jennifer rabin

Live shows & Hunter Biden’s art

ArtsWatch Weekly: Performances break out all over; a presidential son and the art market; a hoop star's big art gift; photo giants; art outdoors

THE GRAND REOPENING CONTINUES, inside, outside, sometimes in a park. After almost a year and a half of coronavirus shutdowns and occasional virtual productions, Oregon’s performing arts world is climbing back on the boards and putting on a show. Several shows, in fact. Here are just a few that might nudge you out of your home bunker and back into the semi-bustling crowd:

  • Westside Shakespeare Festival. Experience Theatre Project is back in Elizabethan action with a free outdoor festival this weekend – Friday-Sunday, July 16-18 – on the south lawn of  Beaverton Library. There’ll be Renaissance dancers, wandering minstrels, a 1591-style cursing contest (!), sword-fighting demonstrations, general Shagspurian frolicking, and performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday of the amusingly irreverent yet oddly affectionate comic theatrical riff The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Beyond the free stuff, you can plop down a few shillings and chow down like Sir John Falstaff and Sir Toby Belch at Saturday’s Queen’s Feast. Later in July and August, the festival’s Complete Works will tour to a trio of Oregon wineries.
     
  • Bag&Baggage goes Elizabethan. Hillsboro’s adventurous theater company gets back into the live-performance saddle by going one step beyond in the Shakespeare sweepstakes with a fresh production of The Complete Works of Willam Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised]! (Note the addition of that [Revised].) The free shows began last week and will continue tonight, July 15, at Shute Park, then Saturday-Sunday at Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, and July 22-25 at Hidden Creek Community Center.
     
  • Ashland swings back into action. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, birth mother of all things Shakespearean in Oregon, is finally back on stage with a live show – but it’s not by Shakespeare. Instead, the reopener in the open-air Allen Elizabethan Theatre is Cheryl L. West’s Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a celebration of the leading civil rights activist and one of the organizers of the Freedom Summer of 1964. The show continues through Oct. 9.
     
  • Lots at The Lot at Zidell Yards. The new outdoor performance spot on Portland’s Southwest Waterfront continues with a round of live shows this weekend: veteran soul outfit Ural Thomas and the Pain on Friday the 16th; the popular Y La Bamba for a pair of shows on Saturday the 17th; Portland Cello Project and the Extreme Cello Summer Dance Party Extravaganza (yes, cellos can be taken to extremes) on Sunday the 18th.
     
  • MOMENTUM & Old Moody Stages. Next Wednesday, July 21, DanceWire kicks off a mini-festival of performances and classes by a broad variety of dancers in a broad variety of styles at Zidell Yards. Check the link for details on who, what, and when: The dancing continues through Saturday, July 24.
     
  • Analog & Vinyl at Broadway Rose. The musical-theater experts at Tigard’s Broadway Rose continue their live production (you can also see it via stream) through Aug. 1 of Analog & Vinyl, an upbeat musical comedy with a twist about a vintage record shop owner who “is obsessed with LPs while hipster Rodeo Girl is obsessed with him,” and the mysterious stranger who drops in on them with a devilish proposition.
Alec Cameron Lugo, Molly Duddlesten, and Jessica Brandes in “Analog & Vinyl” at Broadway Rose Theatre Company. Photo: Mark Daniels

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In an attention economy, the critic’s most powerful tool is silence

Attention isn't just a human need anymore—it is a valuable commodity. Art critics need to be a lot more careful with it.

Humans are wired to crave attention. We want validation and recognition that our lives matter to other people. But our desire for attention has become bottomless, stretched, and grotesque. I keep reading reports of social media darlings meeting their ends—falling off cliffs to their deaths, drowning in picturesque waterfalls, and dying of hypothermia on treacherous climbs—in their quests to obtain the most over-the-top, swoon-worthy images to deliver to their followers. This is not a drill, folks: we are literally dying for attention.

We’re in this situation as a result of the fact that attention, which was an amorphous concept before the digital age, is now a quantifiable commodity. People are putting themselves in harm’s way because likes, subscribers, and followers can be valuated and monetized such that attention is now currency. It translates to money, fame, clout, and influence, so it makes sense that some people will do anything for it.

As such, it’s time for arts writers, critics, journalists, gatekeepers, and arbiters of culture—anyone whose job it is to bestow attention onto others—to reconsider how to allocate that currency. More specifically, the most responsible thing we can do, as people who professionally dole out attention, is to withhold it more often than not.

But hear me out—there’s more to it than that.

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Social engagement: politics, resistance, and art

2018 in Review, Part 5: Oregon ArtsWatch visited creators in all media who are addressing problems ranging from racism to climate change

The world is indisputably in a precarious position — not just politically and socially, but economically and even ecologically. It is a moment of crisis. Artists play a crucial role in moments like these, helping the rest of us arrive at a shared cognition of what is — of seeing, sensing, and feeling that roil of life in a way that clarifies, opens eyes, and maybe even showing us a way forward.

What struck me in compiling this year-end reading list on socially engaged art in Oregon is the extent to which artists strove not simply to see and interpret, but to peel back layers, to reveal what is largely hidden — either by design or by accident — by institutions, by geography, and even by the telling of history. There may be no “new” stories to tell, but too many stories haven’t been heard by those who need to hear them, by people who perhaps want to see, but don’t know how.

So dive into this compilation. There’s a bit of everything: visual art, theater, music, conceptual art, literature. And, of course, the usual disclaimer: The choices here are highly subjective and presented in no particular order, and obviously are not intended to be comprehensive.

 


 

Witnesses in a churning world

Artist Hung Liu says “Official Portraits: Immigrant” (2006, lithograph with collage) is one of three self-portraits representing stages of her life.

Sept. 27: ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks checked out a fall show at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem called Witness: Themes of Social Justice in Contemporary Printmaking and Photography. It featured a lineup of artists who look at the world through a lens that is both personal and cultural, and in a way that connects our present moment with history.

“The idea of art as a pristine thing, separated from the hurly-burly of the everyday world and somehow above it all, is a popular notion,” Hicks wrote. “But a much stronger case exists for the idea of art as the expression of the roil of life, in all its messiness and cruelty and prejudices and passions and pleasures and occasional outbursts of joy. Art comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is the world in which we live.”

The article is a mini-tour of the exhibition itself, with nearly 20 pieces accompanied by the artists’ personal statements reflecting the roil and rebellion of their creative processes.

 


 

David Ludwig: Telling the Earth’s story through music

Chamber Music Northwest performs ‘Pangæa.’ Photo: Tom Emerson.

July 27: “Pangæa was the single huge continent on Earth encompassed by one vast ocean over 200 million years ago – eons before dinosaurs, much less humans,” musician David Ludwig writes in the program notes for composition of the same name. “It was an entirely different planet than one we’d recognize today, lush with life of another world.” That’s the world Ludwig interpreted musically in the West Coast premiere of Pangæa, a piece inspired by the ancient Earth, and the threat of extinction as a result of human-caused climate change. Matthew Andrews talked to him about this extraordinary piece of music for ArtsWatch. Best of all: You can listen to it yourself.

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