April 13 and 14, 8 p.m.
PCC Sylvania 12000 S.W. 49th
$13 for PICA members, $16 non-members
Available at 219 N.W. 12th, Jackpot Records, Clinton St. Video, and POVA, or by calling (503) 242-1419.
Sometimes, when the daily constructs of this life get to be too much and weigh me down so that I’ve got the blues, I wonder if God is a shining disco ball, we (music and dance lovers) are the hopeless followers, and that spirituality has been reformatted to fit the into the spitfire grooves of a turntable. This is my hope: That I can turn from all this chaos at any moment and make sense of life again through the formulaic entity of music.
This is a) highly unlikely to happen to me at this point, and b) not the ’70s anymore. But could salvation happen for those pushed overboard by societal constructs? This is the question Jane Comfort poses, in her off-Broadway show “Asphalt.”
“Asphalt” is a dance/opera that speaks of the trials of life and how one artist and aspiring DJ tries to escape them through the samples of hard beats and ambient loops. This is an extremely complex work of art, melding opera, spoken-word poetry, visual art and the sounds of trip hop, made possible by the work of Carl Hancock Rux, Toshi Reagon and DJ Spooky.
Rux, an incendiary poet and dramatist, is known for pulling together poetry, music, dance and theater to create experimental works of art that transcend the borders of each of those genres. He was called by the New York Times Magazine, “One of the Thirty Artists Under the Age of Thirty Most Likely to Influence Culture Over the Next Thirty Years.”
Toshi Reagon, who has worked with Comfort before is an acclaimed folk rock artist, who has toured with her band, Big Lovely, across the United States. She is the daughter of Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.
DJ Spooky, someone the college scene is much more likely to know, has provided the rhythms for all this experimentation to take place in.
Jane Comfort and Co., whose Broadway shows have been hailed by the Village Voice and Backstage, who has received grants from the NEA, and toured across Europe, brings us a story, through movement and music of a young artist, abandoned as a child, who is a squatter, kicked out of his music-filled ghetto and forced to seek alternative ways of defining his life. Through music and the scenes of the New York City, he is ravished by the collage of art in street life.
The producers of this play wanted so much for the audience to have a sense of the boundless ways of music, they decided to stage a rave scene as the audience was walking in, giving the audience the confusion of whether they were at art or in it.
The focus character, Racine, gets so caught up in this same confusion and in the art that he is lulled by the ambient beats and begins to have visions of his family, and of a path that he might be able to take. The journey he takes is not unlike that of a Greek hero. In fact some of the words Rux put to the score are sung by a chorus, just like in Greek plays.
This is a fine opportunity to see some of New York’s most refreshing artists. Coming on Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14 to PCC Sylvania, and brought to you by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, you do not want to miss this show. Go and see if you can even begin to feel the possibilities that art holds for you, if you’re willing to go outside of common boundaries to find it.