Portland Institute for Contemporary Art's (PICA) Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) is an exhausting 11-day whirlwind of international performing arts. Starting this Thursday and continuing through next Sunday, September 17, venues across the city—both established and makeshift—will be saturated with post-cabaret vaudevillians, experimental dancers, impassioned monologists, and otherwise unclassifiable performers. For many people, it's 11 die-hard days of artistic consumption and sleep deprivation, but most people pick and choose a few key performances to take in. To that end, PICA's shaken a few things up this year to give you (and your wallet) a few more options. They've loaded up on free events; they've added a visual-art component to the festival; and for the first time, they're selling "Works-only" passes that get you into the wildly popular late-night mayhem of the Works performance parties.
HEADLINER-BASED ART FESTIVAL
These onstage performances are the backbone of TBA—the main courses, if you will. Every year, the festival boasts at least one really impressive marquee name, and this year it's none other than the incomparable Laurie Anderson (PCPA Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Sept 8-9, 7 pm, $20-50). Newly inspired by space-age research and a residency at NASA, Anderson's fusion of wondrous electronic music, video projection, and biting cultural commentary will thrill the techno-artsy geek buried deep within you.
New York-based Kiki and Herb (PCPA Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Sept 11, 8 pm, $20-25) fall into the must-see-before-you-die category. "Kiki," AKA Justin Bond, is a 70-year-old lounge singer whose cabaret recital is peppered with anecdotes about a lifetime in the biz. She's accompanied on piano by her trusty sidekick Herb, who skillfully traverses a musical landscape containing songs from musicians as varied as Spiritualized, Britney Spears, and Annie Lennox.
Cutting-edge choreography is always a vital part of TBA, and this year's no different. The Seattle-based Crispin Spaeth Dance Group has a compelling hook for their dance installation, Dark Room: The show is performed in a pitch-black space, and the audience is equipped with night-vision apparatus that allows them to view the performers' bodies (PCPA Brunish Hall, 1111 SW Broadway, Sept 15 at 6, 7, & 8 pm, Sept 16-17 at 3, 4, & 5 pm, $10-15).
Deborah Hay creates solo dances that encourage wildly eccentric, frequently hilarious interpretation. Everyone wants a crack at them, and not one but two of Hay's pieces will be mounted at this year's TBA. Room will be tackled by Portlanders Tahni Holt and Linda Austin (PCPA Brunish Hall, 1111 SW Broadway, Sept 10 at 4 pm, Sept 11-13 at 6 pm, $15-20), while Mountain is a Northwest-inspired trio of solo pieces developed by Hay in cahoots with local choreographers Gaelen Hanson, Peggy Piacenza, and Amelia Reeber (PSU Lincoln Hall, Sept 15-17, 6 pm, $20-25).
Using the migratory patterns of animals like gray whales and ospreys as inspiration, New York choreographer Jennifer Monson's new work, Flight of Mind, creates a performative ode to nature that features an actual wetland onstage (Disjecta, 230 E Burnside, Sept 14-17, 6 pm, $15-20). Yeesh. And dancers wonder why it's so hard to get butts in the seats?
A trip to Eritrea inspired choreographer Bebe Miller's Landing/Place—a multimedia and dance blitz exploring cultural dislocation. (PCPA Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Sept 16-17, 9 pm, $20-25).
TBA's also home, of course, to avant-garde theater, as the following acts attest to. Led by director prodigy Pavol Liska, the Nature Theater of Oklahoma has created quite a stir in New York for their impeccably designed, coolly modern, imminently cruel and sarcastic interpretations of classical texts. This performance, titled Poetics: A Ballet Brut (PSU Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park, Sept 12-13 at 6 pm, Sept 15-17 at 9 pm, $20-25), wordlessly molests such everyday actions as sleeping.
Yubiwa Hotel is on the cutting edge of Japanese alternative theater, thanks to their bold exploration of the female body and all its connotations, sexual and otherwise (Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, Sept 8 at 7 pm, Sept 9 at 2 & 7 pm, Sept 10 at 2 pm, $20-25). Whether they dress as school girls or get naked, Yubiwa Hotel will seriously fuck with your preconceived notions about gender, identity, and East/West relations.
Dada and punk collide in The Itching of the Wings, a musical performance art revue from renowned French artist and designer Philippe Quesne (PSU Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park, Sept 8-10, 9 pm, $20-25). Think Phaedrus meets a rubber chicken, with a dash of Superman thrown in.
The creative forces behind BlingLab (also known as local art darlings Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas) are nothing if not timely. The Untold Misadventures of Lewis and Clark is a homoerotic puppet show that explores the real story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark—just in time for the L&C bicentennial (Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th, Sept 14-16, 8 pm, $7-10). BlingLab's interpretation of the legendary trek finds the bumbling Lewis and Clark making their way across the "Sasquatch-infested West."
There's also a dash of monologue in this year's festivities. Jerry Quickley's been called both a "fixture on the international hiphop theater scene," and a "poem-cee"... but don't be afraid. Great slam poets, which Quickley certainly is, mix hard-hitting personal and cultural revelations into a simmering stew of wordplay and theatrics. For Live from the Front, Quickley visited Iraq three separate times during the "shock and awe" stage of the war, shaping interactions with civilians into a blistering new performance piece (Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center, 1819 NW Everett, Sept 15-17, 7 pm, $15-20).
Organized in part by Spalding Gray's widow, The Spalding Gray Project: Leftover Stories to Tell is a tribute to the late, great monologist, who tossed himself off a ferry in 2004 (PCPA Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Sept 12-14, 8 pm, $20-25). When the show premiered in New York, folks like David Strathairn, Peter Gallagher, and Jonathan Ames gathered to strut their own renditions of some of the man's previously un-performed writings. We get people like playwright Ain Gordon (who?), TV actress Hazelle Goodman (huh?), and K Records honcho Calvin Johnson (ZZZ). Want to honor Gray? Put Swimming to Cambodia on your Netflix queue and save $25.
Ultimately, there are really just two kinds of TBA events: those that you go to because you think you should, and those that are actually entertaining. The best-titled event of this year's Fest, Jollyship the Whiz-Bang, falls blessedly into the latter category (Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th, Sept 12, 8 pm, $6-7). This "massive live musical pirate puppet sea saga" features "catchy nautical electro pop," "mindblowing cheap stage effects," and surely more "arrr"s and "ye matey"s than you can shake a cutlass at. Don't forget your secret flask o' rum, or ye'll be swabbing the deck, ye scurvy scalawag. AH & JWS
FREE-BASED ART FESTIVAL
In the process of becoming a local institution, TBA seems to have become prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, this year's fes tivities include a selection of free performances happening all over the city, making art once again accessible to the frugal, financially frigid masses.
Portland artist David Eckard will be performing a piece called Float, in which he takes to the river at dusk, riding its currents on a mirror, lace, and fire-adorned carriage and speaking through megaphones while a fleet of boats trail behind him. Sexy! (viewing from the Hawthorne Bridge, Sept 7, dusk)
Further charging the public space is John King, who will lead dozens of electric guitars in a concert staged on the steps of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The idea calls to mind Glenn Branca's extended group guitar experiments, and will probably conjure up a sonically overwhelming spectacle downtown. (Pioneer Courthouse Square, SW Broadway & Yamhill, Sept 7, 6:30 pm)
One of the most interesting and original-sounding pieces in the festival is Marina Abramovic's Balkan Erotic Epic. Abramovic channels her research through a multi-channel video installation to project cinematic interpretations and re-creations of everyday erotic myths in Serbian folklore. Try it, you'll like it. (Corberry Press, NW 18th & Northrup, Sept 7-17 noon-6 pm daily, Sept 20-Oct 7, Wed-Sat noon-6 pm)
On a slightly less ambitious note, Brad Adkins will show up at TBA Central (224 NW 13th) every day at 2 pm for Oh Yeah OK, an event in which he tells people about some things he's done, has heard about, or is thinking about doing. Hmm. While it sounds slightly underwhelming in print, I've attended events like this in Portland that turned out well, invigorated by a community of artistically curious, outgoing, and passionately communicative people.Mack McFarland and Dennis Nyback have joined forces to present a roving film festival designed to reanimate the history of Portland. The Portland that Was will transport audiences through Portland's history at various sites of historical relevance. (various times and locations, Sept 7-17)
The Travelers and Record Sound System, courtesy of Red76, has put together some kind of auditory pick-me-up station. It features dozens of boomboxes tuned to the same frequency; anybody can contribute a CD of sounds to add to the mix (Ace Hotel Annex, 403 SW 10th, Sept 7-17 noon-6 pm daily, Sept 18-Oct 7, Wed-Sat noon-6 pm).
Finally, a collaboration by Philippe Blanc and Katherine Bovee called laptop is a mysterious roving installation traveling to Beaverton and other extremities of Portland, then making frequent returns to TBA to present its findings. (roaming, Sept 7-17) As with many of the events at this festival, how any of that will manifest itself is left somewhat unclear—but really, that's the draw. EJ
VISUAL-BASED ART FESTIVAL
Although TBA is a performing arts festival above all else, the visual arts take the stage for the first time this year. Kristan Kennedy has curated a series of gallery exhibitions to stand alongside the performance works.
A lot of the shows are happening at the Corberry Press (NW Northrup, between 17th and 18th, Sept 7-17, noon-6 pm daily, and Sept 20-Oct 7, Wed-Sat noon-6 pm): Harrell Fletcher is on hand with The American War, an installation of photographs that the New York Times called "ingenious" and "heartbreaking." Fletcher presents the flipside of what we think of when we hear "Vietnam War," and the change in perspective can be devastating. New York- and Portland-based artist Theo Angell looks at a more natural kind of destruction—forest fires—in his video piece, Tongues and Snowk, where trees "morph into glowing pillars" and the artist "places himself in this transitional world as its conduit/interpreter." (Side note: Who talks like this?) Whitney Biennial artist Matthew Day Jackson claims to "wrestle history's demons to the ground," which I'd like to see. Instead, I'll settle for his installation, Paradise Now! Meanwhile, Beth Campbell's video, Some Things Change, looks like a normal, repeating video loop, but stick with it—there's more to it than meets the eye. On the other hand, Johanna Billing's video, Magical World, is comprised of "never-ending footage" (oh joy) of Croatian children singing a 1968 Rotary Connection song.
The visual art programming spills over to PNCA (1241 NW Johnson) in the heart of the Pearl. There you'll find Illegal Art, a group show about copyright and intellectual property, featuring marquee names like David Byrne and Todd Haynes (through Oct 21, daily, 9 am-9 pm). In the PNCA lobby, UK theater company Stan's Cafe has dumped 300 million grains of rice—one for every person in America—and will organize them by demographics and statistics throughout the festival (Sept 8-17, noon-6 pm).
Over at TBA Central (224 NW 13th), you can catch Edie Tsong on webcam, where the two of you will draw each other's portrait, and she'll fax you her rendering of your handsome mug on the spot (Sept 7-17, noon-6 pm). While you're there, you might notice Katherine Bovee and Philippe Blanc's Desktop, a diorama that imagines computer desktop iconography (like the trashcan and wallpaper) as real objects (Sept 7-17, daily, noon-6 pm; Sept 18-Oct 6, Mon-Fri, noon-6 pm).
And if you're still in the mood for more, head to Reed College's Cooley Gallery, where Sutapa Biswas' film installations are on view through October 8 (3203 SE Woodstock, Tues-Sun, noon-5 pm). CB
LATE-NIGHT-BASED ART FESTIVAL
One of the most popular components of TBA is The Works (AudioCinema, 226 SE Madison), the late-night, club-atmosphere venue where you can rub shoulders with TBA performers, grub on food from Simpatica, and most importantly, see the festival's youngest, edgiest acts. The Works has gotten so popular that, for the first time, you can buy a Works-only pass ($50 members/$75 general, or $10/15 per night, 21+) that gets you into 11 nights of pure highbrow wackiness. Check it:
Opening night, Thursday, September 7, is a total freebie in which you can check out the Works' new home while Music Population Orchestra (8 pm) does their best to "bring chamber music back to the people." Then, those charming men of Portland's Small Sails do their ethereal post-rock and video magic at 9 pm.
This Friday night, two of Portland's finest musical acts take the stage for TBA's international audience: the mercurial Shaky Hands (10 pm) and cult heroine Scout Niblett (11 pm).
Saturday has a more "anything goes" vibe with Universes (10 pm)—a fusion of "poetry, theater, jazz, hiphop, politics, down-home blues, and Spanish boleros." After they're done, it's time to shake your ass with the global party known as Dancepod (11 pm).
Sunday at 1 pm there's an awesome program for kids (the non-annoying kind) with Greasy Kid Stuff, Indiekid Films, and Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls progeny Plasmic Stallion. That night, things get loud and carnal with the ever-sexy and scandalous Fleshtone (10 pm), followed by Neal Medlyn and Kenny Mellman performing a show of R. Kelly songs (11 pm). That's what you call an amazing lineup!
Monday, get melancholy on the five-year anniversary of 9/11 with a mini-fest of nonfiction film-poems from the Oregon Department of Kick Ass (8 pm) and the insanely tender vocal stylings of Holcombe Waller (10 pm).
Still with us? Good, because you're about to get your gender bent on Tuesday night, as Sissyboy gets appropriately naughty at 10 pm, followed by Portland's newest electro-pop cabaret, Caught in Candy, at 11 pm.
Wednesday's a three-fer with the pirate/rock/puppet show explosion of Jollyship the Whiz-Bang (10 pm), the complex, borderline prog aggression of 31 Knots (11 pm), and the spastic electro-howls of our favorite one-man show, Panther (midnight).
If you've never seen Ten Tiny Dances perform on their four-by-four square-foot stage before, Thursday September 14 is your chance (10 pm).
Next Friday night, three post-cabaret acts take the stage at 10 pm: Taylor Mac, Julie Atlas Muz, and James Tigger! Ferguson all try to out-diva one another. Then the circus-trained Wau Wau Sisters will proceed to weird you out at 11 pm sharp.
Saturday nights are made not just for fighting, but also for music. To that end, you might want to catch Cynthia Hopkins and Gloria Deluxe performing alt-country songs (10 pm) and Portland's best laptop artist, Copy (11 pm).
Sunday the 17th means it's time to wind down, so Sutapa Biswas will show you her flammable songbirds (9 pm), and then the minimal, techno A/V spectacle of New Humans lulls you into a well-deserved slumber at 10 pm. All this for $50, you say? Thank you, PICA. CBThe Time-Based Art Festival runs Sept 7-17. For all the info, including ticket sales, head to TBA Central, 224 NW 13th, call the box office at 224-PICA, or hit pica.org