The Portland Ballet fall enrollment 2022

The Week: TBA or not TBA?

As the contemporary arts festival surges onto an already bulging calendar, that is the question.


A NEW CROP OF APPLES IS HITTING THE PRODUCE STANDS. Lush ripe tomatoes are overflowing gardens and markets. Cukes are ready for pickling. America’s schoolchildren, ready or not, are back in the saddle again. And today, for the 17th year, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual TBA Festival kicks off again. “TBA” stands for “Time-Based Art,” which mainly means performance – art that takes place in a set period of time, in front of an audience – although visual art’s part of the mix, too. And the time is very contemporary: the art of today, for good and sometimes ill. As PICA puts it, the festival, which runs in venues around Portland through Sept. 15, “gathers artists and audiences from around the world” for eleven days of “contemporary performance, music, visual art, film, workshops, lectures, food, drink, conversation, and celebration.” 

Eiko Otake. Photo courtesy Joseph Scheer, IEA at NYSCC, via PICA

Over the years TBA’s had a lot of hits and a lot of misses. Its emphasis on non-traditional and resolutely experimental work can elevate the narcissistic and the sloppy. It can also champion fresh art of astonishing provocation and beauty, as it did in the festival’s very first incarnation, on Sept. 11, 2003, when, on the second anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, the great butoh-influenced performers Eiko and Koma stunned their Portland audience with an outdoor performance in and around the water at Jamison Square, beneath a darkening sky. That performance, eloquently titled Offering, was sad, deep, ghostlike, hopeful, profound. “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,” I wrote at the time. “One watches an invisible flight of ideas. It is the holy and the profane, inseparable, wrapped into one. A mystery.”

The good news is that Eiko Otake is back at TBA for the first time since that 2003 performance, and she’ll be a busy part of things. You can see her tonight, at TBA’s opening reception, in her evolving piece A Body in Places, based on her return to post-nuclear disaster Fukushima. Prints and video works will also be on view through Oct. 24 at PNCA’s 511 Gallery. There’ll be a screening of her film A Body in Fukushima: Reflections on the Nuclear in Everyday Life, on Sept. 9. She’ll perform her Duet Project: Distance Is Malleable, with several collaborators, Sep. 12-14. And in a free event on Sept. 13, she’ll be in conversation with chroreographer Linda K. Johnson and PICA Artistic Director Kristan Kennedy.



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Lauren Steele in Queens Girl in the World at Clackamas Rep. Photo: Travis Nodurft 

THE NEW THEATER SEASON WELL AND TRULY SETTLES IN THIS WEEK with the arrival of several shows both big-scale and small. At The Armory, Portland Center Stage opens the early Lin-Manuel Miranda / Quiara Alegria Hudes hit musical In the Heights. Marty Hughley, in his new DramaWatch Weekly, calls it “a sort of regional-theater mega-production” – it’s the final stop for a co-production that’s already run at Milwaukee Rep, Seattle Rep, and the Cincinnati Playhouse. Clackamas Rep, meanwhile, opens the West Coast premiere of the one-actor play Queens Girl in the World, with a bravura role for its young star Lauren Steele; and Artists Rep opens its season away from home at Imago Theatre with a fresh stage version of Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984: As co-writer Robert Icke told the Hollywood Reporter, “if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights opens Portland Center Stage’s season in The Armory. Photo courtesy Michael Brosilow/Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. 


Hosted by RASIKA, Saptavarna: Seven Shades of Dance performs The Bhagavad Gita in seven forms of Indian classical dance, Friday at PCC/Rock Creek. 

SEPTEMBER DANCE IN OREGON? “TBA GETS IT GOING,” Jamuna Chiarini declares in her new DanceWatch Monthly, with the likes of Eiko, Oslo’s Mia Habib, Berlin’s Ligia Lewis, and the Back to School Kiki Ball. But that’s just the beginning in a month that also brings the hip-hop, salsa, and meringue of the musical  In the Heights; fresh work from NW Dance Project and RASIKA; flamenco; bharatanatyam; Scott Gormley’s documentary film Danseur, about young men in ballet; the Portland Dance Community Awards; and more. 


Ori Gallery, on North Mississippi Avenue, spotlights eight young artists
in its second annual Youth Exhibition through the month. 

IN HIS NEW VIZARTS MONTHLY FOR  SEPTEMBER, Nim Wunnan makes his picks for the best shows to see at TBA and in the galleries. Best title of the month? It’s a close race between i have no choice but to suck the juice out, and who am i to blame, for Maya Vivas’s show at Littman + White Galleries, and The Dope Elf, at Yale Union. 

PORTRAITS OF EVERYDAY HUMANITY AND LISBON IN TRANSITION. David Bates discovers two fascinating photo exhibits in Yamhill County: Jessica Holder’s portraits at Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg of people at ease in their own skin, and Liz Obert’s images of layers of time in Lisbon, at Linfield College’s James F. Miller Fine Arts Center in McMinnville. 

BRUCE CONKLE AT NINE GALLERY: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Patrick Collier considers the visceral images in Conkle’s recent exhibition of people doing stupid things, and why those images keep rattling in his brain.

Bruce Conkle, Love Luck Money Spells, 2019, oil on wood, 24 x 18 inches.

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Anice Thigpen’s The Woman of Salt: “It Is Noise.”

MONSTER SURF, HOMEBREWED STRING QUARTETS, DOUBLE DRUMMING, THE MUSICAL TYRANNY OF EVIL MEN: Sounds like just another week on the Oregon music front. In his new MusicWatch Weekly, Matthew Neil Andrews also lays down a declaration of sorts: “You may have noticed I’ve been putting genre labels in scare quotes lately. That’s because ‘genre’ is as ‘dead’ as ‘opera.’ ‘Rock,’ like ‘Protestantism,’ has split off into factions as diverse as metal, surf, psych, punk, post-punk, prog, pronk–all represented in the coming week’s musical picks. Same goes for ‘classical,’ a marbled old word from which we chisel a wide variety of music, from pious Bach to the dreamy Rachmaninoff you’ll get two chances to hear in the next week. Then you’ve got things that are truly ineffable–and we’ve got some of that this week too.”THE BEGINNING OF LISTENING. The Creative Music Guild’s Extradition Series summer concert, Charles Rose writes, confronted the sounds of silence.


Bag & Baggage Theater Productions Shakespeare Hillsboro Oregon

Hudson Yards in Manhattan: a fortress for the super-rich. Photo: Friderike Heuer

ART ON THE ROAD: HUDSON YARDS. In Manhattan, Friderike Heuer finds an architectural enclave for the über-wealthy, with a hollow folly in the middle. Also: ceramic bunnies for the well-to-do.

FOR LABOR DAY, THE ART OF WORK. A little picket line with your holiday barbecue? We look at art, most from Oregon museum collections, that reveals the highs and lows of work and its significance in life.

OPERA SWITCHES SEASON AGAIN; TESNER HEADS PSU MUSEUM. News breaks: Portland Opera will abandon its summer-season experiment and return to a fall-to-spring schedule; the veteran curator Linda Tesner will be the first director of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University.

Senior Editor

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."