Every year, the closing of summer is tempered by the white hot explosion of contemporary art known as the Time-Based Art Festival. It serves up 11 sleepless days of theater, dance, visual arts, late-night dance parties, new friends and beer-hall conversation, from Sept. 7-17.
But this year is bittersweet, as we prepare to say farewell to Angela Mattox, the first full-time artistic director at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (before her, TBA festivals were programmed by visiting curators). Since her first TBA in 2012, she has left an indelible fingerprint on the organization, greatly expanding the global scope of the festival and the amount of new works it commissions from both local and international artists.
Check out our in-depth interview with Mattox about the festival above.
She also offered picks for some of this year’s don’t-miss shows:
The Negro Problem’s “Notes of a Native Song”
Stew and Heidi Rodewald are the creative force behind the band the Negro Problem and the Tony-winning 2008 musical “Passing Strange.” It told the story of a Black youth who left middle-class Los Angeles to search for a more “real” life in Europe and mixed rock with jazz and gospel and a story of incredible depth and wit, redefining what a musical could be years before “Hamilton.”
Stew has referred to “Passing Strange” as spiritual copyright infringement on the life of James Baldwin, and now the musician has taken his love of Baldwin a step further with “Notes of a Native Song.”
Angela Mattox: It’s really about Stew’s relationship to the life and work of James Baldwin, but it’s not just an homage. It’s really Stew looking at incidents and issues of the American moment and interweaving timely storylines and commentary amidst this luscious musical landscape of jazz and blues-influenced songs — a song cycle.
Sometimes the last show I book feels the most important, or the show that holds things together. I booked this weeks before the catalogue went to print, and it feels like the right show to make this festival. It feels timely.
We can’t tell you how much we loved “Passing Strange,” so naturally we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk with Stew about this new work.
Tanya Tagaq’s “Retribution”
Mattox: I really wanted to bring back a few artists I thought really made an incredible impact on artists here as well as me personally. One will be Tanya Tagaq, who we presented in 2014 with “Nanook of the North.” That project for me, having Tanya Tagaq, who’s this world-famous Inuit throat singer who you can’t describe — she’s a punk rocker, guttural singing force — having her and her band perform in front of “Nanook of the North” and reclaiming that footage of her ancestors, for me was one of the most important shows that I’ve curated.
I’ve been looking for a reason to get Tanya back to Portland. She’ll be presenting two nights for a project called “Retribution.” I thought thematically about the festival and the challenging world we’re in right now, and the potential of the festival to be a place of resilience and also a place of rage. And in this show, Tanya is enraged at how we’re treating the planet, the lack of rights for women and indigenous people. If you thought the last show was growling, she is really on fire with this.
Bouchra Ouizguen’s “Le Corbeaux”
Mattox: Bouchra Ouizguen is an artist I presented a few years ago and now we’re doing a project I couldn’t have done a few years ago. The piece was called “Ha.” She works with women who’re above the age we normally see a choreographer working with — in their 50s and 60s. They are traditional singers named Aita singers.
The piece we’re presenting is called “Le Corbeaux,” which translates to crows or ravens in French, and it will be this full-on, immersive, site-specific ritual, and it will involve approximately 30 Portland women as well. And I love the notion of having these older Moroccan women with this cast of Portland women of different ages unified, because this piece is very repetitive and deals with endurance. Talk about being out of time. It’s a 30-minute ritual that you also feel like time escapes you. For me to see this many women at Peninsula Park and PICA’s new home is really profound. If TBA can be a place where we are learning, connecting, sharing — for me, that’s the pinnacle.
Dorothée Munyaneza and Holland Andrews’ “Unwanted”
Mattox: One of the really exciting stories out of last year’s Creative Exchange Lab [an international artist residency program Mattox created at PICA] was we invited in an artist named Dorothée Munyaneza, a Rwandan artist based in Marseille, and we also invited Holland Andrews, who is a local composer, sound artist and vocalist, who goes by the music name Like a Villain. The two had this incredible synergy. And after the Creative Exchange Lab, Dorothée said, “Holland, will you please be a collaborator on my new project, which is called ‘Unwanted.’” And it’s not just a small project. Dorothée has been commissioned by the Avignon Festival in France, one of the biggest, most significant festivals globally. It literally just premiered six weeks ago, and we’re getting the U.S. premiere.
“Unwanted” is dealing with subject matter close to Dorothée’s childhood experience: It’s going back the Rwandan Genocide and looking at victims of rape at that time. And Dorothée undertook a series of interviews with rape survivors. I think Dorothée’s hope is to provide a space to empower those voices.