Oregon ArtsWatch

 

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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Urban Renewal Project review: genre blenders

Los Angeles big band’s danceable fusion of jazz, hip hop and other musical genres heralds a multifaceted musical future

by PATRICK MCCULLEY

Take a trip to downtown Portland’s Rialto Poolroom, walk to the back and down a flight of stairs, and you will find one of Oregon’s newest music venues. The Jack London Revue, formerly just the basement section of the Rialto Poolroom, is everything you might imagine an old school jazz club might have looked like. Long and rectangular, low ceilinged, dimly lit, a half dozen tables with chairs upfront, crimson curtains hanging from one wall, it’s almost like being thrown back to the golden age of jazz.  One could easily imagine the likes of Charlie Parker or Ella Fitzgerald taking to the small stage upfront while patrons crowd for drinks in the back at the bar.

Urban Renewal Project performed at Portland’s Jack London Revue. Photo: Patrick McCulley.

But the Jack London Revue, considered the heir to Jimmy Mak’s jazz club that closed at the beginning of this year, offers a much wider range of music than those historical names and even the legendary Jimmy’s. The people doing the bookings might be taking on a lot of the local jazz scene that was left without a flagship venue due to the closing of Jimmy Mak’s, but also inviting performers and audiences who are open to branching out beyond jazz and into soul, hip hop, and more uncategorizable genres of music. And it was that spirit of openness and experimentation that helped bring the Urban Renewal Project to Portland on August 11.

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‘Cat Patrol’ review: hot tuna

New comedy sketch series in new Portland theater space has great human appeal, but needs more rodents

by CS ELIOT

Hello. CS Eliot here with my purr-ceptions of the sketch comedy show, Cat Patrol, playing one more time Friday at Portland’s new Ape Theater.

At least they call it comedy. To me, it was episode after episode humans talking, no birds or scurrying rodents to hold my attention — and a couple of moments of unrelenting horror! It just needed one thing: me.

Totman, Little Edith and Jessup in ‘Cat Patrol.’ Photo: Alicia J. Rose.

Alissa Jessup, Chris Caniglia along with Brooke Totman moved The Ape Theater into the basement of Portland’s Alberta Abbey on June 1, this year. They turned the basement into a 30-seat black box theater in less than three months. Jessup and Caniglia met in New York, moved to Los Angeles and now call Portland home. Totman, an Oregonian born in Roseburg, moved to LA and now also lives in Portland. All three are accomplished artists in TV, stage, scriptwriting, improv and comedy.

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‘Two Yosemites’ review: mythological quest

Opera Theater Oregon premiere effectively dramatizes a famous camping trip that had a monumental effect on America

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

I confess to approaching Oregon composer Justin Ralls Two Yosemites: An Environmental Chamber Opera with a few biases and reservations. For one thing, I usually skew more urban than rural in my musical tastes. I like a Gershwin tune (how about you?) and I tire of the pentatonic open-fifth/open-prairie sound pretty quickly. Worse still, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle listening to an environmental opera about my home state while my adopted state is engulfed in flames.

Short and Meyer as Roosevelt and Muir in ‘Two Yosemites.’ Photo: Ted Sweeney.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The UO doctoral candidate’s music was Copland-esque, sure, and I had a few emotional moments as I reflected on the hundred-year-old argument about whether nature is worth treating with respect (we haven’t figured this out yet? really?). But I ended up enjoying last Friday’s premiere at Lewis & Clark College’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel so much that I’ll probably go back for the undoubtedly more epic outdoor premiere at L&C’s Law School Amphitheater this weekend.

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Jordan Clark: The painter’s spaces, inside and out

A new set of paintings by Jordan Clark reflect the painter's deep sense of space

By PAUL MAZIAR

There are eight new Jordan Clark paintings in oil and flashe on view at Stumptown on Southeast Belmont. The exhibition, titled abridge, a breeze, comprises all abstract works — seven on paper and one on unprimed canvas. All of Clark’s pictures are full of life—especially this show of new, brightly-colored work—but they don’t bear any of the typical realism that you might expect from something inspired by life.

Jordan Clark, “breeze”,
16×20”, acrylic, flashe, spray paint on paper

I talked with Jordan about his artistic practice and some of his affinities over a couple of pints at a local watering hole. The conversation lasted a couple of hours and, after being transcribed, took up nine typewritten pages. You could say our meeting was congenial, a good time. Having talked with Jordan, it seems clear that despite the supreme effort it apparently takes an artist to cultivate and keep up such prolific work, these things are a byproduct of lived experience. They occur in a continuously balanced cycle of work and play, thought and action, solitude and interaction.

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Turn that Heartbeat over Again: Donald Fagen flies solo

Now bereft of his creative partner, the Steely Dan co-founder brings his new band to Portland

by MARIA CHOBAN

Update: several of Fagen and the Nightflyers’ upcoming shows, including the Portland performance, have been canceled due to illness, according to a release from the Oregon Symphony, which sponsored the concert.

It was still September when [I] was quite surprised to findthat Walter Becker died. Paul McCartney without John Lennon, Don Henley without Glenn Frey, and now, Donald Fagen without Walter Becker. Death came for Becker on Sunday, September 3, 2017, splitting up Steely Dan forever. I stalk the obits. I’d forgotten that it’s Becker’s early pictures, his long hair and camera stare-down, I associate with the band as much as Fagen’s acidic vocals.

On Tuesday, September 12, Fagen brings his new band The Nightflyers (named for Fagen’s first solo album, The Nightfly) to Portland5’s Arlene Schnitzer concert hall. We’re promised Steely Dan hits, Fagen solo numbers and a few surprises.

Donald Fagen & the Nightflyers perform in Portland September 12.

I Got the News. A few days before the show, the biggest surprise — shock, really— is the loss of Fagen’s life-long creative partner. In his elegy to Becker, Fagen wrote “I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.” We don’t know whether that means Steely Dan will continue (as the Eagles have without Frey) or that Fagen will continue to play their music along with his own, as McCartney has done since a few years after the Beatles’ demise and Fagen has done between Steely Dan tours.

I do know that both with and without Becker, Donald Fagen is worth hearing, and even worth reading.

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Voice in the Wilderness: opera singer Nicholas Meyer

Childhood friends shape new made-in-Oregon opera 'Two Yosemites'

by ANGELA ALLEN

Nicholas Meyer’s friendship with Justin Ralls began decades before they collaborated on Ralls’s new Two Yosemites opera. The two boys  grew up kicking around the soccer ball in their southeast Portland neighboring ‘hoods of Eastmoreland and Sellwood. They played in the Sellwood Middle School jazz band (Meyer on clarinet, Ralls on drums) and sang in the Cleveland High School award-winning choirs.

Most memorable in their teenage years was their collaboration in Cleveland’s take on the Broadway musical, The Pajama Game, where Meyer performed the lead and Ralls played drums.

Both made the Cleveland junior varsity soccer team, but as they moved into their later teens, sports gave way to music. Their futures dawned, if not in synch, in parallel.

Aaron Short and Nicholas Meyer as Roosevelt and Muir in ‘Two Yosemites.’ Photo: Carole Montarou.

“Justin wanted to write operas in high school,” said Meyer, 29, who will sing the role of John Muir in Ralls’ upcoming Two Yosemites, an “environmental chamber opera” opening on Friday at Lewis & Clark College.

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