Avant Garde Extravaganza
Portland’s Time Based Art brings cutting edge performance to Oregon
By Brett Campbell
In its sixth year, Portland’s Time Based Art festival has become not just one of the Northwest’s premier arts events but also one of the world’s great showcases of adventurous performing arts, drawing cutting edge artists from around the world and avant arts fans from throughout the region and across the country. This year’s festival, which runs Sept. 4-14, is the last of three curated by Mark Russell, the famed former director of New York’s P.S. 122, and it continues his interest in avant garde theater, but the evenings also include considerable doses of music, dance, film and visual art installations happening on stages and in unlikely spaces throughout the city.
After the major events, the impromptu late-night gathering space called The Works presents still more performances while allowing arts lovers to eat, drink and chat about the amazing effulgence of art they’re experiencing. And the days are stuffed with artist talks, workshops, installations, even kid-friendly events. With out-of-town visitors and visiting artists receiving discounts on festival passes, it’s an ideal occasion for a long weekend (or week-long) stay in our artistically vibrant northern neighbor.
There are far too many events to detail here, but you get can full information at www.pica.org — and here are a few glimpses of some recommended live performance highlights.
Sojourn Theater: Built. The acclaimed Portland theater company creates another site-specific dramatic exploration of social issues, in this case, the decisions involved in creating an urban community.
LeeSaar: Geisha. The Israeli-born company explores relationship dynamics.
Forced Entertainment: Quizoola! In the annual TBA marathon performance, the multimedia sextet presents an evening length extravaganza based on answers to some of 2000 questions chosen for this performance.
Mike Daisey: If You See Something, Say Something. The renowned monologist peers into the Department of Homeland Security.
Mike Kelley: The award-winning L.A. based multimedia artist, abetted by musician Scott Benzel and choreographer Kate Foley, starts with high school yearbook photos and creates a full-length musical containing “dancing Goths, singing vampires, hick storytellers, horse dancers and the Virgin Mary” in order to examine contemporary culture’s pageantry.
Tim Crouch: ENGLAND. The hit of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this duo performance looks at the pursuit of health at any cost.
Jérôme Bel: Pichet Klunchun and Myself. A French conceptual choreographer and a Thai classical dancer try to understand each other’s worlds, in dance.
Kenny Mellman + Bridget Everett: Sexercise Live! Mellman’s Kiki and Herb cross-dressing inebriated nightclub act was one of the funniest TBA events ever and also tore ‘em up in New York. I can’t wait to see his latest, a tribute to Millie Jackson.
The Yes Men: KEEP IT SLICK. The culture-jamming theater company pranks corporate capitalism.
Vivarium studio: L’Effet de Serge. Vivarium’s intriguing 2006 TBA piece bodes well for this look at our daily rituals
Reggie Watts: Transition. Watts plays with performance and time conventions, using sonic manipulation, unreliable narration and exuberant stage movement.
Daniel Beaty: Resurrection. The Obie-award winning theater artist/poet/singer presents the story of six very different black men whose lives unexpectedly intersect.
Lemon Andersen: COUNTY OF KINGS the beautiful struggle. The spoken word artist uses hip hop history to delineate his coming of age story.
Superamas: BIG 3rd Episode (happy/end). The Paris/Vienna artist collective takes on desire and vanity.
Antony & the Orchestra: Antony Hegarty’s eerie, androgynous voice is like nothing else in pop music, but he’s always been more than just a pop star, collaborating with Bjork and Lou Reed, with visual artists, filmmakers and orchestras from London to L.A., Brooklyn to Milan. He and his band, the Johnsons, join the Oregon Symphony.
Third Angle: City Dance. Between 1966 and 1970, legendary landscape architect Lawrence Halprin created three magnificent downtown Portland landmarks: Pettygrove Park, Lovejoy Fountain and what New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable called one of “the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance,” Keller Fountain. Meanwhile, Halprin’s renowned choreographer wife, Anna, created trailblazing dance with some radical young California composers at her innovative San Francisco dance studio. La Monte Young and Terry Riley pioneered the most significant musical movement since World War II, minimalism, while Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick and others founded one of the most creative wellsprings of American music, the San Francisco Tape Music Center, which spawned modern electronic music. The couple’s respective artistic expressions “combined Anna’s dance and theater experience and Larry’s desire for social change,” says violinist Ron Blessinger, director of the city’s visionary Third Angle new music ensemble. At Lawrence Halprin’s landmarks, Third Angle musicians will perform adventurous music by these great composers to dances created by Portland choreographers Linda Austin, Cydney Wilkes, Tere Mathern and Linda K. Johnson.
For more info, go to www.pica.org/tba/tba08 or call TBA’s sponsor, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (503-242-1419), and request a program book. Starting Sept. 6, EW performing and visual arts editor Suzi Steffen will blog as much of TBA as she can cram into the festival’s weekends at blogs.eugeneweekly.com/blog/3