Precipice Fund Project Update: Container Corps – An Arts Press

Container Corps is a publication design studio, printshop, bindery, and exhibition space that serves as a platform for the creation, distribution, and discussion of new arts publications. We publish books-as-projects, or books-as-works in themselves, or primary sources.

The books we publish are collaborations between artists and their ideas and our skills as editors, publication designers, and printmakers. They are works of art in themselves, rather than documentation of works in other media.

Our vertically integrated, design/build studio allows ideas (concepts, images, texts, research), materials (paper, ink, board, cloth, thread, glue), and technique (layout, typography, printmaking, binding) to coalesce into a fully realized type of publication.

Container Corps

Our press works with artists to make multiples that explore and take advantage of the book and the processes of book production. Our Precipice grant will fund three such collaborations.

Most of the progress in our project thus far has been made in the cementing of a schedule of artist collaborations for the year. There has been a little bit of shuffling of artists from our original line-up due to changing schedules and availability.

Our book projects are a specific kind of collaboration between our production capabilities and the artists’ individual practice, and these collaborations necessarily require a long gestation period. The artist must become somewhat of an expert on our processes, and we must become experts on their work. Only then do we have the language to be able to communicate and find where their ideas can engage with our parameters. Practically, this means a lot of talking, ideating, thinking, and looking before anything happens on the press. This is the kind of work we’ve been doing with our three artists thus far.

Our first artist, Heather Watkins, has finished an intense period of installations (at PSU and the Art Gym) and is now free to work with us. Our process thus far has been an ongoing series of visits between our studio and hers. We are discussing the intersections of our production processes and her art making processes, and zeroing in on a definition of what her book project will be.

Our second artist will be Israel Lund. We are excited to work with Israel because like Heather, his work is process oriented and will benefit from hands-on time with the press. We have arranged for him to be in Portland at the beginning of July, working with us at the studio. We have been skyping with him in preparation for an intense week of production. Most of the development of this book will occur during this week.

Our third artist will be Jasper Spicero. He will be visiting Portland in late July, and we will be working with him on a book made in conjunction with a very exciting larger project called Centers in Pain. He will be renting out the newly built, unoccupied Wapato Prison in North Portland for 4 days, doing an extensive installation, conducting interviews with the skeleton crew that maintains the facility, and completing a screen play that is set at the prison. The book we create will be an integral document of this larger project. Like Israel, we have been regularly skyping with Jasper so that his time in Portland is best utilized.

 

About the Precipice Fund
Administered by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, the Precipice Fund awards grants to unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing the barriers to funding faced by independent arts initiatives, Precipice Fund seeks to support both new and existing projects emblematic of Portland’s alternative, on-the-ground art community.

www.precipicefund.org

Precipice Fund Project Update: FalseFront

Since receiving the Precipice Fund, FalseFront has been able to host to four exhibits and featured works of performance, sound and visual art and visited numerous artist’s studios based in Portland, Oregon. Starting in February, Future Death Toll’s Edward Sharp performed three nights of noise, dance and visuals.

Each night consisted of Sharp inviting a musician and a dancer to collaborate for a continuous three-hour performance, with visitors encourage to enter and exit though-out the length of the show. Featured artists included, dancers Keyon Gaskin, Jin Camou and Danielle Ross; composers and musical engineer Jesse Mejia, Lucas Kuzma and Twon Moss.

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In April, FalseFront exhibited the paintings and sculpture of Portland-based artist Judith René Sturdevant. These particular exhibit was put together fairly quickly after the studio visit, as Sturdevant expressed interest in having all included work recent and “fresh”. She was given a little over two and a half weeks to complete the work exhibited in show titled Or Somewhere Else.

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FalseFront’s upcoming show is set to open the beginning of May with an installation from recent PSU MFA graduate Leif Anderson. Anderson will construct this installation around the entire front facade of the building, working from the idea of realty and commercial signage set in contrast with FalseFront’s rather residential location.

The Precipice Fund is allowing not only for FalseFront to exhibit these less conventional works of contemporary art in the alternative space setting, but also allowing the exhibiting artist the artistic freedom and opportunity to do the projects not likely seen in more commercial galleries.

 

About the Precipice Fund
Administered by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, the Precipice Fund awards grants to unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing the barriers to funding faced by independent arts initiatives, Precipice Fund seeks to support both new and existing projects emblematic of Portland’s alternative, on-the-ground art community.

www.precipicefund.org

 

Precipice Fund Project Profile: M.A.S.S.

We continue our six-week series of 2013 Precipice Fund grantee profiles with M.A.S.S. (an ambiguous acronym), a bimonthly music,  performance, and visual art and media series set in a beautifully resonant, 350-capacity sanctuary at Alberta Abbey, a historic church turned mixed-use venue in Northeast Portland. Using exceptional sound engineering and equipment, the series aims to provide a contemplative environment for group and/or anonymous reflection while cross-pollinating local and non-local artists, musicians, writers, and performers. 

Hello from  the M.A.S.S. Collective!

Our first two rounds of programming (of six total) have been an exploration that’s grown exponentially from last year’s start to the series. We were particularly inspired by the collaboration (and ensuing chaos) of last year’s closing edition of M.A.S.S., a mashup event of music, oratory, exhibition, and video projection.

We have decidedly expanded the scope of our programming since the start of the series, in concept and medium. We kicked off the year with an album release from Cloaks and performances by Pinhead In Fantasia and Nour Mobarak. Craig Flipy  prepared a sound collage of field recordings from his line of work chasing the illusive Bigfoot, and our gallery featured the Google Earth glitches of Clement Valla.

We pushed further, and perhaps more frighteningly or funnily, depending on your taste, to do METAL M.A.S.S., a special 4/20 edition on Easter Sunday. Atriarch, Joe Preston and Daniel Menche brought the doomsday, while special guest Maja D’Aoust (The White Witch of LA) brought the prophesy by way of her unique presentation style/oracle performance. Our gallery featured the first solo art show by local illustrator Joshua Hardy. This event saw over 200 in attendance.

A couple of highlights from M.A.S.S. V and VI: https://vimeo.com/93669455

We are pleased to announce the next edition of our series, M.A.S.S. VIIon June 8th with Benoît Pioulard, né Tom Meluch, known for his glacial, cinematic ambient music that brings delicate pop sensibilities into the fold. A staple of electronic, experimental label Krancy, Meluch has crafted a body of thoughtful work that’s earned his solo music (as well as that of Orcas, his collaboration with Seattle musician Rafael Anton Irisarri) frequent attention from blogs and music news.

Like a Villain is the musical alter-ego of local songstress Holland Andrews, recently voted number five in Willamette Week‘s “Best New Band” list. Her music is equally dark and uplifting, bright and frightening–unafraid of taking leaps and bounds that stretch Andrews’ emotive, adventurous voice.

Colin Manning is a multidisciplinary artist from Portland. He received his MFA in Filmmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2000 and has been an active visual artist and projectionist, participating in numerous exhibitions and music performances down the West Coast.

In addition to putting the finishing touches on M.A.S.S. VII, we are shaping the latter half of the 2014 calendar with more local and international experimental musical acts, writers, performers and visual artists. For more information, visit www.mass-series.info.

M.A.S.S. VII
Sunday, June 8, 2014
8:00pm doors / 9:00pm performances
Alberta Abbey / 126 NE Alberta / Portland

About the Precipice Fund
Administered by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, the Precipice Fund awards grants to unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing the barriers to funding faced by independent arts initiatives, Precipice Fund seeks to support both new and existing projects emblematic of Portland’s alternative, on-the-ground art community.

www.precipicefund.org

Precipice Fund Project Update: Amur Initiatives Media Research Group

Thus far, 2014 has brought about the first online PDF publication for Amur Initiatives Media and Research. To keep with the modus of the project, we’ve been programming a variety of activities in order to explore the range that we hope to maintain throughout the duration of the project’s life span. Throughout the months of May through July, we will be representing a series of 3-4 solo exhibitions by visual artists based in Portland and beyond. Fall will bring a second publication and a multi-national group exhibition, linking Portland-based artists with a larger global community. We are working to organize a regular reading and discussion group that will also facilitate public seminars.

Here’s a quick scroll-through video of our first publication and a brief outline of where we stand in 2014.

 

About the Precipice Fund
Administered by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, the Precipice Fund awards grants to unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing the barriers to funding faced by independent arts initiatives, Precipice Fund seeks to support both new and existing projects emblematic of Portland’s alternative, on-the-ground art community.

www.precipicefund.org

Precipice Fund Project Update: Multiplex

We continue our six-week series of 2013 Precipice Fund grantee profiles. This week, we  hear from Multiplex, which launched in 2012 to provide a venue for emerging contemporary art and music in Portland. Multiplex showcases experimental projects from local, national and international artists, acting as a space that supports the constant growth of the artistic community.

Since receiving the Precipice Fund grant in January 2014, Multiplex has shown three local artists: Katy Knowlton, Luc Fuller, and Michael Reinsch. During this time, part of our project has shifted, as we ran into complications with our rental space and were forced to seek other accommodations for the project. Throughout April and May, we have  operated out of an annex gallery in the Holladay Studios Building near NE 24th and Sandy and opened an exhibition there by artist Patrick Cruz  (Vancouver, BC) on May 9th.

Katy Knowlton

Luc Fuller

Michael Reinsch

We have been developing a new space, S1, which we view as an extension of Multiplex‘s vision. Located in the Hollywood District of Portland, it will house galleries, artist studios, and a performance space. Programming at S1 will begin this summer with a film and talk series from London-based curator John Bloomfield, art exhibitions from Portland artist Eric Mast and Los Angeles artist Derek Corns, and a poetry series curated by Portland writer Zoe Tambling.

We are  planning a music and video festival for August and are continually reaching out to artists and curators to expand our programming.

As with any project, sometimes change is an inevitability, and we were fortunate in our transition to have support from the Precipice Fund. We are immensely grateful to have received this grant, as it has allowed us to grow and expand in ways we never thought possible.

About the Precipice Fund
Administered by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, the Precipice Fund awards grants to unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing the barriers to funding faced by independent arts initiatives, Precipice Fund seeks to support both new and existing projects emblematic of Portland’s alternative, on-the-ground art community.

www.precipicefund.org

Precipice Fund Project Update: Portland Museum of Modern Art

Over the next six weeks, PICA will be posting project profiles and updates from some of its 2013 Precipice Fund grant recipients. This round of  profiles begins with the Portland Museum Of Modern Art  (PMOMA), a gallery in North Portland located in the stairwell and basement of the Mississippi Records compound. With a commitment to bringing diverse and interesting shows to Portland and joining the effort to enrich Portland’s art community, PMOMA’s main emphasis is on national and international contemporary art.

In January, PMOMA presented Portland Collects, a group show curated by director Libby Werbel of work borrowed from the private collections of community members. Also in January, we partnered with Free Spirit News for A Light Spray, an evening of film and video representing over 40 artists, curated by Ashby Lee Collinson.

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Portland Collects (2014). Installation View. Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

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Portland Collects (2014). Installation View. Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

In February and March, artist and part-time Portlandite Chris Johanson showed his latest drawings and paintings in an exhibit titled Self(ish) Expression(ism). We gathered a diverse group of performers who made the opening and closing parties truly memorable, with live entertainment by Tara Jane O’Neil, Dragging an Ox Through Water, Morgan Ritter, Kildajte Moussa Abade and Marissa Anderson.

Chris Johanson. Self Expressionism. Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

Chris Johanson. Self(ish) Expression(ism) (2014). Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

Chris Johanson. Self(ish) Expression(ism). Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

Chris Johanson. Self(ish) Expression(ism) (2014). Installation view. Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

April’s show was a solo show by Pacific Northwest visionary artist Richard Tracy (a.k.a. Richart). The opening party featured a screening of the 2003 documentary short about Richart by Vanessa Renwick and Dawn Smallman. We were fortunate enough to have Richart in attendance.

Richard Tracy. RICHART (2014) Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

Richard Tracy. RICHART (2014). Courtesy Portland Museum of Modern Art.

This summer’s programming will include an installation from fellow Precipice Fund grantee Julia Calabrese, as well as a show from acclaimed artist Lonnie Holley presented in partnership with Elizabeth Leach Gallery. Because of the Precipice Fund grant, PMOMA looks forward to a 2014 full of vibrant art and community.

Portland Collects Press

Chris Johanson Press

About the Precipice Fund
Administered by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, the Precipice Fund awards grants to unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing the barriers to funding faced by independent arts initiatives, Precipice Fund seeks to support both new and existing projects emblematic of Portland’s alternative, on-the-ground art community.

www.precipicefund.org

Some lingering reflections

Collected from audience interviews by Ariana Jacob
“It was about relationships. Like with Linda Austen, she did the same dance, I think three times. The first time it was just her, the second time she did it with her sculptures, subtly, and then you felt you were rewarded, like, ‘oh, I recognize this dance, now it is clicking into place.’ The last time she started back-tracking through the movements the sculptures began to open up and do new things -  connecting into each other.
In Karen Sherman’s piece it was her and two other dancers and each of them had their own separate struggle. There was one part where they had this conversation, that would turn in and out of an argument where they would keep switching places with each other. It was so relatable, they each traded their places, going back and forth in a triangular argument. They made some jokes, but they were not spoken jokes, they were situational. They kind of prodded the audience too, but we became like a stiff block. I don’t think there is any role the audience is supposed to have, we are just a blob.”

“The tedious moments were, perhaps, more extended in this year’s TBA than, perhaps, last year’s. I try to be generous towards tedium because I believe in not satisfying people’s expectations all the way – that it provides a way of making people feel themselves having to deal with being the audience. But maybe it is a too prevalent color in this festival circuit’s palette. I am not sure that the audience’s reaction to it is expanding from constant exposure.”

“The small casts, and sometimes the scope of what was being dealt with, felt very personal. I don’t mean this in a political way, but it didn’t seem like the goals of the performances were to stretch out into space. They were very much about the people on stag: their experiences and their lives, as opposed to commenting on larger issues.”

“There has been a lot of visual darkness throughout the festival, and that lends itself to tacking stock of your own situation as audience. I am also a performance maker, so I check in a lot with myself about ‘what is this doing for me in the moment as an audience member.’ There were a lot of awkward moments in relation to audience logistics, like when the woman came and tied the curtain and then told us the performance was over in the Miguel Gutierrez piece, but I like that.”

 

Ariana Jacob is an artist whose work focuses on conversation as shared subjective research. Her project Working/Not working: What do you do all day and how do you feel about what you do? is on view at the Littman Gallery as a part of the Emerging Tactics exhibition curated by Recess Gallery.

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People: And lose the name of action

Miguel Gutierrez, And lose the name of action. Photo: Ian Douglas.

Miguel Gutierrez, And lose the name of action. Photo: Ian Douglas.

by Mary Rechner

For me it’s an enjoyable risk to invite a curious adventuresome person to the theater, especially to a play or performance neither of you know much about.  I attended Friday night’s performance of And lose the name of action with my mom.

My mom sees a lot of theater and performance in New York with my dad (they live on Long Island) and each time they visit Portland we check out some music, dance, or visual art, and often all three.

My mom and I were both riveted from beginning to end by And lose the name of action.

On the drive home we talked about the way the (each very different) three male and three female dancers’ bodies and movements, as well as their utterances (as well as the costumes, lighting, and set design) captured so many disparate aspects of life: movement and stasis, pleasure and pain, connection and estrangement, dark and light, clarity and confusion, the precise and the inchoate.

“Like a great novel,” I said.

“You can put a novel down,” said my mom.  “This was unrelenting.”

True.  The simultaneity of the music, moving bodies, lighting, images on screens, recordings of philosophical treatises, and utterances of dancers (both intelligible and unintelligible) felt like wave upon wave of multisensory stimulation.  We found it difficult to make any one unified sense or meaning of the piece, and this made it very interesting to talk about.

We wondered how the piece “would have been different” if broken up into separate shorter dances, and what it would have been like to have had an intermission, agreeing that it probably would have lost some of its oceanic immediacy.

Neither of us had read the TBA Performance Program prior to the performance, thus we did not know about Gutierrez’s father, whose neurological problems “coincided with [Gutierrez’s] growing interest in the role perception plays to determine reality and how various disciplines talk about the mind body connection” until after we were home, and read the program.

The information gave us yet another thread to weave into the lively conversation we continued to have long into the evening while drinking wine and eating egg salad sandwiches.

Mary Rechner is the author of Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women.  She lives in Portland.

Noticing repetition aka Some initial themes

Collected from audience interviews conducted by Ariana Jacob

“Remixing of the real.”

“The threat of failure. Failing people’s expectations. People have really high expectations of these performances and they are paying good money to watch someone essentially pee on them. But I think that room for failure is the best thing  happening at the festival this year, because it is the only thing that can really piss somebody off. Like when I watched Adult: half of it was in the dark and these two dancers were flailing around. I wanted to see bodies like bricks and people doing something I could never do. I didn’t see shit. But ultimately that is about me and my own desires that they were not trying to fulfill.”

“If I were to note a theme it wouldn’t be surprising given my own interests. I would say popular music: explorations of pop, talking about pop, covers of pop songs, listening to pop on you tube. A lot of pop/punk sensibilities are really present.”

” A lot of slow, sustained beginnings…”

“Minimal settings and the charge they brought to the work. Noting that you don’t need excessive, loud scenery or settings to have a powerful impact.”

“Thinking about stuff that we don’t know where it is, like with the Krystal South essay, where is it? Where is the art in it? I think it is in our heads, the art is when something shifts in our heads.”

“Everybody’s got a twitch.”

Ariana Jacob is an artist whose work focuses on conversation as shared subjective research. Her project Working/Not working: What do you do all day and how do you feel about what you do? is on view at the Littman Gallery as a part of the Emerging Tactics exhibition curated by Recess Gallery.

 

Sense Memory Snacks: Smorgasbord

Collected from audience interviews conducted by Ariana Jacob

Seeing:

“A massive yellow wig: incredibly massive, four feet wide with a black-face cyclops mask and huge stuffed breasts and bum. My reaction was mostly just WHOA, but it also made me think about the implications of becoming very large.” from the Drag Ball

“The beautiful transitions of light in Linda Austin’s dance performance with David Eckard’s sculptures. It was so subtle yet so dramatic and elegant. There was this one moment with a transition from warm light to an overpowering fluorescent that was so quiet and powerful at the same time.”

“The very deliberate seating pattern of rows of seats in an inner, middle and outer circle, performers sitting in pairs talking with each other, that then degenerates – or erupts into this battle with yelling and screaming.  But everyone knows where they are going, it is still a pattern that started with the seating arrangement.”  from Miguel Gutierrez and The Powerful People

“The performance was complete pitch black. I think it was two violins, a viola and a cello. My mind went wild because it was so dark it just HAD to imagine stuff. It was weird. I was imagining myself in a forest walking. I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed it was so, so dark. Actually, I don’t remember the music at all, it all became visual to me – the sound brought me to my visual senses.” from Third Angle

Listening:

“During Lola Arias I was really aware of all the white people in the room laughing in places that I thought were not supposed to be funny at all. Things that had to do with race or different kinds of trauma that a lot of people don’t know how to deal with. So I was hyper aware that there was a lot of laughter that seemed like it was not because something was funny.”

“Taking a bath in sound.” from Wishful Thinking

“The contrast between the loud pop song playing at the beginning while there was nothing happening on stage vs the suspended stillness & quiet of the performers.” from Trajal Harrell

“The complexity of layered voice, clarinet and little glockenspiel melding into this cacophonous blur, but yet seeming so precise. Her style is very approachable and yet domineering.” from Like a Villain

“During Linda Austin’s performance there was this one musical gesture. It was contemporary classical: piano and violin. Throughout most of the dance I had been thinking about how much I hate abstraction: abstraction really pisses me off and the sculptures were these abstracted forms. One was house-like, one was bed like, one was phallic and stood in for the man. It was all kinda pissing me off but then I realized that the music was also a kind of abstracted melody. I really connect with and have a history with that kind of music, so tapping into the musical component allowed me to cerebrally apply a new kind of thinking to the sculptures and the dance.The shift happened mostly because of responding emotionally to the music. Is emotional response an abstraction?”

Linda

Feelings:

“The red-headed fellow stretched open the other fellow’s foreskin and screamed into it. I was in the front row. I usually sit there if I can, I like the immediacy of it. As the show went on I made a pact with myself consciously and unconsciously that I would catch them if they fell, if they came over the edge of the stage I was ready and willing to reach out and catch them. It felt like it might really happen. The show got very violent but still felt controlled and tender so that I never felt in danger. I just felt that they might go some place I had no idea where, but I was ready for whatever.” from Campo

“Performance Art is hard enough, but a parody of performance art? Uhg, I might as well go play video games.” from I Will Rip Your Arms Off

“It was uncomfortable. It was hard to predict when the crowd would applaud or not because they were challenging a lot of the standards of pacing and the expectations of when something is over. When you are breaking all those things you can’t expect a certain kind of audience response. They were deconstructing it and then it gets uncomfortable – like ooh, what is happening? Crickets.” from The Blow

“Champagne headache and a need for greasy food. It is not TBA’s fault, but it has been a while since I have felt the morning after TBA feeling.

“I went to the Keith Hennessy workshop last Sunday and we were supposed to shake for 10 minutes straight. You had to shake something, you couldn’t stop. I’ve been thinking about that everyday since, and shaking. It feels so good. It changes how my whole body feels: all my energy. I want to see what it does if I keep doing it.”

 

Ariana Jacob is an artist whose work focuses on conversation as shared subjective research. Her project Working/Not working: What do you do all day and how do you feel about what you do? is on view at the Littman Gallery as a part of the Emerging Tactics exhibition curated by Recess Gallery.

Nacera Belaza: Dancing the Mind

by Satya Byock

If Peace could dance, it took the stage in act one of Nacera Belaza’s Le Trait Solos & Le Temps Scellé. It was the highest mind, the wisest part of us all, spinning around and around in even, rhythmic turns. It began with no suggestion that it might remain exactly as it was: a single gesture, a solo movement, for minutes on end.

When Nacera started turning, her arms out-stretched in a firm line, we may have all expected something more. More variation. But this was not meant for quick pleasure. This was a meditation, as if Thich Nhat Hanh had transformed his walking meditations into circular movements; turning and turning in reverence like a Buddhist whirling dervish. The very act of watching Nacera turn, her hair, hands, and dark robes caressed by a silver, moon-like light, nudged each mind in the audience into a state of meditative repose.

It was a nudge, not forced. The boredom and anxious restlessness of some audience members certainly lasted throughout the full dance, but for others, it gave way to quiet, and then even joy. Amusement, like watching the better person win an argument when it wasn’t expected. If she succeeded, we would all be the better for it. It took patience at first, but watching her became like sitting by the ocean on a temperate day, observing single waves come to shore in regular, expected iterations. It is not fast paced or exciting, not a spectacle from which to gain quick thrills, but it will alter you if you let it, and you will be glad you stayed.

NacŽra Belaza / Le Trait, 2012

photo by David Balicki

In act two, Nacera and her sister, Dalila, perform with remarkable precision not the wholeness of human consciousness, but its fragmented nature. They take the stage separately, then come together to reflect what seems the split mind, the plurality of consciousness, and the madness that lingers within. Their clothing is no longer the dark, Zen-like coverings from act one. Now, they wear oversized, gray sweatshirts and pants. I find myself imagining lost, lonely prisoners, and homeless people muttering to themselves on the street. But their depictions are no less beautiful than in the first dance. Their portrayal remains utterly reverential, still seeing the peace in it all: a crack addict at the height of bliss, or a person lost to psychosis but deeply engaged with her world of gods. It is suffering, but it is also the inner life in its riches, not to be judged entirely by what we can see from the outside.

The movements in this act remain un-hurried and centralized, and still lit as if by the night’s full harvest moon. This is not the modern neurotic mind being portrayed, as is common, for better or worse, in much contemporary art. It is still ancient. A timeless kind of madness. Nacera and Dalila’s heads move as if they are denser, filled with competing thoughts. Their necks sweep close to the shoulder in stiff postures, remaining rigidly extended backwards, like another arm pulling away from the body. These are the movements of people who have whole villages in dialogue inside their minds. The physical rhythm is no longer consistent and silent. Movements are interrupted, unexpected and inconsistent but transfixing and delicate just the same.

Nacera and Dalila’s dedication to their craft is awe inspiring, as is their precision and endurance. This is not a show that will leave you ready to party, but its power to transform you may rival any other.

Photo by GK Wilson

photo by GK Wilson

Satya Byock is a Portland psychotherapist specializing in dream work and Jungian psychology for individuals in the first half of adulthood. She recently delivered a workshop at PICA on the Language of the Unconscious Mind as part of the C’mon Language series.

Tamsk with Alex Mackin Dolan

by Satya Byock

Allie Furlotti playing Tamsk at TBA 2013

If Alex Mackin Dolan’s exhibit Cycle, Sun, Limit were open during The Works performances, I’d be in there every night, playing Tamsk in the center of the room. On Opening Night, Alex was there himself, providing helpful instruction.

Alex Mackin Dolan TBA 2013

Tamsk is an easy enough game to learn to play (especially if you have AMD there to help you). Find a friend. Choose a side. Black or red. You’ll each have three small hourglass timers (expert tip: they’re not all the same speed) and a set of cream-colored rings. The hexagonal board is filled with walled spaces for the timers and the rings. The timers go into the holes, the rings go around them.

The point is to place more of your rings on the board than your opponent and lose fewer hourglasses to the sands of time. Each turn, you flip over one timer into an adjacent hole and adding a ring to the wall when you do. But you can only add a ring when a wall has space for it (some are tall enough for one ring, some for two or three). If you find that one of your hourglasses is surrounded by walls that are filled-up with rings, that means there’s nowhere for it to move. It’s stuck there like quick sand, and its time will eventually run out. And you know what that means.

Alex Mackin Dolan 2 TBA 2013

“I’m dead all over the board,” my friend declared on game four. I cheered. We cleared the board and began again.

After hours of socializing in a crowd, I reveled in this opportunity for a different kind of focus. If board games became a new standard for TBA late-night activities, I would be the first to sign up. It turns out that sometimes, an interlude of strategic gaming is just what the weary art-goer needs for a pick-me-up.

Satya Byock is a Portland psychotherapist specializing in dream work and Jungian psychology for individuals in the first half of adulthood. She recently delivered a workshop at PICA on the Language of the Unconscious Mind as part of the C’mon Language series.

Mariano Pensotti: Fragmentary Capture

By Craig Epplin

I went to the Portland State campus today with two objectives: pick up books from the library and see Mariano Pensotti’s Sometimes I think, I can see you, an outdoor installation comprising a screen and a writer filling it with text. I arrived at the plaza where the work was in progress. The first thing I saw on the screen was the description of a couple, and yes, there they were, chatting on a bench and sharing lunch. I wondered if there would be more to it. I wondered if I would stay long or grow tired of reading and matching the writer’s observations to the reality around me. I walked closer to the screen.

But then I got distracted. I ran into a friend and sat down. We began to talk—about our jobs, books, the perils of expertise, the ineptitude of the state, music, etc. I was engaged, but not by Pensotti’s work. It was just something happening in the background, the occasion for a chance encounter. I glanced occasionally over my shoulder and saw more writing about the people and go-carts and streetcars that passed through the plaza. I spent about an hour there, but I didn’t read much of the writing. I mostly just sat and chatted.

We generally know what it means to attend a performance. We arrive and file in, turn off our cell phones, watch and listen, applaud. Other dynamics–in a gallery instead of a theater, for example–are more informal, or they demand our participation. Pensotti’s work doesn’t fit these molds. To watch it is unexciting and to participate in it means doing nothing, hanging out, walking by, simply allowing yourself to be registered by the writer seated at the laptop. If you know the work is taking place and if you’re feeling narcissistic, you might wonder if you’ve made it onto the screen. It’s something like the feeling of walking into a gas station and looking around for the security camera.

That’s why I think Pensotti’s work matters greatly. It models a situation we all live in: that more and more often we are watched as we pass through public spaces. And it reveals at least some of the complexities inherent in that reality. In a state of surveillance, we feel ourselves intruded upon. We know that we are leaving traces of ourselves everywhere, that those traces are being collected by large corporations and used for commercial purposes, and furthermore that the state has fairly unfettered access to them. It’s the feeling of living in a panopticon, and people are right to fight against it.

But at the same time, this feeling names a fiction: on the side of the observed, the paranoid fantasy that everything about us can be monitored, and on the side of the observer, the fantasy of completing the process of capture. Pensotti’s work unveils this fiction. Sure, our social existence is increasingly modeled as data, but that data isn’t all-encompassing. It can’t be. 0s and 1s can’t capture the bubbling, churning desires and movements that make life in common what it is. Big data interpellates us as numbers, but those numbers are a poor stand-in for all of this that’s happening all the time. It’s real and powerful, but also fake and feeble. The doubt expressed in the work’s title—I think I can see you, and only sometimes—hints at this truth: that no, in fact, you cannot see me.

I’m curious to go back to Sometimes I think, I can see you. I’m curious to see new forms of fiction generated by the talented writers taking turns at the computer. Their work generates a fragmentary form of capture, which, this work reminds us, is the only sort possible.

Craig Epplin is an assistant professor of Latin American literature at Portland State University and an editor at Rattapallax.

After Antigone, Jr.: An Interview with Trajal Harrell

Lacy M. Johnson interviews Trajal Harrell over email in the days after the September 15 performance of Antigone, Jr., at TBA:13.

LJ: At Sunday night’s performance of Antigone, Jr., you introduced the piece by saying that you began the work with a question: what if one of the post-modern choreographers from Judson Church (Judson Dance Theater) had gone uptown to Harlem to perform in the ball scene? (Correct me if I’m stating that incorrectly.) I wonder if you could start by talking about this question. Why is it urgent to ask this question now (or at the time that you started working on the pieces)? Is it still an urgent question, in your view?

TH: In terms of urgency, I don’t work so much around this notion. What I was aware of was the sense that contemporary dance had become trapped in a revival of Judson aesthetics. Yvonne Rainer’s “No Manifesto” had become a kind of rule book and a prescription for conceptual dance, which was the leading aesthetic in contemporary dance since the late 90s on the international scene. My work, I think, became significant because it had found a way to move beyond Judson aesthetics while simultaneously being connected to that history.

Quoting myself from another interview:

“Again, in the early 90’s, Judson Church aesthetic and principles provided a lot of foundation again for contemporary dance to rethink itself : primarily the notion of rejecting spectacle, virtuosity, and theatricality and reducing dance to its essential elements. Alternatively the Voguing tradition uses constructions of gender, artificiality, and  and theatricality to create a fictional authenticity or “realness.” Thus, I was surprised to discover that these two movements started during the same historical moment, and by 2001, in my case, I felt it was the moment for a new criticality to arrive relating to Judson. Contemporary dance seemed stuck in the same recycling of Judson ideas and Yvonne Rainer’s no manifesto, and I was determined to do something new, even though that too was considered anti-contemporary during this time. Nonetheless, the lens of voguing allows me and you to see that the idea that Judson reduced dance to its essential elements is a fiction as well. Rather, those elements operate out of their own socio-cultural specificity and fictional authenticity. Therefore, from there I could begin to operate choreographically and aesthetically from a different vantage point regarding contemporary dance and voilà twelve years later the conversation is different in contemporary dance. So, we can say, I was interested in opening a new space in contemporary dance, but I wasn’t trying to do identity politics and break down the door for voguing to come in. That seemed obvious and of course when I first went to europe to show my work in 2005, no one in contemporary dance knew what voguing was, and now it’s included in a lot of programming, let’s say. I am proud that I could be a part of that change, yes, but it was an obvious point of inclusion suggested by the proposition. What was not so obvious was how to re-think Judson. Contemporary dance had become a cliché of boring conceptualism, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I wanted to scream most of the time in the theater. So like Toni Morrison, the novelist says, « I had to make the kind of dances (books) that I wanted to see. »

“For example in Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (S), the small size in the series, I knew this piece would primarily been seen in very small theaters amongst dance cognesenti. I purposely made this work to propel the debate. I wanted to critique the kind of lazy late conceptualism that I saw proliferating in dance (people trying to make work like the people trying to work like the people trying to make work like Jerome Bel and say Xavier Le Roy). So right away (S) presents itself as a conceptual work and then it begins to slowly critique the way judson tenets have been appropriated in contemporary dance. I can do this because I have the lens of voguing as well as early postmodern dance in my toolbox, let’s say, and that creates different ways of seeing the cultural and political meanings the body and movement can have on the contemporary stage. ” (Festival d’Automne brochure)

LJ: To what extent do you think audiences need to be familiar with these histories when they come to the performances?

TH: Well, the project is about history. My work, in general, is about historical impossibilities, so familiarity with the history adds, of course. But that’s always the case with art. The negotiating factors change with each size. So with (S), I think it is essential. I made it, as I said for dance cognoscenti. For Antigone, Jr., of course, if you know the play Antigone that’s another aid. But the main thing I want the audience to be aware of in the room is not the history. Of course the history is important to the overall project and the gestalt of the series, but in Antigone, Jr., what is most important is the essence of tragedy, and how we as audience and performers begin to relate on that level. And that begins to be essentialized with the lost prop, not with a familiarity with contemporary dance history nor the history of ancient greek theater.

So all artists are working with the history of their discipline. The question for me, as an artist, has to do with providing different entry ways, so to speak. And that is what the different sizes do. The history is always there for you to go into, but there are different points of entry. These works are multi-layered. So how one peels back the layers over time: before coming to the theater, during, and after is the individuality and beauty of the artistic experience.

LJ: I’m glad you brought up the sizes. In your artist talk on Saturday you say you were involved in researching (or maybe just thinking about) size as it relates to fashion. I understand how that would translate to the size and scope of the pieces in the series. That is, I understand that the junior size, Antigone, Jr., is a performance for 125 people. But the room seated 250, and many folks were turned away from the performance (as I was at Made-to-Measure on Saturday evening). Can you talk a little about how and why the size of the audience affects each work?

TH: Scale is architectural. You experience a work differently depending on the size of the room and audience. I just experimented with this and found that it was totally different. It’s quite practical. A tiny black box theater produces different relations than the regime of the opera house.

In terms of Antigone, Jr., it’s the junior size, and i am working with smaller details than in a normal size, so to speak. Therefore, it doesn’t work if the audience is too big, of course. I also want the scale of the body to stay close to a human scale, which would change if you were further from the scene. The body would become visually smaller in scale. Rather, I want you to sense the energy on the front row and what we are doing there. You also need to sense everyone else in the room. The essence of tragedy is not a visual clue in this case. That anxiety that moves through the room when the prop is lost is contagious so it’s important that it not become, say, a cinematic trope. It’s experiential.

So there are limits on the number of people for each work. Scale is a part of the craft and composition of the work in space. Ideally, though, and usually, Antigone, Jr., is in a smaller room. TBA chose to scale the room down rather than hold it in a room that would typically seat 125 or 150.

Made-to-Measure on the other hand is eponymously made to fit the room size it’s performed in. So, in that case, the room was full and there were no more seats nor standing room.

LJ: Yes, scale is architectural. But not exclusively so. In Antigone, Jr., the movements / motions / gestures of each performer cycle through a whole range of scales and registers — from the minimalist / pedestrian to the exuberant / seductive. You spoke in the artist talk on Saturday about how, in 2007, when you started working on these pieces, emotion was taboo, and you wanted to bring emotion back to dance. What other taboos do you think this series responds to / breaks? What taboos do you think exist currently?

TH: Yes, scale is not exclusively architectural. But opera houses generally come in a certain size. The minimum size is, dare I say, large.  Opera houses are not the size of black boxes and they produce certain size works. So what I am referring to is a history of theater and production already in place.

Taboos: look at Yvonne’s “No manifesto.” That is the rule book. So all of those things are taboo: emotion, seduction of the spectator, virtuosity, glamour, return of the star image, spectacle, etc….i.e., flouncy black dresses….all of that is a bit taboo in international contemporary dance at the moment. My work broke with the “No Manifesto.” Others too… I am saying maybe to the things she said no to…. But I am breaking the taboos now…. What I am doing is not the trend.

LJ: You wrote earlier about juxtaposing the Judson Church aesthetic, which emphasizes “the notion of rejecting spectacle, virtuosity, and theatricality,” with the Voguing tradition, which “uses constructions of gender, artificiality, and theatricality to create a fictional authenticity or ‘realness,’” and using the Voguing tradition to escape from post-modern aesthetic weighing down contemporary dance in the early 2000s. I wonder if you have any concerns, as I do, about putting these two aesthetics in conversation with one another. Each movement was experimental, and transgressive in its way, but the stakes were far different between them. I know of no one at Judson, for example, who was murdered for being a postmodern choreographer.

TH: I wouldn’t say “to escape” postmodern aesthetic. I began to use the theoretical lens of voguing together with the theoretical lens of early postmodern dance to move beyond conceptual dance strategies. But this was not an attempt to escape postmodern dance by situating myself in another tradition. I don’t represent voguing nor early postmodern dance. I don’t believe in the purity of aesthetics or that we can wholly project them on a subset of people. Voguing itself as a practice works strongly with appropriation from other cultural forms and references.

The point of the proposition is to situate ourselves in the imagination and rethink impossibilities. And yes, I am aware of the different kinds of stakes involved. I mentioned this at the talk. That is why I created the different sizes to speak about a different relation to power and who has access to the means of production and distribution. That is what I have to bring to it as an artist. There are for sure other positions and theoretical possibilities. I am mainly working from problematizing my own position. I wouldn’t therefore use the word “concerns.” I have questions and problematizations. The works werq to generate those.

LJ: I’m having trouble understanding how the different sized performances speak to the different relations of power. Can you explain this a little? I mean, isn’t it true that regardless of the size of the performance, you’re always only reaching only a certain subsection of art consumers (for lack of a better term)? In Portland, for example, at the Antigone, Jr., performance, the audience is made up of primarily white folks, most of them between the ages of 25 and 50. (And so very many of them in plaid shirts!) Do you intend the sizes of the performances to work on us, the audience, also by means of implied exclusion? Are we supposed to be aware of who is NOT there?

TH: I think one thing you have to be aware of is that I am working in the imagination. The need for different sizes corresponds to the migration to a dominate cultural context. It’s about knowing that within an “imaginative” proposition. Therefore, one performance (or size) is not enough to deal with the possible differences in power and access to means of distribution and production. There need to be contingencies, overlaps, alterities….

My relationship to the size of the audience is not related to race. I don’t feel the work is any more for white than black people or vice-versa. I am not interested in those limitations. All audiences are different. Portland will be different than in Tokyo than in Rio. Than in Stockholm or in New York.

LJ: What are you working on now? What questions interest you? After XL (the book production), what will we see from you next?

TH: I have already started a new long term research. I am looking at butoh dance through the theoretical lens of voguing. The first project, Used Abused and Hung Out to Dry was commissioned by MoMA and premiered there last February. The second project, a larger theater project for 8 dancers is coming in June. It will premiere at The Montpellier Danse Festival in France.

LJ: Are there particular questions you’re seeking answers to by looking at butoh dance through the theoretical lens of voguing?

TH: It’s too early in the research to speak about those now.

LJ: Let’s go back, very briefly, to the 20 looks series. What are your measures of success for these performances? That is, do you feel they sufficiently problematize your position? And that of the audience? Is there anything you feel unsatisfied with about this series? Anything you might do differently?

TH: There are things we do differently all the time. We are constantly working on the work and trying to make it better. As Martha Graham said, “…no artist is pleased….” She also said, “…it is not [the artist’s] business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions….”

LJ: That seems like a great sentiment to end on. Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me.

TH: Thank you!!

 

Lacy M. Johnson is a writer and digital artist living in Houston, Texas, where she is the Director of Academic Initiatives at University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Her second memoir, THE OTHER SIDE, is forthcoming from Portland-based Tin House Books.

TBA: Things I’ve noticed, felt, thought about thus far…

JamieIsenstein_WillReturn_CourtesyArtist

 

by Mary Rechner

 

 

Site-specific conventions: chain link fence encircling resource library, signs on doorways noting sexual content, t-shirts=ID badges….

 

Am I standing in the right line?

 

I often feel entitled to virtuosity.

 

Contemporary art speaks to the past as much as to the now or the future.

 

Discovery is a form of pleasure.

 

Not understanding is a form of fear.

 

Audience camaraderie has a ritual function.

 

Sympathy/empathy for the performers is a surprise (see above entitlement).

 

Imagination might be more important than anything else.

 

 

Mary Rechner is the author is Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women.  She lives in Portland.

WINKING AT JESUS: THE DANCING MASCULINITIES OF CAMPO AND TRAJAL HARRELL

by Ariel Osterweis

Since the 1960s, contemporary dance has been burdened by two predominant taboos: religion and emotion. Heartily challenging these taboos today are choreographers Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido (the duo comprising Campo) and Trajal Harrell. During one evening here at PICA’s TBA13 festival, I saw Campo’s duet Still Standing You immediately followed by Harrell’s Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made to Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M). Both casts are comprised entirely of men, unabashedly yet jaggedly burrowing into fraught spaces of becoming, the kinds of liminalities that reek of cohabitated dorm rooms, dried cum, and the sweat of dresses being aired out after a hard night at the ball.

Pieter Amp and Guiherme Garrido Still Standing You Photo by Phile Deprez Courtesy of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Pieter Amp and Guiherme Garrido
Still Standing You
Photo by Phile Deprez
Courtesy of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Entering the theater, the audience happens upon Still Standing You’s Ampe lying on his back onstage, his feet raised perpendicularly, with Garrido seated atop. Although Garrido could tumble to the ground at any moment, he addresses the audience with small talk (while wobbling a bit on the temporary seating of Ampe’s legs), asking about Portland’s rumored “vegan strip club” and its label of the “Rip City.” As Garrido nurtures this playful rapport with the audience, one detects Ampe’s fatiguing support, the increasing discomfort of the seemingly impossible task with which he has been charged. Herein lies the crux of the piece’s aesthetic: nonchalance amidst precariousness. Still chatting up the audience, Garrido clarifies, “What you’re about to see now is a contemporary dance show” and then instructs the crowd to utter in unison, “Pieter Ampe, we love you!” Encouraging a shift in tone while stretching his arms in front of him in an exaggeratedly stiff, straight parallel position, Garrido states, “Here we go. Contemporary style now. Here we go. Serious.”

What ensues in Still Standing You is the kind of dangerous play you find in many a boy-filled household. I say “household” as opposed to “playground” because Ampe and Garrido’s passages of roughhousing are punctuated by intimate moments of care and experimentation, that of two brothers who rip their clothes off like superheroes, one-up each other in absurd penis-slapping games, and tenderly nudge each other to assuage the brutality of boyhood. Here, the wild growls of lions and loud thuds of crashing robots are tamed by the domesticity of the barely detectable pitter-patter of two fingers catching up to each other across a patch of floor to indicate walking.  Such snippets of gestural storytelling appear in sharp contrast to the magnitude of Ampe and Garrido’s exaggerated risks and crashes. Finally, after an inventive pas de deux of penis-grabbing, foreskin-twisting, and Pilobolus-like body-pretzeling, the roles of support reverse and Garrido takes Ampe in his arms, generating an iconographic image reminiscent of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in the pieta. In Campo fashion, the hold is precarious, and Ampe could slip out of Garrido’s arms at any moment.

Whereas Campo evokes the Bataillan incommensurability of the four-legged, sensory creature and the rational, upright human, Harrell depends on our recognition of the ubiquitous postmodern players known to us as supermodels. Moreover, in M2M, Harrell experiments with layers upon layers of performance, in which contemporary white dancers elicit black and Latino voguers of all genders from ballroom culture who, in turn, try on the hyper-feminized looks of fashion magazines. Throughout his series, Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church, Harrell has taken up gendered and racial performance, in which one gender performs another gender performing another gender, and so on. In doing so, he poses questions such as, what would happen if a voguer from Harlem’s 1963 ballroom scene went down to the Judson Church to hang out with the early postmoderns? M2M reverses the series’ original provocation, exploring the imaginative limits and possibilities of an early postmodern (dancer) finding himself in the balls of Harlem. Drawing from the colloquial use of “giving church” found in ballroom culture—already a mix of high fashion posturing and the church-inspired lyrics of the deep house music that drives many a voguing competition—Harrell takes his audience to church with M2M. Needless to say, the aesthetic of “difficulty” central to Judson-inspired work tends to obscure the church service structure of M2M for the average viewer (at least according to my own surveying of audience members after the performance).

Ondrej Vidlar, Thibault Lac, and Trajal Harrell  Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made to Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M) Photo by Chelsea Petrakis Courtesy of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Ondrej Vidlar, Thibault Lac, and Trajal Harrell
Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made to Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M)
Photo by Chelsea Petrakis
Courtesy of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Like Still Standing You, M2M opens with audience address. The irrepressibly handsome Thibault Lac, awkwardly lanky and modishly coiffed enough to be—or at least stand in for—a Rick Owens model, coyly tells the audience in a French accent, “What you see couldn’t have been performed at Judson or the balls. I’ll ask you to forget this happened.” Lac suggests that the cast is merely trying out a possible beginning for the piece that they will likely discard. Yet, at no point is the culmination of the trial overture indicated, leading the audience to believe that the entire piece is a potentiality in itself, never etched into the tablets of history. Lac leaves the stage and the audience is met with the heavy bass and driving beat of a house remix of Adele’s impassioned (and widely played) “Fire to the Rain.” Unacceptable as it will seem to my academic cohort, I have lost nights upon nights of productivity to the emotional pull of this very song. An uncanny mnemonic, to hear it resonating throughout the theater, in public, is to sense a coalescence of queer community and mainstream cheapness. On the one hand, the song creates an affective commonality: conjuring a club, “Fire to the Rain” played as a danceless dance song points to dance’s potential. (My other favorite danceless opening to a dance piece done to dance music is that of Jerome Bel’s The Show Must Go On, in which, in a similar postdramatic mode, the lights take the entire length of the song “Let the Sunshine In” to rise on an otherwise empty stage.) Aside from an electric fan sitting on the floor, the stage is empty at this point. Finally the entire cast of three (Harrell, Lac, and Ondrej Vidlar) enters, clad in adjustable long black dresses by Complex Geometries, and sits down on wooden chairs. Seated upstage of Lac, Harrell immediately dons the pained expression of a woman wailing in church (a nod to Alvin Ailey’s iconic Revelations?). Because the audience is not privy to any emotional build-up that could have led to this moment of climax, Harrell’s expression reads as either a droplet of melodrama or grief stripped of context. Film scholar Linda Williams refers to melodrama as a “body genre,” as a film genre (or “mode”) that is excessive to the degree that its affect spills over beyond legibility (despite its recognizability).

Ever challenging established historical narratives (or the way they get “written”), Harrell has a knack for jogging the audience’s sense of temporality in two distinct ways, namely, through his strategic use of pop music and by deploying facial expressions of grief that function as signifiers. Harrell and company have explicitly stated that they are not voguers and that they do not completely embody its technique. Thus, pseudo-voguing here is a signifier of virtuosic dancing (but not its complete fulfillment). As such, Harrell points to the historical imperative for African American dancers to be virtuosic, to “be fierce.” Harrell is astute in drawing our attention—however opaquely—to the way melodrama and sincere emotion are easily conflated. In doing so, he arrives at the crux of ballroom culture (where voguing emerged), namely, its preoccupation with “realness,” the ability to pass such that one cannot be “read” (called out for faking it). In focusing on resemblance over reality, Harrell utters, “Sounds like the souls of black folks.” His fellow performers are white, dancing to a soulful soundtrack of house, disco, and hip-hop. Despite racialized and gendered ambivalence, however, M2M concerns itself with queer belonging, evoked at one point by the longing of Antony and the Johnson’s lyrics, “I need another place…will there be peace? I need another world, a place where I can go.” The dancers alternate between pious gestures of prayer (while holding phallic microphones) and frantic freestyle dancing that lies somewhere between runway strutting, voguing, and imitations of hip-hop. Evoking the demands of ballroom culture typically uttered by voguing MCs, Harrell, Lac, and Vidlar repeatedly say, “Mama said don’t stop the dance” as a command at times and a lullaby at others. In self-reflexive fashion, the dancers also state, “Contemporary dance is over.” However, in more play with colloquialisms, they could be saying “Contemporary dance is ovah,” which is a huge compliment, meaning “fabulous!” Perhaps one of the most hauntingly ambivalent commands Harrell preaches to the dancers during M2M is “Don’t think; work.” Which, of course, could be “Don’t think; werq,” and to werq is to fulfill ballroom’s realness, to be an utterly convincing performer. Nevertheless, the danger Harrell points to is our culture’s expectations for (and assumptions of) black performance as unthinking labor, far from the self-reflexive, critical terrain of Harrell’s imaginings. What does it mean, though, that the dancer “working” the hardest is Lac, flinging his limbs every which way in a sinewy, breakneck solo that tries to defy stereotypes of white boys and rhythm? In following the command to work/werq, the dancers emerge from M2M covered in sweat. Things wind down and fire returns via a lonely plea into the mic: “Won’t you wet my fire with your love, baby?” “M2M” could also stand for man-to-man. Both Campo and Harrell remind us that, underlying boys’ huge capacity for play is the threat of violence: what risks will you take for (and to perform) your identity, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise? (Is Jesus watching? And, who’s there to support you when he fails?)

_

Ariel Osterweis is Assistant Professor of Dance at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). She earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and B.A. in Anthropology at Columbia University. At work on her first book, which theorizes virtuosity, race, and sexuality in the dance career of Desmond Richardson, Osterweis also researches contemporary African dance and the disavowal of virtuosity in feminist and transgender live art and performance. Publications appear in Dance Research Journal, Women and Performance, e-misférica, Theatre Survey, The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen, and more. She danced professionally with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Mia Michaels, and Heidi Latsky, choreographs, and is dramaturg for choreographer John Jasperse and performance artist Narcissister. Osterweis is currently living in New York City.

Identifying with Identify Yourself

By Olivia Mitchell

KrystalSouth_IdentifyYourself_CourtesyArtist

It seems very appropriate to be writing a blog post about Identify Yourself, Krystal South’s research/essay/website/book about internet art. In fact, I don’t think I could properly respond in any other medium. Even so, writing this makes me keenly aware of my novice status. I am, like South, a child of the internet age, but I hesitate before I say gif because I’m not sure whether we’ve decided to pronounce it gif or jif. My Tumblr has fewer than 50 followers and is mostly pictures of cats and One Direction, and yet, even with my lack of internet finesse, I feel familiar with the language and attitude of Identify Yourself.

The website is part archive, part history, part personal essay, and part internet, all linked together by simultaneity and networks and questions (Where does that leave us? “Wtf is their deal?”). And what makes it recognizable to me is the way it illustrates the personal

In her personal essay, South asserts her position as an active participant in the processes by which the internet makes her who she is. “My co-evolution with this technology has instilled a fiercely personal identification with the concept and structure of computers and Internet-based systems within me. This position is not by accident, but choice.” Her life is intertwined with the internet, and that is something she comes to with intention. This then is at the center of her work (if anything on the internet can have a center): South believes in the interplay between agency and evolution in the internet and in her life.

I recently read a letter to the editor in The Oregonian about the failure of students in Portland to meet writing benchmarks on standardized tests. This letter writer believed that text messaging was (at least in part) to blame for this failure; the internal logic being that students spend too much time inhabiting technological spaces where non-literary communication is encouraged.  I see this general message repeated a lot: New technologies are to blame for the degradation of intelligence and creativity. South’s personal narrative and research run directly counter to these tropes. In her work, I see histories of how new technologies and new ways of using technology are generative and productive. Internet art is not a lazy version of real, decorous creation, it is simply new.

The proliferation of internet art, post-internet art, and their concomitant communities demonstrate just how generative the internet can be. And Identify Yourself collects and expands these generations in a personal way.

I think there are still important questions to ask about agency and evolution when it comes to the internet. And these questions aren’t simply abstractions to ponder, but important issues that should be at the center of any discussion about the internet. Who has the power to congregate virtual communities? Who has the privilege of toying with open source code without being seen as a hooligan? Who gets to troll? Who gets censored?  South speaks about her work with room for these questions, with allowances for infinite uncertainty.

When an audience member asked what would happen if internet art kept professionalizing, she was quick to say she that she isn’t psychic. She’s not trying to predict what will be trending next week, she’s reflecting on the life of the internet in her life, she’s creating and recreating their co-evolution.

Olivia Mitchell writes about art occasionally and lives in Vancouver, Washington.

Trajal Harrell: Of course it was intentional.

by Satya Byock

Trajal_AntigoneJr_500

After the show, my friend walked up to him and asked about the tag still connected to the shirt he’d worn on stage. “Was that intentional? Did you mean to leave that on?” Trajal laughed as he looked at her and said “of course,” of course it was intentional. It was part of the show. Then she told him: “That thing at the beginning was no big deal,” attempting to offer comfort for what seemed a monumental mistake in the performance. He smiled at her and laughed. That was intentional too. “It was?!” she laughed in surprise (and she’s no amateur in the world of experimental performance). ”Of course!” Trajal replied.

It was all intentional. The minutes of discomfort as we watched Trajal’s partner, Thibault Lac, dig through his bag looking for a prop, halting the show shortly after it had begun. Then the interaction between Thibault and Trajal in the front row and the tiny wrinkle of concern on Trajal’s otherwise stoic face, as if he were hiding anger at his partner’s ineptitude. Then Thibault’s quick departure from the room to look for the missing element, and his small smile that I interpreted as boyish humiliation. And Trajal’s speech to the audience, an audience that waited in line outside, behind closed gates for the sold-out show. Trajal apologized for the fact that they would have to begin the show over.

I was sitting next to Trajal as all this was occurring, an un-intentional move on my part when I chose my seat next to two empty ones reserved by a hand towel. I was next to Trajal when he sat down after his apology, and as he waited for Thibault to return. Trajal’s body folded at moments, his eyes sometimes looking in anguish at where Thibault had run off stage. At first, the audience was silent. But the initial feelings of respect and compassion, and perhaps thoughts that this was an intentional interruption, soon gave way to chatter and then palpable discomfort. As Trajal sat next to me, alone in embarrassed silence, the whispering in the audience grew increasingly loud.

A young woman seated on the floor in front of us, her head half shaved and dyed blue, whispered with friends. I looked over at her as she laughed and rolled her eyes in what seemed a moment of mocking disbelief. Trajal saw her too. He sighed next to me, as if the humiliation has just reached its peak, and turned his head away in sadness. Should I offer him a word of comfort?

Every moment is an opportunity to assess our own reactions, and TBA’s performances have a knack for bringing those moments into stark relief. If nothing else, this was a social experiment, I figured. Was I, as the woman next to the performer, expected to offer condolences and reassurance? Should I, at least, be careful not to turn my back on him as I too defaulted into mid-performance conversation with friends? What was my role to play in this performance?

Trajal stands and walks to the wall to continue waiting. Then, after a time, he decides to simply begin the show again. He announces to us that this search for the prop has taken longer than expected and that he’s just going to go ahead and start. Thibault is still not here. Trajal returns to the black open stage and, without much cue to anyone, the music begins. But this is not the music where things left off. This is a new act altogether. And after a couple of minutes, Thibault joins him on stage seamlessly. I wonder for a moment again if this hadn’t all been planned after all. But why?

The show Antigone Jr. (not to be confused with the “Made-to-Measure” version performed on Friday and Saturday) was an exploration into a hypothetical cross-breed of cultures. In Trajal Harrell’s words, all of the Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church performances explore the same question: ”What would have happened in 1963 if someone from the voguing dance tradition in Harlem had come downtown to the Judson Church in Greenwich Village to perform alongside the early postmoderns?”

And it was, in the end, a pleasing performance. A combination of voguing interspersed with an occasional beat generation musing from Trajal, a reading of Antigone by Thibault, and singing from them both. But it was also, always, this highbrow, intellectual work and high-skilled dance on a foundation of seeming disarray. It was not unlike what you might find if walking in on two smart, trained dancers high on something and joking around in a bedroom at 3am. Certainly, this impression was influenced by the costuming: boxer shorts and socks, a gray bathrobe, t-shirts, and an inside-out white something (with the tag still on). What would it have felt like with different clothing? And was that the impression Trajal intended to convey?

Satya Byock is a Portland psychotherapist specializing in dream work and Jungian psychology for individuals in the first half of adulthood. She recently delivered a workshop at PICA on the Language of the Unconscious Mind with Anna Craycroft as part of the C’mon Language series.

Sense Memory Snacks: Campo

Collected from audience interviews by Ariana Jacob

Parenthetical Girls| The Works | Gia Goodrich

“In the first five minutes we are casually and personably introduced to the performer in such a way that we forget he is sitting balanced on the strained legs of his fellow performer. We have to remind ourselves of this this ongoing strain, as we keep being charmed into what feels like a shared sense of ease. “

“He cajoled us into being with him and then got all bossy on us, forming us into being his audience.”

“That direct and friendly connection is an entry point that sticks with you throughout the piece and prevents you from being put off from what might otherwise be uncomfortable. He really took the audience into consideration.”

“No score, just the lion-like, or lizard-like, gruffing monster, godzilla-ish noises.”

“Feeling shudders go through the audience of collective empathetic discomfort or relief.”

“The interesting percussive moment made by the slapping of privates on lower abdomens. I am a man, so I’ve heard that sound before, but never in a room full of people.”

“As the performance goes on you are really more an more aware that you are sharing an experience with the people sitting next to you in the audience. We began giving each other our own personal space in a sort of viewing dance. She would let me lean into her space to see more and I would lean away so she could come into my space.”

“Dueling penises: sweaty, competitive, potentially platonic man love.”

 

Ariana Jacob is an artist whose work focuses on conversation as shared subjective research. Her project Working/Not working: What do you do all day and how do you feel about what you do? is on view at the Littman Gallery as a part of the Emerging Tactics exhibition curated by Recess Gallery.

Sense Memory Snacks: Trajal Harrell

Collected from audience interviews by Ariana Jacob

 

“Hearing ‘don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop” for so long that strangely, I eventually wanted him never to stop saying it – and when he did I longed for more.”

“After such a long introduction, there was an energetic charge when he finally started to move: sashaying with his arms like a really slow hula dance.”

“People were leaving, walking right across the stage, looking at us still in the audience, so you were hyper aware of your choice to be there. “

“Two white guys with euro accents sitting on the front of the stage, commanding action from a tragically moaning black guy behind them, who never the less seemed entirely in charge of himself.”

“Watching Kaj-anne’s reactions down the row in the audience: he was my meter of whether it was going to be alright.”

“With a performance like that half the time what you are doing as audience is gauging the energy of the room, seeing if other people are sharing your feelings and how they are dealing with them.”

“The who’s-who of Portland choreographers were all there, hungry and taking note.”


 

Ariana Jacob is an artist whose work focuses on conversation as shared subjective research. Her project Working/Not working: What do you do all day and how do you feel about what you do? is on view at the Littman Gallery as a part of the Emerging Tactics exhibition curated by Recess Gallery.

Campo: Still Standing You

by Craig Epplin

Campo - Gia Goodrich

Photo by Gia Goodrich

Still Standing You, the dance piece by Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido, is by turns endearing, violent, silly, and solemn. It begins with Ampe lying on the floor, his legs straight up in the air, the soles of his shoes providing an awkward platform where Garrido sits and smiles. He greets the audience and talks amiably—talks about whatever, thanking everyone profusely and giving a lengthy, tongue-in-cheek introduction to his dance partner, who by now seems tired of holding Garrido up. The long soliloquy ends, and the dancers begin to engage one another. They grunt and snarl. They attack, retreat, and play dead. They gradually strip naked, deploying their clothes as weapons. They hurl shoes at each other. They snap their shirts like towels in a boys’ locker room. They spit. Sometimes they hug or pick lint off each others’ bodies. The show lasts around an hour.

The audience mostly laughs, for despite its violence, the scene we watch is often ridiculous. The dancers’ attacks on one another are interspersed with nipple twisting, penis twisting, beard twisting. They play constantly with each others’ and their own bodies, making noises like kids or dolphins. Minimal pop-culture references punctuate some of the most aggressive scenes, making them feel lighter than they would otherwise. It is only in the second half or final third of the performance that the audience grows mostly silent, as the two dancers explore more sedate, extended poses. Their bodies slowly meld into each other, the way a rider and a horse seem to become a centaur. In one pose, Garrido laid his torso over Ampe’s in such a way that I can’t quite describe, but that I remember as producing the effect of a many-legged mammal that walks haltingly across the stage. Their initial aggression toward one another has given way to the intensities of interpenetration.

Throughout, and perhaps naturally, I kept thinking about old cartoons, in particular the classic antagonists: Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, Tom and Jerry. All these pairs enact a mad, constant aggression against one another, an aggression that stops just short of causing death. Watching Ampe and Garrido pass seamlessly from afflicting pain on one another to grooming each other to holding one another up with their thighs, I understood something very simple about those TV shows: that Tom needed Jerry and vice versa. Their aggression was the essence of their relationship, but it had necessary, constitutive limits. Their interactions involved tolerating the other’s madness. I thought about this also in relation to the work’s title, Still Standing You. Various languages have words that connect the experience of standing, as in tolerating, to the act of carrying or holding: the verb to bear, for example, in English. Garrido is Portuguese, and one way to translate the work’s title into that language is via the verb suportar; tracing etymologies, to support is also to tolerate. The cartoonish aspect of Ampe and Garrido’s performance made this connection clear to me.

The great Russian director Sergei Eisenstein once wrote that the animated substitution of animals for humans in Disney cartoons responded to a desire for more fluid forms of social life. I think that something similar applies to this performance, which to my mind aims to represent the pleasures and potencies of ill-defined affects. The dancers’ dispositions move across registers of aggression, eroticism, and playfulness, and similar sorts of shape-shifting define all honest relationships. The specifics are obviously different (for most of us likely don’t throw shoes at one another), but the gray ambiguity between the dancers is the stuff of real friendship. The end of the performance, which comes gradually, through nods of acquiescence between Ampe and Garrido, thus seems less like a truce than the expression of a formless, enduring solidarity.

Craig Epplin is an assistant professor of Latin American literature at Portland State University and an editor at Rattapallax.

Sense Memory Snacks: Opening Night

Collected from audience interviews by Ariana Jacob

erraticpallet

“Walking on the erratic pallet steps, focused on the fun of keeping balanced feet.”

“Sunset colors and weird, unfathomable perspective lying flat on the floor.”

“Middle-schoolers and High-schoolers punked out, invested and going hard.  Moved by seeing them rocking-the-fuck-out at that age with this audience.”

“Not being able to tell what was the recording and what was actually happening: Somewhat reliving a distorted moment that had just happened.”

 

Ariana Jacob is an artist whose work focuses on conversation as shared subjective research. Her project Working/Not working: What do you do all day and how do you feel about what you do? is on view at the Littman Gallery as a part of the Emerging Tactics exhibition curated by Recess Gallery.

A.L. Steiner: Feelings and How to Destroy Them

Steiner

by Mary Rechner

This video-based survey of A.L. Steiner’s work includes “You will never ever be a woman,” “C.L.U.E. (color location ultimate experience),” “Extended Paintbrush (Yves Klein),” and “Swift Path to Glory.”  Predatory sexuality/environmental degradation/consumerism is set next to freedom/fluidity/complexity of desire and gender identity.

Steiner’s work feels like another step alongside nonlinear journeys taken by artists such as Nan Goldin, Marina Abramovic, David Wojnarowicz, Kara Walker, and Steve Paxton.  Steiner is political and playful, part Guerilla Girl, part Merry Prankster.

“Extended Paintbrush (Yves Klein)” is a video of five naked women and one naked man moving in front of Yves Klein paintings.  It’s as if all the nudes in the museum have escaped to these galleries to dance and touch outside their confining frames.

Dance vocabulary plays a big part in “C.L.U.E.” too, as does fashion, music and landscape.  The pop 80’s feel of this video is buoyant, joyful, though the constantly shifting scenery/setting communicates insecurity/instability.

“Swift Path to Glory” features diverse actors reading a script about the construction of masculinity, as well as vulnerability (ties to mother).  Always beyond the actor at the microphone is a view of the street.  At the end, the actor is in a storefront window on display.

“You will never be a woman,” is an intimate, complicated dialogue exploring desire, dreams, gender identity, abuse, the abject, and the way human beings internalize and externalize hatred; it reminded me of Jean Genet’s “The Maids.”  The actors are alternately sad, playful, funny, mean, kind, loving, hateful, and self-hating.  The piece feels both scripted and improvised, too-close-for comfort, haunting, mesmerizing; I’m still thinking about it.

Mary Rechner is the author of Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women.  She lives in Portland.

El Año Que Nací: A Play in Documentary

by Satya Byock

I am running late from a meeting, but I am here. I join friends in the front row. The theater lights dim. The show begins. I had worried that I might be lacking the energy needed for a two hour show, but within minutes I find that I am already deeply engaged. I am teary eyed. My hand covers my mouth in moments of anguish and admiration. I am riveted and moved.

El Año Que Nací is true documentary theater. What unfolds is not a script recounting history and retold by actors. It is a performance of individuals telling their individual stories, both to the audience and to each other. It is a Truth and Reconciliation hearing in performance. A weaving of the statements of eleven Chileans born between 1971 and 1989 when Pinochet’s unrelenting dictatorship polarized and terrorized the country. This is history being told and history in the making. It is the story of war and dictatorship. It is the battle between good and evil enacted in the lives of each person, an exploration of the effects of war on children and psyche. This is the story of my mother, one woman shares. This is the story of my father, another offers. This is the story of my birth. This is the story of my life as an exile and as a citizen. This is my story, as a Chilean and as a person.

El Año Que Nací is not only an inspiring piece of art, but an inspiring piece of healing.

Photo by David Alarcón
Photo by David Alarcón

Americans: imagine eleven children born in Birmingham, Alabama in the ’50s and ’60s taking the stage to tell their story in artful poetry. They are the children of parents who helped to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, but they are also children of the Ku Klux Klan; their parents were among the Freedom Riders and among the mobs who beat them; their mothers and fathers were Southerners, black and white and mixed, juggling their ideological positions with their responsibilities as employees and parents. Where did your parents stand? These southerns ask each other in front of their audience. What color is your skin? How dark are you? How radical were you? How poor and how righteous? Where were your parents when it mattered? What side were they on? Was your mother a leftist who sent you letters from prison? Was your father a police officer whose only ideology was allegiance to commands?

In El Año Que Nací we are shown microcosms of history and macrocosms. The lens focuses in on one story and then back out again to the collective. Abstract dates are doted with personal details: births and deaths; murders and incarcerations; moments of transforming discovery. This is not dry history that struggles to penetrate the psyche. This is life, they tell us. This is your life as much as it is my own. The story in Chile is unique but it is not unrelated to the stories of power and oppression and struggle that have taken place in human history from moment one.

The use of mixed media and costume throughout the production is spirited and engaging. The flow of the show is a carefully orchestrated emotional rhythm, never unbearably heavy nor intellectually abstract. The Chilean spanish of the actors/participants is a pleasing departure from the mostly English language performances, as are the occasional inaccuracies of translation and departures from the subtitled script. In moments, it is clear that the English-speaking audience is missing nuance, and when the actors obscured the view of the subtitle board for an entire scene, it also became clear that this show was not made for us. This is a story that has crossed nations to be here. And we are reminded in those moments that these actors are people first. Their humanness reminds us of our own.

We all have stories. Our parents, no matter the conflict or the period of history, have taken sides. And we have too. This piece of work, by the brilliant Argentine writer, director, and performer Lola Arias, is a reminder that there are stories in us all. It just may take a particularly painful, burning fire to bring them to the light of history, and courage to bring them to consciousness in the present time.

 

Satya Byock is a Portland psychotherapist specializing in dream work and Jungian psychology for individuals in the first half of adulthood. She recently delivered a workshop at PICA on the Language of the Unconscious Mind with Anna Craycroft as part of the C’mon Language series.

More on Lola Arias: El año en que nací / The Year I Was Born

by Craig Epplin

LolaArias_TheYearIWasBorn_DavidAlarcón

Photo by David Alarcón

I’d like to add just a few thoughts to Lacy M. Johnson’s comments on Lola Arias’s El año en que nací / The Year I Was Born. One of the show’s insights is that memory is a highly mediated process. We always remember through and with something or someone. We remember through old clothes and documents, through ingrained habits, through conversation, through meals and rituals. Etc. Each of these channels is limited, and thus our memories always remain partial and subject to revision. Arias’s work stages this process, revealing the fragility and instability of memory.

One of the more striking ways that we see memory unfold onstage is through the use of props. Most of the actors wear, at some point, an article of clothing that belongs to their parents. On several occasions, these clothes trigger monologues, as if their very presence demanded an explanation. Clothes are always enmeshed in sign systems, and in this case their meaning is both public and private. A pair of overalls, such as those worn by one actor toward the end of the show, might denote many things about class and profession, but they mean something entirely different when they are symbolically tied to the violent loss of a child. And the impact of that meaning is magnified when the person wearing the overalls and telling the story of that loss is the daughter of their original owner.

At other moments, memory is produced collectively, through dialogue or argument. One actor, the son of an ex-naval officer, mimics his father’s love of order by asking everyone to line up, in turn, according to class, ethnicity, and the political persuasion of their fathers and mothers. Consensus is never achieved, and what emerges from the fractious conversation is a partial reconstruction of the way Chilean society both functions and imagines its own past. At another, more harmonious moment, the actors sit around a table and eat, recalling their families’ reactions to the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II to Chile. Their individual memories coalesce, swelling into what is probably the most extended period of joy in the show, until one character describes the censorship and abuse of a woman who had spoken to the pope about human rights while the media’s cameras were rolling. In this case, the ritual of sharing a meal leads into the memory of state terror.

Finally, we watch memory take form through a complex, very beautiful choreography of speech and action. During many monologues, the speakers refer to postcards, photographs, or letters that are on display under a document camera. We see, simultaneously, the documents being manipulated by the other actors, who draw on them with sharpies and move them around, and their projection onto a screen in the middle of the stage. The process works like an extended metaphor for the way memory is always produced: through an assemblage of individual experiences, material artifacts, and the actions of others.

In other words, remembering doesn’t happen in isolation, but rather through conversation with others and in contact with the material remnants of the past. El año en que nací / The Year I Was Born opens a window onto that process and its necessarily incomplete, fragmentary nature.

Craig Epplin is an assistant professor of Latin American literature at Portland State University and an editor at Rattapallax.

Lola Arias: El año en que nací / The Year I Was Born

by Lacy M. Johnson

LolaArias_TheYearIWasBorn_DavidAlarcón2

[photo courtesy of David Alarcón]

In El año en que nací / The Year I Was Born by Argentinian playwright Lola Arias, eleven artists born during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship take the stage in an attempt to reckon with the crimes of the generation before. In a series of intertwining monologues (in Spanish, with English subtitles), the artists construct a story of the past that draws from the full spectrum of political ideologies, across lines of power and class and ethnicity. They rely not only on the irrefutable facts of public memory (the dates and locations of bombings, the names of political figures and the material consequences of their actions) but also on the private memory of the artists’ parents, recounted through personal artifacts that have survived from that time (family albums, wedding photos, postcards and letters, family videos, long-expired passports and articles of clothing).

What emerges is a riveting work of documentary theater that stays in the mind long after the lights go out and the audience exits through the door. This morning, I keep thinking about one particularly gut-wrenching scene, in which one of the artists reconstructs the execution of her mother, gunned down by eighty special forces officers, who then strip her body and drag her into the street “as a trophy for the media.” The artist recites this line lying face-up on the ground, stripped of her shirt by one of the other performers, while another snaps photographs with a camera. A fourth artist in the scene draws a chalk outline around the artist’s body as she speaks. The cast gathers, center stage, for her funeral. Moments later, the scene ends, another begins as a table is brought in for a feast. For a moment, the chalk outline remains on the floor as the artists sit down or stand around the table and begin to to eat. They’re laughing and smiling, nodding to one another, taking handfuls of food from each plate. One of the performers pushes a mop across the floor, and in only a few strokes, the chalk outline is gone, making clear how easily the space itself can be remade, reinvented. The feast goes on, as if nothing happened. Only the memory of the chalk outline remains.

In one of the final scenes, one artist says: we’ve talked a lot about the past, a little about the present, but we’ve said nothing of the future. The cast agrees to flip a coin to divine which side will win the next Chilean election: the left or the right. In this moment, after all that has transpired on the stage, the audience believes that, yes, the future is as arbitrary as the flip of a coin. We cannot change the past, only better understand it; and it is unclear how we can affect the future. Do we protest? Do we take up arms? At the end of the performance, each member of the eleven-artist cast takes up an electric guitar. The sound of their music builds and builds in a frenzied crescendo until there is only a giant wall of sound: the entire cast is alternately screaming or dancing, or shaking their heads — no, no, no — and on every face is a look of determination, of defiance. When they exit the stage and the lights go out I believe, for one, that there is something we can do. We can affect the future the only way we know how: by making important art.

 

Lacy M. Johnson is a writer and digital artist living in Houston, Texas, where she is the Director of Academic Initiatives at University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Her second memoir, THE OTHER SIDE, is forthcoming from Portland-based Tin House Books.

Alex Mackin Dolan: Cycle, Sun, Limit

by Mary Rechner

Alex Mackin Dolan

 

When you enter Cycle, Sun, Limit you see a large photo on the floor: a slice of bed, a table top filled with glasses.  On top of the photo is an actual empty glass.  The room is filled with tables and glasses, all empty,  many of them etched with the phrase, “three liters recommended daily; every day do not forget.”  I feel both encouraged and warned.

On one table sits an open backpack; I am pleased by the invitation to look inside, curious to see what has been deemed necessary in this world, and not entirely reassured.  A sweater, notebooks, a scientific chart, a can of CO2.

Two of the other tables display games: solitaire on a computer, and an elaborate board game.  Games to me suggest the need to engage the mind and pass the time.  A need for an engaging structure, a way to facilitate the interaction between people, or a way to relate to the self.

I’ve always been a reluctant gamer; I’d rather just hang out and talk.  Thus I am drawn to the pictures on the walls.  Mostly people in groups.  In one, a tour guide walks backwards; the image below it is the same but distorted, as if to illustrate the energy either absorbed or emanating from the people.  We are all in this together.  But then, another image, a singular girl absorbed in what she’s holding– another game?  We are all alone.

Dolan4

The final table holds the fragment of a stone sun, and another empty glass.  I suggest ignoring the pamphlet available at the entry to this installation/series of sculptures/images at least until you’ve experienced it… and maybe altogether.  It might be more interesting to discover what you bring to the work, rather than to feel confident about what you take away.

Mary Rechner is the author of Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women. She lives in Portland.

TRAJAL HARRELL’S (EMAIL) JOURNEY FROM JUDSON TO HARLEM

Trajal Harrell Interviewed by Ariel Osterweis over email in early September for PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival.

 

Ariel Osterweis: The last time we sat down to discuss your work, we reflected on Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (S). What struck me from that discussion was your claim that, for you, voguing functioned as a “theoretical praxis,” that you refused to embody it. How has that notion changed, developed, or remained the same since that time? For example, does taking a voguing class (if you have) undo that claim? And how has your idea of voguing as a theoretical praxis brought you to your current work, which you will be presenting at PICA’s TBA festival?

 

Trajal Harrell: I think it is always important to say that I am not a voguer. I don’t make voguing. I make contemporary dance. I work with voguing and early postmodern dance as theoretical praxes. I am not trying to learn voguing moves and fuse them with postmodern dance moves, if those exist. I am addressing the theory and tenets underneath the two different aesthetics. Mainly, I am working through voguing’s idea of “realness” and postmodern dance’s “authenticity.” Yes, I have taken a few [voguing] classes, but class is not the praxis I speak of. When I speak about voguing, I am speaking about the voguing ballroom scene. You cannot learn that in a class. It is a form of social performance and a practice of community.

 

In terms of the two pieces I am presenting at TBA, it is the same thing—“twirling,” so to speak, between “authenticity” and realness. Too often, I think people forget about the early postmodern dance part, and they focus solely on the voguing. With the Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem piece, the early postmodern dance praxis is hard to miss.

 

AO: Twirling between (voguing’s) realness and (postmodernism/Judson’s) authenticity! (Do we want to make explicit a discussion of quotation marks here? I’m more inclined to put quotation marks around “authenticity.” I feel the ballroom scene and Judith Butler have done a pretty good job of defining realness, allowing the word to mean what it performatively means—performing to the extent that one passes and cannot be “read”; whereas, “authenticity” opens up a huge can of worms.) I’m excited about Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made to Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M). How does it differ from the other “sizes” I have seen (such as S, (M)imosa and XS)? You suggest that your praxis is a sort of practice-meets-theory in which a particular socio-cultural history (of ballroom culture) informs your choreography and interacts with Judson’s postmodernist explorations of authenticity. Do you even like that word, “choreography?”

 

I agree that the term “fusion” has no place in describing your work. First of all, fusion indicates a mixture of two or more elements, and when it refers to dance, it typically indicates the blending of codified techniques (or at least highly stylized forms). Whether embraced or shunned, the word “fusion” tends to emerge alongside a colonialist or exoticizing impulse, at least in common discourse (think “Asian fusion” cuisine, for example. The “Asian” is inevitably effaced or bastardized at best). And there’s something anti-colonialist or recuperative about your project, about exploring what could have happened if a Harlem voguer from the ballroom scene in the 1960s had gone downtown to collaborate with the Judson Dance Theater (famous for Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto, which declared “no to virtuosity” and “no to spectacle”). Of course, voguing’s end goal is virtuosity, specifically virtuosity that can be described as “fierce,” virtuosity so precise and breakneck that it can’t be touched by questions of realness (so “unreal,” colloquially speaking, that it is undeniably “real”). If size S served us deceleration and (M)imosa’s exploration of drag was a total gender-fuck, how might you distill “(M2M)?” 

 

TH: Church! And, yes, I like the word “choreography” and think we should indeed place quotation marks around “authenticity.”

 

AO: Church. You had mentioned gospel. Are we now going uptown to a church in Harlem? What does this mean for Yvonne and her Judson cohort? I mean, on some level they must have loathed having the name “Church” associated with them, as in the Judson Dance Theater rehearsing at the Judson Church. Do you think postmodern “authenticity” embraces the idea of the secular person devoid of religion? So often in concert dance training (especially, in my experience of ballet and modern—think, Graham and Ailey), one speaks of a “calling,” a “gift” of talent that one holds a responsibility to fulfill (similar to but not identical to Weber’s Protestant ethic of capitalism), and this is not far from a religious mentality. However, the Judson aesthetic seems so stripped of religion and spirituality. I’m curious to hear how you envision Judson at church. What kinds of praxes are at work in this project (M2M)?

 

I know it’s not my turn to email, but something just struck me. I was reading a Time Out magazine interview of Wendy Whelan describing her new project, and she says she found Kyle Abraham so “hot and passionate and intense” that she wanted to “feel what that feels like” and subsequently asked him to choreograph on (!) her (8/15/13). We don’t need Miley Cyrus’ recent VMA antics to tell us that appropriating blackness is one of the foundations of American popular culture. But what of high art appropriations? Claims of “authenticity” often come with charges of appropriation. So, what would it mean (and what would be the stakes of) appropriating the Judson aesthetic? What happens when we accuse (or don’t accuse) performers of appropriating whiteness?

 

TH: Ha! That is super-loaded, and here I have to quote myself a bit: “My position in all of this is not without problematization. Though I am African-American, I am not a voguer from Harlem. I am much more from the legacy of postmodern dance [and Judson Church]. I wanted to problematize this location and the space I occupy within it. Therefore, I also felt the series had to have the classic double migration. So, we go back from Judson Church up to the balls in Harlem. For this I wanted to go directly to my own personal cultural roots and see how they affix themselves between these two locations. The Made-to-measure size, thereby, activates a singular position that I needed to acknowledge in the final piece of the series.” That’s all to say, most people do not come to me to appropriate blackness. My work is steeped in post-blackness (maybe the “post-” isn’t fulfilling enough). My roots are also in “white” culture. I don’t feel at all that I am appropriating whiteness. I am aware that the Judson aesthetic was developed by white artists, but I don’t think minimalism and pedestrianism nor any of Yvonne Rainer’s anti’s are white, per se. Sure, we cannot separate the means of production and distribution from the realities of sex, race, class, and sexuality, etc. Regardless, authenticity was a fiction that Judson constructed as well. In terms of performativity, we find it very useful in the work that we do. What people do appreciate in the work is this problematization, because if we are honest, that’s where everyone sits. My career and Kyle’s have blossomed in the same historical moment. I hope one day someone looks specifically at the links and differences.

 

I turn the proposition around: what would have happened in 1963 if someone from Judson Dance Theater had gone uptown to perform in the voguing ballroom scene? What would it mean to come from Judson Church, to go uptown from Judson to Harlem? In my imagination, you would have to “give church” at the balls. In a voguing context or African-American context, “giving church” means giving it your all or taking it to the umpteenth degree.

 

AO: I appreciate your reflections on authenticity and appropriation. Because of my mixed-race identity, I am continually preoccupied with the idea of belonging. Your discussion of “roots” and your use of the pronoun “we” intrigue me. What exactly do you mean by your “cultural roots” and who is the “we” to which you refer?

 

TH: By cultural roots, I mean the topography of influences and socialization that have informed my personal identity and history: Polo Ralph Lauren, Madonna, The Flintstones, country and western music, the Clintons, CNN, Andy Warhol, Ralph Lemon, Adele,  fried chicken, South Beach, bell hooks, Andre Agassi, Mark Rothko, Marguerite Duras, the Indigo Girls, Patti Labelle, the list goes on and on. And the “we” I refer to are me and the dancers with whom I work.

 

AO: Can you tell me about your upbringing and your experiences growing up? I mean, (pop)culturally, we are urged to “own it,” on the one hand, but not to steal it, on the other. I wonder if “owning it” is only a message for the marginalized or weak, or if it gives license to appropriators at large, regardless of race or class. You and your fellow performers own it all over the place!

 

TH: I grew up in a small town in southeast Georgia. There were no voguing balls and no contemporary dance, but I did lie when I was eight years old about what time my gymnastics class got out. I said it was an hour later so I could stay and watch the girls’ ballet class. No boys took ballet, but I was always there with my head in the door, watching from 4pm-5pm.

 

AO: Ha!

 

On the one hand, you seem to point to blackness (and/as gay black men and queer black masculinity), but on the other hand, you are working with forms that you haven’t necessarily lived with for a long period of time (voguing and postmodern), relatively speaking. What I’m wondering, more specifically, is, how and when do you find yourself an insider in ballroom culture (whether or not you vogue or don’t vogue) and how/when do you find yourself an insider in the Judson tradition (and perhaps more broadly, in “Western Civ,” since you tackle Antigone and Greek mythology in one piece you present at PICA)? Conversely, when do you find yourself an outsider?

 

TH: As an artist I am constantly shifting my location between insider and outsider. It goes beyond Judson and voguing. As an artist it is important for me to simultaneously occupy that dual positionality in order to experience the world.

 

AO: I assume that these terms (insider/outsider) are problematic for you, which is why I ask these questions. Especially now that I teach in a university environment, I find the issue of education very interesting in relationship to dance. Those of us who grew up in conservatory environments (not to mention the ethic driving American pop culture) were encouraged to “shut up and dance” and the trope of the dumb dancer persists today. Nevertheless, we find tension in the dance world between those who speak and those who do not (by choice or otherwise). More “conceptual”/”experimental” dance makers rely on text, discourse, and dramaturgy in a way that is sometimes looked down upon by more traditional/presentational concert choreographers. Few compelling contemporary dance makers steer clear of such reliance on a discursive backdrop, one informed by certain bents of critical and performance theory.

 

TH: I think that relying on text, discourse, and dramaturgy can be limiting when you want to engage more than a (S)mall audience. That’s what I worked on in the series. Too often in experimental dance, that’s where dance makers stay, and it blocks engaging a larger audience. In (S)mall, the performative operation is transparent. That is what makes that work important. But after (S), [my concern is] that too much focus on the performative operations can block the experience of the work.

 

I have never heard someone say, “I can’t wait to go read that dance.” My work is founded in theory, but I work to build on the theory, not to rely on it as a status symbol. So both sides have a point—the presentational and the conceptual. I’m interested in making Art with a capital A; and for that, I must always remember that theory and discourse are tools, not the thing itself.

 

AO: It’s interesting to hear you discuss size not only in terms of a piece’s scale, but in terms of the size of an audience in relation to a piece’s reliance on (or exposure/concealment of) theory.

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Ariel Osterweis is Assistant Professor of Dance at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). She earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and B.A. in Anthropology at Columbia University. At work on her first book, which theorizes virtuosity, race, and sexuality in the dance career of Desmond Richardson, Osterweis also researches contemporary African dance and the disavowal of virtuosity in feminist and transgender live art and performance. Publications appear in Dance Research Journal, Women and Performance, e-misférica, Theatre Survey, The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen, and more. She danced professionally with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Mia Michaels, and Heidi Latsky, choreographs, and is dramaturg for choreographer John Jasperse and performance artist Narcissister. Osterweis is currently living in New York City.

Apparitional Tools

Artist Karen Sherman Interviewed by Ariel Osterweis over email in early September for PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival.

In anticipation of PICA’s TBA13, Karen Sherman and I exchanged several emails about the role of dance, gender, and carpentry in her performance work. Because emails can quickly blur boundaries of style and appropriateness, some shuffling and excising took place. What ensues may appear to be an arrangement of words following other words, but our exchange was, in virtual-reality, temporally and visually fragmented, punctuated by roving, unreliable returns. (A dance?)

Karen Sherman, One With Others. Photo: Jeffrey Wells

Karen Sherman, One With Others. Photo: Jeffrey Wells

Ariel Osterweis: Hi Karen. Your new piece, One with Others, proposes a set of questions: Can movement be a refuge from words? Can objects be language? Can words be visuals? Can we, in our groping toward self-realization and being with others in the world, do without even one of these? How have you gone about exploring these questions over the past year? Did you begin with them or did they emerge from observing your own process?

Karen Sherman: Perhaps some of both….I didn’t ask myself those questions in that language at the time, but we experimented with all of those ideas….The piece we made is one arrangement of material, one troubled response to those questions. There is choreography, text, talking, conversation, music, crude carpentry, but I’m not sure there are any answers. I’m interested in space and objects and design and all those things that are part of art-making, but I’m more interested in how people are together. I think the things that pulse from project to project for me are presence and feeling.

AO: Of course, “dance” is such a tenuous term. I should ask you, what does “dance” mean to you in your own practice?

KS: I used to say that the dance world was the only one that would have me. (I shouldn’t presume the feeling is mutual, though!) There is definitely dance in One with Others….and we do talk in the piece about what a dancer is supposed to be and if any of us fit the bill. I should say that while we [do] address it head-on, the piece is about more than Dance. I have a pretty open-minded idea of what dance is, including that it can be a tool and not a product. Sometimes I make pieces that don’t have any dance in them. That being said (maybe especially with that being said) I do like to see that tool wielded by those who know how to use it. (Depending on the day, I may or may not include myself in that club.)

AO: In a description of One with Others you relay your troubled relationship to dance, that you came to it late and found your experience of dance-making in conflict with the comfort you felt with language. Are you referring to language’s capacity to signify, a certain correlative reliability (or lack thereof)?

KS: It’s not so much that dance was in conflict with a reliability of language (and in fact, I can think of fewer things less reliable than language). It’s that dance was causing me pain—not physical; psychic, emotional, artistic pain. One of the things I find fascinating and horrific about dance is that you are the in-person representation and embodiment of your artwork. A painter doesn’t have to stand next to her painting in a gallery for the entire run of the exhibition and endure critiques about the painting as critiques about her body, brain, skill, etc. Here is the unique locus of judgment in dance: you are physically scrutinized, assessed, and evaluated, and this is inseparable from the conclusions made about the artwork itself and the art-maker’s skill….I think I was drowning in the frustration to separate, not even drowning in the judgment of others. The abstract nature of dance—the way you have to start over every day because the dance doesn’t exist unless you’re doing it—all that was wearying. Words on a page stay until you change them. I always talk about that in regards to building physical things, that I find relief in how, say, the cabinet you’re building (or even the painting you are making) doesn’t change overnight when you leave. Your opinion of it or plan for what happens next may have changed, but it hasn’t. You can see it (and in the case of words, read it) and go from there. But with dance…well, it’s a constant apparition, especially if you dance in your own work. I think a few years ago, words were not only offering a kind of tangibility but they suddenly felt so much more accurate and efficient. I didn’t need many of them and the ones I did need already existed. I didn’t have anything to say with movement. It was all a bunch of babble. White noise. I was forcing myself to use it because of a sense of obligation. But after a while, I realized that my untrained dancer-ness and my weird movement and my physical failures were a language of their own.  In this way alone, dance has changed my life. It has changed how I see everything in the world. It has reordered my brain.

 

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In the Dark

Reposted from Third Angle New MusicCatch their performance of In the Dark at TBA:13, September 17, 18, and 19. Tickets online.

We’re in the final preparation stage for String Quartet no. 3, by Georg Friedrich Haas….what a great journey it’s been! It’s always fascinating how the venerable string quartet form can be made fresh by visionary writing. Haas’s quartet not only pushes envelopes in terms of tunings systems and sound colors, he also allows for the players to determine the order of the 18 episodes that take place, based on the will of the group at any given moment.

Haas gives his work the title “, loosely translated as “The Third Night”, which refers to the final night of the Tenebrae services leading up to Easter. At the last night, the candles in the church are each extinguished until the room is completely dark, the moment of complete dislocation from grace. In Haas’s quartet, this total darkness is more than a theatrical device, it transforms our minds into the performance venue, a direct connection between sound and hearing that is unadulterated by sight.

The variety of sound colors in this piece is incredible! One minute we’re thumping and plucking like insane foley artists on a movie set, the next we’re stacking diminished seventh chords in just intonation and quoting 16th century composers. Put it all together, and you get a sound world of spectres sneaking around in the dark, and of the promise of the sunrise during moments of striking harmonic consonance.

Listen to this episode, one that we call “Satan’s Tea Kettle”…very spooky, intense, as though a steam pipe has ruptured and things are about to get really hot:

Haas’s love of diminished seventh chords gets a contemporary treatment, with glissandi and shimmering vibrato:

Near the end of the piece, order is restored, however briefly, by the solemn music of Gesualdo:

It’s also a great pleasure to introduce Charles Noble (violist) and Marilyn DeOliveira (cellist) to the quartet, joining Greg Ewer and myself in this great journey of mysterious and evocative music. Big thanks to PICA for presenting this performance as part of TBA, and of course to the Third Angle board of directors and my friend and lifesaver, Executive Director Lisa Volle.

“Turn out the liiiiights, the party’s starting…..”

 

Inside Spaces, Spaces Inside

Choreographer Nacera Belaza Interviewed by Ariel Osterweis, August 27 for PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival.

On a respite from the heat and humidity of the New York City summer, I tuck myself into an air-conditioned corner of my bedroom to call choreographer Nacera Belaza in Paris. She tells me she is “outside.” I sit at my mirrored desk, barely noticing my fingers and palms reflected back to me whenever I poise my hands atop the keyboard or reach for a pen. Instead, I try to see the sounds I begin to hear on the other line, realizing over the course of our interview that Nacera is in transit, being transported from stop to stop on a public Parisian bus. I come to find out that moving inside small spaces is where she is most comfortable. When she told me she was outside, she did not (at first) tell me that she was inside outside—inside her body, inside a bus that was, in turn, outside in Paris, outside New York, outside Algeria. Nacera claims her English is terrible (it is not!), I admit my French leaves much to be desired, and we chat over the phone—ears and mouths (no eyes).

Photo: David Balicki

Photo: David Balicki

Ariel Osterweis: It’s a pleasure for me to have the chance to interview you. Can you please say something about how you started dancing and how you envision your choreography today?

Nacera Belaza: My work comes from my personal experience. I couldn’t practice dance as a “dancer” because…I had to study; my family didn’t want me to dance. I used to think [dance] was going against my freedom….When no one’s telling you how to do it, you have to find your own way….You open a path between you and the “other,” and the question is how to stay focused on this inner life and how to share it with the other. And I’ve worked on this without any concessions.

AO: When did your personal dance practice begin?

NB: I started dance very early, at 7 or 8, in my room. When I started to dance, it was like when you start talking or singing or walking; you realize it’s a way to express yourself….But I was in a context that didn’t allow me to practice dance for many reasons, so I had to find a way. For example, in Le Cri…we are stuck in the same place onstage…digging inside of us, trying to find a very deep energy to throw out. This is how I did it in my life. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t travel, I couldn’t explore, so I said, okay, I will dig inside of myself. It’s another way to find freedom.

AO: Can you say a little bit about your family background? Were there religious reasons for the restrictions?

NB: A lot of families in the ‘60s and early ‘70s came to France to work. My father came first, and then he brought us with my mom and my oldest brother a few years later.

AO: From Algeria, yes?

NB:  Yes, I was born in Algeria in the countryside. My parents came from the countryside, from another culture, another religion, and found themselves in a totally different world, and their first reaction was to protect themselves, to protect their children. [I hear a baby on the bus crying in the background.] So, they wanted to protect us and they closed everything around us. They are Muslim. They were afraid. That’s why we couldn’t have a normal life here. Every summer we went back to Algeria and realized people were changing there, but we were not changing because [my parents] brought with them a kind of schema that they kept the same, and we kept on living that way. When you protect, it’s not always a good thing.

AO: It sounds like it felt more like sheltering than assimilation. Were you ever encouraged to adopt “white,” French culture, or was it always more of this protection you speak of?

NB: It was more protection; it was a kind of contradiction because [my parents] went to another country but did not want to be open to it. So, we came here [France] and closed ourselves, to culture, to everything. It was like living life in a box. It was heavy. I felt it going against a very strong, deep desire. This might come from the studies I did in literature: freedom is not doing whatever you want, going anywhere. It is a deep, inner feeling. I realized very quickly that I could be free everywhere.

AO: What kinds of studies were you doing at university?

NB: I did French literature. I used to love (and still love) poetry and literature, but I think that behind that, the main thing I was really interested in was philosophy, the main questions of life and death, the human condition.

AO: Who is your favorite French (or non-French) poet?

NB: Baudelaire. Hold on, I’m just getting off the bus now.

AO: Were you just on a bus in Paris?

NB: Yes! I was really in love with Baudelaire’s work. His old work was exploring life and god and women, but it was really about the human condition….This was very important for me. I realized that the human is really a balance between many contradictions, not just one thing. And I had to deal with those [contradictions] because I am woman, Arabic, Muslim, and at the same time I want to dance.

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TBA SUMMER PLAYLIST

TBA sounds like a joyful noise.
TBA sounds like new arrangements.
TBA sounds like teen spirit.
TBA sounds like nothing you’ve heard before.

TBA presents incredible musicians experimenting at the edge of their craft. While we love all of the artists we bring town, we’re getting extra psyched about the coming lineup of bands this September. TBA:13 marks the triumphant return to Portland of two of rock’s most important women: Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre) with her new band The Julie Ruin, and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) as Body/Head with Bill Nace. The music lineup at TBA also welcomes a new iteration of Khaela Maricich and Melissa Dyne’s pop-deconstruction The Blow and a night of collaborative synth improvisations from Led Er Est, Blues Control, and more.

To get you in the mood for ten days of amazing shows, we’ve compiled a summer mix-tape of some of our upcoming artists.

GET CRITICAL: COMPETE IN TBA DRAG BALL

Kaj-anne Pepper & Chanticleer Tru. Photo: Eric Sellers.

Kaj-anne Pepper and Chanticleer Tru INVITE YOU TO COMPETE IN

CRITICAL MASCARA: “A Post-Realness Drag Ball”
PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival
September 14, 2013
THE WORKS at Con-Way, 2170 NW Raleigh
10pm sign in (pre-registration info below)
$8 PICA Members/$10 General/$5 for Pre-registered Competitors*

*All participants registered and confirmed by September 7th will receive a special gift from Pepper and Chanticleer!

CRITICAL MASCARA is part drag ball and competition, part dance party, and plenty of performance SPECTACLE!

Want to flaunt your highest glamour? Turn tragic into magic? Celebrate the evolution of queer consciousness? Are you hungry to prance, vogue, dance and shimmer? Wanna chance at a cash prize? Win spectacular gifts made by local artists? Want to step into the spotlight at an international arts festival and SHINE?

STAR PERFORMERS! CELEBRITY JUDGES! HI-CONCEPT LOOKS! A $666 DOLLAR CASH PRIZE! TROPHIES! FAME!

Be you boy, girl, queen, princess, nancy, goblin, unicorn, femme, butch, dandy, fae, or the hottest slice of tail since the fall of the Roman Empire YOU ARE INVITED!

In the time honored tradition of Paris Is Burning, New Orleans Drag Balls and Portland Queer Punk Monster Drag we are having a BALL! We are celebrating our lineage, history, beauty, struggles, and future with a fantastic night of DANCING, PERFORMANCE, and COMPETITION.

YOU ARE INVITED to COMPETE! You are invited to ATTEND! YOU ARE INVITED!

Here’s how it works:

Read the categories!
Know the categories!
Love the categories!

Grab your friends, make a house, set some dates, and turn a look! You will look better, feel better, and will truly have a ball if you get 2-5 of your friends to dress up and support each other with ideas, skill-share, and preparation.

Members of any house can compete as individuals in ONE CATEGORY.

We are competing as individuals but CELEBRATING AS A GROUP!

In each category you are expected to serve a look, a moment, and be prepared to be interviewed and surprised! The the winners of each category will compete in a high stakes performance/lip-sync/dance/challenge for a chance to win a $666 cash prize and being known as the fiercest in the land. Oh! Also, you need to follow the DIVA REQUIREMENTS for extra credit.

NO LIQUIDS. NO BROKEN GLASS. NO FIRE.

- We’re keeping it safe to dance, sweat and prance.

CATEGORIES

DIVA PRACTICE: (Art Queen First Time at the Ball)

- Serving Art Damaged, Hi-Contrast, Post-Nerd. Deconstructing Gender? HOW DOES SHE DO IT? Subverting the gender-binary after a heady threesome with Judith Butler and Marina Abramovic while on the set of LIQUID SKY (watch it, love it, know it).

Diva Requirements: Work some genderfuk but keep us guessing. Colors are TWEED, PLAID, PATTERNS. TEXT. CONTRAST.

GLAMOUR GORE: (For the bloody, dark and fertile hearts)

- Dark Romance, Horror, Witches, METAL! Calling down Baphomet and calling up the spirits of the earth. How are you gonna express a reaction to 10,000 years of cultural oppression of women, queers, and people of color? Turn tragic into magic.

Diva Requirments: Colors are Crimson. Lashes, Silver, Studs, Leather.

VOGUE (Dance Dahling DANCE!)

- For the dancer, the prancer, the gymnast and the twirler. She’s a dancing queen, he’s dedicated to BODY! Simply put we wanna see you LIVE the beat!

Diva Requirments: Colors are BODY. BODY. BODY. We wanna see you MOVE.

HAAAAIIIRRRR (The closer to god)

- I’m talking HEAD TO TOE. Not just a cute up-do. I’m talking HAAAIIIRR, long, beautiful hair! Freaky Fashion HAIIIIR. Whip yo hair. LIVE FOR HAIR. We wanna choke on your weave for daaaaaaays.

Diva Requirments: Sparkles, Shimmer, HAIR.

FINAL ROUND

PERFORMANCE: (A Hardcore Lipsynch/Dance/HIGHEST CONCEPT Marathon)

- We will be crafting an endurance test for you to show us what you got. BRING IT! You won’t know all the songs but SOME songs will be posted at Kpepper.net/criticalmascara a week before the show.
Diva Requirements:  Be the best you can be. And be prepared to improvise.

FOR MORE INFO: KPEPPER.NET

 

TO ENTER

Email [email protected] with your Name, House (if any), and Category (just one!) you are competing in by September 7!

Want to get Critical? Stay glued to Kpepper.net for more info about our Post-Realness Reading Group and Vogue/Queer Performance Dance Classes starting in August!

Bookmarks, Chapter 6

Irregular updates on the comings-and-goings of our many, many alumni artists (and a few random thoughts that have been on our minds).

Performance art doyenne and TBA alum Mariana Abramovic spent a day answering any and all questions sent her way on Reddit.

 

Sara Greenberger Rafferty created a text and sampled video project for online journal Triple Canopy

sarag

 

The Oakland Press has a report from the field on Jesse Sugarmann’s Pontiac-focused project in Michigan.

 

TBA:13 artist Krystal South just launched her Festival commission website, idyrself.com

 

PICA alums YACHT dropped a mixtape of summer disco remixes and *not so medical* advice for Adult Swim

 

Khaela Maricich (one-half of The Blow) wrote for The Stranger about what its like to make music in the age of Twitter

 

Alex Cecchetti (TBA:12) wrote a “Wednesday” story for Nero Magazine‘s Cadavere Quotidiano

 

Manytime PICA alum Harrell Fletcher just finished up a four-day walking residency from San Francisco’s Exploratorium to the summit of Mt. Diablo.

 

In light of our new Field Guide dance education program, we were interested in Douglas Crimp’s lecture at the Hammer on the intersections of dance and the visual art world:

The Hitchhiker

Back in June, a cohort of PICA staff, board members, and artist traveled to the Airlie Center in Virginia for an intensive, five-day focused retreat as part of EmcArts’s Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts Round 8 program. As one of the four grantee organizations – including Northrop at University of Minnesota, Redmoon, and The Theater Offensive — we worked together on crucial decisions, realized new strategies, and achieved consensus about next steps in tackling our adaptive challenges. Patrick Leonard, our Communications Director, is writing about the process over on EmcArt’s ArtsFwd; we’ll occasionally post his dispatches here on the PICA blog to share our progress.

During their week-long retreat, PICA’s innovation team began thinking about their audience as “fellow travelers moving on parallel journeys” with their nomadic programs. Image: Kristan Kennedy.

During their week-long retreat, PICA’s innovation team began thinking about their audience as “fellow travelers moving on parallel journeys” with their nomadic programs. Image: Kristan Kennedy.

What is one major “a-ha!” moment your team experienced during the retreat — and how will it influence how you move forward?

We entered our week-long retreat at the Airlie Center in Virginia thinking deeply about space: where we host our programs, where our audiences live and work and play, and where we can make the biggest artistic impact. But over the intensive week of conversations, and wrestling with facts and feelings, we realized that space itself might be a red herring.

PICA has a long history of nomadic practice, presenting work in new locations across Portland, and this has deeply ingrained us with a pied piper mentality of enticing audiences to follow us between programs. This perspective is very much along the lines of “if you build it, they will come,” framing the problem in terms of convincing an audience to move TO our events. In our minds, everything was to be solved by bigger billboards and more conversations with developers and realtors.

It wasn’t until our facilitator, Bill Noonan, recounted a story of hitchhiking as a young hippie that we realized we had the model all turned around. As he told it, PICA isn’t the destination on the road sign, but rather more like the van that picks up the hitchhiker—we’re fellow travelers moving on parallel journeys. With this simple observation, our focus suddenly shifted from place to people. Sure, some of our interventions through our work with the Innovation Lab will revolve around built environments and better signage for our many locations, but we’re now moving forward with a new attention to hospitality. What does it mean to host a traveler? It entails welcoming, feeding, sustaining, and engaging them. This is our challenge.

About PICA’s Innovation Lab project

Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)’s project asks: In considering our ongoing model of using temporary, pop-up spaces and alternative venues to site work in spaces appropriate to artists’ needs, how can we challenge our assumptions about the value of this model? How can we preserve our practice’s core values while reshaping it?

RELATED POSTS

I FOUGHT THE LAW…

Last week’s C’mon Language talk with Kohel Haver was a thorough and fascinating history of copyright court cases in the US, charting the development of artistic fair use from music to visual art to film. From Vanilla Ice’s troubles with Queen to Patrick Cariou’s recent battle with Richard Prince, Haver used significant moments in pop culture to outline the basics of protection offered to artists who appropriate material. While not all of you could attend, we felt that the content was so important that we wanted to share Haver’s insight’s with as wide a community of artists as possible. To that end, we’ve gathered some of the videos he shared, and posted his “General Guide to Copyright the Law and the Creative Professional” as a PDF for you to download.

Negativland’s Gimme the Mermaid, created on “borrowed” Disney equipment after the group’s legal run-in with U2

 

A Fair(y) Use Tale, told in the words of everyone’s favorite copyright holders

A response to You(Tube)’s Copyright School, clarifying Fair Use doctrine

 

And of course: Haver’s own ARTCOP.COM, which is loaded with resources, links, and publications on copyright, tailored to artist needs.

New on the shelves

Looking for a good summer book (or a comfortable place to read it)? Take a look at some of our recent acquisitions in the Resource Room

We’ve been gathering up all kinds of texts to flesh out our dance and performance theory section. Whether you’re a practicing artist, a participant in one of our Field Guide: Dance sessions, or a curious audience member, these critical compendiums and histories offer a lot of great context on contemporary choreography.

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Questions for the City

Last week, a posse of PICA staff, board members, and artist traveled to the Airlie Center in Virginia for an intensive, five-day focused retreat as part of EmcArts’s Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts Round 8 program. As one of the four grantee organizations – including Northrop at University of Minnesota, Redmoon, and The Theater Offensive — we worked together on crucial decisions, realized new strategies, and achieved consensus about next steps in tackling our adaptive challenges. Patrick Leonard, our Communications Director, is writing about the process over on EmcArt’s ArtsFwd; we’ll occasionally post his dispatches here on the PICA blog to share our progress.

Audiences at Big Art Group's "The People–Portland" at TBA:12. Photo: Joseph Webb.

Audiences at Big Art Group’s “The People–Portland” at TBA:12. Photo: Joseph Webb.

What is the biggest question our team is wrestling with as we head into the intensive retreat?

How do we operate in the city? Without a central facility for nearly all of our 18 years, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)
 developed a nomadic practice of presenting projects in borrowed spaces all across Portland. We know that this model makes us unique among our peers who are tied up with more traditional venues: it has generated public excitement about our work, it has made the most of a small budget, and it has allowed us to say yes to projects that other institutions must turn down. For years, we’ve pursued an “if you build it they will come” approach, but the landscape has changed dramatically in Portland, and for PICA. Rental markets have rebounded, leaving fewer close-in warehouse vacancies. The local scene has welcomed two younger facility-based art centers. New demographics and growing neighborhoods have shifted the terms of activity and engagement. And we’ve built our own downtown hub, home to offices, a library, and a flexible space for a variety of activities. So we ask: do we still need to move? Should we set down deeper stakes? Should we move even farther afield? Will people follow us if we change neighborhoods again? Does our model still best serve the needs of artists? These are complex and wide-ranging questions that cross all sectors of our work: our artists, our audiences, our financial realities, our marketing, and our growth. And that’s the challenge we will face in our work in the Innovation Lab: how do we site projects in town, while addressing these competing and shifting concerns?

About PICA’s Innovation Lab project

Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)’s project asks: In considering our ongoing model of using temporary, pop-up spaces and alternative venues to site work in spaces appropriate to artists’ needs, how can we challenge our assumptions about the value of this model? How can we preserve our practice’s core values while reshaping it?

RELATED POSTS

Bookmarks, Chapter 5

Irregular updates on the comings-and-goings of our many, many alumni artists (and a few random thoughts that have been on our minds).

 

2012 Resource Room Resident Lisa Radon spoke with Bad at Sports about her new annual literary publication, EIGHTS.

Erika Vogt expands upon her TBA:12 installation at the New Museum for Stranger Debris Roll Roll Roll

 

MTV Other just debuted a new food-fueled web series by Thu Tran (famous for her TBA:12 black light cooking demo).

Get More:
MTV Shows

 

Kenny Mellman (TBA:05 & TBA:06 alum) covered “Electric Love” from Bob’s Burgers, and was animated as Thomas Edison in a music video!

 

Pleased to Meet You hits the mini-mart with PICA alum (and upcoming TBA:13 WORKS artist) Nadia Buyse:

 

Portland Monthly Magazine sat down with PICA alum Linda Austin to talk about her 30-year dance practice. You can catch her newest work (a Calligram commission with artist David Eckard) at this fall’s TBA.

New York City launches a series of PSAs about supporting dance! Ideas for Portland…?

And, we’ve been thinking a lot about journalism lately—not just because of Mike Daisey’s recent performance—but also because of the recent shake-ups at The Oregonian. So we’ll end with some parting thoughts from their departing music writer, Ryan White. Pick up a paper, people!

No Words Necessary

Some lingering, loosely-strung-together, thoughts from this past weekend’s symposium

Going into the events, our staff had been talking a lot about translation between cultures, between forms, between artists and audiences. How do performance fans understand visual art exhibitions? How do painters connect with dance on stage? How do any of us relate to art coming from another country or culture? I mostly expected that we’d unearth some simple parallel between artistic practice and language translation, but the panelists and speakers only highlighted the complexity of the subject.

Jacqueline Shea Murphy’s talk on contemporary indigenous choreography touched on the idea that language is related to POWER and SPACE. Language is tied to identity is tied to location, and all of them are defined by who has power to speak. In Genesis, Adam names the animals, an act of definitive language that puts him above the other creatures. ”Who names whom” is most certainly a loaded proposition. In a trans-national art world, who contextualizes and describes projects? Mostly Western curators, who’ve become a jet set of authoritative guest voices at biennales and fairs, regardless of their location. In this sense, power stems from place—citizenship in Western Europe and the US establishes authority, giving the power to speak.

Adam naming the animals of the world, from the Peterborough Bestiary (MS 53, f. 195v), Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Adam naming the animals of the world, from the Peterborough Bestiary (MS 53, f. 195v), Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

But in thinking about “place” in the art world, can we move towards any sense of indigeneity, or do we remain dependent on the “Globish” and “International Art English”? And are these languages (read: English) actually universal, or are they just another lingua franca, the dominant tongue of commerce?

Carlota Ribas, a “localization” industry expert, shared a little insight into her work helping businesses root their products and services in different contexts. In contrast to localization, she spoke about a concept of “internationalization,” or I18n (removing the middle 18 letters as per industry standard), as the practice of removing all cultural specificity. But, as Keith Hennessy suggested, the idea of a neutral international vocabulary is inherently based in a particular culture. When translators and business people reach for a common ground across cultures, they usually grasp onto English, which is decidedly laden with its own baggage and limitations.

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Caught in Translation

Barbara: “Excuse me, professor. Why is it that you have written a song with some strange words that don’t mean anything?”

Adriano Celentano: “… I understood that today in the world we don’t understand each other anymore. It’s very difficult. We don’t talk to each other. The only thing that’s left are looks—very sad…”

This coming weekend (June 7–9), we’ll host our second annual symposium, on the topic of “translation.” A large subject, and we’ve defined it rather broadly, but what exactly do we mean? And what business does an art organization even have in tackling the topic? To get you thinking about language divides, cultural crossovers, and translation as a fundamentally artistic practice, we’ve gathered up some of the loose associations that have been on our minds over the course of planning. Read on, explore the links and videos, and make sure to join us for a rich conversation all weekend long.

If we’re going to discuss translation in the context of contemporary art, it’s probably smart to acknowledge the dominance of one language—English—across the scene. More precisely, we might talk about a pangaeaic common language that has emerged from international interpretations of English—perhaps Globish or International Art English. What does it mean for there to be an international art market? Writers/artists David Levine and Alix Rule gleefully tackled the question in their Triple Canopy article on what they dubbed International Art English, pointing out how the need for cross-cultural communication doesn’t just fall to some perceived “neutral” language of art, but has, in fact, generated its own non-speak of abstracted, passive phrases from English press releases. It’s internationally recognized, but is it ever mutually comprehensible?

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Bookmarks, chapter 4

Irregular updates on the comings-and-goings of our many, many alumni artists.

The Crosscut profiled Mike Daisey (performing in Portland next week!), discussing This American Life, his last year, and his thoughts on storytelling in journalism.

Jeremy Wade (who performed solo early this year) and Jassem Hindi (part of Keith Hennessy’s TBA:12 Turbulence) are performing a new work together across Europe.

Christopher Kirkley of Sahel Sounds (TBA:12) just released his first mini-documentary on the popular music of Western Africa

 

Kalup Linzy (TBA:09) talks with Creative Capital about the premiere of his new film, Romantic Loner

 

The New York Times covered the Manhattan performance of Ant Hampton & Tim Etchells’s TBA:12 piece, The Quiet Volume.

And local artist Nadia Buyse (TBA:11, and coming up in TBA:13!) sent us a video postcard from her Calligram Fund-supported residency in Berlin.

 

I’m just here for the food

A few weeks ago, I sat myself down at a table full of strangers and donned a crepe-paper mask for a fifteen course dinner I would never get to see. I’d pick up a small dish, pop it into my mouth, and try to decipher just what exactly I’d eaten, before the server would whisk away my now empty cup. This was “Blind Tasting Bingo.” And I’m proud to say I was one of the evening’s winners, though I’ll admit I missed a few curveballs (deep fried dried chiles!).

Photo: Shawn Linehan

First organized for last year’s Time-Based Art Festival by Lola Milholland of Edible Portland magazine and Jeanne Kubal of Ecotrust, the bingos invited some of Portland’s more interesting chefs to challenge eaters with unexpected flavors and sensations. The point—as wonderful as the food was from each of the chefs—wasn’t to savor a decadent meal, but rather to think differently about how we eat and consider how our experience shifts when we change the rules of engagement. And it got me thinking about some of the artists who’ve brought food on stage and into the gallery, and how this simple act can change the rules dictating our usual experience of art.

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Let’s learn about…Sculpture.

Things have been absolutely crazy around the offices with all of our preparations for this Saturday’s TADA! gala, so we’re going to let Sesame Street handle the art this week.

And a throw-back to 1974:

Bookmarks, chapter 3

Irregular updates on the comings-and-goings of our many, many alumni artists.

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko interviewed TBA:12 choreographer and performer Nora Chipaumire for Movement Research Critical Correspondence.

 

New work by Larry Bamburg (TBA:07) is currently on view at Simone Subal in New York.

Isabelle Cornaro (TBA:12) was just featured on Contemporary Art Daily for her recent show at Kunsthalle Bern

TBA:08 chanteuse Bridget Everett gave her 500 Words to Artforum.

 

heavyindustries

YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES (TBA:11) debut a trio of new Flash artworks at Kadist in San Francisco.

 

You could say that Mike Merrill, our longtime friend through Urbanhonking.com (and a TBA:07 artist), has been having a bit of “a moment.”

First, he was in The Atlantic.
Then Wired.
And now on The Today Show:

 

Arnold Kemp was interviewed by Bad at Sports on the occasion of his recent show at PDX Contemporary Art.

 

Filmmaker and TBA:10 artist Charles Atlas has a major show at The Tanks at Tate Modern:

Welcome to the Future: A Whole New PICA.ORG

After years of plugging along on our existing website, we stopped, looked up, and realized the rest of the Internet had blown on by. The Flash slideshows and parti-colored boxes that once seemed so au courant, all of sudden appeared so very “1.0.” Well, after years of dreaming, and many months of behind-the-scenes toiling, we’re ready to unveil a completely new pica.org. Thanks to the incredible team at Switchyard Creative (the wizards behind our original mobile site), we have a crisp, minimal, responsive design that highlights our incredible artists and events, while offering a seamless experience from desktop to tablet to smartphone. Just look at how far we’ve come:

 

beforeafter

Left: Before. Right: After.

 

We’ve taken your feedback over the years, and done a little dreaming beyond it, to devise a site that better captures the breadth of our program and serves up the details you need to find everything you need to know. Let’s take a little tour, shall we?

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Can you spot the differences?

Found after Saturday’s opening reception for New Arrangements, courtesy of Lucy Doughton. 

 

Lucy_Ned

Lucy_Michi

 

Stop by to see the exhibit for yourself and make sure to pick up a gallery map, whether for wayfinding or coloring or doodling or pareidolia practice…

Bookmarks, Chapter 2

Irregular updates on the comings-and-goings of our many, many alumni artists.

 

 

Ontheboards.tv just posted the edited video from their multi-camera shoot of Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol’s El Rumor del Incendio during TBA:12. Watch it again (with English subtitles to help).

PICA friend and staff alum Philip Iosca opens Moment, Monument at Fourteen30 Contemporary.

The inimitable Meow Meow (TBA:04, :05, and so much more) talks about the history of cabaret with The Guardian.

 

Glen Fogel (2012) opened a new exhibition at Callicoon Fine Arts in New York. Check the video to see this hypnotizing piece in action:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeffry Mitchell (TBA:06) was reviewed by in Art in America

Stephen Squibb reviews TBA:06 alum Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures for art agenda.

Lawrence Halprin’s Open Space Sequence of fountains in SW Portland (featured in TBA:08 City Dance…) was just listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Our Executive Director Victoria Frey shared a brief history of our DIY venues at the recent ArtPlace conference in Miami, Florida:

A Taxonomy of Chairs

As we continue to put our office to new uses with installations, performances, talks, and events, we find ourselves thinking about furniture. A lot. Furniture in the space, furniture out of the space. Furniture on casters, furniture on legs. Empty galleries for exhibits, crowded rooms of shelves and desks and chairs for months-long residencies. But when we talk about furniture at PICA, we’re really talking about chairs. For your consideration:

white

smith

pink (more…)

What we’re reading: Dead Flowers

Breyer P-Orridge, Red Chair Posed, 2008 | p 15 / 16 | Dead Flowers, ed. Lia Gangitano | Published by Participant Inc. & VOXPOPULI

Posted by Kristan Kennedy, Visual Art Curator

“I want to be with you” I said, to which my friend replied something to the effect of, “ewwwwwwwww!” We were talking about what you might say to someone you’re really into to express your longing. My friend took issue with the word “be.” He thought it sounded too bodily, as if “being with” someone was parasitic and the phrase was too close to “I want to be you,” like wanting to crawl inside someone’s skin sci-fi style. I assure you this is not what I meant. I think of “being” in terms of being on the same page, the same emotional space, getting lost in the love cloud, getting physical, hanging out, you know, the BROAD definition of intimacy. Still he might have been on to something… 

Today on a field trip to Powell’s, the Resource Room Committee was in search of few specific things. One of them—Dead Flowers—is an anthology of writing from various artists and curators that documents an exhibition of the same name. Curator and Director of Participant Inc., Lia Gangitano says of the exhibition, “In an effort to understand a genealogy of influences reflective of the role of the non-commercial, non-institutional space I often look at to artists who seem to have inspired, or instigated their existence.” She goes on to explain that the exhibition, which features thirteen artists, was organized around the work of actor/director Timothy Carey and was made for VOXPOPULI, an independent artist-run space in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was drawn to the book because Charles Atlas, Paul Thek, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge are all included, and it is no secret I have massive art crushes on all of them. You might say, I want to be with them… in an intimate curatorial way.

Genesis’ chapter links back to this concept of being, in h/er essay s/he runs through the beginnings of COUM Transmissions, an artist and performance collaborative that operated from 1969–1976. Founded in Hull, Yorkshire, by Genesis, COUM’s other members included Cosey Fanni TuttiPeter “Sleazy” Christopherson, and Chris Carter, who together went on to found the pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle in 1976. H/er retelling of their move from commune to commune and COUM’s move towards a development of a rigorous, yet morphing set of artistic ideals is nothing short of revolutionary.

Genesis credits the beginnings of COUM’s philosophy as coming from their creative lives within two major communes: Exploding Galaxy, which was founded by David Medella in 1967, and Hoho Funhouse which followed soon after. In one passage Medella is quoted as saying, “I felt a deep dissatisfaction towards all art, all art that derives solely from one single person, and is determined by one person’s ideas and wishes.” Madella had hoped that Exploding Galaxy would usher in a flexibility in art making, community, and perhaps a dynamic new culture that could mean anything and could include anyone.

Genesis goes on to talk about h/er belief that the origins of art come from magic, first through devotion and then through illustration and then finally manifesting as commodified objects and experiences. So too does s/he describe the evolution of COUM: first as ritualistic, then as performative, and finally as an accepted art world being, in constant need of retooling and examining. The influence of the institution had changed them as much as they were changing it. 

Everything about COUM is nothing, everything about COUM is false, and everything about COUM is true.”

The collective pushed against the institution using transgression to test the boundaries of comfort. Genesis looks back at this time as important and talks about the value in constantly “redesigning” oneself. The artist uses the pronoun “we” throughout h/er essay in reference to COUM, but also to refer to h/erself. After marrying Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge in 1993, Genesis and Lady Jaye began a project to become Breyer P-Orridge, a single pandrogynous entity. They became each other and are now one.

In the final words of the beautifully stirring afterword, Gangitano quotes Genesis as saying, “the most transgressive thing right now is intimacy”. She believes it is still true, as do I. Let’s just be together!

Bookmarks

Call it a New Year’s Resolution we’re soon to break, but we’ve been inspired to reboot our blog with some new series of posts. “Bookmarks” is a collection of web clippings, announcements, and random finds on PICA alums and friends.

Matthew Day Jackson (TBA:06) is closer and closer to debuting his dragster.

Edmunds Asks Audiences to Take a Punt on CAP UCLA, from LA Stage Times 

Lisa Radon, Mack McFarland, BOMBlog

Inova Director Sara Krajewski receives Warhol grant to research hybrid art forms at six contemporary festivals around the world, including TBA

Tala Madani (Between My Head and My Hand…, 2011) has a major solo show going up at Moderna Museet Malmö in Sweden.

Continuity Drift, Sara Greenberger Rafferty (TBA:07) at Triple Canopy

Alex Cecchetti (TBA:12) at Shanaynay, Paris

Jeremy Wade (an alum from last week!) talks to Velocity’s STANCEcast about desserts, an impossible score and his cracking shell.

Nature Theater of Oklahoma (TBA:06, 07 and 10!) launched OK Radio, a series of podcasts with theater-makers from around the world.

John Smith (TBA:10) has gone back and re-filmed the entire long take from the Girl Chewing Gum, superimposing it over the original as The Man Phoning Mum.

johnsmith

Book Tour NYC

At the beginning of January, a group from our staff flew to New York for the winter flurry of activity surrounding the annual APAP conference and a chance to visit our friends at Under the Radar, COIL, and American Realness. While there, a few members of our little Resource Room Committee went rogue, ditching out of performances to search out some of the newest archives and book spaces around Manhattan.

We’ve had our library up-and-running ever since 2000, but it seems there’s been a recent proliferation of institutional collections and reading rooms at alt spaces across the country. A lot of this boom likely stems from the long (and growing shadow) the Internet casts over our lives. How do we get individuals to engage with the physical spaces we’ve created and not just our organizations’ websites? Where do books fit in the new order?  It’s clearly on a lot of minds. The New York Public Library even hosted a panel today dedicated to the future of art book publishing. Artist-run spaces and projects just might be imagining some of the possible answers to these questions.

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In New York, we met up with former PICA staffer Rachel Peddersen, who is currently at work on The Kitchen‘s digital archive. She gave us a very *top secret* peak at their new system, with which they are trying to document all of their events from their 40-year history through video, sound, programs, photos and more. It’s incredible to think that an institution that has presented everyone from the Beastie Boys to Vito Acconci to Charles Atlas to Laurie Anderson could make that content available for viewing online. It inspires dreams for our own archive….

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And That’s How It’s Done:* Pop-up dance floor

An unbelievable amount of invisible work goes into each project we present. We tend to sweep that labor under the rug and tuck away our mess in a closet before the guests arrive. I guess we just want everything to look effortless.

But it’s decidedly not, and sometimes that’s the fun of what we do. We’re proud of how our events come together—usually on a shoestring budget—so we thought it was time to pull back the curtain and show you a little of our behind-the-scenes action.

One of the skills we’ve honed the sharpest over the years is building out makeshift venues in odd spaces. Though until now, we’ve never built a theater in our own office. For Jeremy Wade’s dance performance this week, we’ve laid a temporary floor, building up layers of foam, wood, and marley. And this is how it went.

 

*Alternate title: This is how we do it.

water music

Claudia Meza Water
White Box Gallery, University of Oregon, Portland
Post and photos by Nicole Leaper

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Claudia Meza’s Water is intended as an interactive sonic experience. Housed in the White Box Gallery at UO’s Portland campus, Califone tape recorders hang suspended from the ceiling, speaking both individually and collectively. Intuitive gallery behavior suggests not touching, but the tape players are intended to be used. Each contains an “endless” looped tape that can be stopped and started at will by participants. The sound fills the room until it is unclear which element of the composition is contributed by which tape. The experience is immediately visceral; the surround-sound quality of multiple sources envelops the visitor on both an auditory and physical plane. From outside, the occasional Max train adds to the bass vibrations of the collected loops. Each tape offers a specific auditory layer that feels eerie, metallic, ringing. The collective sounds suggest subterranean movement, hinting at the macabre tones of old vinyl sound effects collections. A few players, I’m told on the last day of the exhibition, are broken; rendered mute through use, obscuring part of the once complete score.

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Meza created the individual tracks through capturing field recordings of water, editing them digitally, and then outputting them to individual tapes. She collected the Califone players on eBay, one at a time. Many retain inscriptions from their sources, usually middle or high schools, suggesting technology once cutting edge but now nostalgic.

Meza’s work both acknowledges and rejects the loosely-binding theme for End Things, TBA:12′s visual programming. Curator Kristan Kennedy’s concept of how things matter to humans both as objects and as ideas of objects is directly suggested by the fetishized idea of the tape players, meticulously collected and fragile. Meza agrees that “we are constantly collaborating with our materials or objects at hand.” Conversely, she rejects that objects should have such a hold on human  emotions, asking “…isn’t this is what commerce is all about: the fetishization of objects and our interaction with them? We tend to give objects a lot more power than they deserve.” (more…)

Strike our debt/This is not a piece about gratitude

By Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen

It’s nice when there is a collision between your immediate bibliography and your immediate experience. I saw everything I’ve been reading and more in the actions and reactions of Keith Hennessy and Circo Zero last Thursday night.  And, I saw all the tropes I hate about traditional forms of carnivalesque counterpower and also some troubling and various forms of misogyny on Friday. I saw a piece about the economy that was finally saying something. I saw an attempt at an impossible model, an impossible dance, one about individuals swarming and breaking apart again. I felt myself being confused about the connection between that action and the rhetoric. I saw paintings, live images building and being destroyed. The Raft of the Medusa, human pyramids, romantic structures, bodies bound to fall. I was seduced by the sound of the banjo; I felt like it was a model more than an image or a series of images. I felt like it was an image of what looks like liberation but is distinctly not. I saw a dangerous illusion. I was thankful it existed. Did we see the same show? Yes, I think so, was it…

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The Office

We never complain, but my coworkers and I can never agree on the temperature in our office. My husband refers to celebratory occasions at his work as “the tyranny of birthday cake”. We spend the majority of our waking life at our jobs, professionally dealing with the personal idiosyncrasies of our coworkers and creating a set of family-like rituals to manage these sometimes mundane, occasionally awkward, and always important and unique relationships.

Chelfitsch 9.14.12 W.H.S. PICA TBA 2012

Chelfitsch’s Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech is a set of three vignettes that speak to the notion of “work family” with charm, humor and wit. Each part is premised on entirely realistic situations of office politics – Why do the temps have to plan the farewell party? Who keeps turning the air conditioner on high? Why is adorable (if slightly unstable) Erika being let go and what will she do now? – but through repeated speech, stylized gestures and dance moves with props, dramatic lighting, shadows and music, the piece builds suspense, elevates the pettiness and gets the audience to laugh at what they see of their own behavior at work on stage.

According to their website the word chelfitsch was coined by company founder Toshiki Okada and “represents the baby-like disarticulation of the English word ‘selfish’.” Notions of selfishness pervade this year’s festival from Bucky Fuller’s naïve dream that everyone share the world’s resources to Keith Hennessy’s warning on the desperate state of the economy, so it was quite a lovely surprise that Hot Pepper etc. – a piece so literally about work – provided a fresh breath of frivolity for the start of my weekend.

Posted by Laura Becker
Photo by G.K. Wilson

Sorry Bucky

By Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen

“Why does everyone look so glum?” Someone asked as I exited the building after seeing the first performance of The Love Song of Buckminster Fuller.

“Was it that bad?”

“No, no. It was good. You’ll like it.” I heard myself saying. And, mostly I believed that, but a little while later, I realized the piece had actually made me feel profoundly sad.

Buckminster Fuller with models of the Standard of Living Package and Skybreak Dome

I knew a fair amount about Buckminster Fuller’s story before seeing the film (though it did answer some burning questions I had had regarding bathroom breaks during epic lectures). The performance beautifully illustrated a story I already knew, one we all already know—one about failed utopian visions and hair-brained, lovable inventors. The thing that made me so sad about the piece was that it made clear how fundamental it is that we equate utopian vision with failure, with tyranny and disaster. This is at best a boring equation, at worst it’s the greatest tragedy of our time. I feel like all I do lately is quote the anthropologist and activist David Graeber, but he has the most interesting thing to say about utopianism I have heard in a long time: “There is nothing wrong with a utopia unless you have just one.” (more…)

second city

view
Exhibit A: Portland 1

For 10 days each year, there are two Portlands at once, as if in parallel universes, co-existing, crossing over and collaborating for all of us that live, eat, drink, sleep and breathe the festival that we call TBA. Of course the first Portland is the one in which we have to get up in the morning and go to work, fight traffic, bring the kids to school, and go from here to there checking off each item of that day’s to do list. It’s a stable and quite awesome place to have to do all those things, and we who live here know how to make the most of it for the other 355 days of the year, but… (more…)

Being the Audience

Who are we, the audience, to the piece and to each other?

1.At the beginning of each performance I look around the room at all of us convened together, ready to pay attention to the coming event. Who are we to whom this show matters enough for us to pause our to-do lists momentarily and sit waiting to give our attention to something beyond our own responsibilities? What else do we have in common other than that we are here together? We will share a visceral experience of witnessing, but we will likely see, hear and remember very different accounts of the same event. Each of us is choosing to give over our bodies so that our lives can be temporally held in time by the structure of the piece instead of just holding our shape together through our own doing. For me being the audience is often a pleasant sense of surrender, even if it is surrender into discomfort.

2.When I look at the other people’s faces in the audience at Miguel Gutierrez’s show, we are all sitting scrunched on the floor of the stage, where he commanded us to settle, our legs and arms wound around us in hopes of not invading each other’s 1/4 inch of personal space while our smells: sweat, breath and the odors from inside of shoes betray our attempts at proprietary. Behind me a face looks back at me full of the uncomfortable sense that he is not the person this piece was made for. Miguel said at the beginning of his performance “you’re all artists here, right?” and as I get my bearings with his piece I realize it is even more specifically for an audience of people who are interested in thinking about what goes into making a work of art in order to teach that to others. I am that person at times in my life and so I feel willing to go along with wherever Miguel takes us, even if my foot is getting numb. Our physical and social discomfort as audience members is harnessed into being a part of the piece: Miguel’s live set design. But for that other guy behind me it all just meant he is stuck being out of place.

3.Sitting in the balcony at the Winningstad during El Rumor Del Incendio I feel the performance is being launched at me, but missing its mark. I think about how difficult it is for me to identify with the political motivations of the woman protagonist or with her various revolutionary comrades. While most of the play is a narration of Mexican historical events in Spanish with subtitles projected onto a screen, they never mention the back story of the political conditions that necessitated these particular people’s radicalization. I have neither the background knowledge of Mexican history or the personal allegiance to armed revolution to respond intuitively with sympathy to the characters. I ask myself why the artists chose to tell the story in this way with so much information and yet without basic context. Who do they envision us to be as their audience? How do they want us to respond to what they are presenting? Do they expect us to be so certainly the cultural left that we naturally side with all socialist activists? (Usually I am a pretty easy sell with idealistic political content.) This piece wasn’t composed for TBA audiences. It was first performed in the artists home country and has been touring Europe, Canada and the US. I wish I could hear the artists wonder amongst themselves how each of these different audiences will experience their work. By the next performance I see from them, Asalto al Agua Transparente, I feel trained into their staccato mode of performing and surrender much more willingly.

Ariana Jacob

In-between things

By Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen

Every year I find myself treating the festival as a riddle, looking for the substantive reoccurrences in the performances, exhibitions, and public conversations, hoping I guess to unlock the hidden theme. This year is no different, although I feel as if I don’t have to look as hard. Over the past few days, I have fit in The Quiet Volume, Mo Ritter’s Understanding Witches Now, (part of) The People-Portland, El Rumor del Incendio, Miriam, Lisa Radon’s re-enactment of Alex Cecchetti’s Summer is not the Prize of Winter, and Miguel Guttierez’s Heavens What Have I Done. (All of which I have critiqued, partially re-enacted, and lauded in my kitchen, late at night, for an audience of one or two. It’s really the best place for unfounded claims and making a fool of oneself.)

Throughout the experiences of TBA 2012, I have been involuntarily tying mental threads, binding the overlapping objects and gestures I see. These physical echoes double themselves into recognition through and across performances and performing objects. I have found basins of water, debris, and fragile hands. Coins tossed defiantly from green bags and plastic sacks. (Artists don’t have to make cents!) Blindness, illiteracy, and the inability to speak. Cigarettes being tossed lit or unlit. Rubble and stones and pebbles and pieces of ground, propping things up or being knocked down. Writing on the wall, sitting on the floor. Cats and rabbits and fish.

Mo Ritter’s balanced key, from Understanding Witches Now, ceramic and steel

There is no key in all of these patterns of things. Art isn’t neatly riddlic (which is good because if it was, I would walk away). But for my brain these small concretes are how I anchor and organize the larger abstracts.

Simple-bound Hoko sinker stones

Precarity is everywhere: in the struggles of the creative worker laid bare (and rainbow-clad), in the process of re-telling a story, in balancing a column of objects or a community’s political opinions. All of the work I have seen teeter-totters between easy categorical units. (Someone I talked to, reflecting on the heavy abstraction in End Things, suggested the feeling of being stranded. I think that is one way to look at it.)

We are seeing the shape of things between studio and stage, artist statement and artwork, rehearsal and performance, audience and participant, a thing and its representation. The in-between is a romantic place, a place for reinvigorating a new phenomenology and embrace of reverie. This is where new imaginaries are formed. And that is the charge we have now–to create and learn to recognize new stories, histories, and images as our own. Ones that will support a slowly redemptive future rather than  a seemingly unavoidable apathy and cataclysm.

From Alex Cecchetti’s Summer is Not the Prize of Winter

When I brought my 2 1/2-year-old son Calder to Washington High School this afternoon. We walked amidst Mo Ritter’s sculptures and video screens. He repeated the question: “What is she almost about to do?” These things are just things, but (my interpretation of his inquiry is that) he recognizes that they are somehow more than that.

“We are constantly shifting between moving the object and the object moving us.

–Please don’t touch”

 

BUILDING THE WORKS

This year—our final one occupying Washington High School—we’ve switched things up a bit for our beer garden buildout. Here, on the eve of the Festival, architect Ellen Fortin offers a little behind-the-scenes peek at her plan, and the work it took to make it all happen.

The plans…

“I have been working with other artists on creating temporary architecture for PICA for years—ever since the creation of the Dada Ball bar, complete with a 30’ high nautilus enclosure of white gauzy diaper fabric. It’s been a long history of making cool things with little money, borrowed materials, and lots of committed artists.

This is the last year that PICA will use Washington High School for THE WORKS. It has been a comfortable, yet sprawling site to transform over the last few years. Each year we take a different approach. To me, when walking the site, there is one great space: the WHS front entry, which is a stunning perch with a canopy of trees and a view of Portland in the distance. Everything should be THERE: the TBA entry, the Beer Garden, and access to the WHS performances, with more focus, more energy, and maybe a little tension in one primary place.

Wayfinding. In a big way. Photo: Mitchell Snyder.

We needed to create some shelter, clarity of direction, identity, and containment. We needed to focus on the performances. We needed to move lots of people, accommodate casual dining, and a very big bar. And of course, it needs to be temporary, quick, and cheap.

Experientially, we’ve created a kind of threshold at several key points as you move through the site. These transitions mark the entry to the TBA Festival, the Beer Garden, and finally to the interior WHS performance venues. These thresholds are a symbolic beginning and end, a boundary, a point at which you step through the looking glass and suspend disbelief. Have fun. We hope organic and spontaneous things can happen with this convergence.”

Megan Holmes painting light boxes.

The awesome team at ADX setting up our portals.

ADX really rallied around TBA and built us our beautiful light box entry way.

Guildworks rigging their sky sails.

Guildworks sails at night. Photo: Mitchell Snyder.

 
The people love it! Photo: Wayne Bund.

The result… Photo: Mitchell Snyder.

A huge amount of thanks goes out to Ellen Fortin Design + Architecture, Makenna Lehrer, Megan Holmes, ADX, Guildworks, Bill Boese, Eco Productions, and all of the volunteers who made this year’s design for THE WORKS into a reality. We could not have done it without you!

TBA SURVIVAL KITS

A few years ago, then-Mercury writer Patrick Alan Coleman shared his packing list for a TBA “survival kit”—essentially, all that stuff you can cram in a tote bag to keep you running between venues for 10 frantic days of the Festival. Most of the staff have been doing this work for years, so we’ve got our own TBA essentials dialed in pretty well at this point. Taking a cue from Coleman, we decided to share some of our own personal survival kits. Maybe you could learn a thing or two for your own “pro” experience.

Angela Mattox, Artistic Director, plans ahead like the seasoned professional she is:

Disposable Flask
Advil
Facial spritz
Mini Super glue (for shoe malfunctions)

 

 

 

 

 

Kate Merrill, Institutional Giving Manager, has her priorities straight:

Photo of my 3-month old Lily, to remind me that TBA is as easy as pie compared to my other job

Steve Reich Pandora play list, to blast on my headphones and keep me awake when writing grants during the day.

 

 

 

 

Helmy Membreño, Artist Services Coordinator, keeps it caffeinated:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Leonard, Communications Director, needs peace of mind that he’ll be fed and get to where he’s going without a hitch:

Replacement bike tubes
Patch kit
Bike pump (bad history with TBA flats)
That magic, early morning window of time before the other staff get in, to write the daily newsletter.
iPhone and camera
Morning coffee, staff lunches, and late-night beer garden snacks with my people.

Roya Amirsoleymani, Membership Coordinator and Office Manager, believes in the isotonic healing of coconut water:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Boberg Doughton, Performing Arts Program Director, is resolutely practical:

All Festival, Front of House and tech staff contacts in my phone.
Phone charger.
Festival pass, driver’s license and keys on a lanyard so I don’t loose them.
A water bottle, nuts, string cheese, and crackers for eating on the fly.
A roll of quarters for quick meter plugging running around between venues.
EmergenC packets for warding off colds.
Hylands Calms Forte for stress and insomnia.
Little notebook and pencil for taking notes and making lists in the dark during performances.
Sweater, hat, and scarf for cold nights in the beer garden.

Casey Szot, Volunteer Coordinator, needs her wheels:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristan Kennedy, Visual Art Curator, just needs magic and comfort and style:

One smooth flat stone
One TBS of Manuka Honey a day
Taxi Magic
My “squares” (Phone and Camera)
Hoop Earrings
Sunglasses
Pink Wine and Ice Cubes

TBA FLIGHTS: LOCAL LOVE

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’ll draw a map to the great home-town acts at TBA.

One of our goals with TBA is to always put local, emerging artists on the same stages as renowned, national and international artists. It’s so important to us that we present our city’s talent in front of all of the audiences and visiting presenters. Each year, TBA has launched artists to national attention, helping them secure gigs across the country and around the world with our peer organizations and festivals.  This year, we’ve got a whole new crop of home-town favorites, just waiting to be discovered by local audiences and visitors alike.

Claudia Meza seems to be everywhere at TBA this year. She’s running not one, but three related projects for the Festival: an interactive sonic collage of tape loops on casette players, a QR code walking tour of unnoticed sounds around the city, and a live concert of local musicians performing compositions in response to this sonic landscape. At the heart of all of these projects is a real love for the everyday sounds of life—the way in which water flows, echoes occur, or traffic rolls by—and the sounds of Portland. For her closing weekend concert, Meza has rallied a great crew of other local musicians and collaborators, including Luke Wyland of AU, Matt Carlson of Golden Retriever, E*Rock and more. Keep your ears open! (more…)

FOOD THAT MAKES YOU GO (H)MMM

This year’s TBA will be tastier than ever, thanks to the hard work of the inimitable Lola Milholland and her co-workers at Ecotrust and Edible Portland She’s arranged a series of nightly chefs, snacks, and blind tasting games under the banner of TBA EATS. Here, Lola writes about what she’s excited to eat at the Festival. 

Scene from the beer garden at TBA:10. Photo: Wayne Bund.

Earlier this week, I was sitting on the Ecotrust roof with chefs Jason French (Ned Ludd), Naoko Tamura (Chef Naoko’s Bento Café), and a co-worker, watching them pick up small cups that I’d filled with different bite-sized leftovers from dinner the night before—buckwheat crepe, quick pickled cucumber, romano beans with shiso, and an aprium (apricot-plum)—and, with their eyes closed, shoot them back. They opened their eyes and searched small bingo boards looking for the ingredients they thought they’d tasted.

This was our trial run of Blind-Tasting Bingo, a game that Jason, Naoko, and Johanna Ware of Smallwares will each host during TBA:12. Each chef will prepare 15 “one-bite wonders,” as Jason has been calling them. Under the lights of the TBA beer garden, the 25 people who sign up will taste their way through, eyes closed, searching within their tongues and noses for clues to what in the world these chefs have concocted.

Blind-Tasting Bingo is one of several food experiences that PICA has added to the TBA WORKS this year. The most involved is a kitchen, built onsite, where a different chef will cook each night. Many visionary, talented Portland chefs have stepped up to prepare the kind of food you’d want to eat in the late-night TBA frenzy, featuring late-summer Oregon produce. (Full schedule below! Gosh it’s going to be good.) If you haven’t made it out to their brick and mortar restaurants, do not miss this chance to eat their food for beer garden prices. It would be a shame if you ate before coming–save room!

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TBA FLIGHTS: UNCOMMON SOUNDS

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’re bending an ear to some of the more experimental sounds at TBA.

Laurie Anderson. Photo: Lucie Jansch.

From street corners to late-night stages, TBA has filled Portland with avant garde composers and experimental musicians year after year. We’ve hosted improvisational marathons in a gallery window, comic beatboxers, pop cellists, a guitar “orchestra,” and a dance and music suite in public fountains. This year, we’ve invited a few legendary musicians, as well as a few young composers, spanning generations to show the range of contemporary sound art and music.

Perhaps the “grand dame” of contemporary music, Laurie Anderson returns to Portland to complete her trilogy of solo story works, which she presented with PICA in 2002 and 2006. Dirtday! finds Anderson back with her violin and her wry observations on modern life, reflecting on this past decade since 9/11. “Politicians are essentially story tellers,” says Anderson, “they describe the world as it is and also as they think it should be. As a fellow story teller, it seems like a really good time to think about how words can literally create the world.” Luckily for us, she tells these stories with considerable grace and stirring sounds. (more…)

TBA FLIGHTS: WHAT FOURTH WALL?

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. (more…)

TBA FLIGHTS: JUST GOTTA DANCE

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 shift away from the thematic focus of our past few posts to point out some TBA projects perfect for dance audiences.

Faustin Linyekula, Le Cargo. Photo: Agathe Poupenay.

Each year, we gather dozens of remarkable artists who work at the edges of contemporary practice, at the intersections of forms and styles and mediums. But just because the artists in the TBA Festival cross disciplines doesn’t mean that their work doesn’t have anything to offer the dance purists in our audience. If you’re looking for that virtuosic wonder of bodies moving on stage, look no further—we’ve got you covered with a whole roster of dancers and choreographers putting forward distinctive new voices.

Visionary butoh choreographer Kota Yamazaki will present (glowing), the lastest work by his Fluid Hug-Hug Company. Yamazki’s unique style seamlessly blends contemporary practice with traditional dance forms—in fact, his company’s mission is to promote the free and fluid exchange of diverse creative perspectives, hence their name. This work takes Yamazaki’s butoh background as a starting point for an investigation of both classical Japanese aesthetics and traditional African dances through a collaboration with artists from Senegal and Ethiopia. By turns fluid and energetic, you can expect a bold and graceful performance, a conversation in movement between practitioners from around the world. And, to further entice you to this one-night-only show, dancer Ryoji Sasamoto just received a Bessie nomination for his performance in the work! (more…)

TBA FLIGHTS: TAKE A STAND

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 turn our attention to the thread of political activism running through some of our TBA projects.

Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol, El Rumor del Incendio. Photo: Anne Vijverman.

It’s natural that in any given cultural moment (local or global), certain ideas will percolate. You know how at certain moments it seems like Hollywood releases three asteroid blockbusters in a matter of weeks? Call it zeitgeist, call it coincidence, but we’ll come out and call it significant. This year, we were struck by the number of artists who are working at the borders of art and activism, exploring big political shifts in societies around the world. In 2011, the first inklings of these political leanings were already present in artistic practice, not least in our visual art program, entitled Evidence of BricksFollowing a year that spanned from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, it’s small wonder that so many artists are now unveiling projects that reflect revolution and protest and uprising and political renewal.

Perhaps central among these projects at TBA:12 will be a world-premiere dance piece by Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero Performance. Developed in-residence this spring at PICA , Turbulence (a dance about the economy) attempts to make sense of the global economic collapse through improvisation and deliberate failure. The performance references images as disparate (but eerily related) as circus performance and Abu Ghraib, while exploring the many ways that our language and ideas about economies are literally “embodied.” Through a June symposium hosted around their residency, the company explored the problematics of queer identity and performance, of alternative economies, and whether art can truly be political. Their questions and investigations will continue at the September TBA premiere. (more…)

TBA FLIGHTS: BEYOND THE SCREEN

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 turn the lens on the unique film projects of TBA.

This year, we’re looking at film as a tool, as a medium that moves beyond the movie screen to play a central role in contemporary performance and visual practice. The filmmakers we’ve selected for TBA don’t work with celluloid and digital files in the typical way, instead looking outside of the film world for collaborators and new ideas. Meanwhile, a whole host of our performing companies incorporate innovative, real-time video and other filmic devices. So, for audiences in love with the moving picture, let’s just say we’ve got you covered.

One of our biggest opening weekend (and opening night!) projects comes from New York’s Big Art Group, pioneers of what they’ve labeled “real-time film.” In The People–Portland, the company brings together footage recorded of Portland locals during their Spring residency with live video and performance, all projected in real time on the exterior of Washington High School. It’s a bold project exploring our ideas of democracy and community, with a unique, internet-age approach to digital media. (more…)