September 8th, 2007 5:33 pm | by RICHARD SPEER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TBA Diary: Richard Speer does the Works

TBA plastic circles
Dateline: Friday, Sept. 7

The first thing I noticed on the first night of TBA's after-party, The Works, was the smell. For the life of me, I still can't figure out WTF it was. My working theory is that it was some sort of semi-toxic off-gassing from the huge plastic circles dangling from the ceilings on either side of the Wonder Ballroom, covering up the venue's pre-existing acoustic panels, which are painted by Tom Cramer. I must say, I LOVE the dangling circles, see photo to left, which remind me of a colorless, more minimalist version of Frank Lloyd Wright's Coonley Playhouse windows in Riversdale, Illinois.

There was a hip-hop duo playing.They were good, although I don't remember their names.[Ed note: Richard's talking about Lifesavas, the stellar local hip hop outfit who were scheduled to play The Works that night.] One was fat, one was thin; one was wearing a fuchsia shirt, the other a purple shirt; one had baggy pants, the other tight pants. They both had on gold chains. I liked them a lot. They had a lot of energy. The crowd down by the stage also seemed to like them and were dancing with a lot of energy themselves. The same cannot be said of the audience up in the balcony, who were sitting glumly in a row, looking like PETA activists witnessing the electrocution of baby seals. If the energy had been any lower upstairs, the universe itself might have imploded from the sheer entropy.

Lifesavas rock The Works
The Works opening night hip

I had been inside for a total of about seven minutes when I decided to leave and check out what was going on downstairs. There was a video installation playing inside the former Woolley at Wonder space. Two people were sitting Indian style on the floor, watching it. Outside in the parking lot there were lots of conversations going on, plus some PICA “celebrity” sightings: guest artistic director Mark Russell, executive director Victoria Frey, and visual arts program director Kristan Kennedy.

Mark Russell (gent in high end eye wear) and Victoria Frey (woman in black bob)
Mark Russell and Victoria F

An interesting story about Victoria Frey is that the first time I met her was at a garden party in 2002, and she was wearing a fabulous and skimpy Versace top that remains one of the best fashion statements I've seen in Portland, ever. At the same party I heard Pink Martini for the first time. At the same party, the girl who used to be the society photographer for The Oregonian made a nasty comment about the cologne I was wearing, which was Boucheron. At least she made this comment to my face. Postscript: I no longer wear Boucheron. Post-postscript: Maybe this story wasn't interesting after all. Fortunately, I have no interesting or uninteresting stories to relate about either Kristan Kennedy or Mark Russell.

One of the people I ran into at The Works was Disjecta head honcho Brian Suereth, accompanied by his girlfriend, the photographer Chelsea Mosher (see photo below). I ran into them in front of the entrance to the Secret Society Ballroom, which used to be Disjecta (before its temporary move to the RJ Templeton building). I could tell this was a bit of a sentimental moment for Suereth, who told me he has not been inside the building since he was forced to give it up a couple years ago. He waxed nostalgic about the ghostly presence of the African-American Masons who used to congregate in the space and who are still rumored to haunt it.

I pointed out that the recording studio underneath the ballroom now features a gorgeously creepy triptych by the painter Alexis Mollomo called This is What We Know of Them, a dark fantasia on the black Masons and the attendant narrative of African-American persecution, struggles, and triumphs. (See photo below). Suereth had not seen the painting. Overall he seemed very subdued and pleasant, not at all the cocky SOB he is sometimes known to be in this town. Perhaps the problems he has had with Disjecta lately have beaten his notorious ego into submission and mellowed him out as a human being—a development which, if true, could do nothing but good for his future as an arts administrator.

Bryan Suereth and Chelsea M
Bryan Suereth and Chelsea M

Triptych detail - Alexis Mo
Triptych detail - Alexis Mo

Next, I got into an interesting conversation with three dudes named Ben, Derek, and Kyle. Ben went to Whitman with my girlfriend Vanessa Calvert. He's apparently blogging about TBA for Urban Honking. Derek just got back from Thailand, where he was with the Peace Corps. I don't know much about Kyle, except that he just got back from Burning Man.

The five of us commiserated about the lack of diversity in the TBA crowd. I pointed out that I had seen only four black people, including the two hip-hoppers on stage. Voicing this complaint made the five of us white folk feel a lot better. I then observed that among the attendees there was a disproportionate percentage of women with blond highlights and men wearing high-end eyewear. Kyle pointed out that I was wearing high-end eyewear. Pretty soon I decided to leave. It had been a marvelous melange of conversation, talented performers, pretension, and flat-out soul-deadening boredom, a combination that always makes TBA such a pleasure.

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