occurring three places simultaneously: PDX Window Project (612 NW 12th), Seaplane (3352 SE Belmont), Pacific Switchboard (4637 N. Albina), June 3, 7 pm
Bombing in cafes, issues of momentum and synchronized timing, and the emotional tension of suspended destruction are all themes being worked out in The Events Preceding: Level 2, the second phase of a trilogy by local painter Marty Schnapf and Tahni Holt, the choreographer and artistic director for Monster Squad. Their trilogy began in February with an exhibition of Schnapf's hard-edged explosive landmine paintings at Stumptown. The culmination of the collaboration between Schnapf and Monster Squad will reach a head at PICA's TBA Festival this fall, with a Monster Squad performance called In Under an Hour with an original Schnapf installation and live score by Menomena.
Before then, however, Phase Two must occur, and this First Thursday is when it's happening. At exactly 7:00 pm Monster Squad dancers will trigger destructive machines built by Schnapf to annihilate panes of tempered glass at the PDX Window Project in the Pearl, Pacific Switchboard in North Portland, and Seaplane in the SE. Since our current time/space continuum prevents us from being able to witness all three performances concurrently, they will be shown on video at Pacific Switchboard once they have a chance to edit the video footage (about a week after the event). To get an idea of what Holt and Schnapf were up to, I visited their studios in the SE Warehouse District to talk about time, tension, and the collaborative process.
Give us a little background about what's happened so far in this trilogy.
MARTY SCHNAPF: The Landmine paintings were the point from which Tahni and I launched off. The paintings were started before we decided that we would collaborate, and when we began to flesh out collaborative ideas, the paintings became a point of departure. And one of those points was the idea of momentum--ideas of force and movement. Given these interests, we started looking for a structure to build our piece around. The Landmine paintings were shown in a café, and we liked the idea that this explosion was happening in a meeting place, a common place. The cafes are where the beginning signs of unrest are, but however socio-political this structure leans, to us, it's also an emotional, interpersonal structure. What are the personal landmines in your own café? And what are the events preceding those explosions?
Are the three pieces intended to be seen as a narrative progression?
TAHNI HOLT: It is for us, but it doesn't have to be for other people. For me, dance always implies a narrative structure, but when people come to see one of my dances, they don't necessarily see a story being played out. I also want to add to how this project came about. Marty and I wanted to explore how to truly collaborate, as opposed to commissioning Marty to design a set for a dance or Marty commissioning Monster Squad to perform in his installation. We really wanted to create a true collaboration in our field and to create a project that encompasses all that we do.
Where did your interests in synchronized time and simultaneous action come from?
MS: Initially, we were going to incorporate the glass breakers into the final dance, but along the way, we realized that they were their own separate work. We wanted to be able to hit different neighborhoods all at once, and then that became very relevant to the subject matter. We liked the idea of creating an action that occurred in three different places where the viewers were aware that something else was going on at the same time, but they could only experience what was in front of them. And when three things happen simultaneously in different locations, it's a lot more chaotic.
Are you surprised there aren't more cross-disciplinary collaborations in Portland?
MS: Definitely. Portland has such a strong DIY mentality, and that can often become overly individualistic. Especially when you can "do it" with other people. There are incredible resources in Portland, a lot of energetic young artists, and I think collaborations like this will happen more as we go along.
So you guys are more of a DIT group: Do It Together...
TH: Absolutely. Artists have incredible relationships with other artists, but the connections are frequently more pragmatic than creative. What we've done is to try to take a risk and find people that we really want to work with, and so far it's worked out really, really well. CHAS BOWIE