In Performance

In Performance: Stew and Heidi Rodewald – The Negro Problem

The Negro Problem September 9th, 2017 Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, TBA:17 By Eben Hoffer As The Negro Problem began, Stew walked out to the every edge of the stage, beyond the lights, slammed a chair down, and straddled it from behind. In so many words, he said, “If you are the kind of person who gets offended by art, please move yourself to an aisle seat so you can leave without disturbing anybody else”. He waited for people to move, and said he was doing as much. It was a daring, even aggressive, way to start an evening. Earlier that morning, Stew and a group of young African-American artists attending a talk on The Negro Problem had gotten into a heated verbal exchange, over the politics of Stew’s discourse on Blackness within the dominantly-white Portland audience. Was the d...

In Performance: Takahiro Yamamoto – Direct Path To Detour: Single Focus

Direct Path To Detour: Single Focus August 9th, 2017 Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, TBA:17 By Eben Hoffer Direct Path To Detour: Single Focus is a solo iteration of Takahiro Yamamoto’s larger dance work by the same (un-subtitled) name. This piece, the solo, took place in PICA’s NW Portland space. The audience is seated in chairs and on cushions in a wide circle around the space; a ring of LED votives describes a performance space at the center. The lighting and sound artists are seated in the audience ring, with an energy of witnessing as well as work. On Saturday evening, the piece began with a sort of orchestral tuning of the technical elements: a wash of digitally processed archival audio, static, and glitch fragments filled the room, cutting from tone to tone like a channel-su...

In Performance: Becca Blackwell, They, Themself, and Schmerm

They, Themself, and Schmerm Becca Blackwell TBA:17 and Artists Repertory Theatre September 8, 2017 Becca Blackwell’s They, Themself, and Schmerm is a one-person show embracing and challenging the stand-up form. The hour-long performance starts off with a 90’s tinged video montage introducing Becca through childhood photos and pool-side interviews. Becca then enters the space from behind the audience launching into a frenzied series of exaggerated physical vignettes that has the audience immediately chortling. As the audiences guffaws, the lights shift and Becca centers themself, removing a layer of performativity and making fun of what they just did. Each of the 3 entrances/reveals swiftly brings the audience closer to a more authentic and vulnerable Becca and initiates an evening of confr...

In Performance: Opening Night – Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (PICA TBA 2017)

Opening Night of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s 2017 Time Based Arts festival kicked off with a performance by ground-breaking artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. As guests connected with old friends and new ones and waited in line for food and/or drink (from festival-friendly food trucks and bar stands), they were treated to P-Orridge’s brilliant spell. Sitting in a plush white chair that was draped with he/r purse, P-Orridge treated the industrial space’s audience to a next-level armchair analysis of the state of our world, playing with statements about identity, gender, and society at large like “Humanity is the virus,” “Identity is theft,” and “Remember when you wake up in the morning, there’s no reason to be the person you were yesterday.” A large projection screen added to th...

In Performance: Will Rawls, I make me [sic]

I make me [sic] Will Rawls at PICA as part of TBA:17 September 8 & 9, 2017 Space. A blinking cursor in a blank document projected on the wall. A garment rack. A balloon resembling one of Andy Warhol’s silver clouds. An imposing wall of letters and symbols organized into a kind of hybrid, linguistic-pictorial QWERTY keyboard. A strip of white marley stretching across two walls of the room, interrupted by a small gap. Text. “Introductions.” Alphabetical lists: Abramovic, answers, auction. Brown (Trisha), black, bleach blond, bland. Cursor, currere (to run). Personal histories emerge out of these lists. Growing up in an Amway household. Adolescent sexual awakening by way of Greek statuary. Adventures as an extra in a Will Smith zombie film. Movement. Circles, recurring again and again, in...

In Performance: Michael Clark Company, to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song. (Tanz im August)

to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song. Michael Clark Company Tanz im August, Haus der Berliner Festspiele August 17-19, 2017 The deliberate, elegant precision of the title of this latest piece from British dance mainstay Michael Clark is apt. Over three distinct acts, Clark moves us from Erik Satie, minimalist turn-of-the-century composer, to legendary rocker Patti Smith, to the late great hero David Bowie, with stark, affectless movement scores repeating, turning, and accumulating into a euphoric spectacle that is anything but simple. Performed by a spellbinding, seemingly superhuman company of dancers, to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song. presents an history of the twentieth century as defined by music, technological innovation, and–of course–sex, drugs, and roc...

In Performance: Sasha Waltz & Guests, Kreatur (Tanz im August)

Kreatur Sasha Waltz & Guests Tanz im August, Haus der Berliner Festspiele August 21-24, 2017 Kreatur is an expansive undertaking from the venerable Sasha Waltz, a human origin story of epic proportions packed into just ninety minutes. Vibrating constantly between formal precision and unsettling rupture, Kreatur taps into basic building blocks of life and consciousness, painstakingly building a civilization before our eyes. Bodies are born as if from nothing, appearing pristinely from a sea of haze. Muscular, untamed choreographies emerge in unpredictable spurts. The company of fourteen are attracted to and repelled from one another; build and break alliances; inflict abuse; discover environmental danger, companionship, the erotic. Extended periods of diffuse repetitions are punctuated ...

In Performance: La Ribot (Tanz im August)

Panoramix & Laughing Hole La Ribot Retrospective La Ribot, Tanz im August August 2017 The Spanish choreographer and multidisciplinary artist La Ribot, a pioneer of conceptual dance, is receiving a retrospective at Tanz im August including past work as well as new performances, film screenings, and a gallery installation. I caught two of the remounted works, Laughing Hole (from 2006, created by La Ribot and performed here by Tamara Alegre, Olivia Csiky Trnka, and Ruth Childs), and Panoramix (from 2003, performed by La Ribot), both at the stunning Sophiensæle, a former craftsman’s workshop in Mitte. In Laughing Hole, the four walls of the large space are covered in cardboard signs, each with a short phrase handwritten in Sharpie: “DISTURBING HELP”. “STILL BRUTAL”. “PLEASE DIE”. “CLEAN HO...

In Performance: Trajal Harrell, Caen Amour (Tanz im August)

Caen Amour Trajal Harrell Tanz im August, HAU2 August 17-19 “Hoochie in the front, koochie in the back,” explains the chipper woman who takes the stage early in Caen Amour to walk us through the performance. She is referring to the hoochie-koochie show, a pastiche of so-called “oriental” and “exotic” dance styles that emerged in the U.S. in the early twentieth century, which provides the framework for Trajal Harrell’s piece. Her statement also playfully introduces us to the performance’s bifurcated playing area, created by a flat backdrop (with one doorway and a shadow-play window) cutting across the middle of the space. On one side is the show proper: dancers enter through the doorway, shake and strut their way across the stage, and make a tantalizing exit on the other side of the wall. O...

In Performance: Rudi van der Merwe, Trophée (Tanz im August)

Trophée Rudi van der Merwe Tanz im August, Vierfelderhof August 19-20 The performance space (in this case, a field at the outer edges of the Berlin city limits) becomes a site to be conquered in Rudi van der Merwe’s outdoor Trophée. At one end of the field stands a white picket fence, the audience gathered a short distance behind it. From the faraway trees at the other end of the field, three figures emerge. Their faces are blank, white; they lift their blue hoop skirts to move purposefully, with a regimented directness. Too distant to perceive the details of their actions, all we know for certain is that they are coming closer. Their slow approach instills a visceral unease (augmented by the ominous soundscape, performed live by Béatrice Graf). When we first arrived, the picket fence mere...

In Performance: Lea Moro, FUN! (Tanz im August)

FUN! Lea Moro Tanz im August, HAU2 August 11-13 The title of FUN!, its aggressive capitalization and that emphatic punctuation, reads both as encouraging exhortation (have fun!) and vaguely threatening guarantee (you WILL have fun). It’s an apt encapsulation of a performance that, in its commitment to the relentlessly cheerful aesthetic of the amusement park, takes the spectator on an alternately delightful and infuriating ride. The performance is exhausting, but then, so is having fun. Choreographer Lea Moro (who also performs in the piece) is interested in entertainment as industry, in the codified structures within which we are encouraged and expected to consume the product that is “fun.” FUN! draws inspiration from, and re-performs for our benefit, a parade of familiar cultural diversi...

In Performance: Serge Aimé Coulibaly, Kalakuta Republik (Tanz im August)

Kalakuta Republik Serge Aimé Coulibaly Tanz im August, HAU 1 August 11-12 Kalakuta Republik, by the Burkinabé choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly, takes its name from the residence of the Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti, a commune which Kuti declared to be independent of the Nigerian state. The tension between artists and political systems, the contribution of art to popular revolt and perhaps revolution, drives this thrilling, energetic performance. Though the piece draws inspiration from Kuti’s life and work, Coulibaly is not concerned with biographical or historical recreation. Rather he is in choreographic dialogue with Kuti as countercultural leader, asking his own questions about the social responsibility of artists in Africa and around the globe today. At the beginning of th...