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Sunday, September 22, 2013

TBA Festival: Over but Not Over

Posted by Jenna Lechner on Sun, Sep 22, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Jamie Isenstein performing silently, on the harp. Aka a piece called Rug Woogie X.
  • Evan LaLonde
  • Jamie Isenstein performing silently, on the harp. Aka a piece called Rug Woogie X.

TBA performances wrapped up today, however TBA's presence lingers for the remainder of September with a number of visual art shows curated in conjunction with the festival. A.L. Adams did a run-down of the shows in last week’s print issue of the Mercury; left out were a few of the galleries further out from downtown. A bit about those:

Farthest from the city center but the most worthwhile of the exhibits is at the Cooley Gallery (at Reed College), which features Jamie Isenstein’s Will Return. I visited the show today, which is a mid-career survey of the artist's work (more details here, in the Mercury's TBA preview guide). It was the perfect experience for a rainy, dreary Sunday. I was warmed by chuckles from the cleverness and curiousness of the art, as well as Isenstein’s presence in the gallery. With a wrist brace strapped on and a bag of yarn at her feet, the artist was hovered over a small harp, silently weaving yarn into the strings. We chatted for a while; I asked how the opening was. She shrugged, “I was in the wall.”

In other words, Isenstein was performing her piece Magic Fingers inside a temporary wall in the gallery; the wall is cut out to feature her isolated hand as it moves and pauses in different poses, highlighted by a royal-blue background and a gilded frame. This is at the entrance to the show. Sprinkled elsewhere around the gallery are, more or less, various illusions. There's a series of watercolors illustrating the following: several clown shoes, a hand pinching an ear plug, the borders in silent films. There are also a few video pieces; one titled Clap Magic includes a monitor that loops a pair of clapping hands and an actual lamp that is in the gallery and has The Clapper bulb installed. The lamp turns on and off, activated by the clapping hands on the video. A beautifully designed monograph accompanies the exhibition, with articles written by Reed Alumni: David Velasco of Artforum and, delightfully enough, anthropologist-on-magic Graham M. Jones (who is also a professor at MIT). Isenstein and I talked a while longer about Ozzy Osbourne's prank at Madame Tussauds, and bonded over a similar, appropriately odd and uncanny childhood experience, which involved clutching store mannequins whose arms terrifyingly fell off. Isenstein will be at the Cooley Gallery, in person, for a few more days. I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Trekking out to north Portland, the Portland Museum of Modern Art features the work of Glasgow-based Sue Tompkins (through October 5). It’s a small show primarily of text pieces, which are printed on 20 sheets of A4 paper, all displayed in a row, and function like visual poems. It’s worth seeing if you already happen to be at Mississippi Records, but in general the exhibit feels empty, like it needs a human presence or a (live) voice to activate and engage you in the space. In the absence of this, there is a small ipod shuffle with headphones. Listen to a recorded live performance by Sue Tompkins, which repeats phrases something like “work it”— basically it sounds like a Daft Punk record that keeps skipping and repeating. On the wall are two pieces of rainbow organza with a safety pin and zip attached to them. They’re both labeled “seven.” They feel careless or unconsidered, or like a fragment of another exhibit. I was underwhelmed, although I’m sure someone has an explanation for them (see: comments section?).

Lastly, getting back to (arguably) the core place of TBA activity, the exhibits at Con-Way will still be open September 25-29 (12-6:30pm), as Andrew Ritchey’s curated selection of videos will be screened. They’re 16 mm short films, by the likes of George Kuchar and other underground/independent filmmakers.

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