portland institute for contemporary art

Even amidst the chaos in our world right now, artists are getting creative and finding ways to perform for you. September’s performances are a combination of live, live- streamed, and recorded performances. 

In preparation for this month’s live performances that require social distancing, let’s play a few games. Let’s imagine that social distancing is a dance and that you are a performer in this dance. A dance that includes everyone around you. All the world’s a stage, right?

First, find a broom. Hold the broom out to your side, parallel with the floor, with one end about a foot from your center. This is approximately six feet. Two arms length. This is the suggested distance that we are supposed to keep between us to keep us safe from catching and spreading Covid-19. Now, walk around the house moving the broomstick around your body 360 degrees and experience what this measurement actually feels like. Yup, it’s bigger than you think. Watch out for those dishes and that lamp! 

If this doesn’t work for you and you need a different visual, measure six feet out from your center and place objects from your house in a circle around you on the floor. Now feel your feet on the ground, reach your fingertips up to the sky, and spread your arms out on either side of you and turn in place carving out the edges of your space with your fingertips. You can even take this a step further and explore your space beyond the vertical and horizontal tracing all of the areas in between. Now take this imaginary space that you have explored and create a giant bubble with it and put yourself in it. You now live in a bubble at all times! Stay in your bubble!

Next game. Imagine that you have a string attached to your bellybutton that connects your body to others. Imagine that we are all connected to each other, all the time, through this extensive web of strings. Take a moment to feel what this really feels like, to keep other people around you in your consciousness at all times. Imagine being out in the world and stringing yourself to people walking by you or folks standing in line with you at the grocery store or protestors downtown. You CAN be conscious of yourself and others all at the same time. 

Now, get into your gigantic bubble and connect your string to the people around you. Keep your distance but stay connected and go forth into the world. 

These are exercises or dances that dance teachers often give to their youngest students to help them learn body awareness and to keep them from bumping into and injuring each other during class. These awareness tools can keep us safe, create compassion, and connection. And don’t forget your costume, your mask!

Performances keep popping up, so I will be adding them to this list as they come up. Check back often. 

September Dance Performances

The beautiful Portland performer and community activist, Chisao Hata.
Photo courtesy of Chisao Hata.

Luminaries
Echo Theater Company PDX
9-10pm September 1

Under the full moon, in an undisclosed location somewhere in Portland (The event address will be emailed the day of the show), Echo Theatre, Portland’s zany, forward thinking, acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater company, will present, Luminaries, an hour long performance of music, dance, and storytelling. The event features Japanese-American performing artist and community organizer Chisao Hata, triple threat Bevin Victoria, Korean-American actor, writer and director Heath Houghton, and theatre and television actor Tessa May. Topping off the evening will be performances by the renowned Echo Theatre Company Education Director Wendy Cohen and Director of Operations and Community Engagement Aaron Wheeler Kay, who specializes in acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater.

The audience is requested to wear masks and engage in physical distancing. Please bring a blanket or chair. 

Performance artist Lu Yim. photo by Mario Galluci Studios.

Happy Hour with Lu Yim
Presented by Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance
5-6 pm September 2
RSVP here by 3pm September 2 in order to receive the Zoom link.

In a mindful approach that provides financial support to artists of color in the community, while centering dance and experimental performance, PWNW has created a Happy Hour on Zoom that features a variety of artists, twice monthly! The evening includes a cocktail demo (featured drink this week is the Oaxaca Old Fashioned), a toast, a performance, PWNW-themed Bingo, and prizes, of course! 

Happy Hour this week will feature performance artist and choreographer Lu Yim​ who creates work from her interests in body politics, language, and the mechanics of memory. 

About the work-in-progress presentation in Lu Yim’s own words:

“I embarked on Before the Dying That Will when I witnessed my father get up and perform an impromptu dance in an effort to settle a dispute with his sister. They were arguing about the ungodliness of homosexuality. With curiosity I started to archive this dance by conjuring it in my own body, discovering its connections to other bodies, geographies and timescapes. I imagined the archive of his dance through my version of it, coming via ancestral, cellular and inexplicably miraculous catalogues of information. It turns out the dance emerges by way of escaping, so I stopped looking at it or for it, like, I don’t need to hold on to it, and like, sometimes meaning is better when it is hacked anyway.”

Happy Hour will resume in October

Dancers of Espacio Flamenco performing onstage at The Alberta Rose Theatre.
Photo by Dennis Glisson of Glisson Imaging PDX.

Espacio Flamenco on the Portland Music Re-Stream
The Alberta Rose Theatre
7-8pm September 2
Rebroadcast from The Alberta Rose Theatre

Espacio Flamenco, Portland’s premier flamenco producer, will rebroadcast a previous performance from a night at The Alberta Rose Theatre right to your living room. 

Flamenco, an improvisational form of dance, is an amalgamation of centuries of cross-pollination between the many cultures that have existed in Spain, and combines singing, dancing, instrumentals (guitar mostly), hand clapping and finger snapping. It is also one of the few dance forms that requires audience participation, so get up and clap along and shout out words of encouragement to the performers on the screen as they perform.

Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers taking company class at Director Park in Portland, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

OBT Moves/ Exposed
September 8-October 3
Check Oregon Ballet Theatre’s schedule for times and locations.

In a rare look behind the scenes, Oregon Ballet Theatre moves out of the studio and onto Portland city streets. For a month, the company will participate in week-long residencies that rotate between four Portland locations: Zidell Yards, OMSI, Hacienda CDC, and the last location to be decide. OBT will present a variety of non traditional performances that include a look into the ritual of how ballet dancers train and the process of ballet making. Check Oregon Ballet Theatre’s schedule for exact times and locations.

An A-Wol Dance Collective dancer stretching herself to the limits.
Photo courtesy of A-Wol Dance Collective.

A-Wol Pop Up Park Performance
A-Wol Dance Collective and Circus Rose
5-8 pm September 12
The performance will be repeated at the top of every hour
Mary S Young Park, 19900 Willamette Drive, West Linn

In a normal summer, which this is not, you would find the artists of A-Wol dance collective, a fantastically creative, Portland based aerial dance company, suspended from trees under the stars in their annual Art in the Dark performance along the Willamette River in West Linn, at Mary S. Young Park. But, because their  season was cancelled, due to Covid-19,  and they love their work so much, they’ve decided to do it anyway. So bring a blanket, snacks, a mask, and stay socially distant in this one-off, pop up performance of dancer favorites. 

A video still from Fernanda D’Agostino’s film collaboration Peace Movements performed at the Palace of Fine Arts. Photo courtesy of Fernanda D’Agostino.

Time-Based Arts Festival
Presented by The Portland Institute For Contemporary Art
September 10-30

For 21 days, The Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Arts Festival will share the work of 40+ artists through performances, films, audio projects, publications, conversations, music, workshops, and participatory events, with a mix of virtual and in-person programs. 

The festival is inherently interdisciplinary and champions local, national and international artists who reflect and respond to our times. It’s a mind-altering, opinion-changing, heart-opening extravaganza of the senses. 

Matter writer and actor Charles Grant from his solo show in 2017 standing on the set of The Language Archive.
Photo courtesy of Portland Playhouse.

Matter
Conceived, written, and performed by Charles Grant
A co-production of  Many Hats Collaboration and Portland Playhouse
September 25 – October 1
Matter will be available for free viewing here and on Portland Playhouse’s website. 

This very personal portrait of a Black Everyman follows writer and performer Charles Grant on his journey to find answers to police brutality and gun violence. While not strictly a dance work, Matter does include a lot of movement, as life should, and includes sections that could be called dances with movement direction by Many Hats Artistic Director Jessica Wallenfels. 

Inspired by recent and not so recent events, Matter centers the embodied experience of being continually bombarded with systemic racism and injustice. 

Dance Performances in October

October 2-8, Portland Dance Film Fest
October 2-23, A Taste of Dance, A co production of Chapel Theatre and Milwaukie Arts Committee

Vision 2020: Ella Ray

"There is this level of resistance coming from formerly colonized people who are marginalized, and I feel something bubbling under the surface"

Ella Ray is an art historian who, as she puts it, “produces environments, partnerships, and texts that explore the relationship between the interpersonal, the public, and the in-between.” She has a B.A. in art history/critical theory from Portland State University, and works for the Portland Art Museum and Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. She is community partnership coordinator for Portland Art Museum’s Hank Willis Thomas exhibition All Things Being Equal, which closes Sunday, Jan. 12.


Ray is a multifaceted creative who uses Black studies and Queer studies to examine the ways Black popular culture and Black fine arts are defining contemporary culture. She earned her degree from Portland State University in Art History with a focus on Critical and Queer theory. As a historian and a community member, she is leading challenging conversations around race, historical erasure, and the fruits we all can gain through open institutional critique.   


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


What I’m going to do is go through a list of questions. Just whatever is on your mind, go ahead and let it flow. Give me whatever is in your crystal ball. Let’s start with your current professional background.

Currently, I work at the Portland Art Museum, formerly as a Kress interpretive fellow through the Kress Foundation. At the same time I am the community partnership coordinator for the Hank Willis Thomas All Things Being Equal exhibition. In addition to that, I work with PICA in their youth program, freelance consult for various arts organizations, and art adjacent things, and I write about Black theory, Black studies, and performance.

Art historian Ella Ray, using “Black studies and queer studies to think about the ways in which Black popular culture and Black fine arts are defining western culture.” Photo courtesy Ella Ray


You also have a background in art history. Can you tell me just a little bit about your education and what you went to school for?

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MusicWatch Monthly: Second winter descends

Hymns, films, saxophones, French music, Local music

Oregon has two winters as well as two summers. We’ve just wrapped up First Winter: the time when it hasn’t gotten too terribly cold and miserable, holiday cheer is in the air, and everybody’s all excited for the solstice and the new year. Now that all that busyness is behind us, it’s time to hunker down for the rest of winter, the long cold dreary late morning of the soul, a grim season that seems to grind on forever and promises only the occasional snow day in compensation.

But we’re in luck: we get to ring in the Coming of Second Winter with a month of pleasantly undemanding concerts of medieval hymns, saxophone ensembles, live film music, and classical chamber music by a variety of French and Local composers. It all starts this weekend with Cappella Romana and the Hymns of Kassianë.

This weekend: nuns, saxes, oboe, and movies

“With a golden apple in his hand, Emperor Theophilos slowly walked between two lines of contending beauties; His eye was detained by the charms of Kassia, and, in the awkwardness of a first declaration the prince said that in this world, women had been the occasion of much evil,” from Eve on down. “And surely, Sir,” Kassia pertly replied, “they have likewise been the occasion of much good,” including Mary, who birthed Jesus.

Kassia’s impudence at a medieval beauty contest aimed at finding a bride for the ruler of Medieval Europe’s Eastern Empire may have cost the composer (born 810 in the Byzantine capitol Constantinople) her chance to become Byzantine empress. But it might have also sparked her to overcome the barriers female artists faced in her time—some of which remain. Kassia subsequently left the royal court, earned fame as a poet, philosopher, and activist who endured beatings and other persecution. And, like the later, more famous female medieval composer Hildegard of Bingen–she became abbess of her own convent. The Orthodox church later beatified her as St. Kassianë.

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An academic conference for Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters

Artists Ralph Pugay and Roz Crews have designed a conference for our times

“I think a lot has changed for the project since we talked last,” says Ralph Pugay (he/him) as I caught up with him and Roz Crews (she/her) over coffee two weeks ago. I have been following these two artists as they have collaborated on the Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters Symposium , aka SSSS, since early last year.

“We’re not going to have Tonya Harding,” continued Pugay.

“Sadly,” added Crews.

Originally slated to take place in December 2018, SSSS was envisioned as an academic conference that would feature presentations by schemers, scammers, and subverters from a wide array of backgrounds. The aforementioned Olympian was high on the list of desirable presenters. However, Crews and Pugay have since shifted their timeline and programmatic vision, instead reaching out to locally-based artists, creatives, and cultural workers through their networks. The event will now take place February 23, from 10am-6pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Portland.

Living School of Art poster for the SSSS’s TOTALLY HONEST BARTER BAZAAR

The conceptual framework of the symposium carries layers of nuance underneath that sensationalist title. “The title of the project is a big part of the project…It’s totally critical, as is true with lots of conceptual art projects,” said Crews of its multiple meanings. “I think those words [scheme, scam, subvert] have negative connotations,” reflected Pugay, “but then I can also imagine, coming from my background, my experience of being a Filipino immigrant, those are also tools for survival for people.”

On the one hand, SSSS has been shaped by a dialogue between Crews and Pugay about this fraught historical moment. They began asking themselves what it would be like, in Crews words, “to make a project that’s about scheming and scamming and subverting systems, when we have a President who is just straight up scamming us all.”

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Marginal Consort: sound and silence

Japanese ensemble’s Portland performance focuses more on improvisatory process than musical product

By LUSI LUKOVA
Photos by Taz Coffey, courtesy of PICA

The performance began simply enough, with Marginal Consort’s Kazuo Imai using a giant sheet of paper to break the silence and commence the one-night-only concert at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), like a gun fired to set off a race.

Kazuo Imai playing the paper snapper at Marginal Consort’s January concert at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

In a workshop the previous night, Imai taught the simplicity of creating what they’ve dubbed “the paper snapper” out of mundane craft paper. Once built, we were all asked to “snap” our instruments unabashedly. The cacophony that this produced, the varying tones based on the strength and speed of each snapper built up to an eruption like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Opening the January 23 concert with this definite sound subdued any conversation, and focused all attention on the four members of Japan’s renowned musical ensemble.

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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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Milka Djordjevich’s ‘Anthem’: Are we making art, or is it making us?

Milka Djordjevich’s Anthem is characterized by dream-logic and surprise, tempered by the absolute command that the dance requires

By PAUL MAZIAR and JESSICA CERRATO

The dancers enter the theater with stately, measured grace, four women in bright costumes moving in procession, hands and bodies enjoined in a line moving in synchronous time. The dance begins en media res, with a minimalist score pulsing and ticking throughout the performance space—the audience wrapping the wooden dance floor in the tiered setting of an amphitheatre. The slow, deliberate manner of the dancers’ steps culminates with the repetitive opening music; it is dizzying, trance-like, unexpected. The sacred feminine is evoked in pressing gestures to the body: deliberate and rhythmic as music hums and intensifies the unfolding drama, each step and fluid movement leading into another while the dancers begin to interact—lightly slapping each other’s bodies and their own as if in a rite, clapping time.

Milka Djordjevich’s “Anthem,” which was performed at the TBA Festival/Photos courtesy of PICA

Each rhythmic step cycles, morphs, replacing the next set of lithe movements; the dancers interweave and rotate among each other. Soft gestures frame and press: breast, pelvis, buttocks. Hands clap and bodies twist in folkloric momentum—chain dancing, intricate patterns infusing order with wild spirit spiraling outward, from choreography to improvisation, experimentation unraveling into revelry.

Otherwise, it’s an ordinary late Sunday afternoon.

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