Photo by Alin Dragulin Paint and Fire by Steve Mathews

2012 IS QUITE A YEAR for the Time-Based Art Festival.

It marks the festival's 10th anniversary, and the first year the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, which puts on the fest, has had its own space—PICA moved offices from the Wieden+Kennedy building to SW 10th earlier this year. It's also the last year TBA will take place at Washington High School, which has been the fest's de facto home since 2009. It's a year that sees the festival reconsidering its approach to visual art programming. And it turned out to be the year I officially ran out of time-related puns with which to headline the Mercury's TBA guide. ("Time... Based Art Is on Your Side"?) Most significantly, though, this marks the first year of curation by the fest's new permanent artistic director, Angela Mattox.

Mattox comes to TBA after eight years at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and signs of her confident curatorial hand are already evident. This year's programming is markedly more international than in years past, with artists from the Balkans, Japan, Zimbabwe, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo among the usual suspects from New York and the UK. "TBA must be part of the international discourse, both in its content and in its presence in the discussion," Mattox told me a few months ago, explaining that part of her challenge as curator is to figure out "how to connect local conversations with global ones." And she's remarkably explicit about themes this year's festival is exploring: resistance to oppression, freedom of speech, activism, and democracy. It's a far cry from the "themes will emerge as the festival unfolds!" approach of past curators, and bodes well for a tenure of relevant, engaged programming.

TBA's an annual crash course in world-class performance art, and this guide is our attempt to make sense of it all. (And okay, occasionally make fun of it−just a tiny little bit.) We'll also be reviewing the festival's shows at portlandmercury.com/tba.