Opening night of this year's Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) felt cautiously optimistic. I have seen art shows during the pandemic, but not a live performance yet. I arrived at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) on Thursday evening before the Emily Johnson/Catalyst performance with composer Raven Chacon, collaborating with artists Holly Mititquq Nordlum, and Drew Michael. I and the rest of the audience congregated in PICA's event courtyard, awaiting the start of the performance.
Johnson casually enters the courtyard space, and then fills it with a scream, a yell, a protest, calling our attention. She then tells us a short story and then what will happen next. A walk together, outside of the courtyard. We are directed that we will head west, then south, and stop in front of a tree. Then head east again. It is then when we have returned east, that we will enter the performance space. Johnson elaborates that there there will be a mountain and that when we come to it, we'll walk around it twice.
The entire audience and myself unhurriedly follow Johnson out of the courtyard, and we all walk together, in a sort of amalgamated synchronization. This feels familiar, reminiscent of walking in line during adolescence. The steps of people's feet hitting the ground keeping pace, moving forward, creates rhythm. We reach the mountain, walk around it twice, and the performance starts. Johnson brings her immersive energy and control to every part of her performance. The result is a confluence of traditionalism and modernism that is refreshing, yet also introspective. We know where we’re going, but where does this lead?
One thing I'm seeing this year is a lot more co-presented events with other organizations — which I find really encouraging. It feels like there is more emphasis on collaboration amongst art organizations, galleries, and funding resources to bring artists' work to a public audience, no matter if it is virtual or in person. It is refreshing to see the regional collaborations with On The Boards, Wa Na Wari, as well as the Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University, Cooley Gallery, Reed College.
Alongside national and international collaborations from REDCAT, Arts Council England, and more, there will be an incredible collection of lectures and panel discussions relating to the work being shown throughout the festival, both physically and digitally. These are some virtual components of the festival that I am looking forward to.
All events are available to watch throughout the duration of the festival on PICA’s website, unless otherwise noted. You can find tickets here.
RICH KIDS: A HISTORY OF SHOPPING MALLS IN TEHRAN by playwright, director, filmmaker, and performer, Javaad Alipoor, will be the only video that will be streaming online that will need promptness in part of the viewer. The rest of the many videos will be available to watch throughout the duration of the festival at any time. September 17, 18, 19, 2021 at 7:00 pm.
The Drift —This a virtual reality experience and publication is described as “a visual archive of the future, where the politics and excuses for failed Indigenous repatriation are bypassed through an inexplicable force that returns all that is lost and stolen. Echoing the circular path from extraction to healing,” according to the show description. This is the culmination of a multi-year project by Garrick Imatani with Travis Stewart and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The Drift runs for approximately 15 minutes, and has a limited capacity but will be available to the public throughout the duration of the festival in PICA’s Resource Room.
There You Are — A performance that will take place via phone call and text message. The performance will be a one-on-one, individualized musical performance piece by Holland Andrews. The performance will key in on the personal connection, without the participants needing to be within the same space together. I like the idea of Andrews calling me up to sing over a phone; this feels very exclusive and immersive despite the physical limitations. You’ll have the opportunity to reserve your name on the list for a phone call through the duration of the festival, but reservations are required as this is an “off pass.” Tickets are $20.
Fellow to Felt —A multi-channel video series by Eileen Isagon Skyers (Brooklyn, NY) that will be streaming virtually on Instagram and online. The video series “features original and found footage, archival photographs, and obscure historical events, spliced together with pop culture and internet references” in relation to aspects of Filipina/o American identity and tradition.
We’ll also get a sneak peek of Clown Down 2: Clown Out of Water by Portland’s foremost drag clown Carla Rossi, which doesn’t premiere until 2022. In this video, Rossi is trapped on a rock in the ocean while the water level rises due to melting ice caps. In part 2 of this drag farce series, Rossi discusses the very real problems we face on our planet with humor, wit, and intelligence through interactive media and puppetry.
Other artists will show brief videos of in-process work, including participants of the Indigenous Residency Series—Anthony Hudson, Arias Hoyle and Steven Paul Judd—as they have been working with host organizations PICA, Bunnell Street Arts Center and NM Bodecker Foundation over the past several years.
Some of my personal favorite parts of TBA have been when there are takeaways and ephemera available to the audience. There will be two publications available during the festival. Eileen Isagon Skyers's edition of "The Who Cares Clock," designed by Stephen Lurvey, is an ongoing, time-based print project conceived and edited by PICA Artist Director Kristen Kennedy, and is available to purchase by mail. The publication looks at both the “spring equinox and summer solstice as original sites for universal human imagination.” The concept feels especially relevant as we moved through this past year, asking questions like “What does it mean to give up, forget, or ignore linear time, and to acknowledge natural, personal, or abstract time? Are we in the end times, or are we just beginning?”
Skyers also has an installation, Fellow to Felt, viewable online and on social media, as well as an artist lecture (all artist lectures this year will be presented virtually). Heldáy de la Cruz’s publication “Dáyquiri: Little Poems” will be released on October 2, 2021 at 12 pm and will be available to purchase in person with COVID-19 safety precautions. It is a collection of poetry that the artist and community organizer has been compiling for the past seven years, throughout his early twenties. This collection is meant to be an exploration of the “evolution of identity, the swinging in and out, and the life experiences that still happen amidst crisis.”
Ashley Gifford is a writer, photographer, and technology professional based in Portland, Oregon. She is the Founder/Editor of Art & About—part art blog, part publication, part resource—documenting art in the Pacific Northwest since 2014. She has written for Art Practical, Oregon Arts Watch, and many other publications.