Arts Review Festival

Yellow and Brown: Visual Arts Review + T:BA:14 Epilogue

As round as an apple, as deep as a cup

There is still time to view all the visual exhibits featured at T:BA this year. One thing that now seems permanent to the routine is this magazine that Kristan Kennedy put together to accompany her visual arts program. The content pivots out from featured artists to include various literature from various sources, things that are congruous to her presentation as a whole. Artist interviews help illuminate the meaning or process behind standardly abstract installations. Walls have been all but removed from the entire collection, replacing that with interactivity.

I attempted to see everything on the program, including the performances. The bike ride out to NE Portland cost the extra five minutes I needed to catch Aki Sasamoto, but thankfully Paula covered it here. Despite it being a performance, it is considered a visual program and occurred for one-night only.

Flashlight Filmstrip 2
Flashlight Filmstrip Projections

Jennifer West’s Flashlight Filmstrip Projections is the first thing on your left as you walk in to Fashion Tech; it was the first thing I did. A busy night, all the flashlights were in use and some people used smart phone flashlights. What we did not realize is that it is most effective when there is a projector lens, as on a standard flashlight. All provided lights were in use. The interactivity is right there. You are activating this piece. Because without it, the room is entirely dark, entirely dead.

West is completely invested in to film. It is her life. She lives in my old neighborhood, the valley in Los Angeles where during the height of analog film and music, so many post-production and materials-production facilities scattered the fertile zone along the hills. Her approach as an artist rather than filmmaker or technician leads to the exaltation of the materials in her installation.

Hanging filmstrip supported by clear plastic-glass allows for the flashlight to peer through the world within the material and interact, distorting the image as it hits the wall; zooming in to where it loses distinguishing character; pulling back to see a pattern; applying your own motion to the image. There was also a performance and a talk, both of which I reviewed here. The performance indeed elevates the work in to the realm of gods.

MSHR follows as the next door open at Fashion Tech. You are lured by the sound of crunching and nuclear winter weather. You step in and there are fantastical pods, four of them in the large room. Each is wired for an array of colorful lighting and speakers emitting some kind of noise. It is amazing how grating and playful, soothing and edgy those sounds are. That sound is controlled by the very lighting system in there, from optical sensors and analog synthesizers.

Resonant Entity Modulator
Resonant Entity Modulator

Each pod is characterized by these other-wordly or perhaps ancient-worldly hieroglyphs. Perhaps they are a language only belonging to MSHR. They are fascinating to look at and ponder in terms of structure. I thought I read once that they were 3D-printed. If they are handcut, then someone could be making the finest furniture in the universe and make a mint, versus these costly installations. So I am mystified by it and I sort of don’t want to know how it was built.

I missed their performance because they did something strange. Despite the schedule being promoted consistently for a month, and being locals, they performed the day after the scheduled appearance. No official word released out to the press. Funny thing is, I saw the artistic duo that night at the WORKS. So they blew it off and they made it. Why MSHR? Why? At least Todd reviewed them last year.

Jesse Sugarmann is another short-term visual exhibit. It lasted for several hours each night at the WORKS, projected to the public on the exterior wall of Fashion Tech. A three-piece projection loop involved three components of the auto-industry: drivers, workers, and products. Taken as a whole, it expresses the temporality, absurdity, and flat out danger of the auto industry.

Kristan's Hand
Kristan’s Hand14

The drivers (left) tell stories and reenact their accidents, the first time aloud, then several times without words. The products (center) are exalted, propped up on pipes, entirely balanced by weight. The image is remarkable, and sometimes that image is played with. The workers (right) explain their factory job, then reenact that mundane movement silently over and again. I gained compassion for the absurdity of their position.

Emily Roysdon, Uncounted Futures
Emily Roysdon, Uncounted Futures

On the second floor, below the PICA offices, two installations consume vast space with rather stark simplicity. First, you will notice Uncounted Futures by Emily Roysdon. It is a repetition: triangles on posts with wave-like curves giving motion to the base of the triangle pointing down toward the floor. There are needles at the center. Get closer: those are clocks.

A walk toward the wall where a line of these clocks extends for short enough length that you can stand back and see it as a constant blue line, but long enough that as you get close, the line goes out of view and seems boundless. As it gets larger in view, eyes fixed on them, something I can’t even describe happens. It is neat. Concepts of temporality, infinite, and the cycle of rebirth come to mind for me. I realize that it is brilliant arts capitalism: the artist can sell each clock and clean up.

Lisa Radon’s Infinite Increaser is economics at its finest. There are some plants lined up to a wall. There is a lemon and a glass of water. There is an odd shaped wood structure serving no purpose. There is a white square block holding up a cement block, the kind with squares in it. There is a book with scrawled out lines. You may smell the odorless plants. You may touch the cement. You may turn the page of the book. It is interactive.

On my second trip to this piece, there was a booklet that I discovered while walking out. A pile of them to be taken. It has short statements and mechanical designs within it, in such fragments that nothing is constructed. I realize that it is this little zine that needs to be absorbed for full appreciation.

Lisa Radon, Infinite Increaser
Lisa Radon, Infinite Increaser

Economics can be described as an attempt to increase infinite. The very notion of value is challenged in this work because uselessness is put on the pedestal.

This leaves the only thing on T:BA’s program outside of the inner-city, Wynne Greenwood’s Stacy is at Reed College. I did not make it. This makes me think about T:BA’s Field Guide program. If they must continue to program so far off-site, then I would like to produce via Ambit Magazine a bike ride and tour, starting at the PICA office or the WORKS site all the way out to Reed College. The bike ride would offer a guided visual experience for the group, in addition to the exhibit destination.


The world is guided by some invisible set of rules that our ancestors grasped at by inventing this calendar marked by four seasons; scientists have determined that set of rules but not the magic of it. Leaves are turning orange, red, yellow and brown. They pile in the streets.

It felt like we were at the height of summer throughout every day of the 2014 Time-Based Art Festival. Weather had been idyllic. Immediately following the scheduled event I noticed moisture come back to the air, and those leaves falling.

Appropriate, this truly is. Fall is about growth as much as it is about death. Leaves are dying and soon these trees will be void and skeletal. This is how I feel inside. The fall of my psyche is inevitable when you attend a sum total of 26 events in ten days. If I saw that much Shakespeare, I would be a different person. T:BA specialized in the art of self-extraction, however, work that does not chiefly entertain but rattles your bones to shake up your perspective.

Trickling in, as it does year-round, contemporary art and performance material has less gravity than when it is massed together with like materials from across the spectrum, gathered from around the world into Portland’s tightly packed urban center. Moreover the kind of work one sees here on a regular basis is simply not presented quite as well. Many of these artists perform in warehouses and black boxes, here or even in their home towns. It is the aggregate audience at festivals that drives thousands in to the seats at large theaters, night in and out. The artists are also compensated transparently and properly from PICA, putting them in a good mood.

I probably will never do this again. This is my third or fourth year attending twenty or more events. I have worked hard to build this magazine format on time for T:BA. It worked. Readership is way up. I intend to continue building and hopefully next year, I can attend the events with more writers in the field, focusing on editing while obtaining interviews.

Paula Helen’s commitment to the whole thing is impressive. We covered an equal number of events. We achieved our goal of covering all performances between us, plus most of the Institute program and visual arts. I do believe Ambit Mag has given the most comprehensive coverage of any single publication. Mission accomplished.


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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