Portland’s Time Based Art Festival and The Philadelphia Fringe Festival

September 23, 2009

I’m thrilled to announce that The Philly Fringe Festival ended my long run of viewing bad art!

This is not to say that Portland’s 2009 Time Based Art Festival was bad, it was just a bit disappointing. And it is very hard for me to say that. I AM ALL ABOUT GIVING ART THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT! And maybe I just wasn’t going to the right shows, maybe I was missing something…

All of the time-based installations and video work were located in the amazing old Washington High School which they dubbed “The Works”. Nothing really held my attention… Nothing really challenged the idea of time based art, there were interactive pieces and sound pieces and a whole floor of projected videos. The standout piece, declared by Patrick David Melroy Hawkins, being “The Walls Of My Hall” by Johanna Ketola in collaboration with Jan Wolski. A humorous and thought-provoking piece exploring the human body at rest and in calculated motion with all the the surroundings they inhabit and the furniture they sit upon removed and replaced with black, empty spaces.

(“The Walls Of My Hall”)

I also enjoyed Danielle Goldman’s Lecture entitled Close Encounters: Contemporary Dance and Theories of Intimacy and I look forward to reading the book she referenced “Intimacy” by Lauren Berlant. Although her lecture did not inspire me to see any of the performances that she referenced.

I lost all remaining interest in the Festival, and just about all hope for contemporary art, during Hitoshi Toyoda’s excrutiangly boring 90 minute slide show outdoors in the cold. He successfully numbed both my toes and my mind.

That was it for me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t risk what little was left of my sanity on another show. I needed inspiration, so we spent my remaining days in the Northwest at the beach on Sauvie’s Island, and an entire day roaming the aisles of the Oregon Leather Company.

I returned to the East Coast in the middle of the night on Wednesday and by Friday I was on my way to Philadelphia for the 2009 Philly Fringe Festival. I stayed with Lisi Stoessel, scenic designer and artist extraordinaire and her husband, the fabulous and incredibly talented, Jack Higgins. And I mean TALENTED. He fixes time machines. Yeah, time machines. He’s an expert. Now that’s power.

So, Lisi and Jack are Philadelphia’s new power couple. Together they can do anything. They are almost single-handedly responsible for the huge success of this year’s Fringe. Lisi designed the sets of 3 original productions, 2 of which I was fortunate enough to see: Annihilation (on Friday night) and Purr, Pull, Reign (by Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret) on Saturday night. Both were outstanding. I laughed my pants off. Such talented young actors and actresses. And not only can they act, they can also sing and dance and make me almost pee my pants from laughing so hard. I plan to see the cast of Annihilation Point perform another of their original productions in New York on November 14th.

(Some Scenes from Annihilation Point)

And I am now, officially, Johnny Showcase’s BIGGEST FAN. I love him. Look him up on YouTube if you’re curious. I would travel anywhere to see him perform again. Move over Sacha Baron Cohen, it’s David Sweeny’s turn.

(Johny Showcase and The Lefty Lucy Cabaret)

Saturday afternoon I watched the Australian group “Chunky Move” perform a piece entitled “Mortal Engine” Definitely YouTube them. You won’t believe your eyes. They combine dance with interactive projections to result in a new exploration of gesture and movement as drawing. I sure wish I could get my hands on that technology.

(Chunky Move)

Dancer Antony Hamilton from Melbourne’s Chunky Move performs during a dress rehearsal of Mortal Engine at the Drama Theater of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. Mortal Engine is a dance-video-laser performance where the music, lighting and animation is controlled by the dancer’s movements. Mortal Engine is part of the Sydney Festival’s About An Hour Movers and Shakers series. (AP Photo/John Pryke)

Sunday to New Hope to introduce Katie Zazenski to Robin Zwizanski. Now, that’s alot of zzz’s. I may have laughed hard at the Fringe, but that was just a warm up for dinner with these two. They already had me hyperventalating when Robin started talking about her experience getting a bikini wax.

I love New Hope. It’s still untouched, with a cute little downtown area, lots of barns and the Ringing Rocks! One of the best interactive art installations I’ve ever seen, by mother nature herself. It’s a whole field of boulders that, when you hit them with a hammer, ring! It’s fantastic. We’re planning a performance to take place there.