IS IT JUST ME, or does this year's Time-Based Art festival have a certain... spark? Under the steady hand of Artistic Director Angela Mattox, the 2014 lineup for PICA's annual celebration of bleeding-edge contemporary performance, film, and visual art is energetic, forward-facing, and transgressive—it features artists working across disciplines to explore the role of art in individual and cultural transformation.
From an investigation of pole-dancing in the Philippines to an Inuit throat-singer's reclamation of Nanook of the North, the work is global in its scope and personal in its presentation. I'm particularly excited for the return of Mammalian Diving Reflex, the brilliant Canadian company whose Haircuts by Children, back in 2007, coaxed adults into allowing their hair to be cut by random kids with scissors. This year, Mammalian Diving Reflex presents All the Sex I've Ever Had, a show that invites a group of elderly Portlanders to address that very topic onstage. I'm thrilled to see the return of local drag artist Pepper Pepper's Critical Mascara, a brilliantly out-there, Paris Is Burning-inspired drag show that absolutely crushed last year at the Works, TBA's late-night programming. And among the handful of shows at this year's festival that challenge the very foundations of how performance is made, Laura Arrington's reality-TV-inspired Squart! stands out: It's a variety show that will star local volunteer performers who have just a few hours to work together to create a piece.
As always, the festival is packed with shows that sound amazing, shows that sound intriguing, and shows that sound utterly baffling. The only sure-fire way to find out what's what is to dive right in.
Samita Sinha, Cipher
Samita Sinha's sonic investigations peer into a landscape located somewhere between the universe's vibrating om and Whitman's barbaric yawp. Using her voice, an electric sitar, an ektaara (a one-stringed instrument), and the natural resonances of the room, Sinha reframes the transcendental intent of raga found in traditional Hindustani classical music. She sings, chants, spontaneously invents language, and moves her body to change the sound and shape of her voice, resulting in an utterly human noise that, in Sinha's words, channel "ancestral memories and... unconscious, unformed thoughts." NL Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Fri Sept 12, 6:30 pm, and Sat Sept 13, 6:30 pm, $20-25.
Tanya Tagaq, Tanya Tagaq in concert with Nanook of the North
In an act of reclamation, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq creates a live soundtrack for the racially uncomfortable, cliché-ridden silent film Nanook of the North. Tagaq's vocalizations put many a beatboxer to shame, ranging from rhythmically animalistic throat sounds (sometimes curiously meditative and soothing, sometimes threatening), to feminine lilts, giggles, sobs, and howls. It's theatrical, mildly disturbing, and totally enthralling. You could listen to it with your eyes closed and be taken more places than you ever thought a single person's voice capable of taking you, but in this case you'll want to see how she times the intonations with the film, as well as her own impassioned body language. MS PSU Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park, Fri Sept 12, 8:30 pm, and Sat Sept 13, 8:30 pm, $24-30.
Eisa Jocson, Death of the Pole Dancer & Macho Dancer
Unless you've been trawling the bars of Manila, dancer-choreographer Eisa Jocson will probably be your first introduction to the distinctly Filipino regional styles of female and male regional erotic dancing, highlighting the contrasts (pole dancers are vertical and light, "macho dancers" are horizontal and heavy) as well as the power structures that exist between the socially marginalized people who hold power onstage and their audience. Jocson's gotten particular attention for her study of macho dancing, which is usually performed to '80s and '90s-era American power ballads (think George Michael or Metallica). Winning over the trust of male dancers at a club near her home, Jocson enlisted them as her teachers, eventually creating sketches that could be used to pass on the lessons she learned from them. MS BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave., 229-0627, Fri Sept 12, 8:30 pm and Sat Sept 13, 8:30 pm, $16-20.
BodyCartography Project, Super Nature
It ain't TBA without exposing yourself to some really weird shit, and BodyCartography Project is a definite contender for some boggling of the mind in the name of art. Past performances by the group behind Super Nature involved a company of dancers in out-of-date streetwear tormenting each other, whirling in disorganized unison, and gyrating in huddles while images of fingers squishing around in piles of fruit are projected on their torsos, as if the performers' guts were being crudely massaged. For the Works, they're promising an "intimate performance installation" that invites one audience member at a time to share a space, one-on-one, with a performer—why? You'll find out. MS Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Fri Sept 12, 12-6 pm, Sat Sept 13, 12-6 pm, and Sun Sept 14, 12-6 pm, free.
Tahni Holt, Duet Love
Portland choreographer Tahni Holt is a thoughtful, curious, and approachable practitioner of the dark art of experimental dance; her work raises interesting questions and demands your engagement in the answers. Duet Love promises to be no exception: With a small army of collaborators from around the Northwest, Holt will launch an exploration of how gender is performed, organized around the traditional, romantic dance premise of the duet. AH Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th, Sat Sept 13-Tues Sept 16, 6:30 pm, $16-20.
Montreal-based ambient-electronic musician Tim Hecker has long been the darling of weirdo noise dudes. (That scary-skinny ex-roommate of yours who kept a ferret named Jester and owned Caligula on Blu-ray LOVES this guy.) Hecker's never performed in Portland before, which makes his TBA appearance pretty special. His last recording, Virgins, pulled his music out from a bunch of electronic boxes and placed it in the hands of live musicians, who turned Hecker's repetitions and evolutions into something bloodier than his past work. There's a horror-soundtrack vibe to the circular nature of Hecker's music, but the inevitable sense of decay trumps all. NL PSU Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park, Sun Sept 14, 8:30 pm, $12-15.
Luke George, Not About Face
Raised in Tasmania and based in Melbourne and Brooklyn, performance artist Luke George won Melbourne's Greenroom Award for Best Male Dancer in 2011 and counts perennial TBA fave Miguel Gutierrez among his collaborators. His TBA: 2014 performance, Not About Face, explores the unspoken agreements that allow the audience/performer relationship to exist. Key sentence from the show description: "For this show, audience are robed in full-body shrouds and are a free-roaming and anonymous gathering in the performance space." GHOST PARTY! AH Conduit Dance Ballroom, 918 SW Yamhill, Sun Sept 14, 4:30 pm, Mon Sept 15-Thurs Sept 18, 8:30 pm, $16-20.
Maya Beiser, Uncovered
Cellist Maya Beiser's approach to pop and rock covers might seem old hat to Portland audiences. After all, our city is the home of the Portland Cello Project, who have transformed everything from Beck to Brubeck into cello-based fantasias. Smartly, though, Beiser's joining forces with PCP for her TBA performance, which'll showcase material from her recent album, Uncovered, in which she tackles Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, and other rock-radio staples, turning them into cello extravaganzas. She'll also do material from contemporary compositions like Michael Harrison's Just Ancient Loops. NL PSU Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park, Mon Sept 15, 8:30 pm, $24-30.
Cynthia Hopkins, A Living Documentary
If there's a raw nerve running and throbbing through every minute of Cynthia Hopkins' one-woman show, it's this: The people who make theater don't also make money. Or at least not a lot of it. And certainly not as much as the people who pay to see the art that's being made. As a conceit, it's hardly surprising or new. But plopped on a stripped-down set with songs and wacky characters and a good amount of misery, Hopkins manages to transform her semi-personal, semi-fictional tale of woe into something fresh. DCT Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Mon Sept 15, 6:30 pm, and Tues Sept 16, 6:30 pm, $20-25.
Mammalian Diving Reflex, All the Sex I've Ever Had
Inventive and fun, Canadian "culture production workshop" Mammalian Diving Reflex creates work "designed to bring people together in new and unusual ways," just like your swinger uncle is always bragging about doing. (You might remember MDR from a few TBAs ago, when their great "Haircuts by Children" performance offered attendees free haircuts from adorable, scissor-wielding children.) For this TBA, they're presenting All the Sex I've Ever Had, in which a group of elderly Portlanders will let audiences listen in on their sex stories—opening up, so to speak, dialogues about "intimacy, age, youth-obsessed culture, and sex," all thanks to several lifetimes' worth of sweet, sweet memories of fuckin'. Hey, maybe your uncle will be one of them. EH Portland State University: Shattuck Hall Annex, 1914 SW Park, Wed Sept 17, 7 pm, Thurs Sept 18, 7 pm, Fri Sept 19, 7 pm, and Sat Sept 20, 7 pm, $20-25.
Jack Ferver, Mon, Ma, Mes
The "post-production Q&A" sessions that follow theatrical and dance performances are more often than not stilted and unintentionally hilarious, with the performer either answering questions that are stultifyingly dumb, or responding in a stultifyingly pompous manner. Jack Ferver, the NYC-based dancer/choreographer/writer, turns this concept on its ear by giving pre-written questions to his audience to read aloud, and for him to answer—taking the crowd on an unscheduled trip through the deepest (and sometimes funniest) recesses of his mind. Expect a high level of camp alongside fits of psychosexual ennui. WSH Ecotrust Building, 721 NW 9th, Thurs Sept 18, 6:30 pm, Fri Sept 19, 6:30 pm, and Sat Sept 20, noon, $16-20.
.Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort, Germinal
"The stage is a canvas," people love to say. I Googled: They have said it more than a million times on the Internet alone. With Germinal, French artists Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort pursue the cliché to its limits—treating the black expanse of an unadorned stage as a slate on which to build a new world while the audience watches. From nothing, and with alarming efficiency, four performers create an environment tinged with whimsy and surprise—the whole of creation lasts just over an hour. This is the first time Goerger and Defoort have brought their popular work to the US. It's in French, with subtitles. DVH PSU Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park, Thurs Sept 18, 8:30 pm, and Fri Sept 19, 8:30 pm, $20-25.
Paul Clipson and Liz Harris,
If you're looking for "Best TBA Event to Do While On Drugs and Want to Feel Suuuuper Fucked Up," look no further than HYPNOSIS DISPLAY, in which filmmaker Paul Clipson and experimental musician Liz Harris (AKA Grouper) arrange disconcerting, white noise-y soundcapes alongside 16mm landscapes from "the vast natural and urban landscapes of America." The 75-minute piece will have its premiere at TBA, and will likely send attendees home reeling, or at the very least tottering. EH PSU Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park, Sat Sept 20, 8:30 pm, $12-15.
cheltfitsch, Ground and Floor
Two years ago at TBA, Japanese theater company chelfitsch lampooned contemporary Japanese office culture in Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech, three linked vignettes that relied on repetition of movement and language to convey a sense of homogeneity and despair. This year's offering, Ground and Floor, was inspired by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011 and is set in the "not-too-distant future." AH Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th, Fri Sept 19, 8:30 pm, Sat Sept 20, 8:30 pm, and Sun Sept 21, 4:30 pm, $20-25.
Aki Sasamoto, Skewed Lies
Skewed Lies, first performed in Long Island in 2010, is Brooklyn-based artist Aki Sasamoto's performance installation "about mosquitoes and how much I hate them." Fair enough, Aki Sasamoto! It's also about "coincidences," "petty crimes vs. noble crimes," and "three desserts: meringue, flan, and cake." Given that Sasamoto's past installations have involved everything from strangers having a conversation while feeding each other spaghetti with a super long, double-sided fork ("Feedback") to sculptures that shift every time she performs ("Remembering/Modifying/Developing"), be prepared for... well pretty much anything. Including mosquitoes. EH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sat Sept 20, 6:30 & 8:30 pm, free.
Emily Roysdon, Uncounted Futures
Roysdon's piece was commissioned for TBA, and it's billed as some kind of an exploration of waves and time. That's pretty much it. It's also been labeled, helpfully/unhelpfully, as "visual art." But if you're expecting something passive, something to regard before moving along, don't. You'll likely wind up part of the work. Consider a photograph supplied by Roysdon. It shows a darkened room, and a blue triangle, topped with wave crests, projected on one wall. It also shows rows of audience members lying down in rows, eyes closed, faces aimed at the ceiling. That's occasionally been Roysdon's calling card—getting audience members to do things like line up and shout things, while she explores subjects like politics and what it means to be queer. DCT PICA, 415 SW 10th, Suite 300, Sept 11-Oct 11, 12-6 pm.
Jennifer West, Flashlight Filmstrip Projections
In a festival that can skew toward self-important titles, here's an exhibit that's refreshingly what it sounds like. Grab a flashlight and head into a darkened room, where panels of vertical filmstrips and transparent images await. Shine your light on them in whatever way you want and see what emerges. It's more interesting than it might sound. West, of Los Angeles, has come up with a creative way to both mourn the fast-dying celluloid her city was built on and provide serious artsy adults cover to dick around with flashlights in the dark. DVH There will be two evening performances in addition to West's on-site exhibit at the Works, which is open daily. Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sept 11-30, Tues Sept 16, 8:30 pm, and Wed Sept 17, 10 pm, free.
Jesse Sugarmann, We Build Excitement
Jesse Sugarmann's fascination with dead automaker Pontiac—branded in a bygone time as the epitome of American cool—almost comes off as the peculiar lark of one more postwar nostalgia nerd. But his film about that devotion is so much more. Sometimes he re-creates lost Pontiac dealerships. Sometimes he takes the old cars and smashes and stacks them. His real mission is reminding us just how weirdly connected to our cars we remain—and how an auto industry that could so casually dismiss something so iconic as Pontiac is doing the same to its workers. And, just as much, to our notion of what it means to be an American. DCT Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Thurs Sept 18, 10 pm, Fri Sept 19, 10 pm, and Sat Sept 20, 10 pm.
Lisa Radon, Infinity Increaser
Lisa Radon is a Portland artist, critic, curator, and poet; details on her TBA residency are light, but Radon's enduring interests in language, communication, and how meaning is gathered guarantee her work is always thought-provoking and challenging. AH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sept 11-Oct 11, 12-6 pm.
MSHR, Resonant Entity Modulator
I read the description for this five times. And then I watched a video of it in action. I'm still sort of flummoxed, but basically there's a big, colorful light box, the surface of which is decorated in interesting designs. Then there are these chromed-out shapes you can move over that surface, producing an ever-changing array of squeals and squawks from synthesizers nested within. I've come to think of it like a really involved, very attractive Theremin, built here in Portland by MSHR, a collective consisting of local artists Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy. DVH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sept 11-30, 12-6 pm, free.
Wynne Greenwood, Stacy
In Wynne Greenwood's world, you might find yourself in a sauna with a naked Betty Boop explaining that yes, she is allowed to pray like that; or with an expressive soft-sculpture face whose features are made of bedazzles... You may remember Greenwood's hilarious project Tracy + the Plastics, in which Greenwood played all three members of a lesbian, feminist band from Olympia in a perfect parody of every stereotype that description conjures. The band "broke up" in 2006, but not before launching Greenwood into the hallowed halls of Contemporary Art. Her work is still personal and funny, drawing on her work with kids as much as her own anxieties, and delivered in that good old valley-girl lilt. MS Reed College, Cooley Gallery, 3203 SE Woodstock, Sept 2-Oct 19.
Seattle hiphop act THEESatisfaction has played Pickathon, the Doug Fir, the Siren Nation Festival, and Holocene's 11th birthday party. But TBA might make the most sense for the duo of Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons, as their grooves and rhymes are smart and conversational, wrapping warm, jazzy sounds around stark beats and astral-plain soul. Or you can just click off your brain and move. THEESatisfaction are capable of emitting the friendliest and most generous of vibes, so expect to get fully caught up in the dance party at the Works tonight. NL Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Thurs Sept 11, 10:30 pm, free.
A night curated by local electronic music collective and record label Dropping Gems, featuring London's Little People alongside artists from Portland and Seattle.Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Fri Sept 12, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
Pepper Pepper, Critical Mascara: A Post-Realness Drag Ball
Drag artist Pepper Pepper's "post-realness drag ball" was a highlight of last year's TBA. Once again, it promises a night of the Northwest's most fabulous queens bending genders and performing outrageous talents, in a show inspired by Paris Is Burning and the NYC and East Coast drag scene of the '80s. With more high-octane energy than a drag strip on Sunday afternoon, this friendly queer competition will be jam-packed with posing, posturing, and mind-blowing "vogue-ing." Plus celebrity judges and a late night dance party! Work that, girl! WSH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sat Sept 13, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
Christopher Sutton, Re: Disc Cover
Christopher Sutton's a pretty ubiquitous figure in Portland's music scene, working for bands like Gossip and Hornet Leg and sometimes spinning his own sets as a DJ in town and beyond. But he's also a painter and designer—and a writer, devoted lately to telling the story of his amazing vinyl record collection. In Re: Disc Cover (see what he did there with the pun?), Sutton draws from each of those disparate disciplines—along with some of his favorite album covers—to give a twinned pair of history lessons. One's about modern music. The other's about himself. (And both, I suspect, are also about you.) DCT Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sun Sept 14, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
In Favor of Skepticism
The Cinema Project curates a night of predictably thought-provoking experiments at the edges of what film makes possible: In Favor of Skepticism is a "re-viewing" of materials from the Letterist and Situationist movements, including artist and poet Nour Mobarak's live interpretation of the script for Guy Debord's 1952 film Howlings for Sade, followed by a screening of a Letterist film. "Audience participation may be encouraged." May. AH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Mon Sept 15, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
Jason Traeger, Portland Stand-Up Comedy Photo Album: LIVE!
Comedy doesn't make it into TBA's lineup too often, and we're always excited when it does. This year's offering comes courtesy of Portland comic Jason Traeger, a photographer who documents Portland's stand-up comedy scene on his blog, The Portland Stand-Up Comedy Photo Album. Tonight, Traeger curates a lineup of comedians drawn from Portland's thriving local scene. AH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Tues Sept 16, 10:30 pm
Larry/Laura Arrington, Squart!
In Squart!, San Francisco performer Laura Arrington (who prefers to be called "Larry" if you run into her, btw) takes the reality show format and audience participation to a new level. A few hours before the performance, she'll host an open call for anyone who'd like to perform, cast the show, divide the players into teams, and give them a list of actions to accomplish, and voila! PERFORMANCE ART IS MADE. It'll be judged by a panel—but it sounds so crazy that everyone involved will be a winner. (Interested in participating/performing? Send your info to squartTBA@gmail.com.) WSH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Wed Sept 17, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
Venezuelan-born and Kanye West-approved, Arca is one of the producers behind the divisive, thudding beats of West's Yeezus, and his &&&&& mixtape was performed at MoMA PS1 in Queens. He'll be keeping his constantly morphing and expanding beats rolling at the Works, which should make for some excellent TBA decompression—and you'll likely want to keep a few of those beats on your phone. They'll come in handy the next time you get lost in Tron. EH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Thurs Sept 18, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin's music seems calculated to lull listeners to that lovely, disoriented moment just before slumber on placid synthesized tides, then snap them promptly to alertness with thunderstorms of harmonious blips. That's an actual torture method in the hands of government thugs, but Oneohtrix Point Never's productions are seldom more than pleasant and interesting. The Brooklyn-based experimental musician has garnered high praise from the nation's music press for years, and his latest effort, R Plus Seven, rocks the cradle—and wields that inevitable alarm clock—with aplomb. DVH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Fri Sept 19, 10:30 pm, $8-10.
Chanticleer Trü, Evelyn
When he's not fronting the wondrous local band Magic Mouth, Chanticleer Trü is dreaming up new and wondrous theatrical events designed to freak... you... out (in an entertaining manner, of course). His latest performance piece is Evelyn, a super fun and energetic "nightclub and art installation" inspired by disco diva Evelyn "Champagne" King (who famously performed "Shame," which I firmly believe is the best disco song ever recorded, and I will punch any person who dares disagree). You're encouraged to dress appropriately (you know exactly what they mean) and join the installation for an evening celebrating the world-famous dance clubs of yesteryear—when they really knew how to party! WSH Fashion Tech, 2010 SE 8th, Sat Sept 20, 10:30 pm, $8-10.