Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Favorite TBA Moments

PICA's 10 day marathon of Time Based Art has come to a close. I had a great time getting sweaty and dirty at Washington High School as a volunteer. I had even more fun stumbling from venue to venue taking it all in.

The most magical moment for me was Ethan Rose, Laura Gibson, and Ryan Jeffrey's Younger. They holed themselves up inside the white walls of PDX Contemporary Gallery downtown and created an improvisational performance. Ryan Jeffrey created video pieces inspired by Laura and Ethan's previous recordings which he would project on the windows for the duration of the 3.5 hour performance. The audience would be on the street looking in.

After spending an afternoon watching Melody Owen's eclectic collection of video works Circles and Spinning Wheels at the Northwest Film center I decided to wander around town until 6:30 when their performance at PDX Contemporary was scheduled to start. I walked towards the waterfront in search for a cheap lunch and stumbled onto Art in the Pearl. I explored all of the artisan's booths over pumpkin curry and then headed towards PNCA for Robert Boyd's Conspiracy Theory. As I walked past PDX Contemporary around 6 the space was full of movement as people set up equipment but there was no sign of any observers yet.

I was the only one in the room for Conspiracy Theory. It is a double channel video installation of television clips related to conspiracy theories. It started with footage of the two towers crumbling and quickly lead into AIDS being a conspiracy to wipe out homosexuals and drug addicts to UFOs and back again in a quick and climactic rhythm. It is set to Kylie Minogue's Believe. It made me want to dance. It made me want to believe while at the same time making me want to shake every conspiracy theorist I've ever had to listen to.

It was now time for the performance to start. I returned to the corner of 9th and Flanders and there was a crowd of maybe 15 people starting to gather. The sounds started... gentle and soothing as the morning dew... subtle chimes and ambient noise. Then Laura started to sing and her voice is that of a songstress from a bygone era. It is almost sunset. The video projections on the front window can barely be made out. Not soon after they began the crowd slowly grew shutting down the block. People would stop in their tracks. Cars who drove by would roll down their windows and pause. As the sun set the sky grew purple and the light reflected off the buildings and the projections became more defined. A child wandering through a meadow her hand brushing the grass, embers from a fire, piles of old manuscripts scattered across the floor of an old abandoned house... I must've lingered for hours. I never got bored... I just got hungry. It was dark when I left. The most magical part was watching the people who stumbled upon it unbeknownst to them. It's not everyday you get to sit in the middle of a downtown city street and just linger and absorb beauty like that through all of your senses.

Younger (Ethan Rose, Laura Gibson, and Ryan Jeffery)
09.06.09 at PDX Contemporary Art
2009 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Wayne Bund
All Rights Reserved, PICA

To learn more about Ethan Rose and Laura Gibson you can go to their myspace:

The closest thing I could compare them to are Mùm or Park Avenue Music.

My second runner up for best TBA moment was hands down Pan Pan Theatre's The Crumb Trail. A modern interpretation of Hansel and Gretel. They are a theatre troupe from Ireland. The show starts out with good old British humor. The four actors introduce themselves...poke fun at one another...quote reviews written about their own play. You feel like you are observing your own friends at a dinner party. Then the mood grows somber. Gretel starts to speak of death and loss and is drowned out by popular Youtube clips. She and Hansel are eventually kicked out for her unpleasantness. "My eyes will haunt you" she whispers as she leaves like a curse. She comes back...her face covered in blood asking for help but they do not let her in. Then the actors move to the corner where and play a drone filled song bathed in red light from the video projector..."maternal love only lasts 33 months after that it's pure affection." Throughout the whole play they had bread baking in a breadmaker. The smell permeated the theatre. I hadn't eaten dinner. I was so hungry. I would have done anything for a slice of that bread. In one scene Arthur is asked what he would kill for. "I don't I suppose" He is then asked to read the scene from Hansel and Gretel where the witch tries to trick Gretel into climbing into the oven...but how Gretel locks the witch in instead. He ends the passage with the witches curdling scream...

I appreciated the performance because while it challeneges the conventions of theatre it still managed to move me in a profound way. I have to admit I am getting bored of work that merely exists to challenge convention. This performance was disjointed and poetic in it's presentation. It left much to be implied. Maybe fables in their seemingly innocent terror aren't so far form reality. The wicked witch was hungry and pushed to the drastic measure of eating children for her own survival. We live in a world where children are killed for perversion more often than survival. A world where very real terrors exist... murder... hunger ...disease ..poverty ..and worse of all is our own apathy and detachment towards it all ... where we hide from our own pain and loneliness by surfing the web... broadcasting ourselves on Youtube... dancing because there's nothing left to do.

You can view a condensed version of The Crumb Trail here:

1 comment:

  1. Loved your comments and interpretation of the play. I felt that I was there but also sad that I was not!