Colin Manning: more is more

Oregon filmmaker's expansive visions, explored in a recent retrospective, need no apology

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

At the Northwest Film Center’s most recent installment of its ongoing independent Pacific Northwest filmmaker project Northwest Tracking,  the notorious Portland-based underground imagemaker Colin Manning gave us a taste of his special brand of film collage and animation: a retrospective of his earlier work plus a live performance of his signature projection art. After the performance and screening, Manning took the stage at Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium for a conversation with NWFC’s Ben Popp.

His first words: “Sorry about that.”

Manning talked about his mad process, and how his tastes and techniques have evolved over time. “I have a capacity for overindulgence, too much all at once; sometimes it works, sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more. It’s different every time. The way I work, I don’t plan…it happens in the moment.”

More was definitely more at this event. Even before it commenced, as I hummed along with the Balanescu Quartet’s Kraftwerk covers playing on the house sound system, I noticed that the audients whose visual style most strongly signaled “artist” all positioned themselves (as I had, being an “artist” myself) behind Manning’s bank of projectors, which were set up not in the projector room but out in the audience, about five rows from the back. I counted four film projectors, two—no, three—slide projectors, and one of those overhead-transparency projectors like you used to see in schools, plus a DJ-crate full of reels. Manning was there early, testing his gear, talking to fans and former collaborators (I recognized Erin Laroue of local gothic doom pop group Jamais Jamais), and wearing a sweet vintage shirt printed with a pattern that looks like those sedimentary cross-sections you see in geology textbooks and science museums. Already it was one of the most Portland things I’ve ever seen.

Colin Manning’s first priority before getting into his “analog projection magick” was to introduce his supporting musicians, Disxiple 113 and Andrew Tomasello. “I usually do this in music settings: night clubs, someone’s basement,” Manning joked. We soon saw why.

I always like to go into these things without having a clue about what I’m getting into, so the live projection caught me totally off guard: a super-rich overabundance of wildly varied images, projected together all at once onto different planes of Whitsell’s screen, sometimes split by pieces of glass and mirrored on either side of the screen, sometimes densely superposed, usually flipped backwards or upside-down or both, film running in reverse, slides overlapping, colors and text washing out beyond the edges of meaning into some sort of trashily transcendent hyper-meaning.

For all the chaos, though, there was a clear artistic vision behind it all, a singular taste driving the selection and combination of images drawn from old nature films, safety catalogs, MST3K-worthy science fiction (I’m sure I saw some clips from the Heinlein classic Destination Moon), documentary footage from the last several decades, and gods only know what all else. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a cinematic experience so deeply in the avant-garde reaches of my lusty, psychedelic, extravagance-addicted gut. It can’t have lasted more than about 20 minutes but it felt like several hours. I’m always searching for art that’s big enough, full enough, and crazy enough to really scratch that itch, the one that demands More More More, and it’s not too often that I feel like I’m really getting good and properly fucked (aesthetically speaking, of course). For me, more was more.

The music fit right in there, noisy and dissonant and atmospheric, supporting the film and overwhelming the ears even as Manning overwhelmed the eyes. After each musician’s segment ended, Manning briefly flipped on that overhead projector as a sort of applause (I guess), broadcasting a ribbed ring of metal surrounding what looked almost like a bunch of teeth. Wild applause from the enthusiastic audience (who presumably also can’t get enough of this kind of art) and lights up for a quick stretch. We sure needed it.

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DanceWatch Weekly: A very large nutshell

The week in dance wanders from drag to Tiny Dances to solos to a book about older dancers

Two drag performances, a musical based on a graphic novel, a book release party, some solos and not solos, and a fundraiser performance featuring Ten Tiny Dances: your dance weekend in a nutshell.

Jamuna Chiarini

On Thursday night at Performance Works NW in Southeast Portland, dance writer Emmaly Wiederholt and photographer Gregory Bartning will unveil their new book, Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond. A gorgeous, 9×12, hardcover book, Beauty is Experience contains 210 pages of interviews and photos of 54 West Coast dance artists over the age of 50. Out of the 54 artists, 19 are from Portland. The book is for sale on Amazon.com and on Wiederholt’s website, Stance on Dance. I highly recommend checking it out.

Within its pages you will find intimate portraits of Portland dance artists Linda Austin, Susan Banyas, Mike Barber, Gregg Bielemeier, Nancy Davis and Jim Lane, Tracey Durbin, Patrick Gracewood, Jamey Hampton, Laurel and Gene Leverton, Carla Mann, Tere Mathern, Jim McGinn, Josie Moseley, Jayanthi Raman, Eric Skinner, Melissa St. Clair and Carolyn Stuart, plus 35 more dancers from up and down the coast.

Why is this book important? By simply acknowledging dancers over the age of 50, the book subverts the patriarchal dance orthodoxy that says, “younger is better.” Showing everyone, everywhere, how beautiful and amazing dancers are at any age (and that you can’t actually age out of dancing) can change the dance world as we know it and how audiences see dancers. So buy the book, support the cause, subvert patriarchy, and keep dancing.

Performances this week

Portland dancer Mike Barber photographed by Gregory Bartning for his new collaborative book project with Emmaly Wiederholt called Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond.

Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond-Book Launch Party
Emmaly Wiederholt and Gregory Bartning
7 pm September 21
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Avenue
See above.

Drag artist Lahore Vagistan in Lessons in Drag with Lawhore Vagistan. Photo courtesy of Reed College Performing Arts.

Lessons in Drag with Lawhore Vagistan
A Lecture Demonstration by Kareem Khubchandani
Presented by Reed College Performing Arts
6:30 pm September 21
Reed College Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab 128, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
FREE
Combining his research in dance studies, queer nightlife, South Asian diaspora, global queer politics, performance ethnography, critical race studies, masculinity, femininity, and drag, Khubchandani brings to life his drag persona LaWhore Vagistan, “your favorite desi drag aunty,” to enable “conversations about dance cultures, Third World feminisms, globalization, and queer pleasures.”

Kareem holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and is working on a book titled Ishtyle: Improvising Gay South Asian Nightlife, a performance ethnography of gay nightlife spaces in Bangalore and Chicago.

Check out Khubchandani’s interview with by Rajit Singh in 2016 and his music video Sari. You won’t be sorry.

The musical Fun Home featuring actors Aida Valentine as Small Alison, Karsten George as Christian Bechdel, and Theo Curl as John Bechdel at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

Fun Home
Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, directed by Chris Coleman
September 16-October 22
Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.
The winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2015, Fun Home, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, allows the audience into the intimate world of the author at three different stages of her life as she tries to make sense of her closeted and distant father, his death, her family, growing up in a funeral home, and coming out as an adult.

Photo of dancer/choreographer Carlyn Hudson. Photo courtesy of Carlny Hudson.

Solos, and Not-Solos…(But Mostly Solos)
Carlyn Hudson
September 22-24
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Avenue
SubRosa Dance Collective co-founder Carlyn Hudson presents her first independent evening of choreographic works, Solos, and Not Solos…(But Mostly Solos). The program includes six solos, a duet, and a quartet that effortlessly slip between contemporary dance styles, ballet and vaudeville, and weave together stories of love, loss, and beauty in whimsical and sometimes not so whimsical ways.

Hudson is originally from New York, attained her BFA from SUNY Purchase, performed with Connecticut Ballet and co-founded SubRosa Dance Collective in 2011 with Cerrin Lathrop, Jessica Evans, Kailee McMurran, Lena Traenkenschuh, Tia Palomino and Zahra Banzi.

Photo of Wayne Bund by Wayne Bund.

Critical Engagement Series: Wayne Bund / Feyonce
8:30pm September 22
Flock Dance Center in the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave., Studio 4
In this month’s Critical Engagement Series at Flock Dance Center, multidisciplinary artist Wayne Bund presents Feyonce, an evolving performance piece that uses comedy, theater, music, dance and drag to discusses the power of femininity and sass – more succinctly put as “genderfuck,” as Feyonce says in her performance.

The Critical Engagement Series is curated by dance artist Tahni Holt, and “brings together audiences and choreographers in hopes to reveal some of the mystery surrounding the languages around dance and the unique practices of individual choreographers. We start with the question: What does the choreographer need at this particular moment in their process and how might this also serve the wider community.”

The Ten Tiny stage used for Ten Tiny Dances establish by Mike Barber in 2002. Photo courtesy of Ten Tiny Dances.

Inspiring Amity: A Ten Tiny Dances Fundraiser for New Expressive Works
5:30 pm September 23
810 SE Belmont (corner of SE 8th & Belmont)
Join Ten Tiny Dances in a performance fundraiser for New Expressive Works (N.E.W.). N.E.W., established in 2013 and directed by Subashini Ganesan, is home to a diverse dance community and provides space and support to contemporary dance and arts of all kinds. DanceWatch featured New Expressive Works in several previous stories which you can read here and here. The evening will be catered by Art Fortuna & Vibrant Table Catering and Division Wines, and will feature performances by Unit Souzou, Natya Leela, members of Obo Addy Legacy Project’s Okropong, Raul Gómez-Rojas (artistic director of Metropolitan Youth Symphony), Oluyinka Akinjiola (artistic director of Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater), Jessica Hightower, Shaun Keylock, Stephanie Lanckton, Ruth Nelson and Luke Matter.

Upcoming Performances

September
September 29-30, Diphylleia Grayi (Skeleton Flower) + Matriarch, Degenerate Art Ensemble and Mizu Desierto, presented by Mizu Desierto and Water In The Desert
September 29-30, Episode III, jin camou, Julia Calabrese, Mary Sutton, Leah Brown, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
September 30, Katha – A Thematic Classical Dance Presentation w/ Live Music, presented by Kalakendra

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DramaWatch Weekly: A test, a lull, lean prose

On Portland stages, it's a week for "Fun Home," Raymond Carver, catching up with "An Octoroon," and checking the horizon

Let there be more than one female character.

Let them talk to each other.

Let them have a conversation that’s less than 100 percent about men.

A.L. Adams

That’s The Bechdel Test, a set of guidelines Graphic Novelist Alison Bechdel sensibly suggested in 1985 as a way to vet narratives for basic fairness. In my theater reviews, I’ve used it—not because it’s a buzzword, I could give a rip—but because when I find myself already bothered by a 2-D plot, applying this test gives me an impartial reason why. #notallmen. See what I did there? Never mind.

Here’s something extraordinary: Alison Bechdel has an autobiographical musical, Fun Home.

What’s more, it’s won a Tony, and I bet it passes the Test. It opens this week at Portland Center Stage at The Armory.

Aida Valentine (left), Karsten George (center), and Theo Curl in “Fun Home.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

Think-piece brinksmen on Bechdel’s level, those whose theories have become common knowledge, rarely produce their own art. Malcolm Gladwell, for instance, rode “The Tipping Point” to the edge, but not to Broadway. Richard Florida, who championed and later renounced “The Creative Class,” never made a musical about it (arguably, The Music Man scooped him). Yet here comes Alison Bechdel—the mind behind the pen that’s pinpointed exactly what was wrong with so many others’ stories—striding into the spotlight* to answer a dare critics-who-are-also-artists hear daily: “Let’s see you try it.”

Okay. Bam. Tony.

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Francesco Lecce-Chong: at home in Oregon

Eugene Symphony's new music director, who conducts the orchestra's season-opening concert this week, begins by engaging with his new community

Not every orchestra music director lives in the city where they conduct. Most have multiple gigs and spend much of their time on airplanes and in hotel rooms. But newly appointed Eugene Symphony music director Francesco Lecce-Chong decided to move to Eugene — during July’s 107 degree heat wave, no less.

“You travel so much as a conductor anyway that you can pick your spot,” he explains. “It’s such a beautiful place, and when you’re starting a new job in a new place, you want to invest in it.”

Francesco Lecce-Chong conducted the ESO last spring at Eugene’s Hult Center.

Besides, it already feels like home. After a decade at East Coast conservatories (Mannes College of Music and Curtis Institute) and orchestras (assistant conductor at Milwaukee and Pittsburg Symphonies), Eugene reminds him of another outdoor-friendly college where he was born and raised — Boulder, Colorado — where he started conducting youth orchestra at age 16. Even then, Lecce-Chong admired how Eugene Symphony music director Marin Alsop took her other orchestra, the Colorado Symphony, from community ensemble to professional orchestra.

As a student, he encountered both of Alsop’s successors, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Giancarlo Guerrero, who like Alsop went on to conduct prestigious orchestras. Both told him how how valuable the ESO position had been for their development. “They said that back before it was cool, Eugene was only orchestra in US that was was taking risks and picking young, first-time music directors and giving them space and support to grow,” Lecce-Chong remembered. That put the ESO on his radar, and when Danail Rachev’s contract expired last year and the job opened up, he went for it, beating out more than 250 other applicants. Read Tom Manoff’s ArtsWatch story about his audition concert. (He’ll keep his current assignments as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, with whom he’s currently on a big European tour, and principal conductor of its youth orchestra, for the rest of this season.)

Lecce-Chong arrived to find the Eugene Symphony’s current season already set (orchestras plan way ahead), so this season doesn’t really represent his own vision. However, he was able to make a few tweaks that reflect his own priorities and give insights into what lies ahead.

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Spinning into Butter review:  white noise

Bag & Baggage Productions' season opener should spark needed conversations about race

“It is a play,” writes Bag & Baggage Productions Artistic Director Scott Palmer in the program notes, “that deals with well-meaning, liberally minded, white people dealing with issues of racism in a way that I think is hugely relevant to me personally and to the community of Hillsboro.”

I’d go further: Spinning into Butter, playing through September 24 at Bag & Baggage’s cool, cozy new home The Vault, is a production that should be seen by anyone in the greater Portland community who’s at all interested in one of the most pressing issues of our time and place. Especially if you’re willing to set your own preconceptions aside for a couple of hours.

Carlos Trujillo and Kymberli Colbourne in Bag & Baggage Productions’ ‘Spinning into Butter.’ Photo: Casey Campbell Photography.

To say it’s important is not to say it’s a great play, though. Dramatically flawed and somewhat dated, Spinning may be more important for the conversations it sparks than for what happens onstage. However, one thing that actually does happen onstage — Kymberli Colbourne’s fully realized, yet understated leading performance — should also start a conversation, about the best performance on a Portland stage in this young theater season.

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Tess Gallagher on Raymond Carver

The celebrated poet, who'll be in Portland for Imago's Carver stage adaptation "Human Noise," talks about life with and after Carver

It’s difficult to imagine a question that has not been asked of the poet, short story writer, essayist, playwright and teacher Tess Gallagher. As one-half of the legendary literary partnership with the revered, Oregon-born poet and short story writer, Raymond Carver, there was a time when Gallagher, well-published on her own, was one of the world’s most interviewed artists. If you’re familiar with her writing, you are not surprised.

Gallagher’s been generating poetry and prose for decades that shocks and moves with its vast range of expression. All of her work, even the most emotionally raw, seems to be guided by a steadfast intelligence and relentlessly penetrating vision.

Tess Gallagher: writing a life.

She’s published and taught extensively while also being the devoted steward of Carver’s work since he died in 1988. After reading Gallagher’s Moon Crossing Bridge and seeing the invaluable Carver collections that Gallagher shepherded to posthumous publication, one gets a sense that the communication between the two never really stopped.

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