Connection was the common theme for TBA week two. Three collectives and a speaker connected diverse knowledge bases that wouldn’t otherwise overlap, bridging cultures and spanning eons. Each stream asked for the audience’s undivided attention, and even with Zoom glitches, the week produced a series in conversation with itself.
The unspoken conversation between two pieces—rise x fall (wip ii / At the End of Empire) by Rubén Garcia Marrufo, maximiliano, and Jaleesa Johnston, and the Radio iii / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ listening party hosted by artists Elisa Harkins and Hanako Hoshimi-Caines and moderated by Pablo de Ocampo—was a favorite takeaway. Both works are highly experimental. rise x fall is a body-focused performance and video piece, while Radio iii / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ is a contemporary Indigenous dance album presented as the score for modern dance duets and home music videos.
Taken together, the pieces’ most interesting moments are their most divergent. Radio iii / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ wants to highlight the collective’s individual talents (including those of Swedish artist Zoë Poluch, who couldn’t attend due to the time difference) where rise x fall indistinguishably blends them. While Radio iii / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ clearly contains recorded performances, rise x fall reads more like cinema and incorporates live performance and poetry.
I Speak to God in Public isn’t Bart Fitzgerald’s first TBA piece to mix Christian theology with artistic performance, but it is the one that felt most like a church service. The art world and the Christian church were connected for centuries, yet Fitzgerald’s take on praise and worship is still rare in both scenes—LGBTQ+ people are still seldom church leaders, even today. It can be hard to sit through if you have Jesus-related traumas, but Fitzgerald’s sincere joy is the only infection worth catching these days.
MCA Chicago curator Tara Aisha Willis’s introduction to Last Audience: a performance manual should have contextualized the piece’s narrated guide for a self-choreographed modern dance. Choreographer Yanira Castro conceived Last Audience in those torturous months between early quarantine and the start of the Black Lives Matter protest, which explained the urgent yearning for social alchemy. Without that context, Last Audience’s conceptual possibilities felt designed for people with too much free time, who think quick knee movements are simple tasks anymore. Last Audience transmits inspiration, but feels stuck in those halcyon days when we thought live performances would be back by now.
Stay tuned for one more dispatch from TBA 2020, and check out Portland Monthly’s story on how PICA pulled off this year’s distanced, digital festival.
Through Sept 30, FREE (pay-what-you-will donations encouraged), picatv.org