T:BA Digest DAY 6: Taking Cues from Shadows

The following afternoon, I set out to catch one of the TBA CONVERSATIONS about the festival model and its role in the world of contemporary performance, with Norman Armour from Vancouver B.C, Ron Berry from Austin TX, and Zvonimir Dobrovic from Croatia.

Berry does the Fusebox Festival with a focus on music & film, staged in about twenty sites, with about equal parts local, national, international. He states that the colliding of ideas moves him. He refers to the work that he curates as “hybrid arts” and that “exciting things happen in a vacuum,” referencing the world that festivals create in order to protect the creative process. Also that Austin is “festival madness!” and every weekend some kind of festival is taking place. There is parallel to Portland in that way, for instance, T:BA collides with MFNW. I have personally taken note of that in Portland; new events are popping up like wildfire.

Zvonimir Dobrovic is the same fellow who curates Perforations, reviewed above. This talk helped me relate to what I witnessed the night prior. He discussed how funding influences the creative process and that funding relates to location and relative affluence. In Croatia and Eastern Europe, artists develop within this bubble of opportunity; they are not competing in the same way as for instance New York City because artists are enabled within Croatia and Serbia, but they do not compete across Europe. Dobrovic is also involved with Queer New York International and curates there. New York, he says is a nightmare to produce in, whereas in his homeland, easier. Also relating to economics, the Western artist (west Europe or America) is expected to communicate effectively: teach, provide workshop, and everything else but their work, in order to earn a sustainable career.

Norman Armour is far more business minded, he curates the PUSH Festival and discussed the success of the event through funding and sales quite a bit. For instance, one aim is to generate “New York style philanthropy”. His overarching aim was to “raise the bar” for the Vancouver contemporary arts scene. He recognized an inconsistency in audience and attendance that a festival could resolve that. A festival produces enough of an aggregate audience to support the level of exposure for contemporary arts. Like the fellow from Austin, he curates equal parts local, national, and international. The festival provides direction for artists and philanthropists alike.

So that was in the afternoon, the rest of my day carried me where it may. That evening, I saw the Keith Hennessy performance, Turbulence (a dance about the economy). Actually, I showed up about five minutes late to this one because of the gym — I always push it with the sauna. I cursed myself running out of the gym precisely at show time; I was five minutes away. What a drag, they won’t let me in! But it was fine. I was surprised they admitted me late though, because after all, this is theater! But it made sense when I saw what was going down.

It was nuts; I thought it was rehearsal. Without context, it looked like some bizarre cult doing whatever pleased them with some basic circus equipment; people messing around in their underwear, fully nude or fully clothed, dancing, standing there, some alone in their own world, some interacting. Turbulence isn’t really a show it is an interactive experience. Audience members were either outright invited to participate in a human sculpture, dance or something, or were not stopped from doing so as they pleased. Members of the troop sometimes engaged conversation with the audience in the rafters.

Amid the chaos, you could capture the essence of their relationship. My initial reactions was that nobody cared about one another, that at best, people were disaffected by whatever the other was doing. Those who engaged were often entangled, captured by some or other mechanism, like interlocking arms in a pile of people or a loop of rope with two opposing bodies, supporting each other in the loop by resisting and pushing in opposite directions. But, at the argument of Jesse Hewitt, perhaps they love each other. After all, the capacity to allow all of this must be love. So then what of the dance about the economy? If love is part of this dance, then is all of this struggle and depression just our way of looking at it? I don’t know that I should feel that any questions are raised or answered in this piece. Confusion is ok.

The content of the performance is guided by rehearsed ideas as well as improvisation. The flow and order of their repertoire is definitely improvised. One clearly intentional piece is the human pyramid. People from the audience were instructed to form a pyramid — with some draped over by this sequin gold fabric — and when the bottom row collapses the top follows. This is so obvious that it is frustrating. Not that it isn’t creative, because it is, but I’m bugged that we go day by day with this system in place. I assume that if you read this blog, you are likely on the bottom of that pyramid as I most definitely am in this nation. But if you look globally, I’m at the center of that middle row. When the top falls, they are cushioned by the bottom row while the bottom is smothered from the top down.

And last but not least in this jam-packed catch up game, FUTURE CINEMA by the Hollywood Theater. I mostly caught the portion called Terrifying Women. I am not greatly acquainted with Kathleen Keogh or Sarah Johnson and especially not Angela Fair, but I do have some past experience with each of them. I wasn’t familiar with the Diana Joy; she was funny, I dug it. Kathleen tends to stand out with the all around performance, and she did in this one with her bowl of powdered sugar, cigarettes, Pabst, and constant costume changes. The game was to take your drug of choice with every mention of Facebook. Sarah’s was tequila and she got a bit snookered. Diana kept it to Monster Energy, so she actually maintained. All of this is happening from multiple sections of the U.S. through Google Hangout. The delays and audio confusions surmounted in to extreme awkwardness, especially when they brought out Shane Torres, a well known comic actually, I’ve hosted him, he’s good people, he’s funny, but he didn’t what the hell to make of it all. Kathleen had a groovy video featuring Alberta Poon; a battle of Kathleen’s shadow… with guns! And what else? Again, not super acquainted with Alberta, but I’ve got some past there.

Oh, I was getting pretty sleepy and it was getting pretty late when the next film came on. It was by Grouper and Weston Currie. This film stars a woman from KBOO that I’ve had a number of run-ins with… I’ll update with name. It was just one of those weird nights I guess. The imagery and sound were beautiful together and I really wanted to see it, but it was tough and I needed to be up early to co-host a radio program with members of the Keith Hennessy group. I had to go.




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