Day 1: Artist Talk Begins T:BA
On opening day of T:BA:15 Thursday, I attended an artist lecture at the new PNCA campus, housed in the old federal building at the tip of the park blocks. The artist, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, is from Detroit, studied photography and poetry in Providence, RI, continued his studies and showed work in L.A., has an upcoming residency in New York and is now in Portland to present his piece, Vanishing Point/A Drive In At The End of The World. His chosen mediums reflect this mobility too; he works anywhere, and anyhow he can, between text, photos, video, and performance.
In PNCA’s Mediatheque, a little box theater with glass doors sitting at the center of the school’s atrium, he said that because he has a few upcoming conversation appearances during T:BA, at which he is talking on specific themes, he was opting to simply talk about his work for Thursday’s lecture.
His presentation was an unrehearsed slideshow of photography and performance clips. He uses song or movie names as titles, like ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ or ‘Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf 2.’ Combined found and original footage with photos and fragmented collage make up his visual modes. His prose shows up as subtitles or in monologues performed by actors. He is young, interested in race and identity, and expresses how he is among that generation that knows life with and without the internet. This informs a lot about his work, as he moves between commercial and art, nostalgia and novelty.
Ambiguous art forms can trip people up, the pressure to interpret both the mesmerizing and confounding elements is often stupefying. Huffman focused on allowing us to know him and his process and this is why I valued Khalil’s talk as a welcome to the festival. T:BA will present work across the board, evoking murky responses as well as the most articulate, lucid ones but it all stems from the simplicity of the artist and their need or desire to create.
Huffman boiled it down to the experience he has while making his work. What determines the art is a combination of things. Books, other artists’ influence, where ever he is at the time psychically, creatively, physically, or financially. The result is an arbitrary but one of a kind artwork. The audience can have a similarly individual response, abandoning an aggressive need to understand the piece and instead, simply take it in to have a genuine experience. One of his photos made me think of a grade-school birthday party I went to. I remembered the dress I wore, and how the sun landed on the floral-patterns of the paper cups and plates outside. It was strange and it wasn’t a memory I was expecting to have ever again.
In his lecture, Khalil explained the lack of pictures in his presentation by saying that he doesn’t want documentation of his performances. “You have to be there,” he said.
Opening night at the Works featured local indie rock band of international fame, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks. They played for about a couple hundred people of all ages. I’m not very familiar with the band but it made for good opening night vibes; they were easy to listen and move to, with funny interjections between songs by the front man, Stephen Malkmus. He has a way of not making eye contact while smirking at his bandmates and talking to the audience.
The Redd is in SE Portland, at the warehouse space where ten straight nights of shows will take place. Its a good spot for the festival’s post-performance dancing and late-night conversations. Its exterior walls are dressed in lights which illuminate the otherwise low-lit warehouse. There is a bar surrounding this old-time press, with its huge gears and machinery. It’s nice to see young Portlanders get dressed up for this party too. It’s good people-watching.
Day 2: Am I Awake?
Last night at the Trinity Episcopalian Church in Northwest, people shuffled forward in a long line which wrapped around the front of the church and into the courtyard to see Holcombe Waller. Same thing at PSU for Okwui Okpokwasili’s performance later on. I couldn’t remember which building was Shattuck Hall until I saw the crowd swelling in front.
Holcombe Waller’s Requiem Mass: LGBT/ Working Title at the church was the first show I saw and then I went to see Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic afterward at 8:30 but I am going to report out of order here. The image of bare-backed Okpokwasili, the sounds of her voice and reverberating beats behind it are pulling on my mind and fingers today.
The small space at Shattuck Hall is lined with white curtains and lit with scattered lamps on the floor. While we are filing in and looking for seats, Okpokwasili is already moving in the corner and the performance is underway. Her back is to us, her movements are small wild ones, contained separate panics producing a jolting rhythm. Transfixed on the lines of her back for the first ten minutes of the performance, I begin to think I know hers better than my own.
Bronx Gothic is the story of two young girls growing up in the Bronx, one of whom is Okpokwasili. We get to know their relationship in notes Okwui Okpokwasili reads. The intimacy of that room carried me to a school locker room, sensing the rubber band tension of girls in private quarters at an age when some need bras and others still don’t; to a street corner in the Bronx, in front of a bodega. I could see the leering men, I could see the hot sun laying on the city block, turning gray to gold momentarily. One note tells of a dream one of the girls has and I am sent there with her, to a New York city beach that smells of “Nathan’s Hot dogs, Vaseline intensive care healing spray and Newport cigarettes.”
The notes are narrative pieces; they are funny, tender, agonizing, and crude. Reading them are opportunities for Okpokwasili to literally rest from all the physical exertion. It is this movement though where the psyche of the performance is. It is the way she answers the question she keeps posing, “Am I Awake?” Every gesture a human being has ever made is in her movements: pent up aggression, arguments, the wave-like undulations of orgasm and involuntary reflexes. It communicates everything our oral language can’t, it reconciles time and emotion. She explodes in a yell of expletives and insults near the end, a spitting, flailing, angry and desperate rant is flung from her body. Where the words jumble, her limbs and jaw articulately lurch, and every part of her responds to the memories in her gut. She inhabits every person she’s ever been at once, the girl and the woman.
When she sings and rests her eyes on the crowd, they stare out from deep set sockets, I feel love. Both her singing voice, which is lovely and harmonious, and her speaking voice which changes to inhabit the different slang and cadence of Bronx-accented characters, are beautifully penetrating and equally evoke the violence and gentleness of her transformation into a woman.
It was a love and connection Holcombe Waller asserted too in front of the packed church earlier that evening. A choral group clad in all shades of purple sang hymns and chants. It felt and looked very much like church. But Requiem Mass: LGBT/Working Title offered a new vocabulary to the service.
My first time in a church in a very long time, and under the tall arches and stained glass windows, the lives of those who have experienced abuse, shunning and death because of sexual orientation were acknowledged, prayed for and insisted on. There was a woman with a cane in the choir, with long silver hair, smiling saint-like while she sang. There was a man in the audience, holding his head up with lips pursed in serious pause, who walked to his seat with the weightlessness of a dancer, his shoulders rolled back as far as they could go. There was a little girl sitting on her Dad’s lap and Angela Mattox was perfect and warm in giving her welcome speech, which came off unrehearsed.
Together we said the names of women killed across the country, persecuted for how they identify their gender or for who they love. By the end, it was reminiscent of my rare early church experiences when I, unexposed and untaught in any religion, didn’t understand the words or the guy on the cross, but mostly felt at peace because people seemed to care about the people next to them.
Day 3: Currents
On Sunday, I am groggy because the drag ball at the Works kept me out and up until 2 am, having a few shots of tequila and dancing with friends I didn’t expect to see. So I recall Saturday’s T:BA events through a haze but the lack of inhibitions a slight hangover brings may come in handy when digesting MPA’s Nothing To You.
Sean and I drove up to Disjecta in North Portland to see the free performance in the evening. When we get there, the courtyard outside Disjecta is filled with an increasingly familiar crowd. After the first weekend of T:BA, you begin to see the same faces in the audience, night after night, noting wardrobe changes and the company they’re with. I’ve run into my friend Sika, who I haven’t seen in nearly a year, at each event and we never make plans to ensure we’ll meet again because we know we will, and the small surprise will be nice every time.
Nothing to You is a performance and visual art installation inside Disjecta, with what looks like hundreds of feet of strap — like the ones on a backpack — pinned to the walls in different arrangements. On one wall, the strap is red and in the shape of a stop sign. On another, the straps are black, and resemble the way we wind up a phone charger, a coil of wire with the end coming loose. Another strap with a hook on the end of it, looking like a seat belt, is hanging from a dissected ceiling fan, swinging in a circle a few feet above the floor.
About sixty people sit closely together on the floor in the middle of the room in front of a woman who sits cross legged. She listens to a reggae song, swaying and dipping her head to the easy beat. Reading from a laptop, she pauses the song intermittently and lifts her head to deliver punchy alerts about capitalism and “the selling of the apocalypse by Hollywood.” She talks about taking apart her ceiling fan, AC and DC currents and asks if electrical currents run through our veins.
What ensued after this was the sprints and collisions of six performers, running in circles around us, stopping to shake hands or embrace. The pace quickened as it went on, the meeting of the actors became more aggressive and desperate, and each fell to the floor several times on their rounds, making loud crashing sounds. We stayed seated and followed the movement, craning our necks or pivoting on the floor. I felt like we had all walked in on a private experiment, the audience was almost in the way. It created a detached feeling of not really knowing why any of us were there and today, I’m thinking it’s a distracting question to have. At the end, it seemed we were invited into the experiment when the lights went out and all the movement stopped.
We were at the center of a diminished orbit, a starless sky where all was black. For at least five minutes, no one moved in the dark. And no one applauded; all of us expecting something to happen, not wanting to be the first to break the silence. I can’t remember now exactly when we realized it was over or how. One person scurried out of the darkness, then Sean started chuckling about it and got up to use the restroom. Pretty soon, there was a collective agreement. And then we all rose like perfect particles, followed the movement and exited the room. The show was over.
On the way to the drag show at the Works, I rode over the Tilikum Crossing, the new bridge to get from downtown to SE Salmon. It’s a little out of the way but I wanted to be encased in the web of lights I’ve been admiring from the Hawthorne Bridge the last few nights. For those that haven’t seen it yet, the full spectrum LED lights on the cables respond to river temperature and current. It’s been a yellow-green the last few nights.
Outside the Works, Critical Mascara, the drag show runway competition was in full swing when I got there. A friend and I slithered our way through a tight crowd filling the bleachers on either side of the stage. A queen who wore heels which brought her to a towering Avatar-like height slowly walked on stage. Her eye and lip make-up pulled back all the features of her face like she was walking into hurricane winds and lip-syncing to Nina Simone, at one point, sent the crowd into a cheering frenzy.
Afterwards, like a hundred tiny circuits of muscle and blood, we danced.
Days 4 & 5: The Space
It is Tuesday and the last 48 hours of T:BA are moving like a slideshow across the front of my mind, images of bodies in all different shades of light engaging in both mundane and surreal tasks and poses. Beginning on Sunday, at the Body Vox theatre, choreographer Suniti Dernovsek’s piece, Leading Light made for a visually caressing scene. Her body is an instrument in a dream-like setting of light and sound, and even while following her movements closely, all the elements of her performance combine to send you to that place right before a deep sleep; at an edge overlooking a valley of lucid dreams, enjoying both rest and awareness at the same time.
Following Dernovsek’s twenty-minute piece was the The Self-Possessed. Nick Daulton wears a grin that draws the audience in like an adorable cat meme on Facebook, and 80’s dance music punches away in the background as he checks himself out in a full-length mirror. With Luke Gutgsell, the two tell a love story and show how a relationship undresses and dresses. It’s funny how this happens literally. Nick gets into Luke’s pants, while Luke is still in them. Same with his shirt. The dance between the two involves teasing and seduction, shifting roles of dominance. The insecurities of intimacy spread out in front of us and the desperation and comedy of wanting someone to accept you feels both absurd and compassionate at the same time.
The next day, Monday, I walked to the PICA headquarters downtown to catch an artist conversation with Dawn Yasper, Lucy Yim and Jibade-Khalil Huffman. These artists were grouped together for their shared interdisciplinary approaches. Lucy Yim spoke about how she responds to space, the challenges of putting something in her mind into a space that is to be shared with an audience. Later that night on my way to PNCA for Yim’s evening show, Devastation Melody, my curiosity about what she’d do, and what the role of the audience would be was sparked before I stepped inside the atrium.
Unconscious everyday movements are repeated in dances across the T:BA program, in spaces which throw them out of context. It keeps bringing me back to the way we move and how controlled, or restrained our motion is when we are capable of such dexterity. I seem to always move in straight lines so much of the time, aware of my body as a tool to function rather than an instrument, the curves of motion reserved for dancing or other things belonging to specific contexts. The flailing comes in arguments I suppose, the dipping comes with crying.
Lucy Yim is so light on her feet but her performance as a whole feels heady and conflicted to me. It becomes more complex as the motion rises from her feet to her upper body where she seems to hold a disproportionate amount of weight. I wonder what the heft she feels comes from and if she feels like it lessens when expressed in this way.
During the performance, she had boiled three eggs in three little pressure cookers. At the end, she drops these from the balcony overlooking the atrium where we all stand looking up, awaiting the resulting splat of the egg. Her use of space extended from the horizontal orientation of the floor when she introduced height and gravity. Maybe this was where our role as the audience came in: our reactions to something we weren’t expecting.
At the Works last night, Ten Tiny Dances was the central attraction. All ten take place on a stage that is 4 x 4. It’s interesting to see so many acts take place in the same spot, limited to the same dimensions, and whether they stay contained there or not. The high ceilings and airy feeling of the warehouse space, even when it’s packed as it was last night, works to make the stage stand out like a remote island in the center of the room. And this somehow gives each performance its space in time; each feels isolated, even as they are happening right after one another.
James Healy was number six and performed a solo dance under a hanging diamond. The sight was really neat as the diamond cut the angles of light in such a way that illuminated Healy even more. Blue paint was smeared on his body. The light brown of his skin coupled with the way the blue was streaming made him resemble a moving map of a land abundant with rivers. Michelle Ellsworth followed him in a hilarious screen presentation of her ideas about surveillance, and her “over the counter counter-terrorism protocols” which involve building furniture she can hide in, and dressing up like her friends.
Ellsworth performs several times this week in Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if ticket sales jumped after her brief appearance last night. Crowds love to laugh, especially when they are not expecting to, I think, and last night, you couldn’t hear some of Ellsworth’s monologue beyond the audience roaring.
Day 6: Time-Based Humor
Yesterday I attended only one event at the Works. It was a day of catching up and reflecting on the shows so far but I looked forward all day to the comedy show like awaiting a three-day weekend. Disoriented Comedy performed to another full audience at the Redd.
As I write this on Wednesday night, my mind is still turning over some bizarre and also very funny segments of Michelle Ellsworth’s performance two hours ago at the Winningstad Theatre. I just got back and I am still trying to get pieces of a red vine Ellsworth handed out to the audience out of my teeth. As I said, bizarre show. Tomorrow, I will provide a longer write-up.
Day 7: Funny Women
We are heading into the final weekend of the festival and I have that I can’t believe it’s already Thursday feeling. The midweek shows were as well-attended as the opening weekend ones and offered amusingly offbeat and thought-stirring experiences, which were also very funny.
At the Works Tuesday night I saw Disoriented Comedy. The mostly female and Asian American touring comedy group is straight-forward stand-up comedy. The jokes pause and punch when you expect them too. The cadence is familiar to my ears. “This is Portland,” happens right on cue after a white liberal or coffee joke. I felt fully relaxed sitting in the bleachers there in the packed warehouse space. I guess I was comforted in a way by the traditional model of performance we were about to see, in the context of T:BA:15, when on more than one occasion you’re left not knowing when to clap or when the show is over. I enjoy this challenge about T:BA but the comedy show still felt like we could slouch and slump our shoulders after holding perfect posture for days.
But Disoriented Comedy doesn’t shy away from the social commentary PICA is running throughout the festival. In fact, quite quickly I am not slumping my shoulders, when host and founder of the comedy group, Jenny Yang, begins to challenge the audience in sly ways wrapped up in her neatly delivered jokes.
Yang is funny right away, she’s young and good at being on stage. This doesn’t seem to only stem from her simply enjoying it. She is from L.A. and she talks to us and about Portland like a lot of people visiting from bigger cities do, with a mixture of wonderment, older-sister condescension and an envy quickly dismissed with slick pragmatics. That’s cute that you’re doing that but I know how it is in the real world out there so I am not going to yield to this particular hobby in my own life, or whatever indulgence or trend is the subject of the joke.
The jokes poking fun at predominantly white-liberal Portland are funny, mostly because her observations make it seem like she does live here. It makes me wonder what the other cities get mocked for. What do comedians say at shows in New York? In Boise? Seattle? Yang takes a census of the crowd. There are quite a few people from Asian countries in the crowd. I can tell because Yang takes a poll by calling out “the Philippines!” or “Indonesia!” with happy ethnically-identified screams and shouts. She yells “white people!” and can predict she gets less than enthusiastic responses to which she exclaims how she loves white liberals for that immediate sense of shame we wear on our sleeve. I didn’t scream with the exuberance of the people from China or Taiwan either. Why not? Yang interpreted the response as our collective apology, for everything, and the audience agreed.
Bri Pruett and Jan Tam joined Yang. Pruett is local and doesn’t dwell so much on Portland quirks or ethnic make-up. Tam’s brand of humor is edgy and subversive. She does a podcast and I’d like to listen to her there in a more conversational context.
This morning I read the NY Times Op-Ed piece which inspired Michelle Ellsworth’s show, Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome, a performance I saw last night. Published in 2003, columnist Maureen Dowd reveals scientific evidence that the Y chromosome, the male chromosome, is losing genes and starting to decay. Dowd delivers this information with journalistic accuracy and sincerity, but with a nice dose of sass. The op-ed is funny as it reports on current genetic research and warns of a world without men.
For Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome, Ellsworth takes Dowd’s mainstream wit and cultural insights and translates them into her bizarre and enigmatically obsessive creation. The project is an extensive one. She envisions the world without men and in doing so, has found through her research that there is a deep need to prepare for this. She has built all the tools women need to continue to enjoy how men make them feel, if the world were to empty of the other sex, “the second sex” as Dowd’s article postures. On the stage are various props and constructions. She has a huge eyeball to mimic the constant leering men do. She invents a toilet seat that doesn’t stay closed. She has archives of men dancing on video. She’s preserved “man smells’’ by canning their shirts and socks.
She delivers this all in a wavering but never-lagging voice, talking continuously for most of the 60-minute performance that includes improvised dance and audience participation. She speaks as if she only has a little of your time, like you’re late to something and she just has a second show you one more thing. It’s all at once a sales pitch, a confessional and a kid showing off a volcano science project. And behind the persona of her performance, is a tender, deep-thinking person, drawing you closer into her bizarre and intriguing playground.
Day 8: Good Morning
This morning, the thumping, accelerating sounds of a song filled my room and pumped through a last foggy impression of a dream. At first, I thought that I was dreaming the noise, until it woke me up entirely. It was coming from outside. A man’s voice, high and perky, bouncing on the pace of heart-rate spiking music. The clock read 7:11 AM.
On the Hotel Deluxe rooftop next to my apartment, a spin class. I hadn’t heard this before. So my partner and I tried to doze off but ultimately couldn’t sleep with the daybreak workout party sweating outside, as if to say, “get up and get going lazy birds!” Ok, that sounds bitter and I’m not, and 7 am is not daybreak. Although it probably woke up most of the people on this block, it seemed a perfect way to wake up after the show I saw last night, although I’m not sure why.
The show was Dynasty Handbag’s Good Morning Evening Feelings at Disjecta. Dynasty Handbag is the alter-ego of multifaceted artist Jibz Cameron. It is a one-woman show in which Dynasty hosts a talk show. The backdrop on screen at Disjecta displayed a brightly lit scene of arm chairs and Good Morning America cheer. The show was great. Another T:BA installation that had the audience laughing the whole way through, while the host teased the artsy crowd and Portland in general in a pre-show monologue. But her crafted indifference and lazy delivery makes all those usual jokes even funnier.
Similar to the late Colbert Report, Dynasty Handbag follows the conventions of popular talk shows to showcase some of their absurdities. She plays all her guests, changing costumes on stage, improvising throughout giving the show a rare and sweetly rough feeling.
But she steers away from further comparisons to Colbert because her Dynasty is a mess. She abandons sentences mid-way through, letting sounds just slide or flap out of her mouth as if it was all nonsense anyway. She sounds bored or like she’s nursing a hangover by getting more drunk all the time. Her face contorts and under the heavy eye make-up and sloppy lipstick, she looks everything from terrifying to manic to clown-like. The elasticity of her expressions brings Jim Carrey to mind.
And all of her guests on the show, the lesbian-breakfast chef, the Broadway star and the world’s most popular celebrity, are all versions of those things but ones that have been dragged through a back alley, drugged or beat up in some way, emerging on the other side as washed-up nobodies, trying to get rid of all the F.A.G.S. in their lives – fear, anger, guilt and shame.
The lesbian-breakfast chef is one reason I thought of her this morning, making me wonder what Dynasty’s portrayal of the easily and often mocked exercise instructor persona would look like. The show also came to mind because of the way the sun-washed roof top looked from my window first thing in the morning, while the fast music ramped up. It made me think of the stale, morning after a party mess when a few people are still up, letting the music pound and trying to keep the party going. Dynasty Handbag’s persona felt in part like a culmination of all these mornings, as though she’s had many of them.
After the show, I went to the Works. I leaned up against a wall, watching a small group of people dancing in front of D.J. Stewart Villian, his Yankee hat dipping and rising the entire set. A wallflower for the night, I watched one particular woman in the middle of the dance floor. She moved like a T:BA performance, her arms like snakes through the air, then like flapping wings. Her back and shoulders slid in S-shapes, and then she’d extend a leg, pointing her foot, revealing some training maybe. She needed a lot of room, and she took it, not always dancing to the beat of the music, but to some other unheard rhythm.
Day 9: Fitting everything in!
Today is the last Saturday of T:BA. If you hadn’t gone to a single event over the last eight days, but spent today going to each talk and performance, stacking them up like episodes of Breaking Bad, by the end of the day (at 2:00 am tomorrow morning really, after the 90’s themed dance party tonight at the Works) you’d have a good impression of what T:BA and PICA are doing and what it means to this city.
I spent the morning on a yellow school bus with about 30 other people on the Know Your History Tour, which brought us through the Pearl district and industrial Northwest, past former T:BA sites and the original Works location, which was once Machine Works and is now an L.A. Fitness — a place where some PICA executives work out to this day. We rode up to Washington High School where T:BA spent four years, further expanding the festival’s reach to new neighborhoods. Afterwards a conversation was held at PICA titled Changing Cities: An Arts and Culture Outlook.
I am writing this hastily as I am in between events and I hope to expound on these things in further detail tomorrow. But lastly, I wanted to mention Radhouane El Meddeb/La Compagnie De Soi, the performance I saw last night. It runs again tonight at 6:30 at the Winningstad Theatre. You won’t regret going. Something happens during that performance, I haven’t fully digested it yet and have no time to write more and maybe I’ll never articulate it but it is something you can feel, if you go. It appeals in so many ways. It is beautiful, humiliating, sensual. It starts ideas of gender, context, and history rolling in your head, and it is all subtle and not overwhelming so that you can enjoy it and let it confuse and bewilder you at the same time.
Day 10: Wrapping up, a few days later
On Sunday, I squinted my way through a bright afternoon haze to the PICA headquarters for a closing conversation, Creative Exchange Lab. PICA Artistic Director, Angela Mattox, was in a T-Shirt, and some of the artists on the conversation’s panel looked like they just got off a plane, tired and trying to still be alert. Looking around at the same faces I’ve seen all week, there was a collective welcoming of the casual and slower-paced environment. It served as a peaceful send-off after a noisy ten days, and also delineated questions that attending the festival night and after night start to probe, without having the time or space to fully form.
In addition to this closing conversation, Jen, Sean and I attended Changing Cities: An Arts and Culture Outlook lecture which PICA Executive Director, Victoria Frey and Portland State University Urban Studies professor, Ethan Seltzer, moderated the day before on Saturday. The guests were Julie Phelps of Counter Pulse in San Francisco, Andre Middleton of RACC and Gabe Flores of Surplus Space here in Portland.
So for my last post on the festival, here are some questions and overall thoughts I’ve had or heard, posed by the artists, curators, and audience members alike. I’ve heard them asked in the whiz of talk at the Works, in show audiences, in conversations Jen and I had over a post-show cigarette, and mostly, in the lectures and conversations held at PICA.
Phelps spoke on building something larger than herself, to outlive her in her own lifetime, and “creating examples of risks that stick.” Her approach in moving to the infamous Tenderloin district of San Francisco was to surpass herself as an individual by quickly integrating with the neighborhood, living there, seeking to learn through dialogue what is going to be good for the community at large. I grabbed onto this quickly, not fully understanding the scope of it but the impression and sound alone begins a new way of thinking. The risk does start with the individual, and then that one person incites the same in others and movement happens.
Victoria Frey discussed how real estate developers appreciate PICA because there is evidence that they bring about change and progress to areas. The artists cause, as Flores points out, the demographics to shift to roughly 10% African-American or less, then at this point property value shoots up, and then as Victoria points out, the artists aren’t so important anymore.
She asked then how do we convince new landlords the value of the arts community? Privately, I thought how do we convince residents as well? How I would define the value of the arts community is something I feel like I could answer as quickly as stating why my Mom is important to me, but then I realized the words don’t come so easily. It makes me wonder what I take for granted and since then, I’ve been directing attention at answering this question, truthfully.
One of the artists brought up having trust in possibilities. How is this cultivated? Where does it come from?
Good things have happened in the beloved and loathed Pearl District. Frey points out that there are quite a few galleries with local owners who bought their spaces, demonstrating a strong commitment to their location. Elizabeth Leach, Blue Sky and PDX Contemporary Art are among them.
That last conversation I opened with, the Creative Exchange Lab, dealt a lot with the experience of the audience and the artist, and what kind of exchange happens between the two. Keijaun R. Thomas introduced the suggestion that as audience members, we can decide to be more present in the moment. Clapping on cue may not always be the mindful response. The standing ovation doesn’t need to always happen. Sitting in silence at the end of a show is just as much an expression and response to it.
There was a consensus loosely linking the artists on the panel in tired but telling nods, that not everything they do and show an audience is sourced from a legible place or needs to be made sense of. Sometimes, the artist is not trying to say something, as L.A.-based artist Dylan Mira pointed out by quoting one of this year’s T:BA performers, Dana Michel.
New York based artist, Samita Sinha, who performed in last year’s festival, admitted a reservation about having to explain her work during the conversation. She’s written grant after grant in which she’s had to communicate an idea that she often hasn’t fully formed yet. Her voice laid bare the exhaustion of repeating that task and she further illuminated what she meant when she said that the core of her work is beyond her own understanding sometimes and definitely not capable of being expressed by the written word.
Visual Art Curator, Kristan Kennedy said she sits in an audience and her ideas and thoughts are organized. Her experience is not simply the absorbing of the performance happening in front of her but of her own art taking shape internally. I look back at the blog posts here. I would have done it a little differently, now. I would not have tried to accurately frame the performances so much, reaching for minute details to conjure the same sight I had from my seat for the readers. The experience cannot be duplicated, the performance can be.