lets ghettoize the arts.

settle in kids, this is gonna be a long one.

i think that PICA‘s TBA festival is far enough behind me now that i can finally look back on it without being exhausted. thanks to keight, who brought me along to many of last years TBA events, i wanted to hit up as many of this years shows as possible. i spent a good amount of time looking at the schedule and doing math. the TBA guide became my bible for two weeks, i didn’t mind, there was a beautiful picture of antony on the cover.

morgan, cheryl and i went to the opening night part at leftbank, where the PICA’s after hours program called the works were all held. none of us are really good at the mingling thing so we mainly wandered around the building checking out the art and talking. there were a couple of performances first was deelay ceelay, a audio visual group comprised of two drummers and a producer, the visuals were produced earlier and projected onto a screen behind them. they were pretty good, reminiscent of don caballero and battles. unfortunatly they were playing when we got there so we weren’t paying that much attention. instead we spent too much time looking at the installation works in the basement. which we all agreed was kind of mess. the biggest piece was big skin by lizzie fitch. the installation took up a large room and there was a path that led you through what seemed ,to me anyway, to tell the story of  a little girl going through life. the piece was not successfull at all, there were plastic cast of body parts everywhere and far too much ikea furniture. it didn’t really seem like there was much planning or intent with the layout, it really needed a more editorial eye. in the gallery space there were some sculptures by corey lunn, these were better but not great, i don’t think that they really worked with the surroundings. we tried to watch some of the video pieces, but the small rooms were too crowded and stuffy. underwhelmed by the art we went back upstairs to see the sloppy mishmash of the flash choir, a large vocal group that just didn’t work right. we left thankful that it was a free event.

the next night after the amazing antony show we went back to leftbank for the neal medlyn live experience. i was looking forward to a performance artist’s redition of the beyonce live experience dvd, while doing my research for TBA i read many great reviews of his perfromance in nyc. i watched the beyonce dvd awhile ago and found it to be quite spellbinding, in a r kelly/trapped in a closet kind of way, so it is ripe for parody. when we got to leftbank it was packed and had a strong funk of body odor. neal medlyn was already performing and were turn off almost immediately. he and his backup dancers were fully commited to the horrible karaoke, but there was no real show. it was just a “look at me and how weird i can be” thing. we were expecting more of a spectacle. after neal medlyn was done someone named ice rod performed, a white rapper rapping about art school and the suburbs. bad bad bad bad. the whole night was just a level of irony that i am not okay with. it was almost to a point of brainwashing the hipster masses, who seem to  enjoy it not because they liked it but because they felt that had to.

on a beautiful sunday morgan and i met up with caleb down at the sw waterfront discovery center, which is a show room for all the condo towers that are going up on the waterfront right now. we were there to see a performance by the sojourn theater called built, we had no idea what we were in for. after we checked in we were brought to a table and asked to set up a street using cards with businesses on them, we had to decide which we want close to us and which should be far away. then we were ushered to one of the display kitchens and met our tour guide. he started talking about community and how the new developments are going to affect the future of community. the tour was interrupted by a small dance which had the various tour guides acting out getting ready for entertaining and going to other kitchens to be entertained. after the skit the kitchen groups were brought into an office and were asked to combine our streets into a community with they other members. so of course the business you don’t want to be next too ends up being next to your neighbor. one of the group almost threw down with caleb over where the art should be fuming “why do you want to ghettoize the arts?”  after that there was a short monologue and another performance about being new in the neighborhood and acceptance. we were again brought into a office and combined with another group to set up a metropolitan city using our previously set up communities. the highlight was a tightrope performance about the difficulties of choosing and buying a house, the movements and dialogue were on point. the performance ended with tour guides asking about the perfect community and screaming out the answers while someone did their best to draw the plan up as fast as she could. it was a very effective performance.

on monday afternoon cheryl, caleb and i gathered at the winningstad theater for the tiago guedes performance materiais diversos. he started out a bit slow basically moving around the stage with out any music, only the sounds of his own feet. we could tell that his movements were precise and planned but not really sure why. then he laid down on the floor and slowly pull a chair to him, on the chair were some various materials (get it?). with those materials he repeat the same movement only this time we could see that the movements had meaning. he built a landscape, a river and finally an ocean. we never really figured out the point of the performance other than the whimsy of it all maybe he also wanted to make a statement about patience, the first fifteen to twenty minutes of silent mime was a bit of a challenge. by the end though his performance turned into quite of visual piece that we all enjoyed.

later that night i went to leftbank by myself for a show by ethan rose. i have never heard of him, the TBA guide made him sound right up my alley though. the description mentioned musique concrete, found sounds, and soundscapes, i knew i would like it. like most sound artists he started slowly layering samples with a piano, a modified autoharp and a harmonica. then he slowly tweaked them on his mixing board and added some vocal samples. when he was done constructing he let the soundscape swirl to a climax and left the audience fairly stunned.

two nights later morgan and i were back at leftbank to see nollifur, another person we had not heard of but sounded good on the page. before nollifur played a group called french fry and root beer played. as a whole they weren’t that good, but i thought that their lead guitarist and drummer should really strike out on their own. the other two members seem to drag them down. nollifur was great though, dancey electro pop with a slight experimental edge that i could appreciate. he also had a smart and very well choreographed video projected onto the large screen behind him. it made me sad that he played to half the crowd that the first band did.

on friday night i again met up with cheryl and caleb at the imago theater for a performance by philippe quesne/vivarium studio called l’effet de serge. this was a charming piece all about social awkwardness. it centered on serge who likes to put on little shows for his friends, only it seems that serge does not have very good conversation skills. the show seemed to take a cue from the office, awkward silences and rather real characters. the little shows he put on were quirky, funny and rather minimal. in one he choreographed a remote control box and in another it was flashing car lights on and off. this offbeat performance was great and i hope to get to see them again someday. pictures were forbidden so these aren’t my picture’s, i got them from the PICA photostream on flickr.

after the performance we went to my apartment, where morgan was waiting for us, and killed time eating chocolate coconut bliss and pound cake. we then went to leftbank (we were pretty sick of the place by this point) for a night called our hit parade. it was suppose to be various artists reinterpreting the current music charts. the night was hosted by kenny mellman and neal medlyn. we were not that excited about it after the previous weeks beyonce experience. this wasn’t much better. some of them did okay, but for the most part it came off as bad karaoke. we spent time in the basement watching the videos that we couldn’t watch the week before. cheryl and i went back upstairs in time to catch the two of the better acts. one was an interpretive dance done to m.i.a.‘s “paper planes”, a performance that wouldn’t of been out of place at burning man. the other was an operatic version of rihanna‘s “disturbia”, which i was loving till the singer stopped and ranted about how stupid america is then sang his own parody called “suburbia”. i could go on about his rant but for some reason he really angered me with his rather uninformed opinion and unnecessary hatred of pop music. after that the evening really went downhill with neal medlyn stripping to a miley cyrus song, and a bad duet from a bad disney movie. we fled the venue as soon as it was over.

the last TBA event was the city dance of lawrence and anna halprin. in the early seventies portland opened a series of fountains designed by lawrence halprin. his wife anna was a pioneering choreographer of modern dance. using anna halprin’s choreography, all four of lawrence halprin’s portland sequence parks, the third angle new music ensemble, and what seemed to be every dancer portland has to offer they took us on a two hour tour through downtown. starting at the keller fountain with a group of dancers wearing light blue and white, they started at the top of the fountain and slowly descended for a small group performance. that is when this segment dragged the most, wallowing in the modern dance swishy cliches. then they ascended the fountain again before a bell rang telling us to move to the next next park, pettygrove park. i couldn’t find a good picture of the park, so just imagine the teletubby’s land, lots of small mounds. this segment was a much looser piece, and by far the most boring. the group of orange dressed dancers went from mound to mound chanting vaguely new ageish sayings. the park’s design was not meant for performance and the sight lines were horrible, so for the most part i zoned out and listened to the music, till the bell rang and they corralled us to the next stop, the lovejoy fountain. this was my favorite part of the program. the yellow dressed dancer used all parts of the fountain it really interesting ways, they did lots of separate pieces and did interesting things with upside down cups of water. this was also the only segment that seemed natural, not forced, with the music. i was a little sad when the bell rang. we were led down a narrow path and asked to hold hands and circle around the source fountain. it was all a bit much for me, as most of you know i am not big on the touching, especially with strangers. i haven’t mentioned the music yet, the music was the best part of the whole performance. the third angle new music ensemble did a fantastic job interpreting pieces by morton subotnick, pauline oliveros, and terry riley. all composers that approach music the same way that a painter would approach a painting.

on the way home we stopped by the paintallica gallery that was set up in the bottom of a large condo development near our house. the show was made up entirely of found objects and seemed to have a slightly native american bent to it. the separate works didn’t really do that much for us but as a whole it made a statement that we agreed with.

Thanks to PICA for making me exhausted for a week, maybe next year i can afford to take some time off to make it to all the events. they do need to step up the events at the works next year though, enough with irony.


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