ANGELA MATTOX | THE CURATOR
KEITH HENNESSY | THE ARTIST
Turbulence (a dance about the economy)
It may be a cliché to call a performance art “dangerous” and “uncomfortable,” but Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s new artistic director, Angela Mattox, has long embraced those very traits in her collaboration with Bay Area dancer Keith Hennessy.
Seated in PICA’s office, Mattox ticks off Hennessy’s stomach-curdling acts under her tenure at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: directing a group of at-risk youth as they nailed one of their own into a plywood box; climbing into the rafters for unplanned aerial stunts; digressing into a candid, onstage discussion about how much the center was paying him. But the pinnacle of queasiness took place during a show called Auf den Tisch! Out of nowhere, Hennessy produced a two-by-four that he used as a balance beam between a table onstage and the shoulders of several audience members, including an elderly woman. “There’s no shutting down the show,” Mattox says. “He can make me uncomfortable, but that’s honestly what I look for as a curator. Otherwise, I’m not supporting art that’s potent or questioning enough.”
Traditionally, the curator/artist relationship is a one-dimensional one: the curator has the power. But when Mattox first moved to San Francisco in 2003 to head Yerba Buena, she reached out to Hennessy, not as an artist, but as a guest curator. “His viewpoint was incredible in terms of understanding the community and culture,” she says. “He really pushed us to access an experimental group of artists.”
After six years of beaming visiting curators in from afar, PICA hired Mattox last year as its first resident artistic director since founder Kristy Edmunds departed in 2005. Mattox’s charge was to expand year-round programming and interactive artist residencies. Hennessy was at the top of her list. She brought him to town for a weeklong symposium in June to develop his interactive ensemble premiere for the Time-Based Art Festival. Called Turbulence (a dance about the economy), it explores the financial collapse and economic injustice with Hennessy’s activist flair (picture a human pyramid of dancers wearing gold-sequined hoods—the Federal Reserve meets Abu Ghraib).
“My base is hyper-local and politically engaged,” Hennessy writes from an artist’s retreat in France. “With Turbulence, Angela dares me to take my work more seriously, to consider its influence on local, national, and international art ecologies.” —AS
SHOWS TO KNOW: TBA | TIME-BASED ART FESTIVAL
Big Art Group
Sept 6–8 This New York performance collective has made an international name for itself as masters of multimedia, using acting and live video feeds to creatively warp space and perspective. For The People—Portland, they spent a week in May interviewing a range of locals about justice, community, war, and democracy. Using the interviews as a “chorus” of sorts, they’ll loosely retell the Greek tragedy The Oresteia by projecting the interviews onto the walls of Washington High School. —AS $15–20. Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave
Sam Green & Yo La Tengo
Sept 12 What do you get when you cross an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, a critically acclaimed indie band, and one of the most innovative thinkers of the 20th century? A mind-bending “live documentary” titled The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller. Drawing on footage of Fuller, documentary filmmaker Sam Green (The Weather Underground) will narrate the film live while the mercurial but prolific band Yo La Tengo provides the soundtrack. It’ll be like a TEDtalk with a beat that, knowing Fuller’s vast imagination, will completely blow your view of the world. —AS $20–25. Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave
Sept 13–15 Standing out in this year’s unprecedented global range of artists, Linyekula is a leading choreographer from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose “work in Africa constitutes a crucial link to the rest of the world,” according to director Peter Sellars. In the US premiere of his first solo work, Le Cargo, Linyekula translates memories of the brutal history of his war-torn homeland into hypnotic, fluid movements, mapping decades of pain and terror onto his own body. —AS $20–25. Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Sept 16 Closing out the 10th anniversary fest is the artistic polyglot Laurie Anderson—a fitting finale not only because she’s one of the mothers of contemporary performance art, but because her show, Dirtday!, is the third in a trilogy of solo works that she’s performed over the past decade in Portland. While Happiness, in 2002, tackled the search for contentment, and The End of the Moon, in 2006, explored space and her inaugural artistic residency at NASA, Dirtday! turns to the fear still present a decade after 9/11, and the Occupy movement’s response. —AS $15–75. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
For info regarding all shows, call 503-224-7422 or visit pica.org.