To help you navigate this year’s Festival, we’ll be sharing regular posts on some of the “through-lines” of this year’s program. Whether you have a particular interest in dance or site-specific projects or visual art or film, we’ve got a whole suite of projects for you to discover. So buy a pass and start making connections between this year’s artists. In this edition, we point out the projects in this year’s TBA for audiences looking to get a bit “more involved” in the art.
Ant Hampton & Tim Etchells, The Quiet Volume. Photo: Lorena Fernandez.
Undoubtedly, part of what makes contemporary performance so compelling is the number of artists working outside of the confines of the theater. Whether performing in alternative spaces, like street corners and office buildings, or interacting directly with the audience both as volunteers and unwitting participants, these artists can realize projects unlike anything from a traditional company. Think about past TBA projects like Back to Back Theatre or Offsite Dance Project or Tim Crouch to name just a few artists from recent years. Each of these artists made us think differently about the spaces of art and the daily world we live in. If you’re one of those audience members who leaps at the chance to step on stage or catch a performance under a bridge, then you’re in good company for TBA. Read on for a few of this year’s projects that take art beyond the proscenium arch and—sometimes—out into the audience.
Local musician Claudia Meza approaches her project as a tool to turn audience attentions back onto the world around them. Riffing on John Cage’s theories of sound and the city, Meza has coordinated a walking tour of Portland’s sonic space, hand-picked by local musicians and composers. Follow a map around town to tune into the sounds we usually ignore, or pick up your smartphone when you stumble upon a QR code, placed at prime spots around the city. Wrapping up the project on the closing weekend of TBA, Meza will host a free outdoor concert in Industrial SE, featuring compositions inspired by the sounds of Portland.
Some of the hallmark projects of past TBA Festivals have been the ones that didn’t seem like performances at all! Through the Festival, PICA has hosted classic novel readings on city sidewalks, headphone performances in a public square, and urban tours of a Dutch city via Portland streets. This year, we’ve set our sights on the central library with a project by Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells (a TBA:08 alum!). As a pioneer of what he calls “Autoteatro,” Hampton has staged a series of plays where the ticket-buyer is both audience and performer, thanks to a series of instructions delivered via headphone. In The Quiet Volume, two people at a time will enter the library, where they’ll be guided to a table with a stack of books. They’ll press play and begin to both perform and witness the simple, poetic story unfold.
Along the lines of last year’s Offsite Dance Project, Perforations will track a trio of projects through site-specific performances. Where Offsite focused on Japanese dance, Perforations highlights contemporary performance art from the Balkan states of Serbia and Croatia. Organized by Zvonimir Dobrovic, curator of Perforacije Festival in Zagreb and Queer New York International, the lineup features two performances by Petra Kovacic that draw attention to the audience/artist relationships on stage and in galleries, a satirical political campaign lead by Biljana Kosmogina, and an improvisational music installation/concert by East Rodeo. It will be a rare chance to catch the latest experiments from Eastern Europe and to see how these diverse artists respond to space and audience.
Portlander and Festival alum (’04 and ’07) Andrew Dickson has made a practice out of re-framing his day job as a performance project, somewhere in the vein of a professional development seminar. In the past, he has taught TBA audiences the secrets of eBay “power-selling” and offered an insider’s look at selling out and joining an advertising agency. Now, a few years down the road, Dickson is exploring a new path as a life coach and is training to counsel people in their decisions, big and small. For TBA, he’ll invite a select number of volunteers to put their coaching session on view, hosted like a seminar in a hotel conference room. It’s a performative event, but in Dickson’s hands, it won’t stray far from genuine and sincere counsel.
Provocative, award-winning choreographer Miguel Gutierrez typically performs on stage, but rarely seems limited by it. His powerful performances step into the audience (or pull them into the moment), to provoke strong emotions and explore, in his own words, “group identity and communal experience.” In HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE, Gutierrez invites the audience on stage and proceeds to deliver a disarmingly-simple monologue on his traveling, working life and the attendant insecurities and questions of being an artist. From this introduction, Gutierrez transfixes the audience as he launches into a bold solo dance.
Gob Squad is a wildly fun and inventive theater collective that splits time between Germany and the UK, creating projects that range from a late-night drama in a hotel room to a “blockbuster” film starring the city they’re in, filmed exactly one hour before the “performance” begins. For TBA, they’ve set themselves the odd task of re-creating Andy Warhol’s Factory films live on-stage. The audience enters the theater through the back-stage set and takes a seat on the other side of a movie theater for the action to unfold. Needless to say, everything that happens next is a bit of surprise, so we won’t give anything else away. Instead we’ll leave you with the company’s own words:
“We try and explore the point where theatre meets art, media and real life. As well as theatres and galleries, we place our work at the heart of urban life – in houses, shops, underground stations, car parks, hotels or directly on the street. Everyday life and magic, banality and utopia, reality and entertainment are all set on a collision course and the audience are often asked to step beyond their traditional role as passive spectators and bear witness to the results.”