Photo by kozyndan

EXCITEMENT AROUND the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art's annual Time-Based Art (TBA) Festival is unusually fevered this year, and there are a few very good reasons why.

After a couple of years of less-than-successful venues for the Works, TBA's late-night performance venue and exhibition space, this year TBA struck gold with their choice of locations: Southeast Portland's Washington High School [see "Washington High School's Haunted Halls"], a rambling old building that's been sitting spookily unused for years. Two floors of Washington High will be dedicated to TBA's visual arts programming, with installations in classrooms, offices, and even the old school library. Throw in a long-abandoned auditorium—modified to include a dance floor—for late-night performances, a beer garden, and a huge lawn for picnicking [see "The Fruits (and Vegetables!) of Our Labor"], and it's hard to see how the Works could go wrong. Another, not insignificant factor is that in past years, TBA has overlapped with Musicfest NW, forcing audiences to choose between two of the most popular festivals in Portland—this year, there's a brief but crucial window between them.

Even more important than timing and location, though, is that this year sees the implementation of TBA's most crucial safety valve: the introduction of a new artistic director. Guest directors rotate through TBA every few years, ensuring fresh ideas and new performers. Wondering why this year's festival places less emphasis on chilly French performance art, and more on cutting-edge contemporary dance? That's because new Guest Artistic Director Cathy Edwards spent 10 years at New York's Dance Theater Workshop and is, as she explains it, "very committed to creating more points of entry to contemporary dance."

Additionally, and in a marked change from years past, Edwards' programming is refreshingly accessible.

"For the TBA Festival," Edwards says, "I've been looking for work that is interesting both because of its structure, and because the content is visceral, bracing, and very much speaks about contemporary life. In terms of approaching the festival thematically, a few central ideas definitely run through the festival. One of them is a very active current of anxiety about contemporary life—for example about race in America, [or] about private lives being played out in public."

All of this adds up to one of the most promising TBA lineups in years. Our complete listings for TBA events can be found here, and as always, the Mercury's intrepid arts team will be blogging the action on our website ( Stop by and tell us what you think.

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