This is it. Summer is over. Literally, that is true because we had our Harvest Moon over the weekend, but since nobody in contemporary life counts that as a matter of fact, it’s more about personal markers, such as the end of this year’s annual contemporary art festival. It is as based in time and time is measured by these seasonal celestial events.
Sunday, September 23rd is a relief for curators and artists and possibly a let down for some audience members. The schedule greatly diminishes. Satiation can be an impossible task. Most of the performances are through. And typically, the night prior is the strongest both in terms of programming and attendance. But this year: not so much. I wouldn’t say it petered out or fell flat, but the explosion of energy didn’t happen—at least not quite.
The visual art program continues. I had a brief chat with visual art curator, Kristen Kennedy at The Works, standing in the Alex Mackin Dolan exhibit, Cycle Sun Limit, a stark, white room with tables propping up games and various objects assembled-as-sculpture plus a printed vinyl piece flat on the floor.
In a gallery, nobody touches anything, other than one piece. It is a Nintendo Wii with only one game: solitaire. Extraordinary technology utilized for the world’s most basic card game. It was a waste of time. It’s so much easier to play it with real cards. That’s the point, I suppose.
Kristen said something delicate that I would not want to misrepresent. Essentially, she has recognized more compelling collections, visually speaking perhaps, at past T:BA exhibits. She really loved last year—she mentioned it because I explained how I blew it and saw almost none of the visual program in 2012—and although she loves this year, it’s a different organism entirely.
“…COMMUNITY DECLARED ITSELF A MEDIUM…” is all about imperfection anyway, unofficially that is. Kristen is in many respects exploring the foundation of her work at PICA and moreover, as is the theme in 2013, taking a new look at the values being exhibited even so beyond the work itself. So to not like it is actually consistent. We the communities need to take a fresh look at what we had liked and make changes.
Krystal South has a fascinating thing going online with her exhibit Identify Yourself. Beware if your computer is slow. It loads like an old MySpace page. I have not yet seen her visual exhibit. There is also a book that goes with it. Have not read it. I urge you to explore this artist for yourself and find her exhibit(s).
A.L. Steiner has a pretty accessible piece—by that I mean easy to access physically—located at PNCA, it is called Feelings and How to Destroy Them. Mostly a collection of videos playing simultaneously in semi-isolated areas, it is worth spending a minimum of twenty minutes with the whole, but one could probably take a full hour to appreciate it.
Something I found impressive is what I just called “semi-isolated”. Essentially, they aren’t isolated at all; space is provided between each one to have a focus on the audio and video, one at a time, yet audio is being played out in the open air, video is every which way you turn. If you stand away from the piece, you cannot hear it. But if you stand dead center, it is entirely clear. Some videos are headphone isolated, especially those that are more intimate in content—almost like voyeurism.
The small theater and film at the end of the tour is kind of difficult. A strikingly painful thing happens involving feathered or furred objects threaded in to a model’s body. Its as if Steiner wants to inflict the pain of how she feels on both the model and the audience. This is what I’m talking about, “A.L. Steiner uses [various mediums as] seductive tropes channeled through the sensibility of an activated skeptical queer ecofeminist androgyne.”
The final image created could have easily avoided that kind of physical suffering—and it was not even particularly compelling, visually. It was cool. Another one involved a pair of tranny’s taunting each other and verbally abusing one another.
Daniel Barrow offered a welcomed relief from that kind of challenging work. Using an overhead projector set up at the Whitsell Auditorium, he gave an impressive presentation and story using illustrated transparencies for everything. He sounds like Ira Glass from This American Life mixed with the perspectives of Jean-Paul Sartre.
But frankly, I hardly listened to the words or the story. Occasionally he said something touching and deep. I was enamored by the visual. I would recommend seeing his work twice: once for the visual and once for the story. I didn’t have that luxury and his run in Portland has come to pass, for now.
The video below gives an idea of the sophistication of his work. Things are simpler and move much faster during a performance compared to this installation.
Ivana Muller presented a show performed by its audience. We Are Still Watching is a purely self-referential theatrical production. People had fun. Lots of laughs break out and lots of people are going through self-reflection when they are put on the spot during this reading. What is remarkable is how much people are willing to give to it. Nobody argues.
Basically, the audience is given a script. Not everyone gets to see it. But eventually, everybody gets a part. The content of the script is what is so self-referential. It basically is a scripted conversation of the audience talking to itself. I think that is a good introduction, but how about something more socially complex than that? Its good to bring out everyone’s cooperation, but why not actually start drawing personal experiences out of it? That would be the next level of this concept.
Given her description as an artist—not having time for research—I would guess that her complete body of work includes more of that. She is a multi-disciplinary artist but not often the performer.
Karen Sherman provided the final event on the schedule. I was exhausted. I had missed out on sleep and pushed my limits for the last ten days. It was a full audience largely of pass holders. Artists are all through with their work. While some are flying out of town, others are holding steady, happy to take in a show. It was well received.
I had some hit and miss feelings about it, in my grogginess. Perhaps it just felt a little obsessive and occasionally unnecessarily adversarial. Maybe I was. I went to the artist talk with Linda Austin and Karen Sherman the day prior. Karen admits to a somewhat obsessive personality. It was interesting to discuss the relationship of the reviewer with them. I’m putting that conclusion in to my epilogue.
But perhaps the difference I recognized between them first was attitude. Linda is playful, has few gender and sexuality related issues to grapple with. Karen is making it loud and clear that she does and said that it’s a male judgmental attitude to relate dance as play—like these are little girls. Linda would say that it’s all play and that’s good.
Karen used a device that I saw with A.L. Steiner. It is artistic asceticism. By doing something painful to create an effect that would more safely, comfortably be achieved otherwise, they are saying something. It’s just not clear. Obviously, the status quo inflicts pain on others to control that quo, although a more humane approach could be taken.
Last but not least and still available for view is Lucy Raven and Rebecca Gates’ presentation of Alvin Lucier’s original work. They renamed it Room Tone: Variation. I stepped in late. Basically, a voice is recorded to tape. The voice is played back and recorded to a different machine, using the same microphone. The concept is that the recording of the playback is faint. The next one is more faint. Eventually it becomes a drone. But with the deconstruction of The Works happening just outside the room, it was actually fascinating to determine from where I was actually hearing certain sounds in the room.