Arts Review Festival

No Better Time to Transcend

Days 4-5 at T:BA:14

There is a transformative effect about the Time-Based Art Festival and many travellers are caught by the sirens song. These sirens are the curators and artists. Once drawn in to the siren’s world by their eloquent song, many remain bound. They are met with challenges and pursuits that are ultimately illusory but have a dramatic effect in the transormation of Self. These are my emerging reflections in the waters in the land of sirens, where I currently live.

This review covers performances by Body Cartography Project, Tahni Holt, Tim Hecker, Maia Beiser, and Christopher Sutton. This might be the first time that I have not attended T:BA on a Saturday. I assigned myself to a different Theater Review and I knew that Paula was out covering what I had missed.

Samita Sinha
Samita Sinha

Early on in the day, I had attended the talk with Samita Sinha and Tanya Tagaq. It was great to see them discuss each other’s work. They flirt with each other because there is a natural camaraderie as experimental-traditional vocalists with conservative families that wonder what they are doing with their lives. They had missed each other’s work. It was a smart pair-up apparently spawned by Angela Mattox, demonstrating her sense of threading and consistency.

I had reviewed Samita almost unfavorably in my previous post, but in this talk I confirmed that she is more self-conscious than Tanya. Tanya does not have that balanced discipline rooted in physical sensation, peering in to psychology like Samita. But Tanya talks about her experiences like she transcends conditioning and physical limitation while peering in to the energy and intention of her audience, largely without discipline in the strictest sense of the word. They would be amazing collaborators if they can bring themselves to do it.

The story of my days have been that of trying to squeeze the festival in to my already insane means of survival, with the ambitious goal of covering 70% of the entire program. This is a brand new magazine and there is a lot of work to do, let alone generate street level arts journalism at the same time. It is exciting and stressful. There is no day off, but it is the best job in the world. There is no money, but one feels enriched.

Bodycartography Promo Image

There I am at City Bikes, repairing my own wheels at 5pm Sunday, one hour before Super Nature by Body Cartography Project is set to permanently end. “There will probably be two people waiting ahead of me,” I thought when considering what kind of lineup would exist for a one-on-one performance in the afternoon.

“That’s 15-minutes a piece across six hours, so a total of 24 audience members per day, 3 days, so less than a hundred participants despite thousands of people in attendance.”

This is my subconscious trying to tell me I shouldn’t have waited until the last minute. Sure enough, they had a waitlist out the door, extending in to another day. I am grateful to the artists and shift volunteer for adding a final spot on their list for the purpose of this review. I wait outside and remove my shoes.

Walk in to this cold dungeon, early industrial Portland warehouse boiler room maybe, or something massive with vent curving down toward floor disconnected, woman lying there as if dead or knocked out. Scenes of torture, imprisonment and Guantanamo. A bright stage light shines down center in the room. A stereo pair of audio monitors pour sonic grit and noise in to the space. She begins to interact with me. This is creepy.

Olive Beiringa might not be real or at least might not realize I am there—I know full well she’s aware—because its that illusion she makes by willing a temporary state of madness. I resist and try to deter her focus, not sabotagingly, just like a recalcitrant boy, I want to make her laugh and break the mold. She breaks through to me instead, I get in to it, all the meanwhile trying to observe the technical process involved in light and sound.

The truth is that this artist has put their self at risk, locked in a sound proof room, the kind you would imagine mobsters perform executions. We do some flips and turns together. At some point she bashes her head against my heart and pushes me in to the wall. I realize that I could be involved in homicide if I merely shifted 90 degrees left while her cranium slid off my body against an iron-concrete wall. But at other times, the interaction teased at sexuality and submission. As an audience member, enjoyment is tied to what you are willing to observe in yourself. I didn’t enjoy the strange impulses, but I can hardly blame myself for them.

It strikes me then how far post-modern arts have evolved to involve the audience. This artist has literally put her life in to your hands. It turned out that lights and apparently sound are manually adjusted by the viewer (I think it was Otto Ramstad) watching from a monitor in another room. We were wired. It brigthens and dims based upon physical proximity of the two subjects.

I had to bust a fast ride over to Imago and made it narrowly on time, finding a seat coincidentally next to a friend. The performance, a choreographed work by Tahni Holt called Duet Love started off in motion. The audience determined the start time, so it seemed, because they were kind of wriggling together like a cluster of cells for a while, but a clear start point began with silence and still poses. They step back and it becomes humorous with silly vogue and repetition. Silence is only broken by what I can only call a sonic fart, slowly repeating. It is so weird. Random laughter.

Duet Love promo image. Lucy Yim & Allie Hankins
Duet Love promo image. Lucy Yim & Allie Hankins

The cliché of Portland’s weirdness did not start all that long ago, but it can be seen in the weirdness of our most recognized choreographers. Hardly a moment of virtuosity in this work, but I know that this fine selection of dancers are capable. So the bizarre awkwardness that ensues is carefully discovered by these standardly graceful artists.

They remove layers of clothing, eventually performing in the nude. They add layers and trade between another. There is androgyny to be precise. The nudity is absolutely not provoking sexuality, just honesty. This is about gender. This is about how our movement creates the effect of gender identity. Duet Love spoofs gender and in that Portland fashion, illuminates just how weird it is.

Luke Wyland by the way, a T:BA regular musical act or collaborator, produced the live soundtrack. Few can make something bizarre and pretty like he can.

I was lucky enough to get in to Tim Hecker’s concert at Lincoln Hall. The lineup was long, advance sales and pass holder reservations had sold out long ago. I waited forty-five minutes in line. By golly though, I found a seat with my best lady in the back rear right corner of the hall—oddly enough again by coincidence next to a friend. This corner might be why the bass was so intense. It likes to gel up in a way in corners. But it is an acoustically treated place so I am surrounded almost evenly by sound.

Tim Hecker
Tim Hecker

Pure Moods is a best-selling compilation of European nineties new-agey electronic standards. But I think the term better describes this Canadian composer, Tim Hecker. He gets to the root of musical moods by cutting out rhythm and melody. It is absolute harmony by noise. Samples and synthesis lay a bed of nails and feathers in the darkness of an auditorium with only a light bright enough to provide the artist with enough to view his controls. I could have enjoyed the same music lying on the floor with headphones, but that stark landscape was irreplacable.

Myself and Kate (the best lady) stopped at home for a snack and a drink before hightailing it for Christopher Sutton at the WORKS. His blog, Record Lections is the inspiration for this vinyl collecting geek’s monologue set to favorite tracks of his choice. He expounds upon his personal curiosity in an amusingly self-conscious way. He’s funny and doesn’t really give a fuck what you think but totally wants to win you over. It was chill. I was ready for something more casual.

Monday was not so eventful, but I enjoyed seeing Uncovered by Maya Beiser, even if I didn’t truly enjoy the music concert. The fanfare definitely got this NPR audience excited, but it was the low point for me. It was the part where I sunk in my chair and grasped on to every bit of love I have for the cello to get through it. It started and ended with Led Zeppelin, which was preceded by AC/DC. This was in the program, I know, and she seems authentic about her love for the music. So be it, this audience gobbled it up.

That said, I loved everything in the middle. It started getting interesting with her arrangements for Nirvana, but it got really deep when she reinvented King Crimson. The film collaboration with Bill Morrison and Glenn Kotche was very cool. I love astronomy videos and they worked great with layers of cello and electronic effects. Portland Cello Project stepped in with some pretty decent Hendrix, but then it just went straight for classic rock radio and I was buzzing it out.

So much more T:BA is coming ahead from both Paula and myself, so stay tuned!

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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