Collins

The TBA in a Nutshell chat is one of my favorite festival traditions each year. In this “pre-game” show, the festival curators predict over-arching themes, point to artists that should not be missed, and share a little about the curatorial process–providing a decoder ring of sorts to unlock the festival.
Artistic Director Cathy Edwards kicked things off by remembering this beginning moment of last year’s festival. For her, the theme of TBA:09 was the “pervasive anxiety and uncertainty” created by our consumer culture, 24-hour news cycle, economic crash, and unending war (she also remembered her own personal anxiety as her first TBA festival was finally set in motion).
This year, though the global climate has not changed, the TBA:10 line-up is responding with less anxiety and instead with authentic, intimate spaces for the self. Rufus Wainwright’s festival opener last night set this tone beautifully, and Cathy was struck by the “intimacy and sincerity” of his performance. Kristan Kennedy echoed this by pointing to artists that are “go internal” but also speak to humanity’s common and current questions and concerns. Across the festival, look for tensions of “inner lives and private desires in the public arena.”


prima donna

Opening Night Of TBA 10: with Rufus Wainwright and the Oregon Symphony

The first time I saw Rufus Wainwright he was just a boy with his piano singing his heart out and charming the pants off his audience (I think literally so for a couple of his smitten fans). That was in 1998. Twelve years on and he’s still charming, singing and playing, but inevitably, there’s some taint on the dazzle. No doubt he’s still a very engaging presence and a gifted composer/lyricist, but to judge by last night’s dirge, sorry, I meant TBA Festival opening night extravaganza at the Schnitz, Mr. Wainwright’s celebrity is starting to impinge on his talent.
The first half of the evening was dedicated to Wainwright’s opera PRIMA DONNA which had its debut at the Manchester International Festival back in July of 2009. The opera had a decidedly mixed reception (I’ve yet to find a truly positive review) and would certainly never have been produced if not for Wainwright’s celebrity. Most critics acknowledged Wainwright’s pop gifts and occasional successful flourish, but on the whole dismissed it as slight and unoriginal. Last night the Oregon Symphony led by Carlos Kalmar, with the soprano Janis Kelly and Megan someone (whose name Wainwright couldn’t quite remember nor did she merit a program mention) performed excerpts from the opera to a somewhat tepid reception. In the snippets performed (an overture or two and a handful of scenes) the opera seems to be something of a pastiche, a little Ravel, a pinch of Puccini, some Massenet, some Strauss, and fleetingly Wainwright himself. Admittedly we only heard excerpts, but even so, it lacked momentum, dramatic urgency, a cohesive style. Most disappointing though was the libretto. I’ve always been a huge fan of Wainwright’s lyrics, at once witty and ironic yet filled with longing and romance. Sadly, none of those qualities are evident in the libretto for PRIMA DONNA (co-written with Wainwright by Bernadette Colomine). The Met famously pulled out of producing PRIMA DONNA when Wainwright refused to write the lyrics in English. Reading the banal super-titles last night, I’d say Wainwright made the right decision. On the plus side, Janis Kelly sang beautifully as the prima donna though much of the part was too low in her register (she also looked appropriately fetching in her black diva dress). Megan whatshername, as the maid, was fine, though a little harsh in her approach (and in her dress – bad prom reject). And while I realize that this is just a staged presentation and not the real deal, it was bit hard to believe in La Kelly’s divahood when she sat during an orchestral passage and swigged from a bottle Poland Springs. Was a pitcher and glass too much to ask for? The intermission could not have come soon enough.
Back from a bathroom break and Rufus was ready to entertain, or maybe just to be adored. Opening with one of my favorites, Oh, What a World, a song that wends its way into a mash-up with Ravel’s Bolero, Rufus looked a little bored and Kalmar didn’t help matters with his sluggish accompaniment. Finally, oh finally, Rufus sat down at the piano and sang the gorgeously simple Vibrate, a song filled with wit and longing and romance. Perfection. Really. Gorgeous. But then came Little Sister from WANT TWO, and, not perfection (Rufus, Kalmar and the symphony again not quite in sync). Then Rufus struggled through two songs from the Berlioz song cycle Nuit d’ete – heart-felt, but under-prepared. Rufus talked some nonsense about this being an open rehearsal and that we were all part of the process. Really? a hundred and twenty bucks to watch you rehearse? bullshit. I couldn’t help but think of Susan Graham’s amazing performance of these same songs with The Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall in 2003. Then things really got irritating.
Rufus has been peddling his lame Judy Garland show for a while now, and it’s got to stop. If you want to challenge yourself and push your artistic boundaries by exploring this legendary concert and performance, by all means, do so. But I don’t see any evidence of exploration. Singing the same arrangements in the same keys shows that you can read music and have an admirable vocal range, but it doesn’t show any emotional connection to this music or, truth be told, any real affinity for the performance of it. Judy Garland rarely closed her eyes when she sang. Her connection to the music and to her audience was heart-breaking and profound; an emotional honesty that is rare to nonexistent in these days of ironic commentary. Rufus closes his eyes a lot. He doesn’t ever really let us in. He’s funny and charming, yes, but we never see inside; he’s never heart-breaking, he’s too busy commenting on his performance, winking at us, letting us in on the joke. It’s all irony all the time. One gay icon aping another. Basically it’s one long, really long, ironic joke. Look, I’m a gay man singing Judy Garland’s songs. Isn’t it ironic? ha ha ha ha. Yeah, it’s ironic, and also a huge bore. You don’t even care enough to learn the words. And asking the audience to sing along, really? Most of that audience only knows your fucked up versions of those songs, if they know them at all. When Garland sang her so slow rendition of You Made Me Love You she looked directly into her audience, sometimes sitting on the edge of the stage and singing to a single individual – incredibly intimate and open. Rufus didn’t look at us once. And The Man That Got Away (next to Over the Rainbow, Garland’s signature song), a jazz infused heart-breaking opera when delivered by Garland, is just another ironic joke to Rufus (and none too funny with Kalmar’s dirge-like accompaniment.) I beg you, rent A STAR IS BORN and fast forward to Judy singing this number in an after-hours jazz club with a 5 piece combo and you’ll understand what a genius performer she truly was. I think Rufus Wainwright is a profoundly gifted individual, but his celebrity is starting to get the best of him (now there’s an ironic Garland parallel worth pursuing). There was some more to the show, but nothing really of note. And then of course, this being Portland, a standing ovation ended the night. Whatever. I guess if your “cutting edge” arts festival wants to open with a night of drag karaoke you’ll probably consider this a success. I just wish there’d been an open bar.

Rufus Rufus Rufus Does The Symphony Symphony Symphony

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright in Concert with the Oregon Symphony
Posted by Michael Evans

If any pop music figure seemed destined to front a symphony orchestra it’s Rufus Wainwright.
Despite being the scion of one of folk music’s great families, Wainwright has brazenly blazed his own stylistic trail over the course of his decade-plus career. Though respectful of the foundation set by his parents, noted singer/songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, Rufus has strived to rise above his musical raising. Never your everyday modern pop troubadour, his inspirations and ambitions have always leaned more towards the classical side of the music spectrum.


The Journey Begins: At the first WORKS and covering YEMENWED by Tall Matt Haynes

PROLOGUE… THE MIDDLE OF THE FIRST WORKS: This first draft of this entry was composed in Tall Matt Haynes’s car outside the Washington high school. It was 10:15 on Thursday night and the The Works had been temporarily evacuated so the over-21s could be sifted back in for the more grownup festivities. This being a high school, the procedure fittingly felt like a fire drill. For Tall Matt Haynes, it was a great chance to blog, hopefully returning to the party without the nagging feeling that he should get something down before his accuracy blurs.
YEMENWED: Okay, so Blog Assignment #1 has been to cover Yemenwed, an ongoing exhibit at the Washington High site. I really had no idea what Yemenwed was upon seeking it out in room 107. My heart sank as I saw it was a video loop. Fudge! I’ve just arrived at The Works and instead of romping around fleetingly looking at multiple stuff while socializing and mooching free snacks, I gotta lean against a wall in a bare room and watch a damn movie. One that probably doesn’t have a plot either. Fudge, fudge!
Well, good news is that “Yemenwed: Episode 3″ is quite watchable. Yemenwed is an art collaborative based out of New York whose video, sculptural and movement work explores the relationships between seemingly separate worlds. What you’ve got in Episode 3 is a computer animated landscape of waving grass with a pathway that leads you to a narrow white pyramid. Inside are all sorts of cool computer animated internal-body/interior-design forms that slide through walls, expand, retract, transform, all to neat, neat sound design. Composited into all this are live-action humans some of whom have made pilgrimages to the pyramid and some of whom are inside the pyramid doing ritual mime business. This is what the characters of TRON dream about if and when they nap. Fun. A bit busy, but fun.
The other video in the loop is “Bedroom w TV” and while it’s much simpler and easier to track than “Episode 3,” I didn’t have nearly as much fun with it. Firstly, it’s a video recorded live performance so my grump logic told me that I was only getting the experience second hand. Secondly it has the look of the dreaded Unfun But Important Performance Art Piece (alienated-looking people in a loft space doing alienated-looking repetitive motions occasionally emitting alienated-sounding music). So my mind put up a wall to that one, mostly. Still, good stage pictures, nice progression of focus, nice tight work from the ensemble. Maybe if I had seen it live.
Oh, and there’s a sculpture in the room as well, down front near the wall projection. From where I was standing it looked like the love child of a kayak and the Spock coffin. It doesn’t do anything during the show but I have to admit that after “Episode 3″ I felt that to approach the sculpture was to invite it to jump me and send me to dark, pretty places.
EPILOGUE… BACK TO THE END OF THE FIRST WORKS: Tall Matt Haynes returned to The Works at 11:15 pm. To his dismay, there was no more free corn-flavored ice cream being dished out on level 2. Tall Matt Haynes did, however have an excellent time greeting professional friends and checking out other exhibits and sights. Random highlights include: “The Works” projected onto an old outdoor smokestack (brilliant!), space-transforming golden shiny shreds hanging from all hallway lights (clever!), unisex bathrooms (golly!), and an outdoor giant white sheet upon which was being projected the image of a giant white indoor sheet being ripped apart (funky!)
Hope you all enjoyed yourselves. I’ll see you in the lobby.

PICA TBA 10 Opening Night @ The Works

It’s once again that time of year when artists and art lovers from around the world coalesce here in the cloud covered rain swept dramatic rose city of Portland Oregon for the PICA TBA Festival.  That means I get to take off my work gloves for a few days, dust off my cameras and head out and expose myself to art.  PICA TBA 10 headquarters is again at the old condemned yet wonderfully reclaimed Washington High School on SE Stark street.  This year’s opening night seemed a bit more subdued than last year, it appeared that there were a few less people for the free show, and I missed the giant colored video projections that they had on the front of the building last year.  Anyhow I was excited to get out of the house and check things out.  I didn’t have much time to check out the visual art galleries out before they did a sweep to start the music puppet performance, but I did get a chance to see a few things.

The first visual art gallery (converted classrooms) that I walked into was a video projection piece by Christopher Miner titled ” The Safest Place”.  This video was simple and relaxing consisting of what appears to be someone doing somersaults over and over in zero-g, like on the space shuttle or MIR space station or something with a meditative singing or chanting going on for a soundtrack.  I usually have no idea what these performance art pieces mean, but I generally like them and just try to surrender myself and senses to them and see what it feels like.  Although simplistic I liked Christopher Miner’s “The Safest Place”.  The next visual art gallery that I made it to was another video projection piece called: “Episode 3 and Bedroom w/ TV and Woman Lays W/ Aide” by Yemenwed.  This was probably the most impressive video art piece I have ever seen, the computer animation in this video makes Sci-Fi Hollywood Blockbusters look like children’s crayon drawings; the amount of detail and sheer beauty of this video is amazing.  It consists of computer animation and green screen techniques that blew me away, I wonder how they made this this. The central character is a type of dancer/dreamer/invalid wandering through these incredible dreamscapes all the while dressed in weird harnesses and braces doing all these cool modern dance movements, to a funky primordial soundtrack, occasionally there are three similarly attired male figures moving along also, I’d definitely recommend this one to my friends.  I cant wait to see the other episodes.  The third visual art gallery that I stepped into had another video projection piece by John Smith called “The Girl Chewing Gum” done in 1976.  This piece was more interesting historically than artistically just because I felt like I had seen it before, and also I think the projector could have been slightly out of focus so it was hard to watch and concentrate on, especially after having just seen Yemenwed’s video.  I like these high contrast situations, Portland itself is a place of high contrasts, a land of constantly intermingling light and shadows.  Anyhow the last visual art gallery I made it to before they kicked people out of the building had another video projection piece by Ronnie Bass, “2012 and The Astronomer, Part 1: Departure from Shed.”  I didn’t get to see much of this one but from what I saw it was kind of like “The Safest Place” video in that it had a fellow singing a mellow tune/chant, floating in space petting a blanket, it sounds strange, but I kind of liked it.   Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and check out these galleries more in the future. 

Part two of the evening, Japanther and the Shadow Puppet show was running a bit late, but one of my favorite things about the PICA TBA Festival is just people watching and that’s what I did while waiting for Japanther and the puppet show.  The artists and art lovers in Portland are a beautiful people, the are very individualistic and creative yet not snooty but kind hearted and that’s what gives them their real beauty.  I’d would have loved to photo all the outfits the ladies wore this evening, that ranged from vintage to homemade, yet they all looked great, comfortable, colorful, creative, unique and sexy.  Soon we were let back in for Japanther and the shadow puppet show and for me the music PICA programs is always a mixed bag.  I’d like the bands as just bands, or the visual art as just visual art, but in trying to mix the two inorganically I feel that the music and visual art are both hampered a tad.  Such was  the case with the Japanther puppet show last night.  I’m not familiar with Japanther  but I did like their songs and could tell they rocked, especially the drumming, but I could not completely focus on them because they were behind this shadow puppet screen, which was cool yet was hard to tie into the music, at least for me, mainly because someone forgot to dim the house lights so that you really couldn’t see the shadow puppet show that well.   This lighting glitch began to frustrate the audience and I imagine the performers also.  Then when a few radicals began screaming for them to turn down the house lights, security came in and threw these poor art lovers out, that were just trying to improve the show for everyone, which was also kind of a bummer.  By the end of the set they finally tore down the shadow puppet screen and Japanther played a few songs just as a band, which was good although the house lights were still on, creating an undercurrent not of a rock concert, but more of a church social.  Anyhow the puppet masters did their best and you could tell they have talent, it’s to bad a technical difficulty messed up the show, se la vie.  The second band rocked, although not my favorite type of music, I like hippy jazz funk surf space rock, the remaining audience seemed to enjoy it immensely.  Well art is supposed to challenge you and make you question yourself and your expectations and as far as that goes I’d say the PICA TBA 10 Opening Night was a success, I’ll be back.

gordon wilson 9-10-2010    

“Pleased to meet you…”

Hey Gang,
Tall Matt Haynes here.
Being a new to blog-formatting I wanted to do a test-entry before TBA starts proper. Good chance to introduce myself:
My name is Matt Haynes. I’m a Maine native happily transported to Portland OR as of 6 years ago. I thrive off performing arts networking thus, for easier in-person spotting, I have branded myself with the thoroughly un-clever nickname: Tall Matt Haynes (yes I am tall… 6’9″… no, there is no “Short Matt Haynes” in town with whom I’m confused… I told you my nickname wasn’t clever).
I’m a Skidmore and Dell’arte trained actor with ambitions to write/produce/direct. I’m thrilled to get to not only go to these TBA events but also to process them with this blog, advancing my journey in the world of live art.
Good to meet y’all. See you in the lobby!

Title Based Art

Sorted Books
Nina Katchadourian, Sorted Books
Posted by Michael Evans
As learned in grade school, you can’t judge a book by looking just at its cover. However, apparently you can get a lot more mileage out of its title than previously imagined.


TBA OUTLOOK/LOOK OUT: Emily Johnson/Catalyst

In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. Our final week of preview coverage (we really are that close!) focuses on the personal histories and global displacement presented in Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s The Thank-you Bar.
Emily Johnson, The Thank-you Bar. Photo: Jamie Lang.
Contemporary art encompasses a vast diversity of media, theories, and aesthetics. And yet, the “arts of our time” still share some distinctive and common concerns; intimacy, physical scale, localism, and close connection between art and viewer are especially resonant for many contemporary artists. In seeming opposition, many artists today also share a commitment to investigating personal identity in the context of globalization and post-colonialism. Emily Johnson’s The Thank-you Bar is a hybrid dance-music-storytelling experience that engages with exactly these two contemporary interests: the global and the local/personal.


TBA OUTLOOK/LOOK OUT: In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. Week four of our preview coverage focuses on the emotionally raw and raucous In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, directed for TBA:10 by Poland’s Radek Rychcik.
Stefan Zeromski Theatre, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields. Photo: Maciek Zorawiecki.
In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, written by the French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès, serves as powerful and raw material for the young Polish director Radoslaw Rychcik’s imaginative and physical sensibility. This smart, visceral production of Poland’s Stefan Zeromski Theatre is part club happening, part punk concert, part poetic meditation. Anchoring this densely kinetic experience are the bravura performances of two stand-out actors: Tomas Nosinski and Wojciech Niemczyk. When I saw the production in Krakow, Poland, last winter, I left the theater exulting in the energy and the all-out commitment of these performers: enigmatic young frontmen who can dance, act, sing, and convincingly bare their souls to one another and to the audience. Staged with live music by the Krakow post-punk band Natural Born Chillers, this is a provocative, brilliantly conceived performance.



In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. Week three focuses on the clever and captivating dances of John Jasperse, who will perform Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies at TBA:10.

Photo: Sylvio Dittrich

To a curator, there are invariably a small group of artists whom one might name as an inspiration for entering the field of promoting art. For me, John Jasperse is one of those artists. When I first came to New York and was introduced to the downtown dance world in the late 1980s, I was fortunate enough to encounter John immediately. He was just back from Europe (working with Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker) and, at that time, was performing with Jennifer Monson and creating his own dances. When I saw his work, I felt as if I was in an art gallery, and the dancers, their actions, and the physical environment of his mysterious objects and people profoundly affected me. If I had been asked to talk about the impact or the importance of John’s work, at that point I might not have had the language to do so. But I certainly was moved, even thrilled, by the unfolding situation that was at once inscrutable, so odd as to be almost funny, and formally very compelling.



In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. Week two highlights the grace and intensity of dancer and choreographer Maria Hassabi, who will perform SoloShow at TBA:10.
Maria Hassabi, SoloShow. Photo: Jason Schmidt.
Maria Hassabi’s SoloShow is at once dizzyingly abstract and solidly material in nature. The sculptural quality of her body and the platform on which she appears–which seems almost bronze in its burnished heaviness and severity–speaks of the manifestly physical, of weight and shape and muscle and object. Simultaneously, an energy shimmers around her as she creates an aura of intense concentration, illuminating a complete struggle of the mind to master the body. As Hassabi investigates movement and mental states, she pays marked attention to her presence and the activation of space. In turn, I see the body struggle fiercely to manifest the images of women in our culture, as well as the ghosts of cultures past. External plasticity and the weight of the object are contrasted with internal will, vulnerability, fragility, and effort. These are the tensions of Soloshow.


TBA OUTLOOK/LOOK OUT: Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland

In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. She’ll start off her preview posts with her discovery of Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, who will perform two works during the first half of TBA:10.
Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, First Love. Photo: Ros Kavanagh.

When I began putting together the program for TBA:10, one project in particular lived with me from the start. I first encountered the Gare St. Lazare Players in Dublin in the fall of 2008, when I met Conor Lovett at an international theater meeting. Lovett had a spare and observant manner, a self-effacing demeanor, and a certain glint in his eye that spoke of boundless knowledge and commitment. His presence led me to accept an invitation to an 11 am showing of his Beckett work at Dublin’s Project Art Centre (though I confess I had no identifiable desire to revisit Samuel Beckett). After watching his performance of Beckett’s First Love, I was changed. I had a deeper and more complex understanding of theater; of Beckett’s writing; and of the depth of craft, preparation, and commitment that is involved in staging an encounter between body and language, between actor and material. This wonderfully influential experience convinced me that it would be fundamental to bring Lovett and the Gare St. Lazare Players to Portland and the TBA Festival.



Beginning June 5, the thirteen graduating students of Portland State’s MFA program will exhibit their work as GROWN UPS. For their exhibition catalog, the class approached three local art-scene thinkers: writer Camela Raymond, artist and PNCA Curator Mack McFarland, and PICA’s own Kristan Kennedy. Their answers became an email chain train-of-thought about the essential qualities of art, Portland’s relationship to the broader art world, the realities of the market, and the biggest issue of all: what it means to grow up.
From the catalog:

Kristan Kennedy: [...] If I was at gunpoint at this moment and had to describe what qualities I would defend, I might say that the work must be brave, defiant, confusing, inspired, unapologetic (wait is that the same as defiant?), personal and it must rest somewhere between ugly and beautiful with an edge that makes one at once uncomfortable (queasy) and at the same time at peace (with mind engaged, but body rendered still).

You can download the full text (PDF) of their conversation here.


TBA:10 FESTIVAL LINEUP VIDEO, Courtesy of Dustin Zemel.
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) draws artists from across the country and around the globe for a convergence of contemporary performance, dance, music, new media, and visual arts projects in Portland, Oregon. Entering its eighth year, the TBA Festival is presented September 9-19, 2010, with visual art installations running through the following month. TBA celebrates artists from across and in-between all mediums, and activates the entire community with art and ideas.
PICA presents a festival that bridges disciplines and geography with morning workshops, daytime installations, noontime lectures, afternoon salons, evening performances, outdoor happenings, and no shortage of late-night activity. Contemporary masters and significant emerging artists mix and mingle to bring you the best art of our time.
“This year,” says Guest Artistic Director Cathy Edwards, “TBA engages with some of the revolutionary creative thinkers who have indelibly altered the fabric of art-making and the definition of contemporary performance.” This includes new works that deal with the legacies and impacts of such influential figures as Samuel Beckett, choreographer Merce Cunningham, Elizabeth LeCompte and The Wooster Group, William Shakespeare, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Curated by Edwards, in collaboration with Performing Arts Program Director Erin Boberg Doughton and Visual Arts Program Director Kristan Kennedy, the Festival artists will include:


NEA Awards PICA $105,000 for TBA:10!

TBA:09 Audiences for 2009 NEA Masterpieces Grant Recipient Erik Friedlander.
Photo: Wayne Bund.

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) is the proud recipient of three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in support of the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival! These awards recognize the artistic excellence and community impact of PICA’s Festival programming. The NEA granted funding to PICA in the following fields:
CATEGORY: Access to Artistic Excellence

To support the Time-Based Art Festival and related educational activities. The ten-day festival will feature local, national, and international artists working in dance, theater, music, visual art, film, and multidisciplinary forms.
CATEGORY: American Masterpieces

To support the presentation of The Wooster Group’s THERE IS STILL TIME..BROTHER, an installation/performance work. Activities of this project will be part of the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival.
CATEGORY: Access to Artistic Excellence

To support the presentation of dance artists John Jasperse Company and Jérôme Bel. In partnership with the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the presentations will take place at the Time-Based Art Festival in Portland, Oregon, and the Philadelphia Live Art Festival in Philadelphia.
Thank you NEA! We’ll announce our full TBA:10 lineup this coming week, so stay tuned for your first look at September’s Festival…

All of your friends were there: 2010 and beyond, Part 2 – The Armory + The End

Part Two of Kristan Kennedy’s wrap-up of Spring Art Fair season in New York:
The Armory Show, Fair, Thing – whatever you want to call it is almost impossible to get to. Perched on Pier 92 and 94 around 55th Ave it is the only time you see so many well-heeled patrons flowing across the West-side highway. Everything about this thing seems unnatural. All of these galleries have spaces elsewhere with white walls, bathrooms, and mini fridges stocked with yogurt and champagne but, instead of operating from home base, they move a whole bunch of stuff, plus staff down here, setting up temporary shop in tiny stalls with nary a bottle of water in sight. Roaming the aisles takes stamina and precision. The maze that is before us is daunting, still we take it on like seasoned pros, employing the “supermarket” technique walking down the long corridors of art wares one-by-one, while trying not to deviate when we see some shiny Anish Kapoor across the way.
Photo courtesy of Ambach and Rice
Within our first few steps, we run into some familiar faces. Charlie Kitchings – owner and operator of Ambach & Rice in Seattle – and Carrie Scott are here and their booth does not disappoint. First up some are simple and stunning Roy McMakin photos, in which begonias are perfectly positioned to accentuate their spatial planes, flattening each angle from front-to-back. A few years ago, on a trip to Seattle, Jeffry Mitchell was driving me around wooing me with exquisite conversation and delightfully tangential adventures. On that visit we stopped in to a shop in Chinatown and bought an aquarium and Jeffry schooled me on goldfish, we dug through drawings in his studio and he pulled out a great John Wesley catalog and we talked about cartoons… AND, at the mention that I had been getting really into house plants, he whipped the car around mid-block, called up his friend McMakin and asked if we could break into his studio while he was out of town. A few moments later we were at McMakin’s workshop, and there was no need to break in, as his assistants were happy to let us enter. Suddenly, I was in front of the most artfully arranged jumble of Begonias; in the next room, pinned to the wall in what seemed like one hundred different combinations, were photos of the same plants. Now, finally standing in front of the completed series I am taken by their super-refined edges and can not help but think of all of the tiny decisions that had been made from start to finish.
Not to be outdone by all of the art, the gallery girls’ fashion at the Armory is always stellar. Here I spy a pair of crazy jeans – they are the first thing I covet at the fair.
My next fantasy purchase are these two Marlene Dumas paintings, each as big as your face and titled, No Look, 2008 and Ungroomed, 2008.
Each time in NYC, I seek out what Mark Manders has to offer. I am in deep love with this piece, Still Life with Purple Marker. Manders is a master at shape-shifting and this small piece feels like it has the same scale as his massive installations.
Yun -Fei Ji, After the Great Leap, 2005 mineral pigment on rice paper + detail
Miriam Bohm at Ratio 3
PICA Alum Todd James has gone big and beautiful with these paper murals.
TBA:09 alum Peter Coffin’s peg legged pirate has two of everything, parrots, hooks and wooden limbs.



Each year, PICA produces a companion program to our Time-Based Art ON SIGHT Visual Arts exhibitions. In recent years, they’ve featured everything from full-color artist posters to in-depth interviews about Festival projects. With all of this rich content at our disposal, we thought that we should make the past programs available online for your enjoyment. For more artist interviews, recordings, and art publications, visit the PICA Resource Room, Monday-Friday, 10 am – 5 pm.
Download the TBA:08 ON SIGHT Program, featuring Tamy Ben-Tor, Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn, Lizzie Fitch, Justin Gorman, Jacob Hartman, Corey Lunn, Jeffry Mitchell, Ryan Trecartin, Paintallica, Fritz Haeg, and The Yes Men, with a special poster from Jeffry Mitchell.
Download the TBA:09 ON SIGHT Program, with artist interviews including Robert Boyd, Antoine Catala, Peter Coffin, Brody Condon, Jesse Hayward, Johanna Ketola, Fawn Krieger, Kalup Linzy, Brian Lund, Ma Quisha, robbinschilds + A.L. Steiner, Ethan Rose, and Stephen Slappe.

All of your friends were there: 2010 and beyond, Part I

PICA Visual Art Program Director Kristan Kennedy just returned from a two-week blitz of the Whitney Biennial and Armory Art Fair. Read on for the first of her reports:
01 eye.jpg
This is what my eye looked like when I landed in New York. If this eye is a window, then you would be looking out onto a psychic landscape scattered with detritus from the week prior. It was time to shake off any residue and move on. I had an opening to attend.
When I come to NY I always stay with family. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and I am lucky to have a free place to lay my head. Tonight, however, I have decided to splurge and spend the night at the Ace Hotel. I am grateful for this spare, but plush limbo-land where I can clear my head and get gussied up. The windows at the Hotel perfectly frame little bits of the buildings across the way, that square starts to blur and I can feel a nap coming on. 
Post nap and room service, my dear friend Topher Sinkinson and I waffle between feeling excited and anxious about the opening. We feel immense amounts of pressure about what we are wearing, which seems silly, but, you have to figure people are going to be puttin’ on the ritz tonight. I am not feeling so ritzy, although perhaps the photo suggests otherwise. 
Storm Tharp; Dolores; 2010; ink, gouache, colored pencil, graphite, charcoal and fabric dye on paper. 
Upon entering the Whitney we spy a gaggle of Portland peeps, and we form one undulating, amoeba-like formation for the rest of the night, picking up other cohorts along the way. None of this was planned, but there is a fair amount of Portland pride happening in the Whitney tonight, as both Storm Tharp and Jessica Jackson Hutchins are part of the show. My photos are limited; as the security is fierce you will have to troll Flickr for covert pics.
My first impression is this: the show feels sparse, calm, pretty. I am used to being visually assaulted by the Whitney Biennial, and I cannot remember a time when I can see more wall than art. This is completely disarming. I can see everything clearly, in fact someone in our caravan says to me along the way, “You are actually looking at the art” to which I replied, ” I know, weird, right?” Not so weird if you think about it (my job, in fact, is as an artist/curator/friend), but at these kinds of massive openings it is a rare occurrence. In fact, at every opening I have been to since the dawn of time, half of the conversations are taken up by people talking about how they “have to come back”.


Post-Collegiate Haze: On Losing Your Identity and Other Things

Visual Art Program Director Kristan Kennedy delivered a fantastic PMMNLS lecture last Monday, and we wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to experience her presentation. Read on and piece together the YouTube references of a talented artist and curator’s mind.
- Frank Stella , 1972 / This is the year I was born.

- Pictorial energy and control, young ideas about art.
- Learning to see from my mother
- Mom’s paintings, the seagull
- Painting on the walls in margarine
- Me on a rock, befriending the inanimate
- Learning to feel from my Father
- My Dad makes his first sculpture after going to DIA Beacon, declares he is a minimalist.
- His exclamation inside of a Sera ” This is like the universe”
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogo vs. Jesus Christ
- My parent’s bookshelf, Future Shock, Radical Child Rearing, e.e. cummings
- Cement Turtles
- Mrs. Epstien’s house, The Kimono and the Foot
- Willem De Kooning and the Art Gang
- Peter Schjeldahl, Why Artists Make the Worst Students, 1998
-Ted Morgan plays Husker Du Land Speed Record on vinyl, Joe Sheer throws a great dinner party, Mary Lum and the obsessive mark + never date male painters
- College work


Art From the Comfort of Your Home

Near the end of last year, the NEA released a report on arts attendance in the US; the results were not encouraging. According to their findings, the percentage of adults who attended at least one arts event dropped to 34.6% in 2008, down from 39.4% in 2002. To an arts organization, even numbers like 39.4% are dishearteningly low. You could argue that arts presenters should change course and show more populist work to garner attention and audiences, but that strategy would run counter to guiding missions and alienate many existing supporters.
What, then, can the strategy be for engaging new (or even existing) audiences in contemporary art? Our friends up at Seattle’s On The Boards decided to test out a new model for presenting contemporary performance. With the launch of their On The Boards TV, they’re staking out a place in the online, on-demand, video rental market. Their gambit is that cutting edge dance, theater and performance (with high production values) can draw a share of the booming online audiences and create new revenue streams for contemporary art. Already, they have beautiful footage of works by artists including Young Jean Lee, Reggie Watts, and Diana Szeinblum, complete with artist interviews and related content. The appeal of this service for educational institutions and peer organizations is clear – a subscription would be a valuable resource to students, artists, and audiences researching an artist.
However, the main question about in-house audiences remains: if people won’t come through the theater doors, is it truly possible to reach them elsewhere? Will be able to draw viewers who couldn’t make it to the live show? The quality of the content is certainly there, but will audiences readily replace the live experience with a recorded one?


The View from Caldera

Our Development Associate, Jessica Burton, was selected as one of Caldera’s Artists in Residence for the month of February! While we valiantly try fill all of her duties here, she’s off focusing on her choreography and dance in a lakeside studio in Central Oregon. Here is her first report back from a few days into her residency:

I was welcomed to Caldera on Tuesday night by Jason, Kevin, and Wendy with a homemade curry lentil soup, spinach salad and wine. Kevin and Wendy are photographers and Jason is a writer. The soup is delicious. We talk about art on the two coasts (Jason and Kevin are from Brooklyn and Wendy is from Portland). Kevin is looking for a new gallery and that led us to talk to about artist representation and the differences between performance and visual “systems”. That led me to talk about the People’s Biennial lecture from last Saturday. The question “What makes someone an artist?” keeps coming up for me. They ask me about my plan for the next three weeks and what my process will be. I honestly reply that I have no idea. I am here to find out.
At the end of the evening, after several glasses of wine, the three other artists leave and I take a walk through my dance space. It is huge. The acoustics are great, so I turn on some music, crank the volume, and take a few spins around the room. This is MY space for the next three weeks! I can’t believe it.

I sleep well in my A-frame after starting a fire in my wood burning stove and curling up to Deborah Hay’s My Body the Buddhist. The next day I sleep in, make coffee and head to the studio for yoga and some movement exploration. I put on Rufus Wainwright and immediately channel Diana Szeinblum and Lucas Condro. I start with an exercise that I learned from Diana that helps to connect your hands and core to the rest of your body. After a few hours I need a break, so I go for a hike around the lake. Today my muscles ache from head to toe. It is a great feeling.

We’ll try to keep you updated on Jessica’s residency experience, but if you’d like to catch her work in-person, consider making a road trip this weekend for Saturday’s Artist Open Studio!

Charmed and Disarmed, Part II

Right now, Kristan Kennedy – our lovely Visual Arts Program Coordinator – is off in New York City, visiting galleries, studios, and festivals to soak up the New Year in art. Read on for the second part of a photogenic insight into the mind of one of our curators:
Oh my aching feet!
I can’t see much, my peripheral vision has been cut off by the giant parka hood that I must keep zipped up at all times. It is bone-chillingly cold out here. Even with my blinders on I have noticed people here seem to be proclaiming their inner desires on the street. The other day I saw a giant scrawl that said, “Anthony I need your love now.” And then there was this gem.
Speaking of trends… Most of the artists I have been visiting this trip are women. This comes right on the heels of the news that, for the first time ever, there are equal percentages of male and female artists selected for this year’s Whitney Biennial. I did not seek out women artists in particular, they are just everywhere! My visits have taken me to DUMBO and Bushwick and LES and Long Island City and Chinatown and Chelsea. My new years resolution to keep studio visits to thirty minutes has quickly been tossed out. How do other curators do it? I hear stories of visits where stone faced curators enter, zip their lips, make the artist sweat, and turn on their heels without so much as a “thank you.” Or others who visit seven artists in one afternoon. Do they have a magic flying carpet? Have you ever tried to get from one side of Brooklyn to the other. JEESH!


Charmed and Disarmed, Part I

Right now, Kristan Kennedy – our lovely Visual Arts Program Coordinator – is off in New York City, visiting galleries, studios, and festivals to soak up the New Year in art. Read on for a photogenic insight into the mind of one of our curators:
I spend about a month in New York every year. It is a self imposed sabbatical and a working vacation. It is during this time that I settle into the sidewalk, finding comfort in the canyons created by tall buildings on either side. For the first week I stay way, way, way, way out in south Brooklyn, in a nameless neighborhood past the newly hip Ditmas and before Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island. This is where I grew up, and this is where I come to look at the beautiful noses and beautiful wares and beautiful handwritten signs of my beautiful people. 
Junk, Cookies and Cabbages on Kings Highway, Brooklyn NY
Even though I have just about had my fill of Russian elegance and promise myself that I will rage on New Years in the City, I get an invitation to go to the country, and I take it. The city is going nowhere fast and, when I return, I suspect it will be waiting for me. I head up to Hudson, NY. My friends house is a work of art, with every surface covered in some fantastic pattern, and every possible assemblage of this-and-that; the best kind of installation. They have Portland baristas here now, and Marina Abramovic is rumored to be opening a performance space soon. Other than that, there is snow and there are antiques and there is lots of old upstate glamor. We run through the streets at midnight, it is a good time. 
Keith Crowe (Co- Founder and Former Owner Operator of Portland’s Half and Half ), Illustrator Brent Johnson (formerly of Motel Gallery), and me in Hudson, NY. 


Over the Weekend at Under the Radar

Last week, PICA’s Victoria Frey was in New York, attending the Under the Radar Festival with Jessica, Kristan, Erin, and Cathy from the PICA team. We posted her day one wrap-up last week, and now we share the run-down from her breathless weekend trying to catch as much art as she could:
Friday starts later because I skip out on the APAP Conference morning sessions. I have time to catch the Urs Fischer show at the New Museum. Really interesting. He photographed the walls, the ceiling, and all the details of the 3rd floor gallery and made wallpaper to cover the space as itself. A lone melted piano sculpture sits in the middle of the room. The 2nd floor gallery is installed with his mirrored cubes.
I walk all over the Lower East Side, the Bowery, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Orchard Street on my way to Brown restaurant on Hester. My first show is Chekov Lizardbrain by Pig Iron Theater from Philadelphia. Good production and accomplished actors. Great characters and ideas but it somehow does not all come together for me. I sit with David Henry from Boston, and we have the same schedule, so we decide to travel together. We walk up toward our next show, the Richard Maxwell piece at PS122 called Ads. We end up nearly sprinting to make it as I lead David the long way there. This pace, the sense of adventure and the camaraderie are what make the festival format so much fun.
Next we have to get all the way to 3LD in the financial district for Gin&”It” directed by Reid Farrington. This is a work-in-progress that will premeire at the Wexner in March and is based on Hitchcock’s Rope. It’s an inventive work based on a great film – I would love to see the finished work.
Now back uptown to the public for the late show at the lounge. Each night I have told myself that staying up really late is also part of the experience but tonight I am too tired to stay past 1. Kristan is crashing at our hotel tonight so there may be a slumber party after all.


PICA Descends on UTR

Wednesday kicked off the Sixth Annual Under The Radar Festival (UTR) in New York, and it just so happens that a good half of our staff has flown out to catch the shows. Maybe it has something to do with the annual APAP Conference taking place this weekend, and maybe (just maybe), it’s because we love UTR Artistic Director (and past PICA Guest AD) Mark Russell. Still, the real reason to be in New York this week is for the incredible lineup of contemporary performance converging at the Public Theater.

UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL 2010 from UTRFestival on Vimeo.

Along with TBA, Under The Radar is one of the few US festivals presenting consistently engaging and genre-bending contemporary performance. For PICA fans, a lot of the names will sound familiar; past artists include Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Superamas, and Mike Daisey, and this year alone, you can catch Philippe Quesne/Vivarium Studio, Jollyship the Whiz-Bang, and MK Guth. With over 20 shows running on some days, UTR is a wild and intense burst of theater.
After the jump, read a first-day dispatch from PICA Executive Director Victoria Frey…


Warhol Foundation Awards PICA $100,000 Grant!

robbinschilds c.l.u.e.
robbinschilds perform C.L.U.E. at TBA:09. Photo: Carole Zoom.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has awarded PICA a $100,000, 2-year grant in support of the 2010 and 2011 Time-Based Art Festivals. This grant comes in recognition of PICA’s cross-disciplinary programming and community engagement.
According to the Foundation’s website:

“Over the past seven years, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art has secured a prominent place in the public imagination by curating one of the most dynamic multi-disciplinary events in Portland, the annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA).”

“…Perhaps most impressive of all, however, is the way TBA manages to activate public, non-art spaces that bring the city into the Festival and the Festival into the city. This past year, the Festival’s late-night programming and ON SIGHT visual arts installations were both staged in the re-purposed Washington High School, and Australia’s Back to Back Theater performed its riveting Small Metal Objects to an audience wearing headphones in the middle of a bustling outdoor lunch crowd in Pioneer Square. By presenting work in diverse neighborhoods and alternative spaces, PICA is able to engage broad, new audiences in contemporary art.”

This assessment was shared by TBA:09 artist Antoine Catala, who described his Festival experience by saying that,

“TBA is unique in the US, because it encompasses multi-disciplinary forms of art that lead to natural cross-pollinations. It felt like the whole city mobilized around PICA, because the festival gathers so many volunteers and so many events in a short period of time. The whole experience felt like an amazing communal effort.”

We are honored to be the only Foundation award recipient in the region, and are excited to apply this funding towards another two years of leading-edge programming!
About the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
The Foundation’s objective is to foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process by encouraging and supporting cultural organizations that in turn, directly or indirectly, support artists and their work. The Foundation values the contribution these organizations make to artists and audiences and to society as a whole by supporting, exhibiting and interpreting a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practice.
The primary focus of the Foundation’s grant making activity has been to support the creation, presentation and documentation of contemporary visual art, particularly work that is experimental, under-recognized, or challenging in nature.
For more information, please visit the Warhol Foundation’s Awarded Grant’s Page.

Call for Proposals: Open Engagement Conference

You could argue that an idea has truly gained traction when it boasts its own Wikipedia page. Or, perhaps, when it is accredited as a degree. For that matter, being the target of a satirical anti-movement seems as sure a sign as any that you’ve really made it. If any of these can serve as accurate benchmarks, then it’s safe to say that “Social Practice” has taken off as an artistic discipline over the last decade.
Now, go ahead and add “dedicated conference” to the list of qualifiers for success.
This Spring, Portland will play host to theOpen Engagement Conference, a free, three-day convergence of ideas and social practice art. Run by Jen Delos Reyes and our friend Harrell Fletcher, in conjunction with the MFA Monday Night Lecture Series, the conference will debate the assumptions and intentions underpinning social practice. Attendees will be invited to immerse themselves in the full conference experience by hosting guests, collaborating on new work, and sharing meals. In part, the conference itself will become a social practice project.
Sound interesting? Well, we thought we’d pass along a final call for you to submit your conference ideas.

You are invited to contribute to Open Engagement: Making Things, Making Things Better, Making Things Worse by submitting your projects, performances, tours, presentations, or panel ideas. Other formats are also welcomed. You are encouraged to think of ways to connect peers and colleagues at this conference, connect and engage a greater community and work across disciplines.
All interested individuals are encouraged to submit proposals. This conference is not exclusive to artists.

Part 1: Propose a project, paper, performance, discussion, intervention panel (or other format) that relates to the theme of the conference (500 word max).
Part 2: Write a short bio (100 words or less).
Part 3: Fill out the brief questionnaire and application form. We want to help you make interesting connections at this conference, and this will help us facilitate that.
January 15, 11:59pm 2010 (Pacific Standard Time)

PICA 2009 and Looking Ahead to PICA 2010


And a few of our events from the second half of 2009

A letter from Cathy Edwards, TBA:09 and TBA:10 Guest Artistic Director
As fall settles in and we gather sustenance for the winter ahead, I hope that you stored away a lot of energy from a complex, textured, and physically charged TBA:09! I loved the candy necklaces that laced the Festival, the vast dream landscapes of America conjured for us, the geodesic domes and caves that provided opportunities for reflection, and the actors and dancers who broke into song. And each night, I relished coming together in Washington High School to share the Festival experience with an engaged, opinionated, and adventurous cross-section of Portland.
The air is turning cold and PICA’s artistic staff is traveling far and wide, visiting artist studios and rehearsals in Portland and around the country. We are unpacking the boxes of DVDs we’ve received in the mail, doing our homework, and having lots of conversations, both brainy and brawny, that will result in the tremendous energy of ideas and bodies coming together for TBA:10. So, what are we thinking about for next year? A Festival that will be full of visceral euphoria and that will reflect on the big topics of our time. We are not shy about making a statement and we will assuredly create a Festival that adds something truly unique to the Portland landscape. To begin with, we are thinking about love, war, lies, supermen, magic, youthful fantasy, and female icons, just to name a few of our big ideas!
Some of the artists we have been talking about include The Wooster Group, who will remind us That There is Still Time…. Brother, in a new project directed by the legendary Elizabeth LeCompte that collides the 1959 film On the Beach with Paris Hilton, Iraq war imagery, and an Ohio fort in the 1700s; John Jasperse, whose new work is called Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking and Flat-Out Lies; and Maria Hassabi, who investigates feminine iconography in Solo/SoloSHOW. Plus, you can expect a return visit from perennial favorite Reggie Watts, an encore performance by Tarek Halaby, and lots more theater, dance, music, and visual arts that will have us sit up straight in our seats and then talk late into the night at the WORKS.
It’s an incredible journey to put together a festival of the breadth and depth of TBA, the culmination of PICA’s year-round efforts to bring contemporary art to Portland. During the year, PICA hosts lectures by emerging artists, provides artist residencies, and devotes resources to commissioning provocative new work. These activities energize Portland’s creative culture and, more than ever before, we rely on your curiosity, opinions, and participation. Join our community by becoming a member or renewing your support, contributing financially, and establishing a stake in what we do all year round. I hope that you’ll join us as we build PICA’s energy for the coming year.
Cathy Edwards
Guest Artistic Director TBA:09 & TBA:10

PS: Download the full PDF version of our year-end newsletter to read a letter from Artistic Director Cathy Edwards and be the first to browse the PICA Shoppe including limited edition artworks by past PICA and TBA artists.

Photo Credits: July: P1C4 PICA 14th Birthday Party, photo: Point Juncture, WA. August: Mike Daisey THE LAST CARGO CULT: A Workshop of a New Monologue, photo: Mike Daisey. September: TBA:09 The Seventh Annual Time-Based Art Festival, Miguel Gutierrez photo: Wayne Bund. October: Diana Szeinblum Residency and In-Progress Showing, ALASKA photo: Jazmín Tesone. November: Philip Glass with Portland Opera and Northwest Film Center, photo: Philip Glass. December: Prints for PICA Printmaking Marathon and Art Sale, photo: Calvin Ross Carl.

PICA 2009: Help Define Our Times

Just some of our first six months of 2009 programming

A letter from Victoria Frey, Executive Director of PICA

This past year we saw the personal, professional, and cultural lives of our community turned upside down. Amid this uncertainty, PICA’s commitment to remain a vital, provocative, and fiscally responsible organization never faltered, and our devotion to supporting the art and the artists who will be the enduring voice of our time was steadfast.

As we budgeted for 2009, we made difficult reductions in our programming and administrative budgets, running lean on the backs of staff and volunteers whose passion and selflessness are unmatched. We made these cuts with an eye not just toward survival, but longevity. And in spite of these reductions, we celebrated a great year of programming. We skated around Oaks Park with local composer and musician Ethan Rose, laughed and cried with Holcombe Waller, and celebrated our 14th Birthday with a trio of local bands.

We created a tremendous community in and around the old Washington High School for TBA:09. We mingled and shared the bounty of our local food on the WHS lawn for the Labor Day picnic, we explored and delighted in Fawn Krieger’s National Park, and stayed up late at THE WORKS. We gathered for important and exciting new work from Miguel Gutierrez, who wowed us with the world premiere of Last Meadow; Erik Friedlander, who accompanied his autobiographical piece Block Ice & Propane with masterful strokes of his cello; and Raimund Hoghe, whose stunning choreography has been lauded around the world but never before seen in the United States until he stepped onto the stage of the Newmark. We rounded out the year with a two-week residency by choreographer Diana Szeinblum, who gave a workshop for local dancers. At the end of her residency, she presented a work-in-progress showing of a new piece that PICA commissioned her to develop.

As 2009 comes to a close, and we head into a new year that will continue to test our mettle as a nimble and entrepreneurial arts organization, your year-end donation makes a defining difference. We need to raise $30,000 from individual donors to counterbalance a two-year trend of decreased individual donations and corporate sponsorships. Our goal is practical, responsible, and achievable. If we meet this challenge together PICA will kick off 2010–our 15th year–with the ongoing financial stability we have all worked so hard to achieve.

Great civilizations are measured not by the rise and fall of businesses or the changing tides of commerce, but by the art that distills the tenor of the time and the spirit of the people. Our world is marked by upheaval and uncertainty, and the art that is being created today is challenging, reflecting that anxiety. PICA is the loudspeaker–the megaphone–that allows the voices of contemporary artists to carry across distance and time.

At PICA, our challenge is to balance our ambitions and dreams with economic realities. But it is up to you to define those realities; that is your challenge. This letter is in your hands because you’ve joined us and witnessed the passion of these times on our stages, screens, and gallery walls. These moments have the power to change your life and challenge your thinking.

Join PICA as we celebrate and preserve Portland’s cultural legacy. Renew–or increase–your commitment to PICA, and share in our vision of a future filled with the best that contemporary art has to offer.

Victoria Frey
Executive Director, PICA

PS: Download the full PDF version of our year-end newsletter to read a letter from Artistic Director Cathy Edwards and be the first to browse the PICA Shoppe including limited edition artworks by past PICA and TBA artists.

Photo Credits: January: Ethan Rose OAKS CD Release, photo: Adam Porterfield. February: PSU Monday Night Lecture Series, photo: Edgar Arceneaux. March: Holcombe Waller and the Healers Into the Dark Unknown: The Hope Chest, photo: Lucas Balzer. April: TADA! The Annual Gala, photo: Jeff Forbes. May: PICA HEART NYC with Ace Hotel and PAPER Magazine, photo: culturebot. June: Washington High School: load in and build out begins, photo: Kenneth Aaron.

Philip Glass, Orphée, and Film’s Missing Element

By Eve Connell
Creativity and Collaboration: An Evening with Philip Glass
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Kridel Ballroon at PAM

Listening to Philip Glass last Tuesday night, before Portland Opera’s Orphée production this weekend, was indeed a tremendous way “to give us as an audience and a community the opportunity to see how a brilliant artist works.” Glass covered his influences (art house movies, Paris), collaboration with filmmakers and other artists (Errol Morris, Godfrey Reggio, Chuck Close), his experiences and initial prejudices with working in film (the missing element), but actually spent most of the evening presenting the Jean Cocteau trilogy that fueled some powerful, magical work.
Through a critical discussion of film, Glass offered us “earth, wind, and fire, the elements that make the art” – text, image, movement, music (accepting audience as the fifth element in this line up). The one big negative in film, he duly noted, is that “compared to dance, to theater…it’s not an interpretative art. Film is definitive.” He explained that all interpretations of a film remain intact, no matter how many times the piece is remade. “It’s more or less the same every time you see it.” The missing element? “The ability for other teams of people to take work and reinterpret…works live in a container they can’t break out of.” But, these works also take on a different life due to multiple productions over time. Such a legacy of performances and their interpretations (Glass had us think about thousands of Carmen performances) also allow the work to grow in depth and complexity. “This legacy has its own history and meaning, and takes on a super identity.”
The more Glass became enamored and involved with film, and this idea of legacy from performance interpretation, the more he thought about breaking the traditional mold. (Not a surprise.) He realized that the “synchronization of image and music could work…positively.” He wanted film to embrace real-time performance which has a quality that transcends any kind of recorded performance. Glass hoped to create or combine this ideal in film and, equipped with what he labels “Cocteau’s coherent body of work” (La Belle et La Bête , Les Infants Terribles, Orphée), set out to do so. Why Cocteau? “Everything Cocteau had to say about art and life, life and death, is in these films.” The artist’s life and the creative process come alive in these stories, heavily laden with symbolism. (Key, horse, rose, mirror, glove figure prominently.) But the power of turning our ordinary world into a magical place is not just merely the power of the artist – it’s actually possible for everyone to access the power of transformation. “Cocteau’s transformation of the world comes from magic, magic that comes through the power of the artist, and really, everyone.” Glass directs: “If we know the five symbols, we can rule our lives effectively.”
Glass believes that art is a social phenomenon. That it is collaborative by its very nature. That there’s a transaction that happens between composer, performer, audience. “It’s not abstract. It’s something that happens between us.” The Portland Opera presentation of Glass’ Orphée offers pure magic via collaboration this weekend and next. The piece combines real-time operatic performance with cinematic performance. Live music is synchronized with imagery. Identities and themes perhaps merge, and certainly play between stage and screen. The mold is broken. We are all in for a powerful treat.

PMMNLS: Kenneth Goldsmith

Kenneth Goldsmith hates Facebook. / Photo Credit: © C. Jones
October 26, 2009
Posted by: Meg Peterson
Kenneth Goldsmith is a man of many talents. He is a poet, professor of Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, Senior Editor of PENNsound, radio-show host on WFMU, and founding editor of UbuWeb — “a completely independent resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts.” For his PMMNLS talk, Goldsmith chose to focus on UbuWeb, walking us through the site, its ideologies, and cruising it’s content to pluck a few gems from it’s mass of nearly five terabytes of archived material.
Before stepping up to the podium, Goldsmith hit play on a beautiful Jonas Mekas video from Ubu, Happy Birthday to John (1972). Wildly intimate footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono: the best possible way to render a fidgeting crowd of art nerds completely rapt. Of the 5,000 or so artists that are hosted on Ubu, only a handful have given permission for their work to be posted. However, since Ubu’s inception in 1996, the site has only suffered about 20 take-downs, (and will always remove work at an artist’s request.) Goldsmith iterated that he finds it a great triumph that Ubu is able to post material related to Lennon, “Pop’s greatest commodity”, without people getting terribly upset about it. This is due in part because “Ubu chooses not to fuck with legitimate economies.” Ubu users will never find a scrap of Madonna material on the site, but one can peruse such curiosities as the music of Marcel Duchamp, the paintings of William S. Burroughs, as well as other Lennon-related oddities; such as seven minutes of John fiddling with a radio dial. The site is highly curated, which is what makes it so good — but also follows the mantra that anything is publishable, even if it is a thousand-page PDF. Goldsmith insists that the site is esentially a fanzine, a contraption made out of toothpicks and paperclips, and an art historian’s nightmare. Yet, it out MOMA’s MOMA on the internet. It houses a sea of material that would otherwise remain inaccessable outside gallery walls. It’s free, and it will always* be free.
*We’re in the SUMMER OF LOVE with the web, and it isn’t going to last forever.
If you see something you like, PDF IT.
But, you know — It’s like Whack-A-Mole. You can take things down, but you can never get rid of them.

Tonight’s PMMNLS Lecture (November 2, 2009):
The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest
Portland State University: Shattuck Hall Annex
1914 SW Park Ave.

Headphones in the Square

Back To Back Theater
Small Metal Objects
Two hundred or so people, lining the stadium seats in Pioneer Courthouse Square, each wearing identical sets of headphones, none knowing exactly where to look. Some are looking back, over the shoulders, wondering whether that is where the action is. Others watch the green-clad uniformed employees of a local nursery, methodically gathering up and carting off the plants that littered the square as part of an earlier expo celebrating the opening of the new Max line. Still others glance at the faces of those near them, hoping for a clue. Through their headphones, they are all hearing the sounds of orchestral, atmospheric music, and over it a non-linear conversation between two people with Australian accents.
So began Small Metal Objects by Back to Back Theater.


“We Never Get Anything Done… I’m a Perfect Example”

tba tarek.jpg
Tarek Halaby, Lecture/Performance: An attempt to understand my socio-political disposition through artistic research on personal identity in relationship to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Part One
Posted by: Dusty Hoesly
Tarek Halaby’s lecture/performance is ridiculously and too easily titled “An attempt to understand my socio-political disposition through artistic research on personal identity in relationship to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Part One.” It’s an “attempt” alright. As Halaby readily admits during his short piece, most of his sketches are failed ideas, possibilities that he determined wouldn’t work even before performing them. Yet he performs them anyway, primarily as an explanation of a two-year, funded artist residency in Brussels that he squandered, vainly searching for a great new idea to perform. Suffice to say, the search continues.