Waiting in line…

Image: Keri Miller

The past couple of days have been filled to the brim with PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival. I have been reporting from primarily the Works, located in Southeast Portland’s old, abandoned, run-down, and downright awesome Washington High School.

First, on the location of the Works, I must say that it really is an inspired and clearly well-thought-out venue for this festival. For months and months I have driven by it and thought to myself what an interesting, spooky building it was—it’s always had an inexorable pull. Once inside the school it became even more clear to me that this was the kind of place I could learn in. The building has a sort of intriguing and complex nature to it. Simple classrooms were transformed into multilayered and multifunctional, thought-provoking art exhibits. Rooms somehow transformed into new rooms and other rooms, different sizes, different shapes, different moods.

Night No. 1 of TBA at the Works and night No. 2 offered completely different experiences and elicited nearly opposite responses from me. Night No. 1 was this amazing party and celebration—there were people literally everywhere. On night No. 1 I made my way around the first floor of installations and exhibits. What caught my eye more than anything else was the “C.L.U.E.” exhibit by robbinschilds + A.L. Steiner. Featuring a group of multisized television sets, set inside an almost tentlike geometric shell structure, this installation was not only visually striking, but also quite powerful. While some of the sets presented only singular and static colors, setting the mood and the tone, others played videos of robbinschilds, two movement artists from New York, moving within the space and environments in which they are set and creating a more interactive environment for the viewers.

(Note: Come see them tonight at TBA at the Works for a live performance! See you there at 10:30.)

The night ended with a performance by Gang Gang Dance, the experimental and divergent group from Brooklyn, NY. The school’s auditorium was an interesting place to hold such a show, adding a sort of “watching an art exhibit” element. Even though when it really comes down to it, that is what all music and art does to its audience, this was different than any performance I have ever seen. While the dancing hippies tended to occupy the front of the auditorium, the rest of us were either standing bobbing our heads trying to figure how one moves to this music, or sitting awe-inspired glued to our chairs. I suppose this is to be expected at an event that merges such varying age groups, but more than anything I saw it as a positive and interesting music viewing experience. Gang Gang Dance is really doing something different, something distinct and interesting, and doing it without any air of pretentiousness, which is very refreshing. By the end of the night everyone seemed to be in full-out dance and celebration mode, thankful that TBA had finally arrived.

Now, for night No. 2 of TBA at the Works I had a more personal, introspective experience. I began night No. 2 roaming around the first floor of exhibitions, as I had done the previous night. Once again, I was only particularly drawn to the “C.L.U.E.” exhibit by robbinschilds + A.L. Steiner; soon I was rushed into the auditorium to see Portland’s very own Explode Into Colors, featuring dancing and choreography by Jane Paik, aka Janet Pants, and the multimedia visual/audio presentation by Chris Hackett of Los Moustachios. It was certainly an interesting collaboration and one that I have a deep respect for. It is impressive when a band ventures outside of what they traditionally do and attempts to incorporate multilayered forms of artistic expression. Thus, no matter what my thoughts are on the end production of the piece, I thought that the concept and the intention were meaningful and creative.

There were, however, moments throughout this show when I was craving something more. So, I snuck out of my seat and decided to venture onto the second floor and check out what it had to offer. Happy that I did, because I came across a little gem—“Movements” by Ethan Rose. As described by PICA, this “sound installation consists of over one hundred altered music boxes, carefully timed and methodically displayed across the gallery walls. The tinkering creates a sensation of a shifting texture, housed in a visually stimulating acoustic environment.” The feeling of being inside this wonderland is hard to verbalize but, for me, brought me back to childhood with visions of perfectly beautiful dancing ballerinas. While there is a strong time-based element to this installation, it had a more authentic and more spontaneous feeling than anything else I saw. I was particularly glad to have had this experience on night No. 2, when TBA was less crowded and the Explode Into Colors show was happening, because having no one else around made this installation even more magical.