Another year, another eye-popping array of avant-garde performance, dance installations, paintings, video and live madness from PICA's Time-Based Art Festival. Now in its eighth year, the two-week amalgamation of international craziness is still pushing boundaries, from homemade Rambo videos to karaoke dissertations. Here's a handful of the happenings we're most intrigued by.
ZACHARY OBERZAN'S FLOODING WITH LOVE FOR THE KID. IMAGE: Zachary Oberzan
Zachary Oberzan, Flooding With Love for the Kid
Talk about your guerrilla art. Before First Blood became the movie that kickstarted Sylvester Stallone's Rambo franchise, it was a fierce, stoical pulp novel by David Morrell. Both Stallone and Morrell have given their blessing to a new film adaptation of the book—that and $96 got Zachary Oberzan a homeland war movie, which he shot entirely in his hardwood-floor Manhattan apartment, playing every role. He's Vietnam-scarred drifter John Rambo, the small-town-sheriff nemesis (who uses a toaster for a dispatch radio), and everybody else, including the bloodhounds. So yes, Flooding With Love for the Kid is another of those plucky homemade remakes, like that backyard Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it's more than a DIY tribute. The chief difference—besides the manhunt being conducted in closets and hallways, with Oberzan hiding in the shower and running stark naked through the kitchen—is that Sheriff Teasle becomes as central a figure as Rambo, and just as sympathetic. But of course all the characters here are sympathetic, because they are all Oberzan. "You have to be in his place," the dying lawman cries. "You have to pretend you're him." And Oberzan's movie becomes the closest I've seen cinema come to capturing the imaginative identification of reading. This one-man duet of violence is not just the best First Blood adaptation—in its innocent way, it's the most faithful book treatment ever made. Bloody brilliant. AARON MESH. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave. 8:30 pm Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 13-15. $8 members, $9 general.
The Wooster Group, There Is Still Time..Brother
The Wooster Group makes its first appearance at TBA with this bizarre installation, a 360-degree screen upon which a 30-minute antiwar film is projected. Multiple story arcs and montages play out simultaneously on different parts of the screen, but only one may be watched at any given time, and a single audience member is given control of which part is visible. BEN WATERHOUSE. PCPA Brunish Hall, 1111 SW Broadway., pica.org/TBA. The film loops 4:30-8:30 pm Friday-Monday and Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 10-13 and 15-18.
The Extreme Animals Sit Down
If H.G. Wells were alive to update The Time Machine with an end-of-the-world vision that might jibe with our 21st-century brains, he'd tell you to stop reading books and go see Extreme Animals conjure audiovisual cacophony instead. This spawn of the eyestraining Paper Rad collective blends addictive dance music with visuals from our society's collective vomitorium to get your body moving and your skull melting. It's latest all-fronts assault targets tween culture, and it's gonna hurt so good. You might die. CHRIS STAMM. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 11:30 pm Friday, Sept. 10. $8 members, $10 general.
KARAOKE & AUTHENTICITY. IMAGE: Leah Benetti
Karaoke & Authenticity
"Today there are two words that sum up the culture: 'authenticity' is one, and the other... 'karaoke.'" So wrote Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Eric Fredericksen, of Seattle art nonprofit Western Bridge, uses McLaren's quote as a springboard to craft a new exploration of the concept, with Godard's Sympathy for the Devil, Kurt Cobain's suicide and the Sex Pistols' final concert as the triumvirate holding it together. His lecture intends, Fredericksen writes, to "critique the notion of authenticity rather than defend karaoke." Karaoke will get all the defense it needs when the second half of the night morphs into a balls-out singalong session courtesy of Canada's karaoke kings in Weekend Leisure, along for its debut American appearance (WL and Fredericksen co-presented a similar event in Vancouver, B.C., last spring). Weekend Leisure produces weekly karaoke nights, homemade karaoke videos and an ongoing series for Vancouver's public-access channel—clips and catalog all available at weekendleisure.ca. "[They] are the kind of karaoke performers I like to see," writes Fredericksen. "[G]ood, but not too good, lively and engaged." Curtis Grahauer of WL emphasizes that though they will be performing "inadvertently choreographed" routines, the night is all about the public. One warning: Don't put us or Grahauer through the torture of Frank Sinatra's "My Way"—he says he'll exercise veto rights, "which usually consists of me crumpling up the slip into my pocket." Trust the KJ masters. CAITLIN MCCARTHY. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 8:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 19. $8 members, $10 general.
Japanther vs. Night Shade
Opening night at the Works is a can't-miss event: Get thee to the deliciously defunct Washington-Monroe High School space for shadow puppets and punk rock. Can TBA kick off any better? Dirty DIY art-punk -whatever duo Japanther schleps it all the way from Brooklyn to face off with local shadow-puppeteers Night Shade in what will no doubt be a watershed moment in the world of dark 'n' dank underground awesomeness. CAITLIN MCCARTHY. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 10:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 9. Free.
Jennifer Reeves and Skuli Sverrisson, When it Was Blue
Oh, here is a movie with layers: New York-based filmmaker Jennifer Reeves projects two 16 mm reels on the same screen, superimposing images of oceans and forests from Canada to New Zealand. Then Icelandic composer Skuli Sverrisson tops it off with a live musical score. Cinema Project, opening its experimental-film season with this work, isn't offering advance copies, and that's just as well: DVD screeners couldn't capture the fleeting, transitory spell they're seeking. It's three-dimensional cinema with no glasses required. AARON MESH. The Works at Washington High School. 10:30 pm Monday, Sept. 13. $8 members, $10 general.
Locals Guantanamo Baywatch play super-scuzzy surf punk—like the Trashmen but, er, trashier. Apparently the band members are all former or current PNCA students, but don't let that put you off—this is about as far from art-school rock as you can get: mullets, neon singlets and song titles like "Cum Fart Food," "Titz & Twatz" and "Massage My Taj Mahal." Like Dick Dale with more dick jokes. Joining the band's beach party is California's Shannon and the Clams, which does the surf-rock shtick with a more Shangri-Las bent. RUTH BROWN. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 10:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 16. $8 members, $10 general.
Put on your appropriately dorky 1980s-era dancing shoes, sweater vest and horn-rimmed glasses and get down to the sweet tunes of AndrewAndrew, America's preeminent iPad DJs. The two men have both been named Andrew all their lives, have been dressing alike for the past 10 years and have been iPad DJing since April. Along the way, they've capitalized on their collective bad fashion sense and awkwardness to garner fame as radio-show hosts, theater critics, red-carpet reporters, epicureans, techies and everything in between. RILEY HOOPER. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 11:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 18. $8 members, $10 general.
Dayna Hanson, Gloria's Cause
Seattle choreographer/director/actress/guitar player/filmmaker Dayna Hanson returns to TBA for the first time since 2004 with a work-in-progress showing of her new experimental rock musical, which will premiere in December at the On the Boards Festival. Hanson, formerly half of the artistic team behind the Seattle dance troupe 33 Fainting Spells, describes the piece as "kind of a spectacle—there's a lot of performers onstage, there's a lot of music, and there's quite a bit of dancing." And a lot of three-cornered hats. "We're taking the cartoonish, iconic moments that we all learn about our country's history, and holding those up in a different light...and the stuff no one knows about unless you have a Ph.D. in history. There's a lot of clues in those forgotten details about why we are where we are today." Hanson is a self-trained dancer ("I studied fiction writing in college, then suddenly decided I wanted to do dance instead," she says), whose exuberant choreography is evocative of tap and '70s funk with a strong attention to small gestures. It's an essentially American style, generated without much regard for formal tradition, and a little unsettling for outsiders to watch. Who better to tackle the nation's inscrutable origins? BEN WATERHOUSE. Winningstad Theatre, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, 1111 SW Broadway, 224-7422. 6:30 pm Friday-Monday, Sept. 10-13. $20.
SHIRIN NESHAT'S WOMEN WITHOUT MEN. Film still courtesy of Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat, Women Without Men
Joining the ranks of Julian Schnabel, Steve McQueen and Cindy Sherman, who have, with mixed results, descended from the art world's altitudes to work in feature narrative filmmaking, video artist and photographer Shirin Neshat expands her vision into widescreen grandeur with Women Without Men. The dilatory fugue explores gender and class issues against the backdrop of 1953's U.S.-backed overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Dedicated "to the memory of those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Iran, from the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to the Green Movement of 2009," Neshat and frequent collaborator Shoja Azari, working from Shahrnush Parsipur's novel of the same name, get bogged down in melodramatic molasses and stumble too often into parched didacticism, but Neshat's meticulous compositions, like all images with magic in them, deliver shivers and pricks to that part of your lower spine connected to the sublime. The film follows four women, each abused or neglected or otherwise hobbled by a brutally patriarchal culture, as they flee their fates in various ways and converge upon a country estate that provides a dreamy, almost Edenic refuge, at least for a little while. If that sounds confusing and vague, well, that's because Women Without Men is confusing and vague. It is gorgeous, though, and when Neshat's storytelling skills catch up to her eyes, watch out. CHRIS STAMM. Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave. 7 pm Thursday, 6:30 pm Friday-Sunday, 7 pm Tuesday, Sept. 9-12 and 14. $8 members, $9 general.
The ranks of musical styles that haven't been rear-ended by the suffix "electro" are quickly thinning. Add another scalp to white pleather belt of the electronic empire: gypsy music. Finnish DJs and visual artists Speedy and Salama (a.k.a. Johanna Ketola and Reeta Sironen) mix music gathered from their travels through the Balkans and Eastern Europe with beats, crazy costumes, dancing and props. You want to sneer, but there's something about this music that makes even the most jaded misanthrope want to kick up their pointy boots, clap and shout vaguely Slavic-sounding words. Damn gypsy magic. RUTH BROWN. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 10:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 18, $8 members, $10 general.
Danielle Kelly & Noelle Stiles, Blanket
I don't know exactly what that woman with the pillow growing out of her head and arm is doing on that yellow tape-wrapped cushion, but I want to see more of it. Las Vegas-based writer and artist Danielle Kelly and Portland dancer Noelle Stiles team up for a vivid installation and movement piece that centers on ideas of "human engagement" and "synthetic experiment." In practice, that translates to an oddly fascinating piece obscured by filmy curtains and lumpy swinging stuffed objects decorated with fringe and flowers, set to a humming, chiming soundtrack by Unrecognizable Now with Deelay Ceelay's Delaney Kelly. It's all got a sort of Alice in Wonderland on Ambien thing going on. Factor in the TBA program, which notes that "visitors are encouraged to hug the objects at will" and you've got a reason to get soft. KELLY CLARKE. Blanket Project Space, 1100 NW Glisan St., Suite 1A. 4:30 pm Saturdays-Sundays, 7 pm Monday-Friday, Sept. 11-19. $10 members, $15 general. Reservations required. Installation is open and free noon-3 pm Saturday-Sunday, noon-5 pm Monday-Friday, Sept. 10-19.
NATURE THEATER OF OKLAHOMA'S ROMEO AND JULIET
Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Romeo and Juliet
You've seen it a thousand times, studied it in school and probably own several copies, but how accurately can you actually recall Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? Star-cross'd lovers…Mercutio dies…they shag…Juliet dies… Romeo dies…oh wait—she's not dead…now she is. Or something. That's the premise behind this show from New York's Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Founders Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska—who himself has never actually read the play—called up friends and family, asked them to retell the story and cobbled their responses into a script. The result is a unique, muddled up version of the Bard's classic in which Romeo sings, Juliet has a brother and a cast of actors in tights delivers lines like, "Romeo, oh Romeo, where art thou, Romeo? Something or something and you are the sun! I don't remember. I don't have it memorized," with all the pomp and hamfistedness of classical Shakespearian theater. The company last graced TBA's stage to great acclaim in 2007 with its Obie Award-winning twist on dinner theater, No Dice, and Romeo and Juliet has already received plaudits from The New York Times and The New Yorker for its off-Broadway run. Never was an avant-garde performance-art interpretation of more woe. RUTH BROWN. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 6:30 pm Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 15-18. $20 members, $25 general.
Mike Daisey, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Mike Daisey, the nation's foremost monologuist, often described as the heir to Spalding Gray, takes on the nation's foremost technologist. With his trademark blend of wry humor and spittle-spraying outrage, Daisey explores the rise of Steve Jobs and Apple and the implications of Apple's tightening grip on the way we perceive the world, and visits the shadowy factories in China where the turtlenecked genius' devices are made. BEN WATERHOUSE. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 6:30 pm Friday-Monday, Sept. 10-13. $20 members, $25 general.
Nina Katchadourian, Sorted Books
Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books project is so good you'll curse yourself for not having thought of it. Ongoing since 1993, the artist parses public and private libraries, arranging her findings into "clusters" (exhibited as real stacks or photographs). Each cluster unfolds meaning according to the way the books' spines are stacked: One piece in Composition (1993), for example, shows Hamlet on top of What's Eating You? on top of Hey Man! Open Up and Live! It is extremely playful, giving rise to new thoughts in a deceptively simple way, and smartly honoring collectors and readers in the process. CAITLIN MCCARTHY. Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 NW Johnson St. 10 am-7 pm Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 8-Oct. 23. Free.
Ten Tiny Dances
In Portland choreographer Mike Barber's beloved, long-running dance series, a 4-by-4-foot platform sets the stage for the work of 10 choreographers. You'd be surprised how much that platform frees artists from the pressure of infinite possibility while constraining their work to the space. It also makes for an intimate, amusing setting to watch men in Speedos, women with boxes on their heads and taiko drummers—or whatever they'll come up with this year—perform. RILEY HOOPER. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 10:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 11. $8 members, $10 general.
The Offsite Dance Project of Yokohama drops a pair of Japanese dance pros into Northwest Portland during TBA, for a site-specific meander down 13th Avenue. Butoh-trained Yukio Suzuki focuses on powerful, sometimes unsettling movement and imagery (for a past Offsite show he constructed what looks like a psychedelic mushroom tree surrounded by autumn leaves in a public walkway), while Zan Yamashita exploits the "tension" between words and bodies. KELLY CLARKE. Various locations along Northwest 13th Avenue, meet at Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 NW Johnson St. 6:30 pm Friday-Saturday, Sept. 17-18. Free.
EMILY JOHNSON'S THE THANK-YOU BAR. IMAGE: Jamie Lang
Emily Johnson/Catalyst, The Thank-You Bar
Emily Johnson has fond memories of Grandma's house. Then again, her grandma's house was a tavern in Clam Gulch, Alaska, named the Que'Ana Bar ("thank you" in the Alaskan native language of Yupik). The Minneapolis dancemaker and director, who has worked with her group Catalyst since 1998, says she and her siblings treated the canteen as their own private playland, shooting pool and soaking up old country standards on the jukebox while Grandma finished crossword puzzles and baked cookies for the drinkers. The vivid memories of that safe spot, along with her feelings both about her Yupik heritage and displacement spawned from living away from her Alaskan family for the last 15 years have combined in her new work, The Thank-You Bar. The dance-music-theater hybrid skips from Johnson's angular, frenetic movement to video scraps and storytelling to twangy live country-ish soundscapes performed by her husband, James Everest, and Portland-based musician Joel Pickard. She straps a speaker to her chest and mouths along to a myth about the origins of the place she's performing in, she straps lighted boxes on her feet like stilts; clomping around the stage to illuminate her new domain. She interviewed animal behaviorists for the piece, weaving their information about nesting and mating rituals, into her little "memory fragments" of dance and spoken word. It's a weird, warm and intimate experience—only 30 people are allowed at each show. "I try to foster a little bridge between us," Johnson says excitedly. "To try and create this kind of...home for the audience and me—just for a while." KELLY CLARKE. Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave. 4:30, 6:30 and 8:30 pm Thursday-Friday, 2:30, 4:30, 6:30 pm Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 16-19. $15 members, $20 general. Reservations required.
Charles Atlas/William Basinski
Best known for collaborating with cool New Yorkers you started worshipping or pretending to worship in college—Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer and Diamanda Galas, among others—filmmaker Charles Atlas brings William Basinski's plaintive dronescapes into the fold for a one-night-only collaboration. Basinski never fails to deliver the melancholy pain (has your heart not been sundered by The Disintegration Loop yet?), and if Atlas' live video mix resembles previous palimpsests, this fleeting tag-team partnership is sure to break a few hearts and inspire a clutch of wicked dreams.CHRIS STAMM. The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 10:30 pm Friday, Sept. 10. $8 members, $10 general.
Jérôme Bel, Cédric Andrieux
In Véronique Doisneau (which screened at TBA's '08 festival), Parisian choreographer Jérôme Belstaged a documentary about a Paris Opera Ballet dancer who, on the eve of her retirement, reminisced alone onstage about her career. It was a sometimes droll, sometimes bittersweet commentary on an art form more often seen than heard from. Bel has continued in that vein with Cédric Andrieux, a solo performed live by the eponymous French dancer, a former member of Merce Cunningham's company. In the piece, Andrieux offers a brief history of contemporary dance, including his role in it, by performing excerpts of work from Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Bel and others. HEATHER WISNER. Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. 8:30 pm Friday-Sunday, Sept. 10-12. $20-$25. Andrieux also leads an intermediate/advanced Cunningham workshop 10 am Saturday, Sept. 11, at Conduit, 918 SW Yamhill, Suite 401. $10 members, $15 general.
John Jasperse, Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies
What is truth in a medium built from artifice? (Stephen Colbert has already answered this question for TV with a single word: truthiness.) New York-based choreographer John Jasperse—whose credits include commissions for Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project and Batsheva Dance Company—takes truth out for a spin in a contemporary ensemble piece incorporating liquidity, violence, silence and seduction, plus the occasional funny bits. As Jasperse demonstrates, truth is not always pretty (in this case, it's not always clothed, either, which means it's open to mature audiences only). Composer Hahn Rowe and lighting designer Joe Levasseur contribute to the piece's visceral power. HEATHER WISNER. Portland State University's Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park. 8:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 16-18. $20-$25.
PICA's TBA Festival takes place in venues around the city Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 9-19. The TBA box office is located at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. Find a full schedule, performer bios, videos, ticket prices and reservation info at pica.org.