The event that made Portland a city of art

For the third year in a row those forward thinkers at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) have finished off a PDX summer in style by throwing Portland’s biggest art party, the Time Based Arts Festival. With performers arriving from all over the globe and performances touching all corners of expression, PICA once again proved why it is the artistic heart of Portland. While the individual performances ranged in quality as much as content the real star of TBA is the curatorial staff behind it. TBA encompasses not just the international showcase of artists in Portland, but the whole of Portland itself. From installations to natural phenomena, TBA highlighted the way our city can embrace and engender complex expression. ?”Dylan Tanner

STREB, Wild Blue Yonder

The highly acrobatic and physical dance troupe from the East Coast wowed the audience in Pioneer Square with a series of breathtaking short pieces in which the dancers pitted their bodies against the forces of physics. Launching themselves from trampolines, suspending themselves from bungee chords and throwing themselves against a Plexiglas wall, these dancers were completely committed to the choreography, which at times seemed openly sadistic. Like when two dancers tied to one another by a length of rope spent several minutes running in opposite directions and leaping into the air as the rope became taught, sending them both crashing to the stage. The performance leaves you aware of how your body moves through the urban environment, always in motion and never completely free of danger.

DJ Spooky, Rebirth of a Nation

Using an array of screens and computers, DJ Spooky, aka Paul Miller, manipulates W.D. Griffith’s landmark white supremacist propaganda film, “Birth of a Nation.” While he deconstructs Griffith’s vicious portrayal of the South during the Reconstruction he also mixes blues influenced music to create a blur of sound and image that is neither new nor old. It is less a documentation of wrongs past and more a warning of what may lie ahead of us. Griffith used the media of his day to portray blacks as a menace, and today’s media has the same tendency to paint disaster with a dark face.

Breakfast of Champions

Had I known about this group when their show was in residence at Holocene, I think my Sundays would have been wasted, or rather I would have spent my Sundays getting wasted. Offering Bloody Marys and an array of sugar breakfast cereals at The Works, the TBA festivals interim nightclub, the Breakfast of Champions players intersperse live sketch comedy with an array of cartoons from Betty Boop to Sealab 2020. The theme for their last TBA show. This irreverent group of performers were able to put a smile on some of the more serious art lovers in attendance. The afternoon dance party didn’t hurt much either, especially after several Bloody Marys and a bowl of Wheaties. Breakfast of Champions indeed.

Locust, Convenience

Locust is a multi-media dance group who pride themselves on their indie rock-credentials. The root of the group is the collaboration between choreographer and video artist Amy O’Neal and composer Zeke Keeble, both from Seattle. Blending an excellent mix of light hearted video segments, live percussion from Keeble and high contact dance choreography with a strong sense of rhythm, “Convenience” is an ingenious work from a strong talent pool. At times the lack of professional dance training from the male members of the group shows through, but it is not enough to diminish the performance. Locust is certainly worth the ticket and should return to Portland.

Ivana Muller, How Heavy Are My Thoughts

The success of this performance, a meandering but funny conjecture on the nature of thought, is not Ms. Muller’s affection or presence, but rather it’s complete absence. Instead, the narrative of How Heavy Are My Thoughts is told through footage of Muller, her progression through faux-scientific inquiry into the weight of thought, presented in classic power point monotone by a recruited “friend.” As it progresses we get the opportunity to watch Muller struggle to navigate both scientific process and its inability to adapt to the intangible question Muller presents. The esoteric absurdity of this piece could easily end in a pretentious mess, but Muller’s situationist humor and self-deprecating manner create a sense of naive exploration fitting to such a broad atmospheric question. ?”Dylan Tanner

Aphids, Skin Quartet

The performance of “Skin Quartet,” which incorporates a video projection of skin tattooed with facts and figures from the CIA Fact Book, and a string quartet reading an unconventional score from laptop computers, is much less interesting to me than how the performance was developed and put together. For instance, why did the composer decide to incorporate text and images into the actual score, prompting the musicians with colors, shapes and landscapes rather than actual notes? Which came first, the music or the images? Knowing these things would probably give one a much better appreciation of the actual piece, which may be a bit too tedious for people other than the most die-hard art fans.

Anthony and the Johnson’s

Anthony’s work is not well suited for the noisy decompression that is The Works. His style and sound would be much more at home in a quiet intimate setting with a rapt audience. Part Nina Simone, part Jeff Buckley and part Donovan, Anthony’s voice lulled the capacity audience crowding the stage into a dream-like sway. But technical problems plagued his set and the androgynous warbler seemed to rush from song to song in order to get it over with. A two-minute ovation could not get him to return to the stage. Those who have heard Anthony and the Johnson’s were likely disappointed by the performance, but those of us who have been ignorant of his music were treated to just a hint of how lovely it really is.