We’ve been lucky enough to spend time with artist Glen Fogel, in advance of his upcoming show, My Apocalyptic Moment in our new space. To help you get a bit more familiar with Glen, we’ve put together some links, videos, and interviews that are the next best thing to hanging out with him in person. And you can always come to the opening, this Friday, April 13th, to see the artist and his work here in town.
If you roll in certain circles, by now you might have heard that the French have discovered Portland. In a big way. PICA’s own Visual Art Curator Kristan Kennedy shares her experience curating a night of music and video art for an all-Portland-themed Parisian festival:
In a recent interview I had with a Paris newspaper journalist, he asked me “What makes Portland weird?” I wanted to scream out, “There is nothing weird about this place, it just is what it is!” But of course, just moments before, I had seen someone pushing a hula hoop and a baby carriage in tandem down the street, and a guy wearing a sleeping bag like a cape, so I knew what he was getting at. I don’t want to be weird; I don’t want my city to be weird either. That is, I don’t want it to be looked at as a curiosity. If they want to talk about our creativity, I would rather us be looked at as a catalyst, a city that sparks something. I do think Portland is strange, as in “to make strange” or to be radical or free. What makes us unique here in Portland is certainly not the slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” which was lifted from the city Austin, Texas. We could not even come up with our own slogan. Now that’s weird.
Whatever feelings I might have about those cringe-inducing bumper stickers, “Keep Portland Weird” will have another more radical meaning this spring: it has been adopted as the name of a music festival taking place from April 19–29, across four art organizations and three French cities. The Keep Portland Weird Festival will feature scores of bands, video artists, and at least one writer who all call Portland their home. Last September, a contingent of curators visited Portland from the Centre Pompidou à Paris, Centre Pompidou-Metz, lieu unique à Nantes, and Gaité Lyrique to scout music and investigate the art scene that they had heard so much about. They had selected our city as the next in an annual series that highlights the music from iconic cities around the world. The fairly young festival had previously featured music from Berlin and Istanbul—Portland was next on their list… naturally?
The group attended PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival, where they could be seen huddled in the beer garden taking nightly meetings with regional bon vivants. They stayed up all night catching bands, performance art, and other happenings at THE WORKS, and immersed themselves in the shows at MusicFestNW, the culinary treats at the food carts, the vistas from the bridges, and anything and everything else they stumbled upon. As quickly as they were here, they were gone, but they left a lasting impression and promised we would hear from them all again someday soon.
Experimental 1/2 Hour at TBA:11. Photo: Karley Sullivan.
Many emails, contracts, and passport applications later, they have themselves a festival. Later this month, evenings curated by musicians Tom Greenwood, Tara Jane ONeil, Stephen Malkmus , artist Vanessa Renwick, and others including myself will test their French theory that our scene is ripe for the picking. On PICA’s night at Gaité Lyrique, we will start with quiet loops from Dragging an Ox Through Water and escalate to relentless percussion from Brainstorm, Miracles Club, White Rainbow, DJ Beyondadoubt, YACHT, and Glass Candy whose ecstatic beats will round out the evening. I also invited Eva Aguila & Brock Fansler to screen selections from Experimental 1/2 Hour on the flat screens that surround the space, the artist Stephen Slappe to co-curate a video program of local artists, and Publication Studio and others to give me some treats for a Portland Pop-Up Shoppe of artist ephemera. Of course the other curators have a long list of happenings, which you can check out here, featuring other concerts by Holcombe Waller, readings by Jon Raymond, music by Sun Foot, AU, and so many more! The whole thing already seems like a dream, and I can’t wait to be in the presence of all of these great sounds and sights alongside an audience of Frenchies who are trying to figure us out.
In the end, I did not really answer that reporter’s question about “weirdness.” Instead, I parlayed it into an opportunity to talk about what makes the Portland art and music scene so vibrant. We are fiercely independent, and yet highly collaborative; we are innovative and into the new, but have a reverence to craft and that which came before; we like the rough hewn and the slick; we are a giant contradiction and we like it that way. A few nights in France could never sum up what makes us weird, but it can give them a taste of what makes us wild. I will be attending the festival and taking notes along the way—stay tuned for updates and obsessive photo essays. I wish we could bring everyone along, for there is surely enough talent to fill their whole country with Portland music. That will just have to wait until next time, or part deux…
15-20% of the audience walked out of a dance performance I was at recently. We were in a theatre with no back exit and a stage that ran level with the front row – like Imago. Each person that left had to walk past everyone else in the audience and a few feet downstage of the performers.
I gave the show a standing ovation, like in that campy Norman Rockwell painting no one’s ever seen.
I was in an audience with dozens of artists who are deeply invested in performance making and opinionated as all hell, or at least I was in the audience with them for the early parts of the performance.
Afterwards, we fought about the piece as if daily economic calamity, war, global poverty, local poverty or any other number matters ceased to exist. Because fighting about the nature of this one performance was of central importance to us. And the best/only way we know how to contribute to society is wrapped up in these battles over art.
I knew we would argue like this, so I took time to write down all the things I admired about the performance. I anticipated how the haters would hate so as to readily refute their bogus claims. It got heated. It forced us to show what cards we were holding, where our values and allegiances aligned and where they recoiled.
Their critiques revealed that they weren’t seeing what I saw. It offended me that they would see simplicity where I saw intricacy. It was as if they were saying that all __(insert ethnicity)__ people looked alike. And it made me fear for a future blunt of perception.
Whenever I hate a performance, I love to hear others explain what they appreciated about it.
No one worth talking to will begrudge you your values; even though they may test them with flabbergasting insistence.
Whoever Krystal South is, she wrote a thoughtful and smart post far more worth your while than this entitled “Potential Risk of Failure“. Whoever Krystal South is, she seems pretty cool even if the potential risk of failure didn’t feel so palpable to me the majority of TBA:11’s performances.
Part of this boils down to the fact that most performances that are presented in TBA are already dialed in by national and international tours prior to their presentation in Portland. It’s crucial to consider how the human factor differentiates visual and live time-based arts. Imagine crafting a performance for a period of time (several piece at TBA:11 took years to develop) and then premiering the piece, and then performing the piece in a number of cities over the course of a year or longer, and then coming to Portland, Oregon.
How is the premier different from the performance that occurs a year later? How does a performance differ in the second city it tours to compared to the third? Can work fail if it’s already been deemed laudable by other cities’ critics, festivals and audiences?
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion premiered Radio Show in Pittsburgh in January of 2010 before performing in NYC and making their West Coast premier here in Portland.
Rude Mech‘s The Method Gun also premiered in the first half of 2010 and had been staged in at least six different venues before arriving at Portland’s Imago Theatre.
Rachid Ouramdane‘s World Fair is quite new, having premiered in May and touring France through July. Portland audience’s were the first outside France to see World Fair before it travels to a couple other cities in the USA and Canada and continues to tour Europe.
tEEth premiered Home Made here in Portland last November and received a killer cash prize presenting an excerpt of the work at Seattle’s On The Boards Theatre in January.
zoe | juniper‘s A Crack in Everything is even newer, having been performed only at its premier this past July at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts.
I love that Mike Daisy was able to premier his audacious 24-hour monologue in Portland. I love how Kyle Abraham could hop on the mic after presenting his work-in-progress solo and invite audience feedback. I love that zoe | juniper were able to make their first foray into dance installation because PICA facilitated a residency at Washington High School over the summer leading up to TBA. Zoe said she couldn’t imagine it happening anywhere else.
PICA and Portland (because it always feels like half the town volunteers during the festival) have achieved so much to be proud of, and we all owe them our sincere gratitude for their devotion, but the nights I was in attendance, the main-stage performances didn’t induce anyone to stomp/sneak out mid-show.
Why that is is a question worth considering. I’ll leave that thought open for now and thank you kindly for your consideration. Let’s close with fat copy and paste from Claudia La Rocco’s report on TBA:11 for the New York Times.
Still, Portland’s festival remains an outpost within the largely conservative landscape of performing arts presenters. Often what audiences see on these stages — especially the bigger ones — is more reflective of art from the past, with little attention paid to how artists currently approach and consider their traditions.
“That’s one of the biggest disappointments I have around the culture we live in, in the States,” said Philip Bither, senior curator for performing arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, one of the few major American institutions to throw its weight behind contemporary, interdisciplinary artistic practice. “That which is, to my mind, the norm of what our culture is producing now, that which is most relevant to our times, is viewed as fringe or oddball or just out of the mainstream. Internationally the keys to the big opera houses and major cultural institutions have been handed over years if not decades ago to contemporary artists. That’s not happened in the States, so it relegates those who are trying to support the work of our times to this odd, hard-to-describe, hard-to-understand, ghettoized thing.”
One of my friends spent hundreds of hours this summer installing the Claire Fontaine piece. Mapping out the United States of America onto the wall and drilling ten thousand tiny holes, then filling them with eco-friendly green-tipped matchsticks. The volunteer labor is a key part of Claire Fontaine’s conceptual gesture, as is the condition that the curator herself light the piece ablaze, something I was anxious to hear about after seeing footage of a burn of another work by Claire Fontaine shown in Europe. In the video footage, the curator repeatedly takes a blowtorch to a different map, and the hiss of flames is joined by the wail of fire alarms as smoke spreads through the exhibition space. The artists which comprise Claire Fontaine (more on that at Claire Fontaine’s site) described the scent of the kunsthalle, and the aftermath image of the burn is seared with a feeling of a man-made natural disaster, controlled destruction within the white cube.
Alas, this series of works has not gone over well in the United States, land of the free (except for some stuff!!!). A version was shown in New York unburned at Reena Spauling’s Fine Art gallery for what I assume are the same reasons it was shown that way here: you gotta get a permit…
Thing is: no one’s gonna give you that permit. Kristan Kennedy, curator of Evidence of Bricks, got the green light from everyone up the ranks except the final hurdle, ye olde fire marshal, “Not Possible At This Time” at the last step. The fire hazard was doused in retardant and remains in the state in which you can view it until October 30th. And it is a beautiful state! The protruding matchsticks create an optical illusion as you move around the room, and I found myself holding my breath as I looked closely, as though a breath could send them like dominoes across the wall.
But I was mad! I wanted to smell the work, I wanted to get the soot of the work in the soles of my shoes, I wanted to see the heat of the work in that classroom. It felt like weeks of anticipation were pent up in the thousands of green dots that wanted to BURN. The potential for so much more was heavy and hard, and I can’t go back to that room.
America! There is a special permit for artworks involving fire here in Portland (thanks, firedancers!) and something tells me that burning a map of the good old USA makes the whole thing hard to swallow for some. The bureaucracy of our great nation of paperwork withholds the completion of the act, all the more reason to burn it! The pent-up potential of the work feels true to the context of Portland, Oregon in the fall of the year 2011.
So many works within TBA felt like they were about RISK. Not the game, per se, but the idea of danger, a palpable anxiety of a threat to the self. The first definition of RISK, “possibility of loss or injury : PERIL,” sums up some ideas that appear behind a mutitude of works at TBA this year.
Claire Fontaine was risky but obviously restrained. (SEE: POTENTIAL)
Jesse Sugarmann’s video piece Lido (The Pride is Back) is full of risk. In it, the artist elevates three Chrysler mini-vans with 52 air mattresses within a giant interior space. The inflation of the mattresses in tandem creates a whine relative to the distance of the shot, creating a vaccum in the white space, and the vehicles look helpless as they are hoisted up into a slow and steady path with destruction. Their synchronized rise reaches a climax as the mattresses are filled and two risks present themselves; the mattresses on the verge of popping and the vans rolling off in forfeit to the suburban inflatables. When neither happens, the inertia is foiled while the tiny motors kept pumping and straining against the dead weight.
I caught two consecutive performances, and the scene was thick with both excitement and confusion. Art-goers, children, dogs and passers by watched the slow motion wreckage, as the vans slid to balance themselves on their front bumpers, ass-up but somehow balanced. During the second performance, two of the vans lost their balance, losing their perches and a cheer arose in the crowd at the actual action after all of that inflating anticipation.
In another video work, this one by Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor titled Rites of Spring, the camera follows Romanian children as they set fire to piles of poplar fluff that congregate in the Spring. The children run the streets with lighters, the camera follows as the flames exhaust their fuel, over and over again. And surely every Spring those children are warned of the risk of their actions, but the little fires are far too tempting to avoid the danger completely. In the silence of the room I was sure I heard Stravinsky.
There are many health risks involved with bouncy castles, (SEE: OK? A and B, but when the bouncy castle is a larger-than-life supine pink elephant, legs akimbo, into which one enters through the rectum, the risks leave the merely physical and creep into the philosophical and psychological. Citing Oscar Wilde’s decadent reputation, Patrick Rock (of http://www.rocksboxfineart.com/) presented Oscar’s Delerium Tremens as an outdoor jumping establishment to the festival. Opening night, the physical manifestation of a drunken hallucination watched over the throngs as inebriation levels rose to a peak, Oscar popped, victim to a karate chop at the seam. Flaccid on and off for the rest of the festival, the monumental Oscar was a risk of the second definition, “someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard”. The chain link fence caging in soft Oscar really punctuated the gazes of longing from kids who were allowed to look but not touch, nor jump in the inflatable creature. All of the paperwork was in order, but the DT’s had the elephant down. Watching Sugarmann’s mattresses inflate next to the prostrate Oscar broke my heart a little, and I never even had a chance to jump.
Artists and musicians Lucky Dragons, speaking after their PSU MFA Monday Night Lecture a few years ago, summed up their work as “an attempt to fail beautifully,” something which has stuck with me since. Though I missed their performance at The Works as part of the Experimental ½ Hour program (migraine!), I think their goal encapsulates something I love and always hope to see in artwork, which is the letting go of control and the presence of chance. In participatory work or performance, chance runs rampant, and while performative or participatory works probably fail at the same rate as other modes of art making, their failure is public and the artist is often present. Once the work is exposed to the populace, it is out of the artist’s hands, and the potential risk of failure looms. Perhaps this opportunity for failure lets us trust in the fallible object-ness of even the most transient artworks. Hearing a performer fumble over their lines snaps us back to the farce at hand, that distinction between performer and audience scantly separated by a stage, a fence, a string of caution tape or a screen.
This gesture is brave, temporal and feels full of possibility. It is based in time but lives on in the audience and the idea. The bevvy of performances and performative documents that made up this festival have overwhelmed me the past two weeks, and I am filled with a desire to fail, beautifully if possible.
After a few nights at the WORKS, it’s interesting to see the 40-and-over crowd mixed in with the art party scenesters. The evening promises to be easy on the ears: now married, both Dean and Britta were former members of Luna, Dean is the frontman for Galaxie 500, and Britta was the singing voice of super-glam cartoon superstar JEM. Yes, of JEM and the Holograms. Wow.
As concept albums go, it is a beauty. The stark portraiture and artsy nostalgia of Warhol’s screen tests provide a distilled, but achingly poignant backdrop for Dean and Britta’s layered psychedelic surf lullabies. Continue reading →
Wednesday, September 14, 10:30 pm
THE WORKS at Washington High School
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photos by: Chase Allgood
Act 1:Color Film 5 (Madison Brookshire) and Field Organ (Tashi Wada)
“The subject of the work is duration, with color as the medium through which we experience it.” – program guide, New Musics
A wall of color is the backdrop for two simultaneous reed organs. The color field almost imperceptibly shifts, meaning you can’t see the increments of change, just the change itself. As soon as you stop looking, everything is different. Wada’s two-organ duet produces a similar effect with an opposing approach; you hear every sustained note, both melodic and discordant, in real time. Because the musical progression is so fluid, however, the emotional responses generated can only be realized periodically. Brookshire and Wada’s works are a brilliant pair and together produce a realization about perception of time and visceral response that is greater than the sum of its parts. Something previously hidden becomes known: the liminal space between hearing/seeing and responding emotionally is suddenly visible. Continue reading →
Word on the mean streets is that the visual arts world is batting its eyes at dance and considering a more committed kind of a relationship (whatever that means these days). Artists working in contemporary dance are likely already aware of this dynamic, but might not have encountered many models that speak forcefully to the wild potential inherent to the prospect of making dance that operates in gallery contexts and formats.
If you care at all about those first two sentences, TBA:11 is premiering an installation very worth your while.
zoe | juniper’sA Crack in Everything: Installed can be situated on a compelling forefront of dance production methods. In all likelihood, it will feel quite foreign to you, yet it works with material that ought to be familiar from other performances here in Portland: bodies by Julia Calabrese, Jacob Coleman, Carlos Gonzales, David Krom, Christina Marks, Danielle Ross and Amber Whitehall. To see your own community inhabit a vibrant edge – that’s a special occurrence no matter where you live.
TBA 11 Opening Night at the WORKS Vockah Redu and the Cru Photo by Wayne Bund
If you look-up festival in the dictionary, you will find variations of two definitions:
1. A day or time of religious or other celebration, marked by feasting, ceremonies, or other observances.
2. A period or program of festive activities, cultural events, or entertainment: a music festival.
Immediately I knew which definition the TBA Festival is more akin to for me. #1, without hesitation #1. I think I had this gut reaction because the experience of the TBA Festival definitely extends beyond the what option 2 has to offer. Art is, for lack of a better word, the closest thing to my religion. Art is where I’ve seen and experienced a great deal of transformation, intellect and true consideration of others throughout my life. So when I think of the T:BA Festival, the work it supports, the dialogue it sparks and what it observes in celebration, #1 it is. I heard this sentiment repeated in conversations throughout the opening night party. People exhilarated by a gathering of “their people”, with all that implies, combined with the potential of new inspirations and knowledge. The first few days of the festival have continued to prove this true. Here is a snap shot of the celebrations, feasts and observances I’ve experienced so far.
Vockah Redu and the Cru – Three statements from their opening night performance have stuck with me: “Find what you love and do it – Art loves art – You are all so beautiful”. On the surface these may seem saccharin but lived with conviction they actually have quite serious ramifications. Vockah Redu and the Cru didn’t just perform these full-bodied sweaty electric truths for the audience to absorb by osmosis. They shot them directly into our hearts with conviction and deft. Good medicine and perfect mantras for the festival kick-off.