On Sunday, I withstood a few minutes of Dan Gilsdorf’s Diabolus in Musica, watching singers in an outward-facing circle, each humming one note to maintain a single chord. As the serious singers ignored the viewers from close range, like Buckingham Palace guards, I basked in the heady dissonance. If (as 18th-century Catholicism contended) that chord is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Even more transporting, were Blackfish ‘s understated strains of slide-guitar and loops of ambient noise. On a floor-cushion at Imago theater, I laid my head on my arms and dreamt of coasting through warm dark water. When the music faded, I bought a disc so I could conjure their black magic again. But if you’ll pardon the pun, I have a few more of my own closing notes to add:
Claudia La Rocco
Many thanks to my New-York-imported cohort Claudia La Rocco, not only for covering the other half of TBA, but for making me stretch my critical muscles to keep pace. Ms. La Rocco and I didn’t get a lot of down-time, but we were able to exchange perspectives on particular pieces and the art of arts writing in general. I’ve enjoyed reading Claudia’s reviews and hearing your comments about them, and through the collaboration, I’ve also learned more about my own motives and style. Claudia follows her own compass, and I hope I can continue to fine-tune mine.
Kept hoping I could spin this into its own post, but there are only two things I want to say:
1) Light Asylum (most especially lead singer Shannon Funchess, also featured in Yemenwed) were especially boss and massive, creating that Laurie-Anderson-esque electrically-charged ambience that one obliquely associates with "New York performance art rock."
2) Jenny Hoyston and Sarah Faith Gottesdiener must have a great little black book, and only an OK email list, because the talent they assembled should’ve wrangled more watchers. Next time Jenny very casually suggests you check something out— do so.
Much of my time at The Works, was spent hunting the elusive Yemenwed. Four times when I tried to view it, the 45-odd-minute video sequence had crashed under its own weight, and the projector was inert. On Sunday I finally watched the whole thing—with my visiting parents. "World’s biggest metronome and frustrated lesbians," my pragmatic dad summarized. I was too tired to argue. On further reflection, the animation (which features fanciful architecture and characters, unfolding around a metronome/obelisk) invites comparison to Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, but with surprising overtones of Shamanism amid the super-futuristic tableau. And the performance piece features two young dancers in slightly poodle-esque costumes and postures, a hotel-room set, and various other elements that converge in a "you had to be there" arts moment that, while captured on film, still evades interpretation. Anyway, I can finally say I caught the Yemenwed. Inasmuch as that was possible.
The People’s Biennial
The display features everything from Lego creations, to soap carvings, to documentary film footage about bees. Does it make a statement about diversity, or is it too diffuse to make a statement at all? Here at PM, we’ve agreed that this merits more discussion, so we’re currently editing a slide show, and a list of a few interesting arts conundrums that come up when you view all these works, as one collection. Watch this space. The People’s Biennial has proven the hardest work to "wrap up."
This night evoked the most "Portland" feeling for me. Jane Paik’s regimented, asexual schoolroom dance piece (led by AEQUANIMITAS fashion-house ingenue Heather Treadway) perfectly embodied the hipster paradox: the fact that a seeming bunch of bored kids will fall into perfect formation and show complete wherewithal, the minute music is played. Later, a drum kit, draped in slinky white spandex by Sarah Johnson, billowed and rippled with every hit, offering the audience a rare view of the actual air that drum-playing can displace. As Johnson tightened the fabric around the ghostly drummer and kit, I sympathized with the noise restrictions often imposed on percussive practicers within a confined space. (Please pardon your neighborhood drummer’s noise; it’s the sound of freedom.)
German pop singer Gandalf Gavan, wearing furry robes and emoting through his flutey pipes, may as well have been a majestic elf prince. But for those who preferred sci-fi to fantasy, Ronnie Bass closed the night with a live performance of his video piece, The Astronomer, which had been on display at The Works throughout TBA. Cheers of recognition proved that the crowd was already fond of his sparse, trepidatious electronica-scored space-travel scenarios.
This performance by the pair in Philadelphia, pales in comparison to the TBA set, but gives you a general idea:
Ms. Hallett, Portland Mercury arts editor, got talking with me at The Works the other night. It took us a minute to place one another, at which point she blurted, "Oh my god. I just made fun of you on Twitter!" Apparently, Allison hates the way I’ve been using commas, and blasted me for it online. Fair enough. While I’ll try to be more mindful of this style peccadillo in the future, my main takeaway from the exchange was, "Hooray! Allison Hallett has been reading Culturephile!" Will Portland Monthly finally be removed from The Mercury’s "enemies" list? Maybe if I stick with the suggested program of punctuation reform.
Shall I describe the emotions and scenarios that unfolded during Jasperse dance? The first half, on a black stage, tended variously toward the sexual, the kitschy, and the humorous. The second half, illuminated in white light on all sides, got serious—with depictions of prideful party personas, and a wrenching slow-motion fight sequence between a man and a woman. The faces of the pair rippled with the impact of the blows like so much white spandex. If the two parts of Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat-Out Lies reference the private and the public sectors, Jasperse made a provocative choice by plunging humor in darkness, and bringing violence to light. But who can say? By all accounts, it was a surreal and engrossing Lynchian spectacle.
What else can I say? There was too much to see. I remain haunted and inspired, inundated—and, I’ll admit, pretty tired. Thanks, TBA. See you next year.