Ashley Clark

"THIS IS my first attempt at incorporating the props," says performance artist Allie Hankins.

"By props, do you mean the thing that's rotating?" I ask.

She does. The sculpture in question, by Portland artist and poet Morgan Ritter, mimics the form-fitting/form-erasing dress Hankins wears for the first part of her show. It's a reference to a popular visual illusion—two faces in silhouette that could also be the outline of a vase. Other props include a squeaky microphone stand (which does not yet squeak but will be made to squeak), something under a scarf Hankins is running around with, and a tall object referred to liberally as "the Fuckmachine." It smells like dance in the Siren Theater, like shoes and work.

Now Then: A Prologue really is a prologue to a longer piece, the first part of a complete performance Hankins is calling better to be alone than to wish you were, which she'll present in Portland this fall. Last year, she told me it had to do with blowjobs, but I expect that's a gloss for a deeper meaning. She likes to make jokes. Hankins starts Now Then with a comedic, almost '90s stand-up monologue that's actually really funny, then contorts her spine and patterned dress. She swiftly changes outfits and bends her body further, this time beneath the Fuckmachine, as wet sounds emerge from somewhere.

Now Then would typically have nudity, says Hankins from the stage—she has incorporated this explanation into her piece—"but we're in a historical building and you can't have nudity in a historic building."

Hankins' art always involves some sort of nakedness. Her comfort or discomfort is a central tenet of her work. As her audience, I'm miffed at this censorship but Hankins has already moved on, utilizing the stage's multiple levels for awkward slithering, dragging a small guitar amp around behind her, and revealing a secret upstairs window on the stage that I've never noticed before. When Allie Hankins is around she's going to undress something. Maybe this time it's a historic building.