This Thursday marks the beginning of
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s ninth Time-Based Art Festival,
a 10-day rush of dance, theater, comedy, music, film, visual art and
other assorted weirdness. There’s far too much going on during the
festival for any one person to consume—you can browse the whole,
bewildering schedule at pica.org—so we’ve pulled together the events
we’re most excited by in this first weekend of TBA.
Austin theater company Rude Mechs is nationally renowned for ensemble-created loose adaptations of novels (James Hellman’s How late it was, how late), comic strips (David Rees’ Get Your War On) and even music criticism (Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces). The company’s latest hit isn’t adapted from anything, though it claims to be: The Method Gun is a tribute to and parody of method acting, artistic mentors and the very idea of theatrical risk. Presented as a documentary performance, the play follows the misfortunes of a group of actors, students of the imaginary acting guru Stella Burden, as they rehearse their first and only production in the wake of Burden’s mysterious disappearance. The performance, which they stage for our benefit after nine years of preparation, is a production of A Streetcar Named Desire without the characters of Blanche, Stanley, Stella or Mitch. It lasts less than 10 minutes and is, for reasons I’d rather let you discover on your own, far more moving an experience than you’d imagine. Also, it has a sassy tiger. All plays should have a sassy tiger. BEN WATERHOUSE. Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave. 8:30 pm Friday-Sunday, 6:30 pm Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 9-13. $25.
Shantala Shivalingappa, Namasya
East may be East and West may be West, but the twain meet quite comfortably in Shantala Shivalingappa. The Indian-born, Paris-bred dancer, daughter of Indian dancer Savitry Nair, was rigorously schooled in classical Indian Kuchipudi technique by master teacher Vempati Chinna Satyam. An old hand by age 13, Shivalingappa set out to bring the technique greater recognition outside India, performing in festivals worldwide and collaborating with several significant artists along the way, including French ballet innovator Maurice Bejart and German dance-theater visionary Pina Bausch, with whom she began dancing in 1999.
Bausch was felled by cancer two years ago, a blow to the performance world, but her imprint can be found in Namasya, a Sanskrit word meaning “reverence” and the name of the program Shivalingappa will offer here. It focuses on the commonalities, rather than the differences, in cultural styles and pays homage to Shivalingappa’s teachers with dances choreographed by her mother, Bausch and Ushio Amagatsu, director of Japan’s Sankai Juku butoh company and another of Shivalingappa’s mentors. Shivalingappa begins the evening with classical Indian technique and works her way into the many influences that have shaped her choreographic style. She is a fluid, graceful dancer whose eloquent arm movements alone speak volumes about her worldly experience. HEATHER WISNER. Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave. 6:30 pm Friday, Sept 9. $20-$25.
Patrick J. Rock, Oscar’s Delirium Tremens
Equal parts quirky, cuddly and dangerous, Patrick Rock is best known locally as the director of Rocksbox Contemporary Art, the cutting-edge North Portland gallery known for its outrageous programming. Nationally and internationally, he is known as a performer in the gonzo post-punk band Piss. Once every few years, he makes gigantic, vaguely obscene inflatable jump rooms. Back in 2009, he created a 30-foot forced-air hot dog called Simulacra/Hermaphrodite for Jeff Jahn’s show Fresh Trouble, and invited the public to climb into the phallus-shaped sausage’s vulva-shaped entry portal and jump around to its heart’s content. For this year’s TBA, Rock brings us a tribute to the great aesthete Oscar Wilde. Oscar’s Delirium Tremens is an upside-down toppled pink elephant that you climb into via a slit that may or may not be an anus, perineum or vulva. Metaphorically, it represents the Wildean dance with decadence that so many artists undertake, not always to their everlasting triumph. Viscerally, it’s just plain fun to jump around in an overgrown dead elephant. Washington High School, Southeast Stark Street and 14th Avenue, Sept. 8-Oct. 30. Free.
Kyle Abraham, The Radio Show
Choreographer Kyle Abraham grew up in Pittsburgh listening to the city’s only urban contemporary radio station, WAMO. When the station went off the air in 2009, even though he had long since moved to New York, he mourned the loss. In The Radio Show, Abraham explores how the disappearance of such a vital institution affects a community and connects the station’s closure to his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. It’s a performance inspired by communication breakdowns, both cultural and personal. Accompanied by a collage of popular R&B and hip-hop songs, an original chamber score and snatches of human voices calling out through static, Abraham and his company, Abraham.In.Motion, mix the immediacy of street dancing with the polished elegance of the conservatory. It is the young company’s first full show, and has earned Abraham—described by Out magazine as “the best and brightest creative talent to emerge in New York City in the age of Obama”—a 2010 Bessie Award and accolades from The New York Times, which called the work “smart and self-aware, and luscious too.” It’s an emotional reminder that even when speech is taken away, whether by disease or the economy, the language of movement remains. MATTHEW SINGER. Winningstad Theatre, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, 1111 SW Broadway. 6:30 pm Friday-Sunday, Sept. 9-11. $20.
tEEth, Home Made
Since its founding in 2006, Portland’s tEEth dance project has consistently been one of the most ambitious and interesting performance groups in the city—with various performances moving through bodily obsessions, unlikely contortions and movements, fabric tubes or vats of goo. But while previously discomfort and the shock of the new often seemed to be goals unto themselves, in Home Made artistic directors Angelle Hebert and Philip Kraft have used these same discomfiting tools in the service of a genuine, beautiful, emotionally fraught intimacy.
The piece begins with the delicate, idyllic movements of two lovers beneath a thin sheet—as seen in shadowplay, or as voyeuristically projected onto a screen—and from this tranquility moves into more dangerous emotional territory: the violence and ecstasy and failures of any two people trying to connect. Dancers Keely McIntyre and Noel Plemmons—often dancing in the nude—desperately attempt to map their bodies onto one another’s, frustratingly mirror movements and try on emotions as masks.
But each failure, frustration or moment of violence is also a genuine attempt at consummation, and this is where the piece finds its optimism, and also its genuine ability to move the viewer. After Home Made’s initial performance in November of last year, WW called it one of the most powerful performance pieces to come out of Portland in recent memory; in the meantime, as it’s toured the country, one can only think that the performance has refined its effects even further. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. The Mouth at Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. 6:30pm Saturday-Sunday, 8:30 pm Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 10-14. $20.
Fast Weapons Presents, Love Is Blind, Lingerie Is Braille
This multimedia extravaganza-cum-phantasmagoria-cum-orgasmatron fills the Works, TBA’s late-night venue at Washington High School, with sound, performance, literature and sheer bedlam. Nathan Howdeshell and Fast Weapons curate a series of happenings throughout the building. Among them are performances by Beth Ditto (singing tracks from her new album with assistance from Beyondadoubt) and garage-rock band Ghost Mom. Nudity in Groups’ fourth arts publication will be distributed in the building’s restrooms, while the Dangerous Boys Club will treat festivalgoers to its signature ambience of misty, laser-lit angst. Finally, Harry K mounts an existential soap opera that mingles cosmic and quotidian themes. The evening will be immersive, eclectic and perhaps a little disturbing. RICHARD SPEER. The Works at Washington High School, Southeast Stark Street and 14th Avenue. 10:30 pm Friday, Sept. 9. $8.
Michel Groisman, Transference
Michel Groisman wants to be your plaything. The Brazilian “action artist” unleashes epic games of shadow puppets, makes animals with his hands and straps lit candles to his arms as part of a contraption that makes him look like a half-naked Steampunk rig. He’ll attach glasses full of water to your body and make you figure out how to pour them into your neighbor’s vessels, along with other high-falutin party games. He’s weird and wonderful and one of those great things that makes TBA less about watching and more about doing—making connections with both artists and festival attendees. He’ll be waiting to play with passersby at the Works at Washington High School during much of the festival and performing his own pretzel-bodied solo called Transference for two nights. Bring the kids. This is one interactive TBA experience that won’t scar them for life...maybe. KELLY CLARKE. Washington High School, Southeast Stark Street and 14th Avenue. Interactive Projects 3-5 pm Friday and Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 9 and 13-15. Transference 3 pm Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 10-11. Free.
Tim DuRoche and Ed Purver, The Hidden Life of Bridges
Portland has always seemed more Bridgetown than Rose City—no other single civic symbol better embodies our community’s essence than the bridges that give us mobility and knit together our neighborhoods. Every day, tens of thousands of us bike and drive over them, more interested in where we’re going than in the structures that make it possible for us to get there. When we think of them at all, it’s probably in annoyance at the slight delay caused by an unexpected lift interval.
Musician and sound artist Tim DuRoche does think about bridges. Every weekday he walks to his day job over the Hawthorne Bridge, marveling at its importance to the city, its complex mechanics and its fantastic sounds. Inspired by his daily interactions with the bridge, DuRoche and Brooklyn artist Ed Purver have joined forces to bring us fascinating new perspectives on structures we encounter daily but seldom really experience.
Beginning at 9 pm this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the south sides of the Morrison Bridge piers will display video projections, visible from the Hawthorne Bridge, Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade, inspired by the structure’s surprisingly beautiful hidden spaces and the remarkable people who make it work and keep it safe. The film features words and faces of engineers and other public employees who, as it turns out, are conscientious, eloquent and poetic stewards of these civic treasures. And all month, the Hawthorne Bridge will become a gargantuan sound sculpture, its varied vibrations processed and transformed into a striking sonic composition accessible via webcast and telephone call. Hopefully, we’ll never cross a bridge again without appreciating what a compelling story it has to tell us. BRETT CAMPBELL. 9 pm Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 8-10. Free.
SEE IT: Tickets to all TBA performances may be purchased at PICA’s box office on the campus of Washington High School, at the corner of Southeast Stark Street and 14th Avenue, by phone at 224-7422, or online at pica.org. Individual tickets are $5-$40, and festival passes of varying degrees of inclusivity cost between $45 and $250.