Arts Review Festival

Inspirations and Invocations: My First Days at T:BA:14

This year my birthday was on a full moon! There were dinosaurs and karaoke songs, old friends and new admirers of my amazing karaoke powers… I got to meet one of my biggest crushes in the entertainment industry the day after my birthday! I gave Tim Heidecker a squash at the farmers market! I’m writing all this to give you an idea of what sort of head space I’ve been in this week. Pure birthday magic. Leading right into T:BA. Perfect.

I am still quite new to T:BA. Last year I met so many wonderful people through volunteering at events. It was a great way to get introduced to the festival. This year, I plan to go to as many shows I possibly can, while also attending the workshops, still working my part time job and somehow finding the time to write reviews! After witnessing the first events of  T:BA:14, I am thrilled to be a part of the experience.

Opening night was packed. There was a moment when the space had reached capacity and a long line extended from the entrance. Once the music began, I worked my way to the front and found some space to move. Thee Satisfaction created such a chill vibe on the dance floor. They know how to work a crowd and create a connection. They make their own beats, blending hip-hop with soul and R&B. Their lyrics inspire empowerment and unity. They emit this with their positivity and charismatic stage presence, which is inviting and contagious. Watching and listening to them do what they do, so smooth and so soulful… and then looking around the room, it was awesome to see so many people feeling it.

I stepped into the world of MSHR with their audio/visual installation Resonant Entity Modulator. I don’t know about you, but I love that title. It screams out aliens! When I entered the dark room lit up with blinking white lights on the floor and pulsating reds and blues, I thought, “Aliens!” Various stations on the ground create their own soundscapes and offer a different visual conversation.

I was reminded of a long walk I took once with my partner Michael. We had ourselves a time at a house show in St. Johns and were in no condition for biking. So we walked along the bluffs and both marvelled at the guard rails. With our unique perceptions, we looked closely at the metal markings and thought they looked like what ancient alien hieroglyphics would look like. Some strange form of communication untranslatable. That is how I relate to MSHR’s work.

In Flashlight Filmstrip Projections, Jennifer West invites interaction with the art and with fellow explorers. A dark room with filmstrips hanging in the air and flashlights floating around being offered by strangers. Blank walls ready to project what you choose to illuminate. All sorts of different images to experiment with.

Straight from work I headed over to Winningstad Theater for Cipher, the World Premiere by Samita Sinha. This has been a very busy week for me, at least, I have been staying up really late and getting up early. So when I arrived for Cipher I was in a very sleepy state. The first half of the performance I found it difficult to keep my attention. The lull of the repetitive music was too much for my sleepy head. As the movements progressed my interest peaked and my attention was back. She has a way of playing with emotion, turning quickly from bizarre animal pangs of pain to quirky cute grunts and twitchy movements. She moved from soft and gentle to bellows of intense longing and then into vocal invocations and so on.

Samita’s interactions with the various devices and the music itself played a strong part in the performance. She kept me wondering and curious and more importantly, mesmerized. In my sleepy state, I would focus on her hands and admire her delicate force. The very last movement was especially moving. The lights actively moving over her, casting her into the darkness then illuminating her as she stands close to the audience sharing her song of love. Eyes wide, offering, asking.

I had a bit of time before the next performance, which was perfect because I really wanted some caffeine to keep me going. After replenishing, I biked the short distance to PSU Lincoln Hall. I found myself waiting in line next to an older couple and decided to strike up a conversation with them. They had also just come from Cipher. We exchanged thoughts and talked about what we are excited to see this year. I really love the social aspect of this festival. Especially with The Works Programs in the evenings, it is intentionally set up to create dialogue. So many fascinating folks attending and participating in this event made for some great conversations.

Tanya Tagaq
Tanya Tagaq

Inuit Punk, Tanya Tagaq comes out personable and delightfully charming. She introduces us to the two performers, Jesse Zubot, and Jean Martin. She talks a bit about the film Nanook of the North which they will be creating a soundscape for. As the film begins and the music starts, I wonder how I would be doing if I didn’t drink that mate earlier. I am not entirely sure I would have a hard time at this show. She is amazing to watch. Fierce and sensual.

Sonically, I have never heard anything I could compare it to. I have seen a couple of men who have trained in throat singing, but this was unique in every way. I was completely moved and found it difficult to sit still. I would love to see this somewhere with more lively acoustics and a dance floor. The way they wove the sonic tapestry along with the film was very impressive. A powerful pairing. So metal! I hope it isn’t the last time I see Tanya Tagaq. If you haven’t seen her yet, she has one last performance this evening, 8:30 at PSU Lincoln Hall. Show up early to get in.

Paula Helen

By Paula Helen

Gravitating toward spirituality and poetic narrative, Paula has recently allowed the passion of movement to connect with writing. Practicing Butoh directly, while studying all forms of contemporary dance through the process of cultural journalism, she has developed a new level of appreciation for all the performing arts.

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