Of course, the art extends well beyond the beer garden. The strongest, almost unavoidable theme of this year is DANCE. Eleven of the 18 mainstage shows have been dance-centered works, and we’re transitioning now from Western performers to the two North African performers, which will hopefully prove an interesting contrast. If you find dance a hard thing to tackle, we highly suggest one of TBA’s Field Guide sessions, where a small group gets together with a dancer before the show to talk about the work they’re going to see and its context, then sees it together, and then decompresses afterward, hopefully over drinks at the Works.
There’s still a solid weekend left of shows. If you want help navigating, check out our:
Experts' Guide to PICA's Time-Based Art Festival
Since TBA has grown into an international festival, we asked curators from around the country to give us the inside scoop on their favorite artists. Shows they recommend that you can still catch include: Bouchra Ouzguen (rescheduled to Sept 19–21), Miguel Gutierrez (Sept 20–21), Karen Sherman (Sept 20–21), Ivana Muller (Sept 21–22), and Anna Craycroft: C'mon Language (thru 21).
And if you want to compare notes or get a taste of what you missed, here’s a round up of our reviews in reverse chronology. More to come.
Day 6 - Third Angle New Music: In the Dark
The new music ensemble’s solved the age-old problem—what do you look at during a concert—by plunging you into complete and utter blackness at the OMSI Planetarium (unless you’re a regular caver or sensory deprivation chamber user, you don’t realize how dark that is until you’re in it). With the four musicians placed around the room playing Georg Friedrich Haas’ most provocative piece, String Quartet No. 3, “In iij. Noct”, the music rose, spun, and scattered; it was easy to imagine what it's like to fly with the swifts. Midnight tonight is the last show. Grab a ticket if you still can.
Day 6 - Miguel Guitierrez and the Powerful People: And lose the name of action
Review to come.
Day 5 Works - Getting To Know You(Tube)
A team of “experts” led us deep into the culture of YouTube—a journey both hilarious and profound (but mostly hilarious). From an exploration of the cover song (and the covers of covers) with Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” as our subject to rare gems like Chewbacca dancing to Guns and Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” to the most infamous part: the comments section.
Day 4 - Linda Austin and David Eckard: Three Trick Pony
Of the many challenges a dancer/choreographer can take on, 60 minutes on stage solo is about as hard as it gets. Second hardest would be dancing with props. For Three Trick Pony, longtime Portland dance-maker Linda Austin combined the two. She also added a third risk, using sculpture for the props, in this case, by longtime local sculptor David Eckard. There were moments of high craft, concept, and, once in a while, humor. Yet, unfortunately, this was a dance longer on transitions than fusion.
Day 4 Works - Nick Hallett: Rainbow Passage
The New York composer brought a scientific text to saturated sonic life with help from singers including Holcombe Waller, the Julians, Matt Carlson, and Jonathan Sielaff.
Day 4 Works - Like a Villian: Make Well
Musician Holland Andrews declared early in her one-woman show that her goal was to leave her audience feeling spiritually healed. It’s a bold claim that might feel a little ambitious until the first notes from Andrews’ solo project reveal a singer who—and I’m trying not to be hyperbolic here—basically redefines what it means to be in complete command of one’s voice.
Day 3 Works - Critical Mascara: A Post-Realness Drag Ball
Portland turned it out for a runway battle of fierceness and glamour. Categoris: Diva Practice, Glamour Gore, Vogue, and Haaaaiiiirrrr. Audience: insane. Here were there looks.
Day 3 - Meow Meow and Thomas Lauderdale with the Oregon Symphony
So I haven't had the chance to review this show, which is kind of stupid, because it was far and away the best performance I've seen yet at the festival—and the most sheer unadultated pleasure I've had at a show in a long time.
Meow Meow is a cabaret diva of the first order, and she put on a performance unlike anything you've ever seen with a symphony and likely ever will see again. She started the show in the balcony and proceeded to cover almost every foot of the Schnitz (and a half dozen languages) in her explosive kamikaze performance that took more than a few symphony regulars by surprise. She stage dived (some older patrons huddled in their seats, arms overhead, trying to shield themselves as the vamp passed over). She pulled audience onstage to be her chair and mic stand. She ended up in a slip at the start of the second act (turns out her gown had only been rented for the opening number) and forced Carlos Kalmar and Thomas to strip to their undies, which were revealed to be union jack suits. She was joined first by the Von Trapp children to yodel through "The Lonely Goatheard," and then by the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Portland Gay Men's Choir for a grand finale worthy of the The Muppet Show. She got three standing ovations (one at intermission!) And then she broke our hearts with the encore, a cover of Patty Griffin's "Be Careful" in almost total darkness. It was the most beautiful disaster.
Day 2 - CAMPO/Pieter Ampe & Guilherme Garrido: Still Standing You
If you ever were a boy, had boys, played with boys, or wanted to be one, you’ll recognize the romp of punishment and play taken to the extreme that was Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido’s Still Standing You. These two friends demolished every physical boundary of their relationship in a dance of humor, intimacy, sadism, and tenderness. You haven’t laughed until you’ve seen a grown many bellow into the foreskin of another like it’s a blow horn.
Day 2 - Trajal Harrell: Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure)
The beginning of this conceptual fantasy exploring the meeting of Judson Church’s post-modern dance scene with Harlem’s vogueing ball scene was long and uncomfortable. Spotlights shined in the audience’s eyes, Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” blared out of the speakers, and the three dancers sat in chairs and did next to nothing. But then, halfway through, the dam broke, and the vogueing rushed forth in a deluge. An audience close to nodding off minutes before was suddenly bouncing in its seats. In other words, M2M didn’t make for an easy journey, but ultimately getting to watch them learn to werk it was worth the struggle.
Harrell’s second performance, Antigone Jr., was blissfully shorter yet even more impenetrable in its concept.
Day 2 - Lola Arias: El año en que nací
This multimedia retelling of the Pinochet dictatorship through the Chilean performer's parents' lives was an evocative and touching convergence of personal and national history, and a crucial reminder of how hard the two are to pull apart. Though the show’s unorthodox and sometimes clunky presentation didn’t always perfectly hit the target, when it did, it left a mark.
Day 2 - bobbevy: This is how we disappear
The Portland company contemplated time and relationships through contemporary dance and custom electronics, including videos of flying birds and row after row of identical trees, as well as an interlude of rapidly cycling fluorescent animal images projected over the dancers’ faces. With less skillful execution, the digital elements would have been distracting at best. But somehow, despite the electronically wired costumes and synthesized backdrop, this meditation on time and relationships was, at its core, simply a beautiful dance.
Day 2 Works- Peter Burr: Special Effect
Green lasers. Smoke machines. A big screen and a stage strewn with electronic gadgets, baubles, and shells. Like some electronic shaman, Burr took us on a multimedia vision quest.
Preview: Q&A with the Blow
We talked with the New York-via-Portland art-pop duo about pop music, its long-awaited new album, and Lady Gaga.