This is the 20th year that artists from around the world will gather in Portland to perform for the Time-Based Art Festival. The annual event, put on by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, features performances, lectures, dance parties and exhibitions in a variety of different mediums. Roya Amirsoleymani, the artistic director and curator of public engagement for PICA, joins us to talk about this year’s festival and the events she’s is most looking forward to.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB, I’m Dave Miller. We start today with the Time-Based Art Festival for the 20th year. Artists from around the world are going to be gathering in Portland for performances, lectures, dance parties and exhibitions in a variety of different mediums. It’s put on by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art or PICA; Roya Amirsoleymani is the Artistic Director and Curator of Public Engagement for PICA. She joins us to talk about this year’s festival. Welcome.
Roya Amirsoleymani: Thank you for having me.
Miller: Thanks for joining us. How do you describe the Time-Based Art Festival for people who have never been to one of the performances?
Amirsoleymani: The Time-Based Art Festival is really an experience more than anything else. It’s immersive. It is a span of 10 days, in which anyone from the community can attend a performance and exhibition, a lecture, a dance, dance show, theater, go to a party, it’s many things in many different kinds of spaces, indoor/outdoor theaters, black boxes, warehouses, PICA is a central location for it, but there are a lot of other venues and it’s really about coming together to celebrate and support artists and to be an audience member in the way that we really think about it, about what that means when we’re connecting through art and ideas, and how that relates to the world right now.
Miller: Has COVID changed the way you think about the last part you were getting to– about coming together to experience art. I mean obviously for a while that just simply wasn’t happening at all. In 2020, the Time-Based Festival and basically everything either was canceled or was put online. Now, we can sort of be back together. Has your understanding of what it means to be together, has it changed?
Amirsoleymani: Absolutely; fundamentally. And I think it has for everyone who’s working on this festival and who’s in the world of live performance. For artists, for arts workers, for Curators like myself, we can’t divorce the pandemic and its effects and how it has impacted the way that we think about, and move through social spaces. We can’t divorce that from the… not just the notion but the act of presenting live performance of any kind. So, you know, we’re really thinking about what it means to try to gather as safely as possible, while also accepting a degree of risk. And it’s been really interesting to think through with artists, what it means to keep going, to keep gathering despite the odds. The resilience of artists is incredibly and unceasingly inspiring to us. And so we’re firm in our belief that it’s important to be making things like the Time-Based Art Festival happen. But we’re also thinking differently about access, about inclusive spaces, about what it means to take care of people who are gathered as best we can, while also accepting that there are challenges that we’ve never encountered before.
Miller: Can you tell us about a performance that you’re excited about in this year’s festival?
Amirsoleymani: There are so many. But I was thinking about a couple I’d like to highlight and one is by an artist named Sylvan Oswald who is working with other artists on this performance and it’s an experimental theater and text based work that is happening at the Winningstad Theater downtown at Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts. And Sylvan’s work as a writer and interdisciplinary artist really shows up in interesting ways on stage. There are video elements, there’s a whole immersive sound design to it and Sylvan is really exploring a kind of imaginative experience and journey of navigating different landscapes of the United States as a trans man. So it’s really informed by his experience of gender transition and how that looks and feels in different settings in different places and in relationship to one’s self and family. That’s happening September 9th, 10th and 11th, and we have lots of information on our shows, time, schedules, etcetera at pica dot org slash TBA [pica.org/tba].
And then one other show I wanted to mention is one night only, September 11th, eight pm at PICA, which is at 15 Northeast Hancock Street. We have a show of musicians who are all from Southwest Asia and North Africa and some of them are local to Portland, some are from out of town, but it’s all curated by a San Francisco - based artist who works in sound and music and her name is Leyya Tawil and this is all happening under the banner of a platform called ‘Arab AMP.’ So it’s really about Arab and North African inspired music and I think that will be really exciting for folks to check out something new. But it’s really drawing on different cultural traditions and kind of and sonic experiences and it will be a range of work all in one night.
Miller: You also have a series called ‘Night School,’ What can folks expect?
Amirsoleymani: Yeah, that’s a fun one for me to talk about because I actually curated that one myself. It’s a new series that… it’s an experiment, honestly. We’ve invited four artists who have academic practices or in some way alongside their artistic and creative work, are thinking about the lecture or presentation as a format to kind of subvert or undo the conventions of… so four artists, one who’s local, Pepper pepper, who some folks might know as a drag and performance artist in town. And then Nana Adusei-Poku, Zach Blas and Kite, all of whom work across many disciplines: sound, dance, writing, visual art. They’re all thinkers and scholars and researchers in their own ways. And so we were playing on this idea of night school because all of these lectures are at night, but they’re not your typical lecture, they’re not a dry kind of presentation of, you know, notes and the slide show, there might be little elements of that, but it’s really about kind of tweaking this, this idea of a straightforward presentation and having fun with it and there are all kinds of different performative elements to it, and I think it’ll be a real feast for the senses too.
Miller: Is it also a critique of ‘Ted-Talk’ culture?
Amirsoleymani: That’s a good question. You know, we haven’t really thought about it that way. But I suppose it could be, I think it’s whatever the artists are going to make of it. But one thing they’re certainly doing is questioning the conventional and traditional forms in which we receive information and knowledge and they’re… many of them are in academia, they work as professors and scholars and researchers within universities and such. But there and they have Phds, that sort of thing, all these bona fides but they’re really interested in asking audiences to consider what it means to destabilize those notions of codified knowledge, consumption.
Miller: Roya Amirsoleymani. Thanks very much.
Amirsoleymani: Yes, thanks for having me.
Miller: Roya Amirsoleymani is the Artistic Director and Curator of Public Engagement at PICA. Their time based art festival at 2022 edition starts tomorrow evening.
Contact “Think Out Loud®”
If you’d like to comment on any of the topics in this show, or suggest a topic of your own, please get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, send an email to email@example.com, or you can leave a voicemail for us at 503-293-1983. The call-in phone number during the noon hour is 888-665-5865.