The idea behind Andrew Dickson's latest TBA offering—following his performances about how to be an eBay PowerSeller and how to sell out—is, on the surface, pretty gimmicky: Dickson acts as a life coach for someone. Participation is free for both the audience and the pre-selected coachees; in a setup that more or less mirrors that of any shrink's office—quiet, two chairs facing each other, low lighting—Dickson and the coachee sit for the better part of an hour, talking through any life challenge(s) the coachee has asked for help with. The biggest difference from a normal life coaching session, I guess, is the fact that there are like 40 people watching, and occasionally weighing in. Well, that and the fact that Dickson totally isn't a trained or licensed or even particularly experienced life coach.
The performance/session I attended yesterday afternoon started off somewhat worrisomely: Dickson asked everyone in attendance to take a few moments to reflect on why we had chosen to attend and what we wanted to get out of the experience, and then he had us turn to whoever was sitting closest to us and, making eye contact, discuss these reasons. This was about 98 percent awkward and terrible, for me at least, in no small part because I felt more than a little guilty and voyeuristic about my reasons for attending. (In short: "I am a terrible and curious and nosy person, and I figure this is the closest I'll ever get to eavesdropping on a stranger's therapy session.")
So that part was clunky and weird, and ultimately, didn't add a whole lot to the experience. What happened next, though, was pretty great: Dickson invited up the coachee, Wayne, a middle-aged or maybe slightly more-than-middle-aged man with a gray shirt, gray hair, glasses, and a soft voice. Wayne had applied to be Dickson's coachee because he had a problem. A math problem.
I'd never heard of self-described "drag terrorist" Christeene before TBA this year, and I wasn't sure what to make of the videos I'd seen online, but last night's performance was oddly uplifting. "Oddly" because, well, the show did in fact feature lead singer Christeene (the nom de drag of performer Paul Soileu) licking what I think was pudding out of another man's butt; "uplifting" because underneath the incredibly graphic stage show and lyrics were genuinely catchy pop songs. Plus, backup dancers in gimp masks performing upbeat, goofily choreographed dance numbers... I don't know, it was just sort of delightful in a way that absolutely belied how on-the-surface offensive a lot of the material was. Plus, the crowd—lots and lots of youngish gay dudes, clearly already fans—was super into it. It was fun!
Tonight at The Works: The wildly popular and only intermittently offensive Ten Tiny Dances. (It's worth noting that this year, the beer garden and food offerings at Washington High are free and open to the drinking-age public. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by for a $4 Session, eat some food, and check out the scene.)
In his disarming new show Heavens What Have I Done, the New York-based Gutierrez invites the audience onstage to witness firsthand the anxiety, excitement, and inspiration that goes into creating a performance piece. Much of the show takes the form of a deceptively casual monologue, as Gutierrez—face painted, fake eyelashes in place—jokes and rambles his way through his preparations for a piece. Early in the monologue, Gutierrez mentions a stint he did as a teacher at a dance school, where he found a disconcerting sameness in the student work he was seeing: It was as though, he explains, the students felt they had to erase themselves before going onstage, to limit their entire presentation and focus to a single idea. Heavens What Have I Done is an explicit rejection of that approach: Gutierrez brings everything onstage. In a literal unpacking of baggage, as he prepares his set and dresses in a clownish costume, Gutierrez shares his insecurity about his intelligence, his desire to impress a judgmental ex-boyfriend, his philosophical interest in the notion of binary constructs like gender and the mind/body split, and how much, exactly, his shoes cost. (I won't attempt to analyze the symbolism of the pennies he rains upon the stage at one point.)
When Gutierrez finally begins to dance, it's a forceful, aggressive assertion of his right—as a gay man, as the son of immigrants, as an aging dancer having trouble fitting into his skinny jeans—to make art on his own terms. In a ruffled rainbow collar and a Marie Antoinette wig, looping French phrases and singing along with opera, his show appropriates bits of Western "high culture" in order to effectively subvert our often-unquestioned assumptions about ownership and participation.
That's what I got out of it, anyway. Gutierrez had a few harsh words in the piece about festival programs, which glibly attempt to pin a performance down to words—but it's kind of my job, and that's what I came away from the show thinking about.
A few more stray thoughts: (1) Don't wear a short skirt. (2) The piece has a conversational tone, but that doesn't mean you need to do any talking. Seriously, no one likes that guy.
Gutierrez performs two shows, tonight at tomorrow at 6 pm at Washington High. Reservations are required for passholders; individual tickets are $20. Details here.
I had two thoughts as I walked out of the premier TBA performance of Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol's El Rumor del Incendio. The first: "well that was charming." The second: "I want to watch that all over again and not pay one shred of attention to the supertitles." This is not to say that supertitles are superfluous to the show. Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol (you can brush up on them here and here) is a Mexico City based theatre collective and they present El Rumor... in their native tongue so supertitles are necessary for us monolingual dummies, as Alison so nicely put it, to keep up with the dialogue.
And oh is there dialogue. The show is essentially a history lesson in and of itself, mapping out in great detail the tumultuous history of young Mexicans revolutionaries in 1960s and 1970s Mexico. A movement, that to my knowledge has received very little attention in the history books (at least not at my high school) and one that Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol give a very stirring account of. Much of the show, perhaps a good 60% of it, is exposition. There are many events to follow, many names to try to keep track of, and it is easy to get turned around and hard to keep all the people and places straight. Found letters, historical accounts, and audio clips that the group have uncovered are shown and heard, and at times the information coming at the audience in this "documentary play" can be fairly overwhelming.
But lucky for us, Lagartijas Tiradas have found not only creative ways to communicate this information, but they've paired it with action brought charismatically alive by the ensemble Luisa Pardo, Gabino RodrÍguez (Largartijas' founders) and Harold Torres. I seriously could have watched this trio for hours, dialogue or no, they were captivating, personable, and heartwarming.
Which brings me to my point about the supertitles. While the story and the history that Lagartijas Tiradas unwraps in El Rumor del Incendio is mostly conveyed through words, it is the action on stage, in the present, that is the most engaging. The group uses real-time video, models, masks, toy soldiers, even a fish tank (seriously the set is fucking great), to help bolster and convey the history they are telling. And it is this action matched with the stern performances of Gabino, Pardo, and Torres that really make the show worth seeing. Words are great, but it was refreshing to see a play's themes displayed in such a physical and visceral way.
Of course there is a catch-22 here. I probably wouldn't be as excited about the play's physicality if I hadn't been in tune with the narrative the dialogue was mapping out. And that I had to obtain through those dreaded supertitles. But is there a way to tell? I suppose I could go twice. Ah screw it, I'm going twice.
So, full disclosure guys, I was pretty stoked to go see opening night of Big Art Group's The People: Portland tonight. After interviewing both of the New York City based collective's co-founders, Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson, I was fairly convinced that I was going to dig what they had to offer...
Recorded interviews of Portlanders answering questions about concepts like democracy, justice, terrorism projected on the walls of Washington High School? Ok sounds neat.
A live footage and live theater mash-up woven into the plot and themes of the Oresteia? Awesome, I love those plays.
A piece of art blending local thoughts with larger universal human ideas? Well that just sounds like that whole "think global, live local" motto jammed packed into one night of performance. Sign me up.
So yes, I suppose you could say I had high hopes for the spectacle Big Art Group had set forth to bring to Portland's TBA audience. Were my hopes met with coinciding results? To put it bluntly, they were not. But before I get all negative, let me first list some things that I thought succeeded in Big Art Group's The People: Portland:
-I found the group's use of technology (aside from several glitches last night) to be quite thrilling. Albeit this wasn't a surprise. Big Art Group is well known for their technical innovation. Seeing the real live performance occurring inside Washington High's classrooms (where most of the piece's action took place) projected in real time outside on the school's walls was certainly an engaging feat, if not awe inspiring. As the piece continued however, this function became increasingly hard to follow.
TBA is fancy this year. There's a shiny new sign announcing the presence of shiny art things, and the outdoor beer garden at the Works has gotten a makeover, with a smaller, aggressively reinforced perimeter that affects crowd flow in a weird way—you can no longer grab a drink inside and just wander out to grab some food on the patio. The opening night crowd was typically PNCA-pretty, and while Venus X didn't pack the dance floor per se, there was still a healthy, sweaty crowd on the stage and floor of the school's old auditorium.
This isn't the first year TBA has opened with projections on the side of Washington High, but last night's noisy presentation of The People—Portland demanded the neighborhood's attention in ways it hasn't in the past. You could pretty much watch the show from the outdoor seating at Hal's (er, "Havana West"), my preferred Works pre-func location, and some of the homeless people who live around Washington High seemed touchy about all the activity. ("Don't touch my fucking trailer!") We'll have a review up of The People—Portland soon—it runs for two more nights.
Also, I had a tiny ice cream cone. It was delicious.
It's not even worth trying to take in any of TBA's art offerings on opening night—it's a party, it's loud, everyone is kinda drunk and wound up. So to that end, I'll post some more pretty pictures of opening night after the jump.
When I met up with PICA Visual Art Curator Kristan Kennedy, beyond digging into TBA:12's pared-down visual art program, End Things, I wasn't sure about where our conversation would go.
Kennedy showed me to a cluster of comfortable chairs in PICA's swanky new office and event space, and, without much build-up, began speaking very candidly about her work from TBAs past. We discussed exciting art that can get lost in the hustle and bustle of festival environments (a consumptive issue Kennedy hopes to solve with year-round programming— now reserving six of PICA's twelve visual art budgetary allotments for use outside festival week). On top of the organizational and curatorial maturation, she gave a thorough account of the thinking that went into designing End Things, drawing thematic connections between the six included projects (useful if you're looking for a little guidance as to how the projects can be read together).
For the Cliff Notes, check out my piece from last week's TBA print guide. The full transcript of our conversation is after the jump. (The opening reception for End Things takes place tonight at Washington High School from 10 pm to midnight, and additional projects are on view at PICA's downtown office through September 29.)
About an hour before seeing The Quiet Volume, while flipping through the new David Foster Wallace biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story at Powell's, I landed on a passage describing how Wallace's ideas about language were influenced by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein's early work characterized language as a rigidly logical system, a notion he later rejected in favor of the position that language is communally defined, by usage. ("Meaning as use," as a character in The Broom of the System puts it.) During his career as a fiction writer, Wallace explored both of those positions, as he constantly grappled with the philosophical underpinnings of language.
I read that and I thought "poor David Foster Wallace" and "how awful to feel so stressed out about language" and "I don't really remember my college philosophy courses very well," and then I put the book away and headed to the Central Library for Tim Etchells and Ant Hampton's The Quiet Volume, a show that blew me away by creating just the sort of anxiety about language I'd been pitying Wallace for having.
The 10th annual Time-Based Art festival kicks off tonight with a performance of Big Art Group's The People—Portland (a mashup of live theater, video, and footage from interviews with Portlanders, loosely based on the Oresteia)—followed by a free dance party at Washington High, and the opening of TBA's visual art exhibits.
I have it on good authority that—for real this time—this is the last year TBA will be based at the school. It's absolutely worth checking out while you still can—the old high school makes a great performance hub, and it's fun exploring classrooms and hallways full of visual and video art.
Tonight's dance party is FREE! and starts at 10:30 pm at Washington High (SE 13th & Stark); it's helmed by NYC DJ Venus X. "Not since DJ Spooky... has a D.J. been appreciated in so many cultural contexts," writes the New York Times of the scene-hopping DJ, who's as likely to perform in an abandoned warehouse as at the Museum of Modern Art. Kinda boring video:
Also at Washington High: Cocktails, a beer garden, and food—tonight provided by Boke Bowl.
One of my favorite articles in this week's TBA guide is "Online Relationship Management," by local writer/artist Dylan Meconis. Dylan interviewed writer/artist Claire L. Evans—whom you might know from her work in YACHT—about a presentation Evans is giving at TBA. The interview discusses Evans' ideas about how online relationships are measured and understood, and it's accompanied by some of Dylan's suggestions for online relationship tools. They are delightful:
This year, TBA is teaming up with Ecotrust and Edible Portland to expand their food offerings beyond the awesome-food-from-trucks approach that's marked the last few years at Washington High. Here's what they've
cooked up got planned:
•An outdoor kitchen built on-site at Washington High, where a different chef each night will cook. On the agenda: Boke Bowl, Gruner, Nong's Khao Man Gai, Portabello, and more. (I'll post the whole schedule after the jump.)
•"Blind-tasting bingo": Chefs will provide 15 small bites that blindfolded players will try to identify; the winner snags a bottle of New Deal Vodka. It's $25 to play—tickets and details here.
•A deliciously totalitarian-sounding "Snack Office," based out of Washington High's old principal's office, will sell cheap, seasonal, healthy snacks, provided by Abby's Table's Abby Fammartino.
Remember last year, when we gave away a TBA pass to the commenter who wrote the best review of a picture of my cat? Well, I liked that so much we're doing it again. We've got one full-festival immersion pass to give away—that's a $250 value, ladies and gentleman, and it'll get you into any show except Laurie Anderson and Ant Hampton/Tim Etchells. All you gotta do to win is write the best (note: generally defined as "funniest") review of this picture of my cat:
The contest closes at 3 pm on Friday,
August 29 August 31! Make sure there's a valid email address attached to the account you're logged in with, OR include your email in your comment, or else you will not win. And if you need a little inspiration, last year's How to Speak TBA guide was written for just such an occasion.
UPDATE: We decided to extend this contest a bit—I'll email a winner next week.
UPDATE: And we have a winner, winner chicken dinner! Thanks to everyone for playing!
Hello, friendly art-loving art friends! Welcome to the 2012 edition of the Mercury's trusty TBA blog, where it's all Time Based Art, all the... well, you know. PICA's annual contemporary art festival runs from September 6-16—if you don't have a pass yet, you can snag one right over here.
Stuff to look forward to in this space over the next few weeks:
• Reviews! Of everything. Literally. We'll be weighing in on every play, art installation, dance, concert, and ye si"happening." We'll do our best to write about these things in a thoughtful, informed, and lively manner, and you have my solemn oath as blog editor that we will never not employ mocking scare quotes when discussing any event described as a "happening."
• Interviews! Stay tuned for interviews with festival artists and curators, including a giant Q&A with visual art coordinator Kristen Kennedy on the new directions she's taking the festival's visual arts coverage.
• News! Sometimes people tell us things! Sometimes there is art drama because I don't know if you have heard but artists are dramatic! Sometimes the food trucks promise tacos and there are no tacos!
• Discussion! I guarantee that I personally will use the phrase "what do you guys think?" at least like 15 times. One of the best parts of TBA is talking about the work—with friends and in blog conversations, as well as following what critics at other outlets have to say. So that's gonna happen.
•Etc! And... you know! Whatever else!
Also! Our comprehensive print guide to TBA hits the streets on Thursday, August 30, as an insert in the regular paper, so pick up a copy wherever your Mercury is served. We'll also be using the @MercArts as both a link dump and for on-the-spot updates, so go follow along over there if you really want to stay in the loop.
(Oh yeah: This whole business is being streamed live here, if you're curious.)
2:23 pm—And here something pretty great happens: Mike Daisey loses his shit, breaking character and pushing himself back from his table, laughing hard for a long spell, his big chest shaking, he's giddy and enthusiastic and looking—for the first time in like I don't know a dozen-and-a-half hours—like he's having a genuinely great time. The thing that caused this reaction was a joke about raping Jonathan Ames' corpse.
I'm not going to lie; I had a hard time with this performance. I hardly know what to make of it. Sure, at times I could see themes of nationalism, political oppression, and maybe rebellion, but it was all so conceptual, I could not connect with any of it.
As the audience trickled in to fill the Winningstad Theatre, dancer/choreographer Rachid Ouramdane, who comes to us from France, stood silently on a slowly spinning platform. Once the house lights went down, he started off the piece with a section of increasingly complex semaphore gestures accompanied by only a metronome on a starkly lit, minimal, industrial set... and it never got any more accessible than that. There was just no narrative through-line, and no appreciable attempt to involve or even acknowledge the audience. At some points it felt like Ouramdane was just freestyling in a basement with his buddy jamming on guitar, which is why I felt myself wondering why I was watching this.
Speaking of jamming on guitar, though, I was often more interested in watching composer Jean-Baptiste Julien's performance. His haunting piano melodies, mixed and engineered live and on-the-fly (as far as I could tell), were the best part for me, particularly when Ouramdane spent several minutes lying flat on the floor.
Granted, I may not be worldly or educated enough (how much is enough?) to properly appreciate or decipher this high-minded piece—and your counterpoints and illuminations are welcome in the comments—but I'm betting a lot of you would have also been staring at this puzzling production wondering, "what is this? What is the point?"
Seven shots compose the two-hour piece, all sourcing imagery from the Ruhr District of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, a manufacturing center with roots in the early water-powered stages of the Industrial Revolution. All shots weigh in between 8 minutes and an hour— the camera stationary for each— and vantage points feel like those of inanimate objects; maybe a piece of signage staring off down a tunnel, or a dead-leaf's view of the forest beyond Dusseldorf International, planes passing overhead.
Compared to my past TBA experiences (admittedly, a relatively limited set of experiences), Ruhr most outwardly deals with time— duration of shot being just as important as the subject matter therein.
While these long, uneventful clips serve a purpose, Benning tests his audience in working against cinema's narrative traditions. 8 minutes inside a tunnel are followed by an equal measure inside a steel coking plant; an 18-minute stint in a forest outside Dusseldorf International makes way for a service inside a mosque.
My recognition of slow pace isn't to say that Ruhr is without its pay offs. Rewards are paid at both visual and conceptual levels. There's a mesmerizing shot of a worker sandblasting graffiti from a Richard Serra sculpture, an angular negative space growing inside the colorful layers of unapproved communication. Conceptually, shots focus on the conversion of nature into industrial, civic, religious, and transportation systems, each presenting their own fingerprints in time: a steel mill's glowing-rod minutes or the graffiti's afternoon-long erasure, a mosque's sundial believers or a side street's irregular travelers.
The hour-long final shot of a tower letting out huge billows of smoke works to put the previous scenes into perspective, highlighting the relative timescales that all these nature-taming processes work within. Smoke chokes from the tower, its thick cloud blotting the building out of the sky, then slowly clearing before its dirty weather happens again.
When minute fifty-nine of Building Makes Smoke is over, the previously-tedious shorter shots look like ice cream cones and back rubs in the rearview mirror. It's not really a pleasant journey, but it's a meaningful one: a declaration of relativity, more than anything else. Time is relative. Different tasks breed different clocks. All clocks are simultaneous. I think I get it.
The paradox here though is this: Ruhr's vehicle for communication is also its own best censorship. Audience attrition under the sloth-paced shots began halfway into the third scene and continued throughout. If I had to guess at the dropout rate, I'd say roughly half the audience was still seated when the credits rolled. So, fifty percent?
The reality of it is that 10-minute shots of Nothing Is Really Happening are surmountable repellents; an hour of the same is tenfold the noisome, and all the more risky. I admire Benning's willingness to push duration to its limits, to test his audience, but I wonder if there are less tedious ways to talk about time.
(James Benning's Ruhr is screening this afternoon at 4 pm in the Whitsell Auditorium, located inside the Portland Art Museum at 1219 SW Park. Tickets are $9 for non-members. For more details, click here.)
I had high hopes for Big Terrific last night, and by the size of the crowd at Washington High School last night, so did plenty of other people—I'm not sure I've ever seen a Works show so packed,
The show started out strong, with hosts Jenny Slate, Gabe Liedman, and Max Silvestri riffing on their inclusion in TBA ('it's really nice to be called art") and introducing a new installment in their great webseries Bestie x Bestie. Bestie stars Liedman and Slate then did a hilarious joint standup routine, riffing comfortably off each other and their long friendship. This portion of the show included TBA's SECOND reference to Game of Thrones (yes, I have been counting)—in this case the TV show, which they described as "a fantasy show on HBO about people getting reamed from behind." I also really liked Liedman's bit about fantasy: "I don't like the name of the fantasy genre because I think it's presumptuous," he said, explaining in considerable detail how his own fantasies differ from George RR Martin's. His proposed name for Game of Thrones' genre: "alt medieval horny nature magic." I'm not sure I've ever seen a two-person comedy routine quite like this one: Slate and Liedman easily drifted between bits, taking turns or talking over each other. The jokes were tight, but it seemed completely spontaneous and relaxed; Slate has the more vivid stage presence, and her high-energy physicality was nicely grounded by Liedman's lower-key crankiness.
After this promising beginning, the trio shifted into a more traditional comedy format, with each performing a few minutes of standup. This is where the evening lost considerable steam, and it was mostly a problem of scheduling. Presumably at their Brooklyn comedy showcase Slate and Liedman typically act as hosts, rather than hosts AND featured performers; here, it was as though they opened for themselves, which proved awkward. Slate and Liedman's joint act should've closed the show; instead, they were the comedic high point after which the rest of the evening was a gentle downward slump. The likable Silvestri would've been great as an actual opener, warming up the crowd (and I liked his joke about how people in Portland must be so sustainable that they eat their garbage because there are NO GARBAGE CANS ANYWHERE), but Slate and Liedman were so funny together that it pretty much set Silvestri up to fail in comparison, and the individual acts of Slate and Liedman were less engaging than their work together. I wish I could go back in time and just rearrange the elements of this show; as it was, I was drifting off by the time Slate finally closed the show out at about 12:30.
As TBA's first comedy show, I think I'd call it a qualified success. From an attendance standpoint it was certainly a winner, and I have no doubt it brought in people who don't typically go to TBA shows. That being said, from a comedy standpoint it was a pretty traditional show—you're likely to see more weirdo experimentation at local showcase Comedy Is OK (they've got a show at Bunk Bar tomorrow night, matter of fact). I'm looking forward to seeing if or how TBA handles comedy programming in the future.
Side note: Washington High makes a pretty solid comedy venue.
Prior to the show last night, I caught zoe | juniper’s A Crack in Everything Installed. If you’ve seen it (it’s free), you’d probably agree, it’s totally bizarre and unnerving. There’s a series of women, standing in a line with tubetops on; their hair is up and they’re covered in silver glitter; their mouths are oozing some kind of golden bathballs, and red pieces of string drape down the walls. It’s a lot of discordant elements, and I couldn’t help but feel like I had stumbled on some kind of portal, and that I was seeing something I just shouldn’t be seeing. (The Boston Globe called the performance, “A crazy dream you just can’t shake.” Seems apt.)
Then the show started. I knew A Crack in Everything would be intense, but I wasn’t expecting this intense. Obviously the dancers of zoe | juniper are insanely skilled. I talked with choreographer Zoe Scofield about a month ago, on the phone, and she informed me the work is inspired by memory and non-linear aspects of time, and how our minds reconstruct and revisits traumatic events: this is a challenging proposition when the art of dance is, well, “time-based,” and sequential.
Struggling to put the pieces together of last night’s performance, my mind keeps coming back to the work of Matthew Barney. Since Taylor Mac has taught us that “comparison is violence,” yaddayadda, I’ll try and break it down, after the jump.
The warning didn't bode well: "don't go in there." I had barely stepped into the lobby of Washington High School when two strangers on their way out, whispered secretively to me their misgivings about the evening's programming. Last night THE WORKS brought us Catch, a bi-monthly showcase of sorts that features an array of performances, videos, music, and more, hosted by Brooklynites Jeff Larson and Andrew Dinwiddie. It sounds entertaining enough. So what was this couple so troubled by, that they felt the need to warn someone they hadn't met before about the dangers of entering the auditorium?
Next Larson and Dinwiddie took the stage to introduce another act. Oh goodie, video art. Something that I've already stated on this blog, I'm not so good at grappling with. Which proved true in this case as well. About two minutes into the piece and its flashing images of rural roads, semi-flooded country houses, and sound bytes of someone talking about the pros of those feet shoe things, zzzzzzzzz... yes, I completely zoned out. Which is what I would do for the majority of the pieces in Catch's programming. I don't mean to be caviler but things just kept falling flat in the auditorium last night.
That is, until some drunken drama ensued! Jump with me won't you?
Hey demographic, you're about my age, right? Which means we're too young to remember Andy Warhol's experimental art scene of the 60s but old enough to have died of an overdose by now if we'd been a part of it.
The idea of playing songs in front of projected film doesn't sound like anything novel or experimental, but there was actually something unusual about this show: it's an equal marriage of film and rock show. I kept trying to figure out whether the focus was really on the film or the music. Andy Warhol is a bigger name than Dean & Britta, but the musicians were the live performers here. After a while I had to tell myself to stop trying to classify it and accept that it was both.
The films in question, from Warhol's Screen Tests series, are each a few minutes of very subtle black and white footage of young, beautiful people doing nothing much. Staring at the camera, blinking, smoking, drinking, looking around, you get the idea—all starkly lit, and with Dean & Britta playing a live score of very chill, psychedelic folk-rock. But the finale was the most erotic teeth-brushing scene I've ever witnessed. Here is a clip that is all too short:
Aside from that, though, the part I was most fascinated by were the stories that Dean and Britta told in between songs/films, filling in the backstory of these mysterious people: their relationship with Andy Warhol and their strange and untimely demises, such as, "he got out of the bath and danced naked out of his fifth floor window."
By 10 pm yesterday evening, TBA had worn me out with slow-paced artwork. I started off at the Northwest Film Center for James Benning's Ruhr— a feature-length film that ends with a single, hour-long shot of the top of a smoke stack (which I'll further explore in a later post). After Ruhr concluded, I headed to Washington High School for the Works, where NEW MUSICS was billed for a 10:30 start. When I arrived at the school, I was in serious need of something with some strong entertainment value.
I had high hopes that I'd find a remedy in NEW MUSICS, a program inviting, as PICA's event description puts it, “Portland’s most exciting sound scientists and pop adventurers to collaborate with some of the city’s under-sung traditional music ensembles.”
I'm sitting at a coffeeshop, working on this very post, when I get a text from Mike Daisey:
"Surprising development: there will be a tremendous amount of bacon cooked live when least expected."
Daisey, a New York-based monologuist who's gained a considerable local fanbase over the past few years (including just about every writer at this publication), is following up on an interview we did a few days ago about his upcoming All the Hours in the Day. All Hours is easily TBA's most ambitious, talked-about project: It's a 24-hour monologue, beginning at 6 pm on Saturday and closing out the festival on Sunday night. A few nights ago, Daisey and I sat down in a quiet(ish) corner at Washington High to talk about what inspired the performance, how he's preparing, and why everybody planning to see the show needs to calm the fuck down.
Edges is unlike anything else you’ll see at TBA this year. Based in Yokohama, Japan, Offsite Dance Project is among the few international artists (also including collective Claire Fontaine) at the festival, and they bring a totally different, but welcome, “non-Western" sensibility.
The primary goal of the group is to extend dance into urban spaces, sharing dance with the uninitiated theater goer via site-specific, mostly spontaneous work. They do a great job of creating a unified energy, binding the performers with their viewers. The piece is split into three parts and three locations, requiring the audience to trek from one spot to the next.
Pardoning the amateur videowork, it starts like this:
And ends kinda like this:
Big news out of PICA: They've just received a $200,000 grant from ArtPlace, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and a handful of federal agencies and foundations whose goal is the support of "creative placemaking." For the purposes of this post, that means PICA's "hub-and-spoke facility model," wherein a central office supports projects at satellite venues throughout the city.
PICA's Executive Director Victoria Frey explains this model in the press release: “PICA’s practice of itinerant programming allows for us to invest more resources in the artist’s projects rather than maintaining facilities overheads. By selecting venues appropriate to the artist’s project we are not only serving the specific needs of the artist, but are also engaging our community in their own neighborhoods. The ArtPlace grant is recognition of this innovative model and it will allow us to further professionalize this practice and create more opportunity for artists and audiences.”
I emailed PICA press dude Patrick Leonard for some more details on what the grant means for PICA. His response after the jump!
Following his company's weekend run of The Radio Show, the multi-talented Kyle Abraham performed last night a solo preview of Live! The Realest MC, a work in development that will eventually be an ensemble piece. Here's a clip:
I predicted this piece would be really relevant to our community, with its focus on the tensions and dynamics of gender, racial, and sexual identity, and it was (boy, am I good). But one raw, emotional section in particular, wherein Abraham cowers, stammering into the mic about having been attacked simply for holding hands with someone, hit home the most. Sound familiar? I just wish that the kind of people who commit hate crimes like that were the kind of people who would come see a show like this.
As a dancer, Kyle Abraham seems convinced he has wings, and here we get to see lots of his birdlike stretching, preening, pecking, and attempts at flight. At times funny, always athletic and impressively articulate, the man is a master of his body as a storytelling medium.
I had two minor quibbles with the show as it was last night, which will hopefully be worked out in the next few months before the ensemble production debuts at The Kitchen. The first has to do with the microphone, the only object onstage with Abraham. I just wish it was used more, or out of the way when it wasn't being used. Some of the most electric moments of the piece came when Abraham used his voice as well as his body, so I wanted more of that. My hope is that there's a lot more MC action in the final product to back up the "Realest MC" claim.
The other thing was similar to what Jenna noted about The Radio Show: pacing issues. There were a couple repetitive lulls that leaked momentum, sharply contrasting with the more explosive sections that came in sudden bursts. The narrative line got muddy in spots.
Overall though, I found this preview performance very poignant, intimate, and promising.
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