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PICA's Time-Based Art Festival Starts 10th Season

Tucked among locker-lined corridors, behind classroom doors and filling the auditorium, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival opened Thursday evening at Washington High School. The first night of the festival opened with performances from Big Art Group and D.J. Venus X. After Big Art Group’s show, exhibits ranging from sculpture and film to interactive pieces opened for festival attendees. The 10th Annual TBA Festival includes artists from around the world and runs 11 days in various locations around Portland.

First-year artistic director Angela Mattox has a lot of ideas about the role Portland can play in the international art scene, and her vision will be revealed at this year’s tenth annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA:12).  The 11-day event hosts an instant community of adventurous theater, dance, film, music, visual art, site-specific performances and various hybrids from around the world.

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson

Lucie Jansch

“This is definitely a celebratory year,” says Mattox. “One of the approaches I took was to bring back some really important artists in the past 10 years with brand-new work as a kind of honoring.”

For Mattox, such artists include Laurie Anderson, Miguel Gutierrez and Koto Yamazaki.

Continuing the trend of the past three years, Washington High School on Southeast Stark Street will serve as the hub of TBA:12 by hosting featured performances, visual-art exhibits and a fenced-in beer-garden/cocktail lounge. The festival also gives the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) a window to show off its new downtown headquarters at Southwest 10th Avenue, which includes a second-floor gallery.

Go See It!

  • PICA: Time-Based Art Festival
  • September 6-16, 2012, Various Locations in Portland
  • Visit website for more information

According to Mattox, the public should expect to see artists at the forefront of their fields who are unafraid of taking risks in their work. “I always look for artists who really have something urgent to share with audiences,” she says.  “That sounds vague, but you know it intuitively when you experience it.”

Such art takes many forms. For example, Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells’ “The Quiet Volume” invites live audience members to participate in self-generated performances. Another exhibit, “Listening to Space: Sonic City PDX,” explores Portland by pure sound — from the whizz of intersecting traffic to the clunky vibrato of a bridge buckling under a passing train.

Erin Boberg Doughton, performing arts program director, believes conceptual artists are misperceived as creating work only for people in the know. TBA:12 strives to combat this. “The artists in our festival are very, very interested in bringing their ideas to a general public and sharing their practice, the ways that they work, the message and the ideas behind the work,” says Doughton.

The upcoming festival offers many methods — from workshops to lectures — for people of any background and experience to engage with artists about their work.

For Mattox, this interaction is key. “I’m a firm believer that artists are really important members of society, and the kind of work we do at PICA is about supporting visionary artists who are often exploring topics, issues, ideas, themes that are very relatable to people here in Portland.”

Big Art Group

Big Art Group

Theo Kogan

Feeling overwhelmed? One starting point might be “The Works Program at Night,” a public beer garden in the auditorium of Washington High School. With its combination of live music, cabaret and multimedia show, art becomes the backdrop for a community party open to all members of the public.

But to really get the most out of the festival, Mattox encourages audiences to simply be curious and open-minded. “The work is designed to provoke, and for audiences to dive in.”

Mattox’s top pick for broad audiences is TBA’s opening night performance, “The People — Portland,” from Big Art Group. This outdoor event projects recorded interviews of 37 Portlanders discussing issues as local as neighborhoods to more global concerns regarding war and democracy.  “It’s the right tone to start the festival with,” she says. “Global ideas situated locally. And it’ll be fun, too.”

Correction - September 7, 2012: An earlier version of this article misstated that the festival runs for 10 days. The festival runs September 6-16, 2012.


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