Urban Studies

Book ’em, Dano. (Online, of course.)

ArtsWatch Weekly: Portland Book Festival is virtually yours; art around the state; dance on film; October musical surprise; two remembrances

A BIG SLICK BROCHURE FROM LITERARY ARTS PLOPPED INTO MY MAILBOX a day or two ago, announcing the imminent arrival of this year’s Portland Book Festival (the festival formerly known as Wordstock). The good news is that what has traditionally been a one-day event cramming Taylor Swift-sized crowds into the streets of Portland’s downtown Cultural District will now spawl across two weeks, Nov. 5-21. The expected news is that, of course, all of the events will be online. Portland’s long been a hotbed of live literary celebrations, from poetry slams and open mics in bars to celebrity author talks in bookstores to this great big annual bash that lures the devotees of a solitary artistic passion – reading – into a cultural swarm of conviviality. The necessity of making this year’s festival virtual puts a new twist on the oddity of an extroverted event for introverts, which will now by an introverted event for introverts, simulating extroversion.

Intro- or extro-, it’s a good-looking festival, with more than a hundred authors, a full table of contents of classes and events, and some top-of-the-line featured speakers. Maybe the biggest current-events voice among those will belong to Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, which argues that America’s race problem is more accurately a matter of caste, to be compared with India’s caste system and Nazi Germany’s hierarchy of citizens. A key aspect of caste is that people can’t escape the caste into which they were born, meaning that in the United States, the conflation of caste and race both muddies the distinction and makes it all the more indelible. It’s a book that clearly and potently summarizes current research, and gains much of its power from Wilkerson’s impassioned observations and retellings of encounters in her own life. The featured fiction speaker will be Jess Walter, the best-selling novelist who lives in Spokane, author of Beautiful RuinsThe Financial Lives of the Poets, and the new The Cold Millions. And it’s quite wonderful and lovely that Margaret Atwood, the great Canadian writer and author of The Handmaid’s Tale, an essential novel of the 20th century that remains unnervingly pertinent in the 2020s, is being featured in conversation about her poetry. Writers’ worlds are often more complex, and therefore interesting, than their greatest hits.
 



CHARLES GRANT, MOVING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER


Charles Grant collaborates with Jessica Wallenfels to add a vivid sense of movement to his performance in his short play-turned-film “Matter.” Photo: Tamera Lyn

CHARLES GRANT’S MATTER AT HAND. The Portland actor/writer’s new version of his 2017 short play Matter (he now refers to it as Matter 2.0) takes it off the stage and into streamable movie form with the aid of videographer and editor Tamera Lyn, director James Dixon, sound designer Sharath Patel, and lighting designer Thyra Hartshorn. One other crucial collaborator – movement director Jessica Wallenfels, of co-producer (with Portland Playhouse) Many Hats Collaboration, helped Grant create a vivid sense of motion in his solo show, Jamuna Chiarini writes. Chiarini talks with Grant and Wallenfels about how the movement and the script work together to amplify Grant’s story of the constant threat of police brutality and gun violence that Black Americans face. 
 

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Horatio Law’s Urban Studies

When the Portland artist walks around the city, he takes his iPhone camera with him. With it, he creates a portrait of a cityscape in flux.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A few months ago we started following Portland artist Horatio Hung-Yan Law’s “Urban Studies” series on his Instagram and Facebook accounts. Ambling around the city, he’s created and shared roughly 1,400 images of Portland as observed from the streets. They make up a fascinating collective portrait of Portland as a lived-in, ever-evolving architectural space. We don’t see many people in these photos, but we see evidence of their presence everywhere: The images convey a sense of stillness, but with marks of action either recent or imminent. And almost inevitably, Law frames his scenes in ways that help us see things we might otherwise not have noticed.

We asked him if he’d answer a few questions about the project and create a small portfolio of his Urban Studies photographs to share. Here’s what he gave us. – Bob Hicks


By HORATIO HUNG-YAN LAW


Tell us how you got started on this series. Did you know it was going to become a series, or did it evolve into that? How many photos does it include now?

Urban Studies was actually a byproduct of trying to entertain myself while performing my daily walking exercise by photographing my surroundings and the places I passed through during my five-mile walk every other day. No, I did not intend them to become a series, but when I tried to put a framework around these seemingly random snapshots, the title “Urban Studies” took hold. Suddenly, grouping these snapshots under this title made sense, and it in turn motivated me to do more and post these photographs on social media as a group. So far, I have posted almost 1,400 entries on Instagram and Facebook.

Urban Studies #947: Tricycle vs. ?. North Williams Street District.

How do you decide which images to include? When you go out, are you looking for something in particular, or just waiting for something to hit you?

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