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Eiko, Koma & 9/11; Beaverton rising

ArtsWatch Weekly: Remembering an extraordinary dance after 9/11; Beaverton rising; can't stop the music.


SATURDAY WILL BE THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. It was a strike that shook the world, and led, among many other things, to a twenty-year war in Afghanistan that only now is being ended – or perhaps, is shifting from a “hot” war to a cold diplomatic conflict.

Next Thursday, Sept. 16, will be the kickoff of this year’s Time-Based Art Festival, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual fall gathering of performance and other art from the edges of the contemporary art world. 

For me, these events will always be linked by an extraordinary hour in the 2003 TBA festival, when, on the evening before the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the great duo of Eiko and Koma performed a piece called Offering amid the water pools of Northwest Portland’s Jamison Square.

Sixteen years after her extraordinary performance with partner Takashi Koma Otake in the dance “Offering,” Eiko Otake returned to PICA’s 2019 TBA Festival for several projects, including “A Body in Places,” her evolving piece based on her return to post-nuclear disaster Fukushima. Photo courtesy Joseph Scheer, IEA at NYSCC, via PICA.

It was, I wrote at the time, “a sad, deep, hopeful blessing,” and linked, through the influence on Eiko and Koma’s work of the post-World War II Japanese performance movement butoh, to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Memorable images from an unforgettable performance in the chill waters that lick the square’s bricks like swift tides,” I continued: “Koma slowly lying down, as if stricken, on a slab that could be a tomb. Eiko approaching, silently, hesitantly, curiously, like a ghost. Both floating, like Japanese Vikings set to sea on a funeral pyre. …

“It strikes me, on this anniversary of death, that the world’s war-makers would detest this dance, which is about deep truths that can’t be glossed or managed. One watches an invisible flight of ideas. It is the holy and the profane, inseparable, wrapped into one. A mystery.”

So the world turns, and art responds. Beauty takes many forms.

An arts center blooms in Beaverton

“Now there’s a there there”: Rendering of the new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. Courtesy Opsis Architecture

BEAVERTON’S LONG-HELD DREAM OF HAVING ITS OWN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER is rapidly becoming reality as the new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts nears completion and its scheduled opening in March 2022. Built near The Round, close to the municipal library, City Hall, a string of retail/residential complexes and a major MAX mass-transit station, it’ll be an anchor of a de facto downtown district for a city that, despite a population of almost 100,000, is still thought of in Portland as a suburb. ArtsWatch’s Brian Libby takes a long look in a pair of stories at the history and hopes for the new center, which will include a 550-seat main theater, a 1,200-square-foot art gallery, an experimental lab space, and more.

RISING IN BEAVERTON: WEST GATE traces the birth of the idea, the $13 million seed gift from namesake donor Patricia Reser, the community involvement, and the architectural & design decisions.

In Q&A: CHRIS AYZOUKIAN, DIRECTOR OF BEAVERTON’S NEW RESER ARTS CENTER, Libby talks with the center’s executive director about what kinds of shows the new center will offer, why it won’t have resident companies, and the emergence of “surban” culture as American suburbs, once swallowed into the orbit of central cities, begin to reassert their independent identities.

It’s an emergence perhaps sped up by Covid shutdowns and the rise of telecommuting, a significant shift that’s allowing workers to identify more with the places where they actually live than the offices where they once worked.

The Reser Center’s goal of reaching Washington County’s multiple communities extends to the center’s adjacent parking garage and its seven-story-tall artwork, Common Threads, made of perforated painted aluminum panels and depicting two child artists and “the bounty of nature, Indigenous art forms and modern industry.” A team of artists including Addie Boswell, Van Cooley, Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos), and Antwoine Thomas created the work. Photo: Joe Cantrell

Music: ‘Sanctuaries,’ a new column, and more

Ithica Tell in Third Angle New Music’s premiere production of the chamber opera “Sanctuaries.” Photo © Intisar Abioto

MUSIC NOT ONLY HAS CHARMS TO SOOTHE THE SAVAGE BREAST, it’s also a stubborn beast: You can’t keep a good song down. Neither snow nor rain nor gloom nor heat of night nor even vicious pandemic can stop the music, though the latter’s shifted a lot of it to the airwaves and podcasts and recordings on such ancient forms as compact discs. Still, the sounds are starting to come out into the open, from concerts in the parks to events in mostly wide-open spaces such as Zidell Yards to last weekend’s big blowout with the Oregon Symphony and others at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, complete with booming cannons over the river to punctuate Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

To mark music’s admirable inevitabilty, ArtsWatch this week kicks off a new weekly column of previews and reviews by the veteran music journalist Robert Ham. In WEEKLY (P)REVIEWS: FROM WHAT TO WHY, he starts things off by talking with the energetic Portland musician Mat Randol (who’s had two albums released so far this year), dropping in on a benefit performance by Built to Spill leader Doug Martsch in Seaview on the Washington coast, and braving Moda Center for a dual hit of Megadeth and Lamb of God.

The week’s biggest musical splash is being made on the plaza outside Portland’s Memorial Coliseum, where composer Darrell Grant and librettist Anis Mojgani’s chamber opera Sanctuaries concludes its three-night premiere run this evening – Thursday, Sept. 9. Commissioned by Third Angle New Music, it’s a landmark project, almost literally: Its seeds are in the urban renewal and gentrification movements that broke apart Portland’s traditionally Black Albina District, including the land where the Coliseum now stands. ArtsWatch writers Brett Campbell and Brian Libby took deep dives into the history and making of the project, in their respective essays ‘SANCTUARIES’: TALE OF DISPLACEMENT and OPERA, ALBINA, AND ARCHITECTURE. And watch for Charles Rose’s review of the performance.

Portland Columbia Symphony A Very Brassy Holiday First Presbyterian Church Portland Oregon

CAN WE GET AN AMEN? Daryl Browne asks, and the answer appears to be a reverberant “yes.” Vancouver’s Chor Anno, which performs just once a year (two performances of the same program; Sept. 18 and 19) breaks through the Covid shutdowns and gets the Portland area’s vibrant choral community off and singing again.

In FROM EARTH TO ELSEWHERE: REMEMBERING R. MURRAY SCHAFER, Charles Rose pays tribute to the Canadian composer, who died recently at age 88, leaving a potent legacy in acoustic ecology and the politics of noise.

A perfect storm (president included)

Kate Nason, who has an art history degree, turned to making collages when she’d get temporarily blocked while writing “Everything Is Perfect.” This one relates to Chapter 25 of her book, “wherein: I drive to Bend, desperate to find the sun, amidst depression over the Portland rain and my suspicions, despite his gaslighting, regarding my husband’s affair.”

MAKING EVERYTHING PERFECT. Elizabeth Mehren tells the tale of another storyteller, Portland writer Kate Nason, whose new memoir is kicking up a minor dust storm. “It would be tempting to lump Everything Is Perfect under the rubric of ‘books written by women whose husbands have cheated’,” Mehren writes. “It might be just as easy to call it a revenge book, as in ‘don’t get mad, get published’.” But it’s much more than that, Mehren adds: “it is at heart a story about learning to trust one’s intuition,” and coming out on the other side. In writing her story, Nason changed the names of all the characters: “I just thought it would be so fun not to have to type those names,” she told Mehren. But for reference, it’s good to know that in real life one is named Bill Clinton, another Monica Lewinsky, and a third – the code-named “Charlie” – was both Nason’s husband and the fellow who, while married to Nason, hid an affair with Lewinsky before she went on to the White House.

Stage & Studio: Stories from immigrants; 9/11

Veteran radio producer Michael Johnson and daughter Sophia, at ages 22 and 2. Stage & Studio repeats a memorable audio episode from Sept. 11, 2002, when Johnson tells the story of talking with his daughter about the attack on the World Trade Center.

THE IMMIGRANT STORY AND 9/11. In her newest Stage & Studio podcast on ArtsWatch, Dmae Lo Roberts talks with Sankar Raman, founder and leader of The Immigrant Story, which in a variety of ways relates the stories of immigrants to the United States: where they came from, why they moved, how they’ve reshaped their lives in a new place. For the first time since before the pandemic, the group will produce a live storytelling event featuring immigrants telling their tales, and it’ll be this Saturday – Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that helped spike a new anti-immigrant movement in the U.S. Also on the podcast, Roberts repeats a moving story by radio producer Michael Johnson about the talk he had with his 2-year-old daughter after the planes hit the towers on 9/11.

Movie memorials, back onstage, virtual realities

FILMWATCH WEEKLY: REMEMBERING JEAN-PAUL BELMONDO & MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS. Marc Mohan writes an appreciation of the great star of the French New Wave and the great star of The Wire and other television dramas, and also looks at a new Juliette Binoche, a Hong Kong thriller, and a mysteriously missing Paul Schrader flick (which he doesn’t look at).

THE REBUILD: TRIANGLE PRODUCTIONS! In his continuing series on how Oregon theater companies are attempting to rebound from Covid shutdowns, Bennett Campbell Ferguson talks with Don Horn, founder and leader of Triangle, which opens its 32nd season this week with The Vagina Monologues writer Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World. Triangle, which jumped back into live performances before almost anyone, takes strict precautions.

VR FROM VENICE: PORTLAND ART MUSEUM GOES BACK TO THE FUTURE (WITH MIXED RESULTS). ArtsWatch’s Laurel Reed Pavic and Marc Mohan strap on the headsets and enter the encompassing realms of the Venice Biennale’s virtual-reality component, which for the second time has the Portland Art Museum as its sole United States presenter. Some interesting stuff is going on, they agree, but … well, if only the headset technology were better. 

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Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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