My Review of Portland's Time Based Art Festival

(PICA's TBA festival #10: mostly in the rain. )

(Installation by Storm Tharp: view 1.)

(Storm Tharp, view 2.)

(Storm Tharp, view 3.)

(The legendary Portland view, base of the Burnside Bridge.)

(A trip to Portland's local coffee haven, Stumptown.)

(The perfect brunch at Bijou Cafe. Yum!)

(Another trip to Stumptown. We just had to.)

(One afternoon we managed to take a nap between shows.
Otherwise, we ran around ragged in all that rain.)


We took a long weekend and headed to Portland, OR for four days of total art immersion in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art's 10th annual Time Based Art Festival (TBA10). As many of you know, my husband is a designer & director for performance & dance and he's had his eyes on the TBA festival for years now. So, we decided this year was the year and we made the trek north to the crafty oasis of Portland. (My gosh, that city is so darn cute.) Luckily, we also took a few hours here and there for coffee breaks, meals, window browsing, and long walks across the city.

The festival was amazing! I was prepared to be totally saturated in edgy performance, film, and dance but I wasn't really prepared for the intensity of the work or for the way my heart and head would threaten to explode after seeing several shows each day. I'd have to write several blog posts to fairly cover all the work that was meaningful, powerful, or knock-my-socks off professional, so instead I'll just expand on my favorites. (For just a few minutes, let's pretend I was there to review my favorite shows as an art critic. Eh hem.)

Let's start with Storm Tharp's "High House". Wow! (See photos 2-4 above.) I've long been interested in seeing how artists combine various mediums to complete an installation, but this was one of my favorites for so many things including the careful combination of mixed media: illustration, objects, plants, photographs, video, painting, and various ephemera. I think the beginning of his artist statement sums it up perfectly, "The placement of things/ The breeze from an open window/ A clear day/ A still life/ The re-assurance of what is joyful." I want to write the last line across my forehead, "The reassurance of what is joyful". Wow, heartache in the very best way.

However, this joyful sentiment was in the minority at the TBA festival. That's not to say it didn't exist, that's just to say that a prevailing angst was much more palpable than a promise of joy. The themes of the work seemed instead to tend towards irony, satire, cleverness, boldness, anger, and anxiety. Of course, there is a place in art for all of these things. And of course, there were several shows that also brought tenderness, levity, wit, beauty, and humor:
  1. John Jasperse Company's incredible "Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, & Flat Out Lies", was so full of wonder and strangeness and beauty and surprise that my husband and I started to compare everything else to this careful balance of feeling/ thinking. It was truly and utterly inspiring.
  2. I'd long wanted to see the Nature Theater of Oklahoma and their clever interpretation of "Romeo & Juliet" had the audience roaring with laughter through the entire first half.
  3. The Wooster Group shared a mind-bending 360 degree film installation "There is Still Time..Brother" where the view was actually controlled by one chair in the center of the room and the other viewer's were at that one viewer's mercy. (I know, it's complicated.)
  4. I keep thinking about the delicate, yet arresting, life-sized piano print in the installation "Children of the Sunshine" by Jessica Jackson Hutchins and it was even more meaningful that the original piano was in the room.
  5. I loved the bright, cheerful, hanging soft sculptures at the Blanket Project Space by Danielle Kelly though I didn't get to see the corresponding dance.
  6. "The People's Biennial" still has me thinking about inclusion and which artists are included in international art shows and which artists aren't and, sadly, knowing this is somewhat based on geography, culture, and education.
  7. Lastly, I adored "Hard Edge, Hard Work" films by Maya Deren and Kate Gilmore, Deren's historic work paired gorgeously against Gilmore's contemporary films. (If you haven't seen Gilmore's films, watch this one!)
So...what's my summary? Well, It's taken me years to build my confidence as an artist and to trust my instinct for what I like and what I don't like and when I'm on the other side of the canvas, camera, page, or stage I try to employ the same instincts as I go. I've learned to allow myself to scan the work that doesn't really grip me and trust that there will be other work that will bore itself under my skin, quicken my heart rate, shorten my breath, and make me stand there gazing powerless for quite a long time. Luckily, this festival had a number of pieces that quickened my heart rate and kept me gazing. xoxo, k.


  1. sounds divine & amazing. glad you two could get away for that experience!

  2. I want to tattoo this: "heartache in the very best way" such a great sentence!

  3. Oh, Katrina, these photos are marvelous! I took my first trip to Portland last winter and was totally smitten with it. Thanks for taking me back there!

  4. what a cool experience no????

  5. jen: it was lovely. that city is too darn cute.

    bea: you are adorable! thank you, friend.

    aimee: so glad you've been able to wander there too. such a delight.

    lisa: yes! definitely a great experience. so much good work to view.

  6. I like that mural on the wall.

  7. toemailer: it was so beautiful! i'm still thinking about that installation.

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