As the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) presented the 12th iteration of the Time-Based Art Festival September 11-21, two newer festivals (Feast Portland and XOXO) also peppered the Rose City with foodie events and tech talk galore.
TBA, under the artistic direction of Angela Mattox, formerly the performing arts curator at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, emphasized music and vocal experiments in this year’s program. The international festival is distinct in its presenting platform and density of experimental performance, making it well worth the hour flight to Oregon from San Francisco.
“Women my age are disappearing. My Facebook friends are no longer my friends, their toddlers are my friends.”
This sulk comes courtesy of a Kristina Wong character: a single, child-free woman in her late 20s, the titular Cat Lady in Wong's show (performed last weekend at ODC Theater). With a glint in her eye, Wong tells the story of adopting Oliver the cat from a cat lady, who emerged from her cat lady-ness by getting married and having children. Wong, in a red blouse dress, kneepads, and white sneakers, maintains that as a solo theater artist her plays are her children, and she is doing important work ending suicide, depression, and racism with theater, the subject matter of these shows.
With a direct and devious style, Wong immediately has the audience in stitches during an opening monologue, in which she rocks a baby doll and fantasizes about the string connecting her to her soul mate that gets shorter and shorter until they are so close. She’s not the only lonely one. Feline costar Oliver, played by the grand Miss Barbie-Q in a black crushed velvet jumpsuit, also aches for affection, having been abandoned by his previous owner. Sequences of Wong chasing a laser pointer light, along with theater improvisation games and dance interludes, keep the talk of loneliness light and surreal, with a fugue here and a quartet of dancing elastic waistband pants there. Read more »
Just up the coast, the contemporary art binge that is Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s (PICA) ninth Time Based Art Festival (TBA) bubbled with fluidity and openness as the resounding spirit. From September 8-18 that fluidity and openness occurred between contemporary art practices, between the city and the art, between performers and audience members, between onstage and offstage. Not only addressing current global issues, the festival embraced the increasingly porous walls between art disciplines and outside fields, collapsing the container for presenting art experiences.
Under the direction of Cathy Edwards (also the Director of Performance Programs at New Haven’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas and formerly of Dance Theater Workshop and Movement Research), TBA employs a nomadic citywide platform requiring attendees to explore nooks and crannies with eleven main venues spread throughout the four quadrants of Portland. PICA headquarters the festival at the closed Washington High School called “The Works,” a hub for the round-the-clock possibilities including morning workshops with the TBA artists, noontime salons, afternoon happenings, evening performances and late night activity with a beer garden for gathering, digesting and discussing. The clear nights, lush nature, industrial pockets, culinary delights and bike-friendliness that accompany the festival indeed dovetail with the tastes of many San Francisco residents, and help make TBA a ten-day utopia for art lovers.
Watching Lemi Panafasio/MAU’s Tempest: Without a Body on Thurs/7 amplified the grave feeling I often possess when I read the newspaper. The sense of deep empathy and sadness in an effort to understand the unsettling and horrific events in the world permeated the experience. Tempest delivered a heavy reminder of the ugly oppression and destruction of which humans are capable. The visceral result of the performance lingered after the curtain descended, as many of my generally chatty acquaintances remained quiet and introspective in the lobby. The post-show vibe highlighted the transformative power of this very big work composed of rich imagistic theater and ritual dance from the Pacific. The company, MAU, employs indigenous artists to perform outside of the original context of their art form, and the form strongly translates in the context of Tempest. Read more »
People who have never performed in their life can take the stage this week at CounterPulse. While artists-in-residence Kegan Marling and Eric Kupers spent the past few months creating new work to premiere this week, they also re-envisioned the black box theater space, turning platforms, nooks, and crannies into performance areas, and situating audience seats to surround the action and also exist smack in the middle of the stage. Read more »
The empty, Depression-era McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn was, until 2009, a hip venue packed with vibrant twenty-somethings for concerts and summer “pool parties” alike. It’s also appropriately the location for the opening dance scene in NY Export: Opus Jazz, a film celebrating youthful exuberance, during which, fresh-faced New York City Ballet members in sneakers and street clothes perform the original 1958 Jerome Robbins choreography from the ballet of the same name. Exuding vigor and cool, the film, conceived by New York City Ballet soloists Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi, marks the first return of Robbins’ choreography to the streets of New York since West Side Story. NY Export: Opus Jazz made its San Francisco premiere on Fri./25 at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center as part of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, directed by Greta Schoenberg. Read more »
Stories aren't just for youngsters who read The Very Hungry Caterpillar before bed or tell scary tales around a campfire. The big kids need stories too, and lucky for San Francisco, the city boasts dynamic performers enacting mature and human stories on stage. Feeding complex chronicles to the souls of grown up audience members, Paul Flores, Living Word Project, Campo Santo and Word for Word do their parts to prove stories for big kids rule. Read more »