The 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. Sept 12–22
Before we dive into the festival, we bring you a brief word from the performer we anticipate the most, the initimable Meow Meow. She headlines the fest on Saturday with Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale, the Oregon Symphony, and a slew of special guests, and here she is to give you an exclusive sneak peek of what the show will involve:
Now on to the rest of the fest. We all know that PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival brings artists from around the globe, but did you know that about a quarter of its audience also comes from out of town, drawn by its sparkling international reputation—that was some 6,600 people last year! Amongst these art-loving jet-setters are a significant number of bigwig curators and arts leaders.
“As a West Coast presenter and curator, TBA is the destination to see new contemporary performance in a concentrated time frame—Seattle, San Francisco, and LA have nothing like it,” says Jessica Robinson Love, artistic director at San Francisco’s CounterPULSE.
“It continues to represent an essential gathering of curators, programmers, arts activists, and audiences,” agrees Philip Bither, senior curator of performing arts at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center.
Given these global taste-makers have worked with many of the artists performing at TBA this year, we asked them to tell us about the shows they’re most excited to see. (You can read our picks for the festival and a profile of the convention-shirking artistic director Angela Mattox in our Fall Arts Preview.)
the curators' top picks:
Campo/Pieter Ampe & Guilherme Garrido: Still Standing You
Sept 13–14 at 6:30; Winningstad Theatre
The one performance I'm really looking forward to is Still Standing You by Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido. Physically demanding performance intrigues me; it's so far from my own experience in the world of objects and visual art. I hear that it's an exhausting piece for the performers, and I wonder if the audience will feel a kind of similar exhaustion...the good kind, like after a great workout. —Todd Tubutis, executive director at Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts
Lola Arias: El ano en que naci (The Year I Was Born)
Sept 13 & 15 at 6:30, Sept 14 at 4:30; Imago Theater
I have admired the past theater works and art installations of interdisciplinary artist Lola Arias and was captivated last year when I caught a video of her newest acclaimed work, El Ano que naci (The Year I Was Born), an exploration of how a generation makes sense of history several decades after a time of violent turmoil. While grounded in Chile’s modern history of revolution and dictatorship, its distinctive real life cast under Arias’ direction conveys a deep humanity, a work of universal resonance. —Philip Bither, senior curator of performing arts at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center
The Lola Arias piece is one of the most powerful and moving performances I have seen in recent years, and it is being presented exactly 40 years after the September 1973 coup in Chile. —Mark Murphy, executive director at Calarts' contemporary art center, REDCAT
Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (M2M): Sept 13–14 at 9:30; Con-Way
Antigone Jr.: Sept 15 at 6; Con-Way
He is someone who is an important, relatively new, and highly innovative artist, based in New York, but not yet well known on the west coast. We will definitely go to one of his performances. —Paul King, cofounder of dance promoter White Bird
This year I am looking forward to seeing M2M by Trajal Harrell. It is the latest and last version of his series called 20 Looks or Paris is Burning at Judson Church. I have presented a few of the earlier versions and am excited to see how he concludes the series. —David J Henry, director of programs at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art
A different performance in Harrell's series than will be performed in Portland:
The Blow: We Put It Together So We Could Take It Apart
Sept 15–16 at 8:30; Winninstad Theatre
There are performances and experiences I vow not to miss each year. For TBA:13 that would include the Blow, a psychodrama electric pop band created by (former Portlander) Khaela Maricich and in collaboration with Melissa Dyne for the past several years. We Put It Together So We Could Take It Apart is the leading edge of the Blow's much-anticipated self-titled new album to be released in October 2013. If you experienced the 2004 TBA perforce Blue Sky vs. Night Sky, a coming of age pop opera, then by all means come see where the Blow is today. —Mack McFarland, curator at PNCA
Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewitt: Adult
Sept 16–18 at 8:30; Con-Way
I can't help but root for "home team" artists Jesse Hewitt and Laura Arrington. Their partnership has been becoming more intimate, risky, strange and appealing ever since they began collaborating when we curated them into a shared residency here at CounterPULSE in 2010. They're in the studio as I write this, and the sounds emanating from the other side of the wall are intriguing and a bit disturbing—like the piece itself. They're sought-after instructors here in the Bay Area, and I hope Portland artists take advantage of the workshop they're offering. —Jessica Robinson Love, executive and artistic director at San Francisco’s CounterPULSE
Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewitt are two of the new fresh voices in contemporary performance that understand that there is a new vein of work being created— intentionally and choreographically subverting the dance paradigm. In many ways, I find myself completely bored by the state of seriousness or conceptual nature of contemporary dance, but Laura and Jesse, and this special collaboration, give me hope for something fresh. And with all of that San Francisco energy and their real life fantasy world, this show is bound to push back all boundaries. —Ben Johnson, independent curator and arts programmer based in Los Angeles
Miguel Gutierrez: And Lose the Name of Action
Sept 17–18 & 20–21 at 6:30; Hampton Opera Center
I am looking forward to revisiting Miguel Gutierrez’s And Lose the Name of Action, which the Walker helped commission and premiere last year [along with PICA]. The idiosyncratic, irrepressible Gutierrez pulls together a multi-generational cast and collaborative design team for his largest, most complex work to date—one whose dense, layered, and expansive swings of style and emotion deliver rich rewards, particularly on multiple viewings. —Philip Bither, senior curator of performing arts at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center
Bouchra Ouzguen: Ha!
Sept 18–20; Imago Theater
I feel that many audiences have no idea about the contemporary dance scene of North Africa, a place where the work is provocative, political, mythic, and ritualistic. This is an important addition to the TBA lineup, as it provides a much needed and different international voice that is often overlooked in the US, and the context for this work—either formal, traditional, minimal, or improvised—comes from a deep cultural and spiritual place housed in the lives of these extraordinary and fearless women.
These performers did not train at an American or European conservatory, nor did they create their work in the ironic and hipster arts city of US. They are not living in a world of shock and awe contemporary performance that serves up immediate gratification. But they are offering a complex portrait of their contemporary experience that achieves a level of depth and meaning that many other artists spend their lives trying to find. —Ben Johnson, independent curator and arts programmer based in Los Angeles
Karen Sherman: One with Others
Sept 20–21 at 8:30, Sept 22 at 4:30; BodyVox
I first saw Sherman's work a few years ago in Minneapolis, and was immediately taken by her deadpan humor and the offhand ways she challenges theatrical convention. Her work is postmodern without being presumptuous—something that's really hard to pull off. She's also a set and lighting designer, and it looks like she's using that background for this piece, which incorporates lumber and duct tape. I can't wait to see it. —Jessica Robinson Love, executive and artistic director at San Francisco’s CounterPULSE
Karen Sherman is one of my favorite choreographers and performers in America, and I am thrilled to see that she is making her TBA debut. I often think of her as a working man’s choreographer, as she is as inspired by hard physical labor as she is inspired by creating movement/performance in a studio. It’s as if she emerged out of the lumber camps of the Northwest or the tool and dye shops of Detroit. One with Others is a chamber work for three dancers, and a unique quality about this work is that she extends the line and the form of the body with her hand made wooden appendages. This would be a not-to-be-missed event for me. —Ben Johnson, independent curator and arts programmer based in Los Angeles
Ivana Muller: We Are Still Watching
Sept 21–22, 12:30, 2:30 & 4:30; Coho Theater
I so wish I could stay for the second weekend to see Ivana Muller’s new work, We Are Still Watching. I saw her at my first TBA, and it was the work that made me know I had come to the right festival. —David J Henry, director of programs at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art
Working Titles, an earlier work by Muller:
Anna Craycroft: C'mon Language
Sept 12–21 noon–6; PICA
Anna Craycroft's C'mon Language has been a beacon of artistic and pedagogical innovation at PICA since the summer began! It deserves continued engagement as the festival unfolds alongside Kristan Kennedy's other curated projects. —Stephanie Snyder, Curator and Director of Reed College's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery
Carnival Without Rides
Every night at the Works
I can't wait to experience Liz Calderón and Jake Sheffield's culinary adventure Carnival Without Rides. They're working with outrageously good Portland chefs and a host of other folks including kids and teenagers to re-envision hand-held sustenance as a sensory—and cultural—mixed-tape as feverish as a late-night punk show ... no precious fanfare here ... just brilliant transformation and generosity. —Stephanie Snyder, Curator and Director of Reed College's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery
For our picks for the festival and a profile of the convention-shirking artistic director Angela Mattox in our Fall Arts Preview.